115 Min



The morning of a small town Labor Day picnic, a drifter (Hal Carter) blows into town to visit an old fraternity buddy (Alan Benson) who also happens to be the son of the richest man in town. Hal is an egocentric braggart - all potential and no accomplishment. He meets up with Madge Owens, the town beauty queen and girlfriend of Alan Benson.


Nov 18th, 1955


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  • Insisting on authenticity, director Joshua Logan filmed in several Kansas towns, including Hutchinson, only 75 miles from Udall, a town leveled by a tornado days after filming began. "It's gotta look like Kansas and it will if I have to kill every last one of ya!," the volatile Logan yelled at his cast. William Holden suffered a leg gash on a railroad signal light, Kim Novak was stung on the hip by a bee underneath her $500 Jean Louis gown, and Rosalind Russell was "bruised from earlobe to toenail during a wild gambol across a suspension bridge." A local 70-year-old "spinster" saw her film debut canceled when she broke both legs and several ribs during a fall down an embankment. Filming was interrupted almost daily by hailstorms and "wailing" tornado warnings. The actual picnic was on a muddy fairground at Halstead, Kansas. Cast and crew were "half-consumed" by "carnivorous" bugs. Phone calls had to be made from old-time crank telephones at Halstead's Baker Hotel.
  • Kim Novak's character Madge was originated on Broadway by Janice Rule.
  • The original Broadway production of "The Picnic" by William Inge opened on February 19, 1953 at the Music Box Theater, ran for 477 performances and won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 1953.
  • The town of Udall, Kansas renamed a local promenade Rosalind Russell Avenue. The actress campaigned for the Kansas Disaster Relief fund after Udall was devastated by a tornado which killed 77 people during filming of the movie.
  • Columbia Pictures wanted to promote Rosalind Russell for an Academy Award nomination, but the actress refused to be placed in the best supporting category. Many felt she would have won had she only cooperated.
  • Holden predated the "Manscaping" fad by at least 60 years: He famously shaved his chest for "Picnic." (Two years later, he shaved again for "The Bridge on the River Kwai." Several years earlier, however, in "Sunset Blvd.," he showed off a torso with a full mane of hair.)
  • Marlon Brando turned down the role of Hal Carter, as he thought the film was too close to A Streetcar Named Desire.
  • The climactic picnic scenes had to be shot on a soundstage due to rainstorms.
  • William Holden almost turned down the film because he thought he was too old at 37 to play Hal Carter.
  • SPOILER: William Inge was obliged to continually rewrite the ending of his original stage play, even while it was in rehearsals, with Joshua Logan rejecting each ending as being more depressing than the last. Inge's original idea was that Madge would stay in town, her shoulders slumped as she dragged herself to a dead-end job at a dime store, taunted by local boys who knew she'd thrown away her reputation to a drifter. The director insisted Madge had to chase after Hal and leave town, even though most of the audience would realize it would be a doomed affair. 'All right, I'll write it," Inge told him. "But I want you to know I don't approve." The director later wrote in his memoirs: "It's as though he killed his favorite child."
  • The house where Rosalind Russell lived with Kim Novak's family was located in Nickerson, Kansas, and was actually across the street from Reno Community High, where Russell's character taught school. Location shooting wrapped in nearby Sterling, Kansas, where the lake and bathhouse scenes were filmed. The movie's Labour Day festivities called for Sterling Lake to be filled with rowboats, which were in short supply since boating wasn't normally allowed. To make up the shortage, anyone who supplied a rowboat stood a good chance of being a movie extra. Sterling was also where William Holden hopped the Missouri Pacific freight train that was then tracked by cinematographer Haskell Wexler in a memorable closing aerial shot.
  • Big screen debut of Reta Shaw.
  • The overture included in the Pioneer Special Edition laserdisc release (now out-of-print) of "Picnic", prepared from a compilation of segments of the film's musical soundtrack, was specially produced for the laserdisc. Theatrical showings of "Picnic" did not open with an overture.
  • A newspaper read by Mrs. Owens toward the end of the film identifies the town as Salinson, Kansas. The fictional locale is a portmanteau of the actual Kansas towns of Salina and Hutchinson.
  • William Holden had to shave his chest for this role, so that he appeared much younger than his true 37 years. Cliff Robertson, although not as hirsute as Holden, also got buffed for one reason or another.
