River of No Return is a 1954 American Western film directed by Otto Preminger and starring Robert Mitchum and Marilyn Monroe. The screenplay by Frank Fenton is based on a story by Louis Lantz, who borrowed his premise from the 1948 Italian film Bicycle Thieves. The picture was shot on location in the Canadian Rockies in Technicolor and CinemaScope and released by 20th Century Fox. Directors Otto Preminger & Jean Negulesco
Music composed by Cyril J. Mockridge, Leigh Harline Distributed by: 20th Century Studios.
Set in the Northwestern United States in 1875, the film focuses on taciturn widower Matt Calder (Robert Mitchum), who has recently been released from prison after serving time for killing one man while defending another. He arrives in a boomtown tent city in search of his nine-year-old son Mark (Tommy Rettig), who was left in the care of dance hall singer Kay (Marilyn Monroe) after the man who brought him there, as Matt had arranged, abandoned him. Matt promises Mark, a virtual stranger to him, the two will enjoy a life of hunting, fishing and farming on their homestead. Kay’s fiance, gambler Harry Weston (Rory Calhoun), tells her they must go to Council City to file the deed on a gold mine he won in a poker game. They head downriver on a log raft, and when they encounter trouble in the rapids near the Calder farm, Matt and Mark rescue them. Harry offers to buy Matt’s rifle and horse so as to reach Council City by land. When Matt refuses, Harry knocks Matt unconscious and steals both horse and rifle.
Kay chooses to stay behind to take care of Matt and Mark, and the three are stranded in the wilderness. When hostile Indians attack the farm, the three are forced to escape down the river on Harry’s raft. That night they set up camp by the river, and Matt and Kay argue about the wisdom of pursuing Harry. Matt asks why Kay would choose to marry a man who had endangered a child, whereupon she reminds him that Harry never killed a man like Matt did. Mark overhears their discussion, and Matt is forced to reveal the truth about his past to his son, who is unable to comprehend why his father acted as he did. As the three continue their journey, Kay comes to appreciate Matt’s bravery and the tender way he cares for both her and Mark. Along the way, they are forced to deal with a series of trials and tribulations, including a mountain lion attack; gold prospectors Sam Benson and Dave Colby, who are after Harry for stealing their claim; and a second Indian war party. After a difficult ride through the worst of the rapids, the three arrive in Council City and confront Harry. Harry shoots at Matt, prompting Mark to shoot Harry in the back, using a rifle that he was inspecting in the general store. As a result, Mark comes to understand why his father had to shoot a man in a similar fashion so many years before. Afterwards, Kay finds a job at the local saloon. While she is singing there, Matt walks into the saloon and throws Kay over his shoulder to take her back to his farm along with Mark. She happily leaves with him. The final scene is Kay throwing her high heeled showgirl shoes from their buckboard into the street, a renunciation of her old life.
Robert Mitchum as Matt Calder
Marilyn Monroe as Kay Weston
Tommy Rettig as Mark Calder
Rory Calhoun as Harry Weston
Douglas Spencer as Sam Benson
Murvyn Vye as Dave Colby
Hank Mann as Townsman