River of No Return
Release year: 1954
Director: Otto Preminger, Jean Negulseco (uncredited)
Screenwriter: Frank Fenton, Louis Lantz
Starring: Robert Mitchum, Marilyn Monroe, Tommy Rettig, Rory Calhoun, Murvyn Vye, Douglas Spencer
After saving the beautiful saloon singer Kay (Monroe) and her boyfriend Harry (Calhoun) from the river outside his farm, Matt Calder (Mitchum) sees himself with nothing as Harry steals his horse and riffle, leaving him and his son Mark (Rettig) unprotected against Indians. Unhappy with the way Harry treated them, Kay decides to stay and help them until Harry returns as promised. But soon they are forced to take the dangerous road down the river with dangers from Indians and nature surrounding them.
Not the most famous movie starring the iconic Monroe (How to Marry a Millionaire, 1953) River is however one of Monroe’s top performances, filmed at the height of her far too short career. Her dramatic performance as the ambitious saloon girl with a heart of gold shows what a great actress she truly was, a fact often overshadowed by her iconic status as sex symbol. Opposite her poor Mitchum (The Night of the Hunter, 1955) must struggle to be noticed as he fights for attention against miss Monroe and the gorgeously shot landscapes of the Wild West. But he is charismatic enough to get noticed and his Matt Calder is a decent and smart man who is hard not to like despite his faults and the two share a natural chemistry on screen. As a saloon singer Monroe has a few musical numbers, all created by Lionel Newman and Ken Darby and all very good. From the title song to ‘One Silver Dollar’, the songs are unknown to most but wonderful songs that lift the movie. An exciting drama with great characters and wonderful performances by Monroe and Mitchum, this is a perfect movie for anyone wanting to see that Monroe was more than eye candy.
The film was one of the very first films to use a blood squib to simulate realistic bullet impact. The film beats Run of the Arrow (1957) – which is often credited with being the first to use blood squibs – by three years.
The screenplay by Frank Fenton is based on a story by Louis Lantz, who borrowed his premise from the 1948 Italian film Bicycle Thieves
During the difficult shoot, Otto Preminger had to contend with frequent rain, Robert Mitchum‘s heavy drinking, and an injury to Marilyn Monroe‘s ankle that kept her off the set for several days and ultimately put her in a cast.