“He didn’t treat me like a tramp; he treated me like a woman!”
A gambler (Rory Calhoun) engaged to a saloon singer (Marilyn Monroe) steals a horse and rifle belonging to a farmer (Robert Mitchum), and heads to town to stake a claim he recently won. Meanwhile, when Indians raid Mitchum’s farm, he flees with Monroe and his son (Tommy Rettig) by steering a raft down a notoriously deathly river, hoping to confront Calhoun if they make it safely to town.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Marilyn Monroe Films
- Otto Preminger Films
- Robert Mitchum Films
Otto Preminger’s directorial career was nothing if not highly varied, with entries ranging from noir-tinged detective flicks like Laura (1944) to somber political exposés — i.e. Advise & Consent (1962) — to the truly surreal counter-culture misfire Skidoo (1969). River of No Return was his first attempt at helming a western, and while he was purportedly pleased with the script — which was inspired by Vittorio De Sica’s The Bicycle Thief — the overall production experience was less than ideal for all involved. The final product comes across as a patchily successful affair, with the benefit of a compellingly urgent storyline, and fine performances by both Tommy Rettig (of The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. fame) as Mitchum’s estranged son:
and Rory Calhoun as Monroe’s slippery lover.
However, while the outdoor CinemaScope cinematography is stunning:
much less successful is the use of rear-screen projection, which makes it patently obvious that the actors are rocking about on a sound stage rather than on the rapids themselves.
Meanwhile, a disturbing near-rape scene between Mitchum and Monroe is poorly resolved, leaving a bitter taste in one’s mouth. Fortunately, the final resolution between Calhoun and Mitchum is smartly scripted, bringing the story full-circle, and leaving one feeling at least partially satisfied.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Fine use of Technicolor CinemaScope
- Rory Calhoun as Harry Weston
No; this one is only must-see for Monroe completists.