" The River of no Return"(54) was filmed in glorious Technicolor and cinemascope. It unashamedly exploits the natural splendors of mountains, trees, rivers and especially that great force of nature Marilyn Monroe. It is set in the days of the gold rush in the Canadian North West. It was filmed in the beautiful Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada which helped the impressive cinematography tremendously.
Marilyn Monroe stars as a saloon girl who can sing very nicely indeed. So much so that this film can be considered a musical adventure. Her opening song "One Silver Dollar" is especially enjoyable. She is involved with a gambler/drifter played by Rory Calhoun in perhaps his best screen role. He is extremely good in this raffish role, and tends to steal the limelight from the better known stars. Mitchum rescues the pair from drowning and looks after them. Later Calhoun in a most ungracious act knocks Mitchum over the head and steals his horse and rifle. This leaves Mitchum, his son and Marilyn in something of a fix as the Indians are on the warpath. They use a raft to take after Calhoun down the river. On the way Mitchum quite sensibly lusts after Monroe. What red blooded male wouldn't? Of course he meets up with Calhoun again for a less than friendly chat.
Both Otto Preminger the director and Marilyn Monroe were forced to make this film against their wishes due to contractual obligations. They both had deep reservations about the script. But despite this the film was a box office hit. Monroe and Preminger fell out during filming and Mitchum took over the communication role. Mitchum as usual exudes his sleepy brand of masculinity in the film whilst Monroe takes femininity to Mt Everest heights. Her saloon girl dress is certainly an eye opener for the male viewer. The film has many good moments like the excellent songs and gorgeous cinematography. The rear screen projection and long shots during the river scenes are a bit false at times. The Indians also seemed to have a strange death wish at times, throwing themselves into the rapids in pursuit of the trio. But maybe that is understandable with Marilyn on board. It was also quite amusing to see Monroe playing her guitar and using the wrong chords to match the song. But these are small blemishes that can be partly attributed to the age the film was made in. It is also noteworthy that Mitchum amazingly sings the title song, and that you will not require ear muffs during his rendition.
Overall this film is very entertaining. It is by no means a classic Western but it is extremely watchable for many reasons already mentioned. The time watching it went very quickly which is always a good sign. Recommended viewing