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The River
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The River (1984) More at IMDbPro »

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The River -- Sissy Spacek, Mel Gibson and Scott Glenn star in this moving tribute to love, faith, determination and the vanishing America of the independent farm family.  Tom and Mae Garvey (Gibson and Spacek) are struggling to keep their homestead safe from the local power authority who wants to flood their land. When Mae's former beau, John Wade (Glenn), turns out to be in charge of the plan to acquire the property, tensions run high, climaxing in a devastating confrontation on the flooded river banks.


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Robert Dillon (story)
Robert Dillon (screenplay) ...
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Release Date:
19 December 1984 (USA) See more »
He showed her his strength, his courage, his incredible will. She showed him her love. [Theatrical Australia] See more »
Farming family battles severe storms, a bank threatening to reposses their farm, and other hard times in a battle to save and hold on to their farm. See more » | Add synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 2 wins & 2 nominations See more »
User Reviews:
Can't go wrong down on the farm with Mel And Sissy See more (10 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Mel Gibson ... Tom Garvey

Sissy Spacek ... Mae Garvey
Shane Bailey ... Lewis Garvey
Becky Jo Lynch ... Beth Garvey

Scott Glenn ... Joe Wade
Don Hood ... Senator Neiswinder

Billy Green Bush ... Harve Stanley

James Tolkan ... Howard Simpson
Bob W. Douglas ... Hal Richardson

Andy Stahl ... Dave Birkin
Lisa Sloan ... Judy Birkin
Larry D. Ferrell ... Rod Tessley
Susie Toomey ... Sally Tessley
Kelly Toomey ... Lisa Tessley

Frank Hoyt Taylor ... Zemke (as Frank Taylor)
Ivan Green ... Smoot
Desmond Couch ... Wilderfoot
Charles G. Riddle ... Youngdall

Jim Antonio ... Dan Gaumer

Samuel Scott Osborne ... Billy Gaumer
Amy Rydell ... Betty Gaumer
David Hart ... Harley
Barry Primus ... Roy
Mark Erickson ... Baines

Jack Starrett ... Swick

Charles Robinson ... Truck
Dean Whitworth ... Doctor
Chuck Hanson ... Fat Man (as Charles S. Hanson)
Ira M. Quillen II ... TV Weatherman
Matt Bearson ... First Employee
Timothy Shadden ... Second Employee
Elizabeth Lane ... Secretary
Gary Gershaw ... Drifter

Directed by
Mark Rydell 
Writing credits
Robert Dillon (story)

Robert Dillon (screenplay) and
Julian Barry (screenplay)

