Picnic is a 1955 American Technicolor romantic comedy-drama film filmed in Cinemascope. It was adapted for the screen by Daniel Taradash from William Inge's 1953 Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name. Joshua Logan, director of the original Broadway stage production, directed the film version, which stars William Holden, Kim Novak, and Rosalind Russell, with Susan Strasberg and Cliff Robertson in supporting roles. Picnic was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and won two.
Hal Carter (William Holden) is a former college football star, adrift and unemployed after army service and a failed acting career in Hollywood. On Labor Day (September 5, 1955), he arrives by freight train in a Kansas town to visit his fraternity friend Alan Benson (Cliff Robertson). Working for his breakfast by doing chores in the backyard of kindly Mrs. Potts (Verna Felton), Hal meets Madge Owens (Kim Novak), her sister Millie (Susan Strasberg), and their mother (Betty Field). Hal tries to be accepted and gets along with most. Alan is very happy to see the "same old Hal", whom he takes to his family's sprawling grain elevator operations. Alan promises Hal a steady job as a "wheat scooper" (though Hal had unrealistic expectations of becoming an executive) and invites Hal to swim and to attend the town's Labor Day picnic. Hal is wary about going to the picnic, but Alan nudges him into it, saying Hal's "date" will be Millie, who is quickly drawn to Hal's cheerful demeanor and charisma. Alan reassures Mrs. Owens that although Hal flunked out of college, there are no reasons to be concerned about him. The afternoon carries on happily, until Hal starts talking about himself too much, and Alan stops him with cutting remarks. It's obvious that Hal and Madge like each other. When the sun sets, everyone wanders off. Millie draws a sketch of Hal and tells him she secretly writes poetry, growing fond of him despite his lack of interest. Madge is named the town's annual Queen of Neewollah ("Halloween" spelled backward), and Hal longingly gazes at her while she is brought down the river in a swan-shaped paddle-boat. They shyly say "Hi" to each other as she glides by.