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The River (1928)

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. He meets a woman who was the girlfriend to the boss ... See full summary »


Frank Borzage


John Hunter Booth (dialogue), Dwight Cummins | 2 more credits »


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Complete credited cast:
Charles Farrell ... Allen John Spender
Mary Duncan ... Rosalee
Ivan Linow ... Sam Thompson
Margaret Mann ... Widow Thompson
Alfred Sabato Alfred Sabato ... Marsdon (as Alverdo Sabato)
Bert Woodruff ... The Miller


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. He meets a woman who was the girlfriend to the boss of the outfit, recently locked up for murder. This worldly lady and the innocent boy find a powerful attraction, that builds to a violent climax. Written by Dennis Taylor

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Would He Descend To Her Level Or Would She Rise To His...? (Print Ad-St. Lawrence Plaindealer,((Canton, NY)) 5 November 1929)


Drama | Romance







Release Date:

6 October 1929 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Backwash See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Fox Film Corporation See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (restored)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System) (talking sequences)| Silent

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Charles Farrell is one of the first male American stars to appear in a nude scene in a major motion picture, in this 1928 production. See more »


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 »


Featured in Next Time I'll Aim for the Heart (2014) See more »


I Found Happiness (When I Found You)
music by Erno Rapee
lyric by Lew Pollack
See more »

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User Reviews

One of many lost silent masterpieces, but at lest you can see it was a masterpiece.
3 January 2017 | by clanciaiSee all my reviews

This film was a revelation to me of Frank Borzage's true capacities of a very different and more original kind than the later professional films of his that made him world famous, especially the ones with Janet Gaynor. This is a wildly romantic epic of the wilderness in spectacular settings, which in part could have been Frank Borzage's own background and origin. The scenery is fantastic around the river in the mountains with its primitive community, and the story is perfect for that almost surrealistic environment. Charles Farrell is still young here, he hasn't met Janet Gaynor yet, and is the helpless prey of Mary Duncan as an experienced lady with a brutal past without enough sex. Charles fights her temptations, on one occasion he cuts down four trees in succession with just an axe to vent his boiled-up energy and frustration, while she amusedly looks on only the more certain of having him hooked.

It's an amazing film in spite of being mutilated, the beginning and finale are missing, but from the added stills you still get the whole story, which ought to have been a wonder of cinematic art if not among Borzage's very best - who knows, but at least you can hope for that it will turn up somewhere - 80% percent of all American silents were lost, while only a fifth have come down to us - so far.

But what really lifts the film to impressing heights is the tremendous music, pushing on all the way in sustained tension and perfectly matched to the loaded drama, and it was the music that caught my interest in even this mutilated film of poor technical quality. The music is as fascinating as the drama and the film and its romantic settings, and these different elements add to each other to enhance the vitality and volcanic life of the film. Yes, there is some Rimsky-Korsakov in it, but there is nothing wrong with Rimsky-Korsakov, and the mood of his brief interplay is perfectly suited to that particular moment of intimate intriguing intensity, like all the highly dramatic music to all the rest of the film. This would have been a tenner if it had been complete.

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