The titular 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.
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
Roughly a decade after the film was made, Marilyn Monroe claimed this was her worst film, and Otto Preminger spoke bitterly about her in numerous interviews. It wasn't until January 1980, when being interviewed for the New York Daily News, that he conceded, "She tried very hard, and when people try hard, you can't be mad at them." (Less than a decade after this was made she was no longer acting because she was no longer alive.) See more »
Opening scene of Robert Mitchum cutting down tree with an axe, you can plainly see where the tree had been cut on both sides with a chainsaw, and the axe finished off the last few wood strands of center to complete the fall of the tree. See more »
We could use some coffee. You got any?
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When originally released theatrically in the UK, the BBFC made cuts to secure a 'U' rating. All cuts were waived in 1987 when the film was granted a 'PG' certificate for home video. See more »
An unexceptional story beautifully directed by Otto Premiger, whose handling of this routine material makes it work as well in its way as the best of Anthony Mann. A stolen rifle figures prominently in this western, as does an Indian attack, the budding romance between a puritanical homesteader with a past and a saloon singer in trouble, and of course the eponymous and oftentimes violent river they raft down. The northwest scenery is breathtaking. Preminger gives a nice drive to his narrative without stressing any one element for too long. For a while it's a farmer-son story, then a badman story, then there's a journey down the river, then a romance, then an Indian attack. Scenes play out dramatically rather than melodramatically despite the genre limitations of the script, and this shows Preminger's steady hand. He doesn't mind making his movie a bit of a travelogue or nature film if the mood strikes him, and therefore the picture has a nice diversity, and many lovely things to look at. Chief among its many scenic attractions is Marilyn Monroe in the female lead. I can't say that this is her best performance but it's one of her best non-musical or comedy roles that isn't too serious, which is to say it's not at all like How To Marry a Millionaire, Bus Stop, The Prince and the Showgirl or The Seven Year Itch in that there's no air of a heavyweight property with lots of money and talent behind it, which works in the movie's favor, as it is a pleasant surprise. This is perhaps Miss Monroe's only 'throwaway' role of her starring career, and she makes the best of it by playing her part naturally and with none of the ironic, self-referential self-deprecation one often finds in her major starring vehicles. Robert Mitchum is excellent in the male lead, as is Tommy Rettig as his son, who more than holds his own with these two adult heavyweights. The songs Monroe sings are all pretty good and well-delivered and add to the story in each case, which is unusual. One cares for these people, who behave credibly despite the mechanical plot devices, and the movie ends on a touching visually and musically orchestrated grace note, as if something of profound importance had just transpired.
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