Produced by
Robert Cortes .... producer
Edward Lewis .... producer
Original Music by
John Williams 
Cinematography by
Vilmos Zsigmond 
Film Editing by
Sidney Levin 
Casting by
Lynn Stalmaster 
Production Design by
Charles Rosen 
Art Direction by
Norman Newberry 
Set Decoration by
Jane Bogart 
Costume Design by
Joe I. Tompkins 
Makeup Department
Pete Altobelli .... assistant makeup artist
Lynn Del Kail .... hair stylist
Brenda Todd .... makeup artist
Production Management
Terry Carr .... unit production manager
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Matt Bearson .... dga trainee
Christopher Wilkinson .... second unit director (as Chris Wilkinson)
Robert Yannetti .... second assistant director
Tena Psyche Yatroussis .... second assistant director
Jerry Ziesmer .... first assistant director
Art Department
Jimmy Day .... carpenter foreman
Tim Donelan .... swing gang
David F. Klassen .... set designer
Donald Krafft .... lead man
Sherman Labby .... production illustrator
William Maldonado .... construction coordinator
Mitch Mitchell .... greensman
Leonard Monfredo .... painter foreman
Nick Navarro .... set designer (as Nicanor Navarro)
Bob Nohles .... carpenter foreman
William Ladd Skinner .... set designer
John Slatsky .... drapery
Sonny Van Hecke .... assistant property master
Robert J. Visciglia Sr. .... property master
John Alvin .... poster artist (uncredited)
Peg McClellan .... illustrator (uncredited)
James Passanante .... stand-by painter (uncredited)
Sound Department
Lee Alexander .... sound recordist: second unit
Nick Alphin .... sound re-recording mixer
Ed Bannon .... foley recordist
Duke Brown .... sound apprentice
Neil Burrow .... sound editor
Joseph Geisinger .... cable person
Hector C. Gika .... sound assistant
Stephen Katz .... sound recordist: second unit
Greg Orloff .... foley recordist
Richard Portman .... supervising re-recording mixer
Rod Rogers .... sound assistant
David M. Ronne .... production sound mixer
Kay Rose .... supervising sound editor
Jerry Rosenthal .... sound editor
Joan Rowe .... foley artist
T.E. Sadler .... foley recordist (as Tim Sadler)
Victoria Rose Sampson .... sound editor
Jack Schrader .... sound editor
John B. Schuyler .... boom operator
Larry Singer .... adr editor
Stephanie D. Singer .... sound apprentice
Chester Slomka .... sound editor
Robert Thirlwell .... sound re-recording mixer
John Roesch .... foley artist (uncredited)
Special Effects by
Guy Faria .... special effects
Thomas Love .... special effects
Stan Parks .... special effects supervisor
Ken Pepiot .... special effects supervisor
David Simmons .... special effects
Paul Stewart .... special effects
Visual Effects by
Syd Dutton .... matte artist
Bill Taylor .... matte photographer
Rick Avery .... stunts
Clay Boss .... stunts
Jophery C. Brown .... stunts
Blair Burrows .... stunts
Mike De Luna .... stunts
Tom Elliott .... stunts
Richard Epper .... stunts
Harper Flaherty .... stunts
Alan Gibbs .... stunt coordinator
Alan Gibbs .... stunts
Will Harper .... stunts
Johnny Hock .... stunts
Paula Marie Moody .... stunts
Bennie Moore .... stunts
Mark Orrison .... stunts
Branscombe Richmond .... stunts
Mario Roberts .... stunts
Spike Silver .... stunts
Camera and Electrical Department
Norman Ash .... electrician
William D. Barber .... assistant camera (as Bill Barber)
Michael Barrett .... electrician
John J. Connor .... additional photographer: second unit (as John Jennings Connor)
John J. Connor .... camera operator
Dick Deats .... key grip
Jessie Deats .... grip
Michael Gershman .... camera operator
Gregg Guellow .... best boy grip
Robert Heine .... assistant camera
Ray Kinzer .... key grip: second unit
Jack Kirk .... gaffer: second unit
Peter Kuttner .... assistant camera: second unit
J. Michael McClary .... assistant camera
Michael McGowan .... camera operator
Fred L. McLane .... assistant camera
Rexford L. Metz .... additional photographer: second unit
Tony Moran .... grip
Ken Nishino .... assistant camera
Brent Poe .... electrician
Steven Poster .... director of photography: second unit (as Steven B. Poster)
Dutch Presley .... best boy electric
Troy Rushing .... electrician
Hank Sheppherd .... grip
James M. Sheppherd .... dolly grip
Philip Sloan .... best boy electric (as Phil Sloane)
Stuart A. Spohn .... gaffer
Pat Thompson .... electrician
Joseph D. Urbanczyk .... cinematography intern: AFI
Ted Varnadoe .... best boy electric
D. Michael Wheeler .... assistant camera
Harry Wittis .... generator operator
Randy Woodside .... best boy electric
James Zenk .... still photographer
John J. Connor .... director of photography: second unit (uncredited)
Casting Department
Barbara Harris .... voice casting
Jody Hummer .... extras casting
Barry Primus .... casting consultant
Shirley Fulton Crumley .... location casting (uncredited)
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Darryl M. Athons .... costumer
Greg Hall .... costumer
Peni Mandel .... costumer
Hugo Peña .... costumer
Pamela Wise .... costumer
Editorial Department
Beau Barthel .... assistant film editor
Donah Bassett .... negative cutter
Robert Frazen .... assistant film editor
Aubrey Head .... color timer
Karen Kory .... apprentice film editor
Stephen R. Myers .... apprentice film editor
Rick Sparr .... associate film editor
Music Department
Thomas A. Carlson .... assistant music editor
Sandy DeCrescent .... orchestra manager
Warren Luening .... musician: trumpet solo
Herbert W. Spencer .... orchestrator
Tommy Tedesco .... musician: guitar solo
James Walker .... musician: flute solo
Dan Wallin .... music recording mixer
Kenneth Wannberg .... music editor
Tom Boyd .... musician: oboe soloist (uncredited)
Transportation Department
Bob Cornell .... transportation co-captain
Chuck Hanson .... transportation coordinator
Jim Johnson .... transportation captain
Mike Robinson .... driver: star trailer (uncredited)
Other crew
Julie Adams .... dialect coach
Bruce Bahrenburg .... unit publicist
Richard Dixon .... production accountant
Gary Gershaw .... production assistant
Susan Joy Harris .... assistant: Mr. Cortes
Mable Lawson-McCrary .... production assistant: second unit (as Mable Lawson McCrary)
Doralee Leon .... assistant: Mr. Lewis
Larry Little .... production assistant
Earl McClintock .... location projectionist
Richard Meleckian .... agricultural consultant
Patty Mitchell .... production assistant
Zeljko Negovetic .... animal trainer
Trish Niehaus .... production secretary: Alabama
Betsy Norton .... script supervisor
Joe O'Har .... location manager
Barbara Pensiero .... production secretary: Tennessee
Marty Pessin .... assistant production accountant
Willie Radcliff .... craft service
Stephanie Saunders .... assistant: Mr. Rydell
David C. Thomas .... location manager (as David Thomas)
Jeffrey White .... production assistant
Joan Wolpert .... production coordinator
Ron Bledsoe .... assistant animal trainer (uncredited)
Crew verified as complete

