|"The Rainmaker" on Broadway & Movies
In the early 1950s, N. Richard Nash was a drama teacher at Bryn Mawr in Pennsylvania. He had grown up in Philadelphia, put in a stint as a $10-dollar-a-fight boxer and then studied philosophy and English. He published his first play in 1940. So it must have come as quite a shock when ten years later he traveled by car through areas of Texas that were trapped in a severe drought. What we know for sure is that the experience affected him so much he produced his best-known play, "The Rainmaker."
Though the play is set in the Depression years of the 1930s, it resonated for rural residents of the 50s when it premiered in 1954. On Broadway, it starred Geraldine Page as Lizzie Curry, a "spinster" (in the language of the times) whose soul was as dry as the land around her father's farm. Her father and two brothers are extremely worried they'll lose the farm and that Lizzie will never marry. Into this domestic depression whirls a con man named Starbuck originally played by Darrin McGavin. Starbuck says he can conjure up a storm for $100. The brothers, at first, doubt his word. But as the play goes on, Starbuck becomes more and more enmeshed in the family drama and in Lizzie.
The play was made into a major motion picture in 1957 starring Burt Lancaster and Katherine Hepburn. Miss Hepburn won her second Oscar for her portrayal, as well as a Golden Globe. (This production should not be confused with the 1997 movie with the same name produced and directed by Francis Ford Coppola and based on the 1995 novel by John Grisham.) Over the years, Nash's "Rainmaker" has been revived on Broadway, on both British and American television and on countless professional and amatuer stages around the world.