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.
When billionaire Jean-Marc Clement learns that he is to be satirized in an off-Broadway revue, he passes himself off as an actor playing him in order to get closer to the beautiful star of the show, Amanda Dell.
Showgirls Lorelei Lee and Dorothy Shaw travel to Paris, pursued by a private detective hired by the suspicious father of Lorelei's fiancé, as well as a rich, enamored old man and many other doting admirers.
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
"River Of No Return" spotlights one of Marilyn Monroe's best early performances, once more showing the world that she was more than just another sex kitten, that there was real talent behind her beautiful figure. Most contemporary critics failed to recognize Marilyn's extraordinary gifts other than the obvious ones. Too bad she was short changed in the song department. Had Marilyn been allowed to strut her stuff with a composition comparable to Marlene Dietrich's ribald "See What The Boys In The Backroom Will Have" from "Destry Rides Again," she would have brought down the house. Instead Marilyn is stuck with three ditties that don't deserve their big movie status, "I'm Gonna File My Claim," "One Silver Dollar," and "Down In The Meadow." The exception is the bewitching title ballad hauntingly sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford over the opening credits and later with verve and longing by Marilyn.
Not only does Marilyn exhibit a marvelous acting style, but she is paired with one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood history, Robert Mitchum. Why critics have often failed to notice his abilities as a performer is amazing, with so many inventive portrayals to his credit. Rory Calhoun has his moments as a low-life scoundrel loved by Marilyn. And little Tommy Rettig is ideally cast as Mitchum's abandoned son. His role in "River Of Not Return" is perhaps the reason he was later chosen to play a similar part in TV's "Lassie."
Joseph LaShelle's cinematography is breathtaking, except for the obvious rear projection used in the treacherous raft scenes depicting Mitchum, Monroe, and Rettig fighting the rapids on the River Of No Return. The beauty of Alberta, Canada's Jasper National Park is spellbinding and definitely an asset. The footage shot along the Toutle river in Washington State supplements the Canadian grandeur.
A major weakness of the movie is the lackluster script and threadbare story. Since the plot is a simple one, director Otto Preminger must emphasize the interplay of the leading characters with as much analysis as possible. Here the writer Frank Fenton, who based his screenplay on a story by Louis Lantz, is unable to rise to the task. Though many of the lines between Mitchum and Monroe and good ones, there are not enough of them to sustain an entire film.
Matt Calder (Mitchum) seeks his son entrusted to a friend when Calder went to jail for killing a man (possibly in self-defense). His son, Mark (Mark follows Matthew in the Bible), is left to wonder around a boom town until taken in by the local dance hall queen, Kay Weston (Monroe). Once Matt finds Mark, the two journey to Matt's farm on the banks of the River Of No Return. Floating down the river come Kay and her husband, Harry Weston. Both are in danger of drowning. Matt saves them only to have Harry steal his horse and take off. Kay has a distorted image of Harry in her mind, bent out of shape by the pliers of love. Matt perceives Kay as nothing more than trash, but his son knows a different side of her, a kind and loving woman. The three take off down the River Of No Return: She to get back her man; he to kill her man; and the boy to try to work it all out in a peaceable manner, with an ironic twist to the story at the end.
The River Of No Return, as the name implies, is symbolic, but of what? The metaphor is not easy to reconcile with the story, except in places. See what you can do with it.
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