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
122 min
Color (Technicolor)
Aspect Ratio:
1.85 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Filming Locations:

Did You Know?

Director Mark Rydell once said of actress Sissy Spacek: "She is the consummate American rural young woman, with strength and fiber and a luminous quality".See more »
[first lines]
Mae Garvey:Watch out, Tom! Beth, get in the truck! Tom! Are you hurt?
See more »
Movie Connections:
Referenced in Casting By (2012)See more »
A Little Heaven's Rubbing Off On MeSee more »


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12 out of 20 people found the following review useful.
Can't go wrong down on the farm with Mel And Sissy, 23 July 2003
Author: clydestuff from United States

By 1984, Hollywood must have decided we had been in outer space too long with the Star Wars Trilogy. They decided to bring us not only back down to earth, but to take us down on the farm with The Green Acres trilogy. In the space of a year they gave us Places In The Heart, with Sally Field, Country with Jessica Lange, and this movie The River with Sissy Spacek and Mel Gibson.

Of the three this is the only one I saw in a theater, and if you're going to view this film, it is best viewed in a theater or on a big screen TV with the DVD. That's not to say you can't otherwise enjoy The River, but what you miss is some beautiful photography by Vilmos Zsigmond, that draws you in from the opening frame and will keep you enthralled throughout. From the opening shots of the grey clouding skies and the first drops of rain dropping gently off the leaves, to the mighty force of the torrential thunderstorm and the raging waters of the river, you are treated to a Cinematographer's delight. Not once, during the first fifteen twenty minutes of The River do you even consider the notion that there are guys out there with hoses spraying the set down, and if they were I sure don't want to know about it. Even after the opening storm has subsided, the film becomes almost like an oil painting of rural America.

Not only is the photography in The River impeccable, it has sound editing that matches it on every level. This sounds like a storm in every aspect, from the rain hitting the tin barn roof, the sound of the river water overflowing it's banks, to the sound Tom Garvey's (Mel Gibson) boots sloshing through the mud. Even the sound of Tom's tractor, as he is anxiously trying to keep the river from overflowing it's banks is meticulously detailed. This film was deservedly nominated for an Oscar for both cinematography and sound editing, and in my opinion, should have won both, having lost out to The Killing Fields and Amadeus, respectively. (It did win a special achievement award for sound effects so go figure!)

