River of No Return (1954)

River of No Return (1954), directed by Otto Preminger.


He can run but he can't hide.

Just out of prison, a pioneer widower sends for his boy and takes him to their farm where it looks like all will be well for them. They get tangled up with a dance hall singer and her no-good gambler boyfriend, and it turns into a survival story of white water rafting on the wilderness rivers.

As always, Robert Mitchum is excellent as the tough, witty, manly father, not looking for trouble but able to handle it.

Marilyn Monroe sings several numbers. I always find it hard to judge her acting; she's at her best when relaxed, funny and "normal". When being dramatic she gets all earnest and breathy. Did they make jeans that tight back then?

The threats include a mountain lion, hostile Indians and hostile prospectors. Mitchum himself is a threat: we have a near-rape scene. Later he says: "I didn't mean it" and she seems to believe him.

Filmed in Alberta and Idaho with gorgeous mountain scenery. The raft closeups are studio process shots, but we also see a real raft in real rapids, stunts that look damned dangerous.

Production was described as "difficult" and you can see the details in the wikipedia article. Monroe thought it her worst film; she and Preminger hated each other. I've heard him described as a tyrant on the set before.

Tommy Rettig, who plays the kid, was boy companion "Jeff" on the first 116 episodes of Lassie. This was just before "Timmy".

Available on Blu-ray. The aspect ratio is 2.55:1.