Marylin and Robert Mitchum


It is the film ‘ The River of No Return’  that immediately springs to mind when these two are mentioned and indeed are pictured together

River of No Return


Marilyn didn’t like this film – she was not happy working with Otto Preminger – in fact who was ?? – but she also was not at all fond of being on location.

Darryl F. Zanuck at 20th Century Fox. Production  originally had seen this as a B Film but he then seemed for whatever reason to have a change of heart, and cast the studio’s biggest star Marilyn Monroe in one of the leading roles.

Everything then had to be re-thought. so  Robert Mitchum and Rory Calhoun were added to the cast along with  child actor Tommy Rettig. It would be shot in colour and in  Cinemascope Fox – it was to be a big production

Otto Preminger  who was under contract to the studio was chosen to  direct the film whether he liked it or not and he didn’t much like it.

The production moved from Idaho up into Canada. The film got an upgrade with on-location shooting in Jasper and Banff, Alberta. There were the Banff Springs, Bow River, Lake Louise and the Rocky Mountains. This region of the world is simply stunning as anyone who’s ever been there will tell you.

Joseph LaShelle’s cinematography is breathtaking.  The beauty of Alberta, Canada’s Jasper National Park is spellbinding and definitely an asset. The footage shot along the Toutle river in Washington State supplements the Canadian grandeur.

A major weakness of the film is the un inspiring script and a weakish story. Since the plot is a simple one, director Otto Preminger felt he had to  emphasise the interplay of the leading characters as much as possible.


River of No Return 2


Otto Preminger and Robert Mitchum had had a stormy relationship on their previous film together Angel Face (1952).

Robert Mitchum considered Preminger  a  a great producer but “not a very good director”. According to producer Stanley Rubin, Mitchum played it cool but behind-the-scenes did a lot of digging into the production and was himself keen to see the film turn out well.

Otto Preminger and Miss Monroe clashed almost instantly. He was an overbearing director and she was sensitive to this sort of treatment.


River of No Return 3

Marilyn Monroe and Robert Mitchum on the set of River of No Return (1954)


Despite reports to the contrary Robert Mitchum and Marylin Monroe got on very well during the making of this film.


Robert Mitchum  tried to help her on more than one occasion. Mitchum’s biographer Lee Server says, ‘He thought she was an essentially sweet and funny but often sad and confused person.’


River of No Return 4

Marilyn Monroe, Tommy Rettig and Robert Mitchum get hosed in preparation for their studio scenes. River of No Return (1954)

The crew returned to Los Angeles to film the remaining scenes at the studio. According to Lee Server, this is “where Mitchum and Monroe would do their white-water rafting indoors on a hydraulic platform in front of a giant process screen, while men stood to the sides and splashed them with buckets of water and shot steel-headed arrows into the solid oak logs at their feet.”

At one point Otto Preminger abandoned the project and left for Europe. Director Jean Negulescu was recruited to pick up where Preminger left off. He did not receive credit for his work.

River of No Return was a box office hit and earned Fox $2 million in profits. Zanuck was right. Marilyn Monroe was the film’s biggest draw and the reason for it’s success. The reason why River of No Return has enjoyed decades worth of screenings, home video releases, interviews, discussions etc is mostly because of Marilyn Monroe


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