24 February 2012

24 Feb - "I came here as a missionary to the Indians. I think the white man will need me more."

River of No Return (1954)
dir. Otto Preminger

Robert Mitchum (Dead Man, 1995)
Marilyn Monroe (The Misfits, 1961)
Rory Calhoun (How to Marry a Millionaire, 1953)

I mentioned before that something funny I've noticed about the cultural diaspora is that older movies are completely unpredictable for me, because none of the same morals are called into action. In this movie Marilyn Monroe plays a down-in-her-luck showgirl named Kay in a gold mining camp, she's engaged with a smooth-looking fella played by Rory Calhoun, and we know he's a scamp because he wins a gold claim in a game of cards. Robert Mitchum plays a considerate father who's recently reunited with his 9-year-old son after the mother's death. Later we learn that father and son were separated because the father shot a man in the back and went to gasp! jail.

Kay and her guy are rafting down the river (of no return) when they run afoul of some rapids and the father fishes them out and gives them shelter on his farm. The treacherous Calhoun steals the farmer's gun and horse and plays to ride on to Saratoga (or wherever) to claim his land. The farmer points out that this is as good as a death sentence because the Indians will kill them all for sure. As a sign of good faith, Kay volunteers to stay behind with the father and son until Clahoun can come back with the goods.

But that's not good enough for Robert Mitchum!! Man, woman, and child take a death-defying trip down the river, narrowing avoiding Indians and rapids at every turn! All the while, Kay is trying to convince the revenge-bent farmer that her guy really isn't all that bad, he's just desperate and desperate times call for desperate measures. The son has to deal with some confusing philosophical quandaries, can good people do bad things for the right reasons?

The end is a little confusing, but no more confusing than a scene where the farmer pins down Kay, struggling, and kisses her forcefully but then it seems like she liked it? I think that sends a bad message to the children.

Here's my favorite song from the movie:

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