IMDb > The River (1928)
The River
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The River (1928) More at IMDbPro »

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Up 11% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
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Release Date:
6 October 1929 (USA) See more »
A naïve young man is working on a logging camp beside a turbulent river. When it closes for winter, he opts to stay for the experience... See more » | Add synopsis »
User Reviews:
"The river, like love, cleanses all things" See more (8 total) »


  (in credits order) (complete, awaiting verification)

Charles Farrell ... Allen John Spender

Mary Duncan ... Rosalee

Ivan Linow ... Sam Thompson

Margaret Mann ... Widow Thompson
Alfred Sabato ... Marsdon (as Alverdo Sabato)
Bert Woodruff ... The Miller

Directed by
Frank Borzage 
Writing credits
(in alphabetical order)
John Hunter Booth  dialogue
Dwight Cummins  writer
Philip Klein  writer
Tristram Tupper  novel

Produced by
William Fox .... producer
Original Music by
Maurice Baron (uncredited)
Cinematography by
Ernest Palmer 
Film Editing by
Barney Wolf 
Art Direction by
Harry Oliver 
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Lew Borzage .... assistant director
Music Department
Erno Rapee .... conductor
Other crew
A.F. Erickson .... dialogue director
William Fox .... presenter
A.H. Van Buren .... dialogue director

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
"Backwash" - USA (alternative title)
See more »
84 min | USA:55 min (restored version)
Aspect Ratio:
1.33 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Mono (Western Electric Sound System) (talking sequences) | Silent

Did You Know?

Title Card:There is a river called life, its source a hidden fountain. The sea is its goal. Upon it sail the rafts of human destinies.See more »
Movie Connections:
I Found Happiness (When I Found You)See more »


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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful.
"The river, like love, cleanses all things", 9 December 2010
Author: ackstasis from Australia

I should clarify that 'The River (1929)' today exists only in an incomplete form, with about forty minutes of footage considered lost, including the opening and final acts. Nevertheless, a 2006 reconstruction runs for 55 minutes and fills in narrative gaps with intertitles and promotional stills. Importantly, the surviving footage pretty much depicts in its entirety the romance of Allen John (Charles Farrell) and Rosalee (Mary Duncan), which is the backbone of the story.

I originally heard 'The River' described as the most erotic film of the silent era, so I naturally said to myself, "that piece of information has absolutely no bearing on my interest in this film." In fact, it isn't as described (something like 'Erotikon (1929)' would probably be closer to the mark), though leading actress Mary Duncan certainly does sultry very well. Farrell's traditional co-star was Janet Gaynor, but I can see why the switch was made here. Gaynor was always the epitome of feminine innocence and fragility; this role requires an actress with a hard crust, someone along the lines of Marlene Dietrich.

Most of 'The River' unfolds in an isolated valley, where the construction of a dam has been temporarily postponed. All the workers leave for the winter, except for Rosalee, whose boyfriend has been arrested for murder, and Allen John, who misses the last train because he keeps getting distracted by the womanly presence. The small cast, and confined surroundings, thus breed an element of intimacy (though I can't recall so much as a kiss between the two lovers). Nobody did melodrama like Borzage, and this here is beautifully-shot melodrama.

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