Then there's the musical score. One critic complained that John Williams academy award nominated score was a bit overdone, but I think what that particular critic didn't understand is that the musical score perfectly complimented the cinematography. It's beautifully done, and it's a shame that it is never mentioned in the huge lists of John William's film scores.

Okay, so what about the rest of the film? Tom Garvey, his wife Mae (Sissy Spacek in an academy award nominated performance, but lost to Sally Fields for the previously mentioned Places In The Heart) along with their two children Lewis and Beth (well played by Shane Bailey and Becky Jo Lynch), are trying desperately to hold on to their farm through tough times. It doesn't help matters that Tom's crop is washed out at the beginning of the film by a massive flood. Throw into this mix, Joe Wade (Scott Glenn), who wants to see the Garveys fail so that his own Leutz Corporation can buy the farm out so that a dam can be built, a dam that would flood the valley, taking Tom and Mae's farm with it. This is not only a film about a man trying to hold on, but it is also an essay on character, Tom's, Mae's, and Joe Wade's.

Just by listening, we find out that at one time, before Mae and Tom were married, there was something going on between her and Joe Wade, and that Joe ended up with someone else. We are never told much of the details, but we know that anything that Joe Wade does irritates Tom tremendously. There is a scene between Mae and Tom, after Joe has made Tom what seems to be a more than reasonable offer on the farm, he refuses to even discuss it. "Because it's from him?" Mae asks. It is Tom's hesitation before giving her a stock answer that gives him away. He says it is not, but Mae and the audience know otherwise. As you watch this film, it is the subtlety in the performances, that says more here than any of the dialogue which drops only subtle hints about what happened in the past. Joe is on Tom and Mae's minds, even when he's not around.

Though she never says anything to make us think so, we can tell that there are times when being a farmer's wife is beginning to wear on Mae. At one scene taking place at a farm auction, another woman tells her "I hate being a farmer's wife". From the look on Mae's face, at this particular moment in time, she is in agreement. When she is trying to figure out where the money is going to come from to pay Sears, when she can't call a vet when their cow is dying, you can tell Mae is being worn down. As Mae looks around her, when they are at the auction, and sees what is happening to not only herself, but to all the other farmers around her we know what she is thinking, though she hardly speaks.

Some have complained about Mel Gibson's Tom Garvey being too stubborn and unsympathetic. There is another scene at the auction when someone offers to help Tom unload his truck and Tom refuses the offer. Mae grabs the man by the arm and tells this guy that he knows how Tom is not to take it personally. "Yes, just like, his father" he answers. Towards the end of the film, when the River is about to flood once again, we see Tom treating his children more like work hands than anything else, and we can imagine that Tom was raised in much the same way, so though we may not like his stubbornness, we now at least understand why he's that way. If Gibson's performance weren't consistent throughout, then the whole characterization wouldn't have worked.

There are some minor flaws in the film. Most of the things that happen when Tom takes a job as a scab at an iron works plant, are too loaded with heavy-handed symbolism, and unnecessarily so. The end of this film is also a bit of a disappointment. We may not like Joe Wade much, but we never feel any great animosity toward him at any time. The actions he takes in the waning moments, are way over the top in order to bring things to some type of dramatic close. It is not true to what the character had been up to that point, and it unnecessarily makes too much of a villain out of him. Besides, someone who runs a big corporation wouldn't take such actions, as it easily would open them up to a gigantic law suit.

Of the three farm movies that opened in a years time, I think this one is the most underrated and forgotten of the three. I've seen all of them, and though Sally Field's performance in Places in the Heart was good, I think Sissy Spacek's role here was much more difficult, as it required her to do so much in a very subtle way. Then again, I've never thought of the Academy Awards as being much of a judge of anything, let alone who was the best farmer!

Till Next Time, Next Class Please

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