Movie Review: River of No Return (1954)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 1954 western starring Robert Mitchum and Marilyn Monroe.

Synopsis: After serving a prison sentence for killing a man to protect another, the only thing Matt Calder wants to do is reunited with his 10-year-old son, Mark, and start farming. Things take a dramatic turn when he rescues a local saloon singer and her husband from a nearby river and is rewarded by having the husband steal his only horse and gun. With a hostile group of Native Americans looking to attack, his only choice is to board a flimsy raft with his son and the saloon singer and make the treacherous journey down river.


My wife had to work last night and, as I always do, I sat up waiting for her to get home. Since this meant I had the house to myself for a while (after the kids were in bed), I decided to find a classic film to watch and, after some debate, picked this one, mostly because I had seen Marilyn Monroe in comedies but did not remember seeing her in a more dramatic role.

Overall, I thought she did a good job in this film. However, the movie, in general, was a little disappointing for me.

One of my biggest problems with this film is it is very predictable. The second Matt (Mitchum) rescued the singer and her new husband (Monroe and Calhoun) from the river, it wasn't too hard to figure out that was going to be a mistake, especially since her husband wasn't exactly the most honest person to begin with. And, when she elected to stay behind with Matt, I kind of figured it was only a matter of time before they started to have feelings for each other.

Heck, I even predicted how this film was going to end. And, believe me, with the twist the writers (admittedly) tried to throw in, that shouldn't have been that easy.

The film also takes quite some time before anything exciting happens. While some of this was needed, mostly to introduce us to the characters, Monroe had time to sing three different songs before things finally got going. Considering this isn't that long of a film (about 90 minutes), I think the writers could have cut out at least one of those songs and added a bit more to the plot.

Final Opinion

Overall, I thought the acting in this movie, especially Monroe's, was decent. However, the plot was a bit too simple and, as I said, the movie takes a bit too long to really get going. As a result, I wasn't as impressed with this as I thought I would be.

My Grade: A

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Updated: 01/10/2017, StevenHelmer
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DerdriuMarriner on 03/29/2022

StevenHelmer, Thank you for product lines, pretty pictures and practical information.
The library system here does have River of No Return among its Blu-ray and DVD collections. So I expect to see this film with a dramatic interpretation by Marilyn Monroe sometime in the near future, after Lent ends.

Have you seen the film Niagara in which Marilyn Monroe likewise nets a dramatic role?

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