RIVER OF NO RETURN (1954)

Dir. Otto Preminger

Twentieth Century-Fox head Darryl F. Zanuck sent Marilyn Monroe and Robert Mitchum racing down the rapids in this Wild West version of The Bicycle Thief (1948), with a horse and rifle replacing the stolen bicycle as the items absolutely essential to survival. With the tools of survival stolen, farmer Mitchum fights to get his son to safety during a treacherous river journey. The film took a wide detour around Neo-Realism when Zanuck decided to use it to showcase his top female star in glorious CinemaScope. He had Monroe written in as a sympathetic saloon singer whose fiancé (Rory Calhoun) steals the key items, then assigned director Otto Preminger, who had a lucrative pay-or-play contact with the studio. Preminger bitterly resented Monroe's reliance on her acting coach and the need to shoot the star's lines in short takes because of her memory problems. Yet he still developed a fluid visual style for the film and got a strong performance out of his leading lady, in a role exploiting both her sex appeal and her warmth, the latter in moving scenes with Mitchum and young Tommy Rettig.

In attendance: Stanley Rubin.

RIVER OF NO RETURN
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