Expected to be the next Gone With the Wind, the 3-hour Civil War drama, Raintree County, turned out to be a disappointment at the box office. But to Kentuckians, that did not matter. Elizabeth Taylor, a 24-year-old actress, dressed in her almost-scandalous form-fitting capri pants, had been here.
Raintree County premiered in Louisville in October 1957. At the time of the filming, Ms. Taylor was divorcing husband No. 2, Michael Wilding, for husband No. 3, Mike Todd, and Danville telephone operators reportedly said they heard plenty of phone calls between the three of them. While Ms. Taylor was on location in Danville, Todd sent her 200 long-stemmed roses and a $30,000 black pearl ring, Ms. Taylor's biographer, C. David Heymann, wrote in his 1995 book Liz.
MGM Studios and more than 100 actors moved into Danville to shoot the movie, which, cost $6 million dollars. It was the most expensive American film ever made at that time.
Raintree County was based on a novel by Ross Lockridge Jr. It earned four Academy Award nominations. The making of the movie was a big deal in Kentucky. Nearly half of the filming took place in Danville. A home near Somerset was used in the movie. Today, it is known as Raintree Inn. 15,000 pounds of props, 3,500 costumes, 216 tons of equipment, 135 crew members, and 119 speaking roles for a cast that included Eva Marie Saint, Nigel Patrick, Rod Taylor, Agnes Moorehead, and Lee Marvin. More than 300 locals, including a few from this area, served as extras.
Danville resident, Eleanor McDonald, recalled, “Stretch pants had just been invented and we’d never seen them before. They looked like you’d just melt and pour yourself into them. Elizabeth Taylor was wearing them and I thought my husband would fall off the back porch when he saw her. Oh, she was pretty.”