  • Filming began in Salina, Kansas, May 16, 1955. Night-time crowds watched along the Smoky Hill River near an old mill dam as William Holden whipped a "borrowed" convertible with Kim Novak in the passenger seat to a stop along the river. Joshua Logan, a perfectionist, filmed the scene over and over. A number of spectatoring small boys often got in the way of the filming. A production member was designated assistant-in-charge-of-chasing-small-boys-out-of-camera-range. Other scenes filmed were Holden being chased by police around the mill and between railroad box cars. Suddenly, the loud-speaker blared: "There's a small boy underneath the box car! Get him out of there!" When the big Holden/Novak love scene was filmed, most of the crowd had gone home. "Those who stayed said it was a dilly of a romance." Filming wrapped shortly after five in the morning. By week's end, filming moved to Hutchinson.
  • While selecting locals to play extras in the film, Joshua Logan said, "There's a girl with a typical Kansas face." The woman, Joan Farrell, was hired for "atmosphere" but confessed, "I'm from Brooklyn. I'm just here visiting my grandmother."
  • Named by critic David Ansen a his all-time favourite film.
  • Having directed William Inge's play two years previously on Broadway, Joshua Logan brought some radical cast changes to the production. Only 'Arthur OConnell, Reta Shaw, and Elizabeth Wilson recreated their characterizations. Holden was cast as Hal Carter over Ralph Meeker who had played him onstage. His room-mate on Broadway had been played by Paul Newman; Cliff Robertson got the film part. Kim Stanley lost the part of Millie Owens to the much younger Susan Strasberg and Janice Rule lost out on the part of Madge to young contract player Kim Novak. Rosalind Russell actively campaigned for the role of Rosemary Sydney, the role Eileen Heckart had played onstage.
  • Rosalind Russell remarked, "'Bill Inge' has sisters who were schoolteachers. That helped him in writing Rosemary so perceptively." In fact, Inge's mother ran a boarding house that at one time was occupied by three women schoolteachers. In his own words: "I saw their attempts and, even as a child, I sensed every woman's failure. I began to sense the sorrow and the emptiness in their lives, and it touched me."
  • For a scene in which she had to cry, Kim Novak asked director Joshua Logan to pinch her black and blue off screen, telling him, "I can only cry when I'm hurt."
  • Shirley Knight's film debut.
  • In 1957 a marketing investigator, James Vicary, announced that for six weeks he had included subliminal messages in showings of this movie. The messages supposedly said: "Eat popcorn, drink Coca-Cola." According to Vicary, the sales of this products increased from 18% to 57%. Even though his experiment led him to fame, Vicary never gave details of how he came to his conclusions, and admitted in a later interview that everything was just a marketing trick.
  • French visa # 17940.
  • William Holden was so nervous about having to dance in the Moonglow scene that Joshua Logan took him to Kansas roadhouses to practice his dance steps, along with choreographer Miriam Nelson. When the scene came to be shot, Holden, an alcoholic, was drunk to calm his nerves.
  • The need for extras of all ages to appear in the Picnic celebration sequences filmed at Riverside Park in Halstead, Kansas caused many local schoolchildren to miss school days in order to stand in line at the small City Hall to obtain their social security cards, required for extra-work.
  • The last aerial shot of the bus and the train was filmed by Haskell Wexler, who was - at that time - James Wong Howe's assistant. The cameraman simply leaned out the open door of the helicopter for several minutes with no safety harness, with his right leg wrapped around a strut, following the bus overtaking the train below.
  • Despite its legend, this was NOT the first movie to feature a helicopter shot. They Live by Night (1948) was an early, if not the very first, film to use it (albeit in its opening shot, not the closing shot as was done in Picnic).
  • Finnish censorship certificate # 044220.
  • The play "Picnic" takes place entirely on Mrs. Potts' and the Owens' front porches and front lawns. No action at the picnic or anywhere else is seen.
  • William Holden didn't want to do the dance sequence with Kim Novak, fearing it would make him look foolish. He told co-star Cliff Robertson, "I just don't know how to dance." Hoping to persuade the studio to cut the dance scene, Holden insisted on being paid an $8,000 "stuntman premium." To his surprise, the studio paid up and Holden was forced to do the dance scene, although he was allowed to do it under the influence of alcohol. In that scene, he is actually intoxicated, and it still remains one of only four movies that he ever danced in (the others being Sabrina, Dear Ruth (1947) and Sunset Boulevard), and one of the most memorable scenes in the movie.
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