The title river unites a farmer recently released from prison, his young son, and an ambitious saloon singer. In order to survive, each must be purged of anger, and each must learn to understand and care for the others.
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Matt Calder, who lives on a remote farm with his young son Mark, helps two unexpected visitors who lose control of their raft on the nearby river. Harry Weston is a gambler by profession and he is racing to the nearest town to register a mining claim he has won in a poker game. His attractive wife Kay, a former saloon hall girl, is with him. When Calder refuses to let Weston have his only rifle and horse, he simply takes them leaving his wife behind. Unable to defend themselves against a likely Indian attack, Calder, his son and Kay Weston begin the treacherous journey down the river on the raft Weston left behind. Written by
Nine-year old boy is reunited with his estranged father in a northwest boom town in the midst of Gold Fever; they take off for a life of fishing and hunting but are soon railroaded by a crooked gambler and his gal, a saloon singer who gets a pang of conscience and stays with dad and the kid. Soon, all three are on the run from Injuns, on a raft down a treacherous river. Lackadaisical western puts action on the back-burner to focus on character interaction, which in this case isn't such a bad thing. Robert Mitchum never puts on a big show: tough and steely, but paternal towards the kid and easy with the lady, he's gruffly polite--and unapologetic about his behavior. Marilyn Monroe is such a drama queen, she can't deliver a simple monologue without twitching something (her eyes, her lips, her nostrils); she is lovely (and, in a singing scene outdoors with the boy, very natural), but one warms to her because she's Marilyn (her legend exceeds the worn material and her over-emphatic delivery). Otto Preminger directed, but this doesn't feel like a Preminger movie. There are no tart or prodding scenes, and the dangerous rapids excursions--and Indian rampages--are not staged for maximum impact. The Indians, armed with arrows, simply seem like bad shots, and the close-up sequences on the raft were obviously achieved in the studio. Still, the occasional on-location photography is breath-taking, and the three principles grow steadily on the audience as well as towards each other. Beautiful theme song is sung in versions by both Mitchum and Monroe. **1/2 from ****
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