River of No Return

I felt exhausted after a long day of lecturing. I went home and watched the Blu-ray disc of “River of No Return,” the only Western that Marilyn Monroe had done. The director was Otto Preminger, who wasn’t the best choice, as it didn’t feel like a Western and lacked excitement. The performance by Marilyn certainly wasn’t her best. I don’t know whether it was drama that restrained her, or it was her infamous acting coach. She still had several years of beauty left in her face and figure before the strain would show. She appeared to work hard at getting her songs right with the correct fingering on the guitar, although she used her thumb heavily. She didn’t like the script, and she had an injured ankle. The plot took something from “Bicycle Thieves” and felt a bit like an episode of The Rifleman. There were elements that would strike people as racist and sexist today. Robert Mitchum’s character seemed like he was about to rape Marilyn at one point, but the appearance of a mountain lion prevented that from happening. I couldn’t understand how Mitchum, Marilyn, and the kid escaped getting struck with at least one arrow. The movie was a hit, and so I guess people wanted the combination of Marilyn in a Western and in CinemaScope. There was enough of a lure with all those elements. The ending was contrived. The boy learns a lesson in understand what his father went through, and Marilyn is heading for a presumably happy life. Actually, there are a lot of questions there. The script could only suggest things about her past, as she says about her husband, “He didn’t treat me like a tramp. He treated me like a woman.” I would say that the movie is far from great, but it is amusing to watch because of Mitchum and Marilyn. The stars make a forgettable plot watchable. Otto Preminger went on to make films like “The Man with the Golden Arm” and “Anatomy of a Murder.” His career went into a decline after “Hurry Sundown.” He died in 1986. One of Robert Mitchum’s movies that I remembered from my youth was “Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison.” I thought he was a great actor. He died in 1997. Marilyn Monroe was only 36 when she died in 1962. Some of the people who died on October 17 include Frederic Chopin (1849), Christopher Glenn (2006), Joey Bishop (2007), Teresa Brewer (2007), Levi Stubbs (2008), and Vic Mizzy (2009). Today is a birthday for Ziggy Marley (50). Today is a birthday for Eminem (46), Mike Judge (56), and George Wendt (70). According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for October 17, the Elvis Presley movie “Jailhouse Rock” had its premiere in 1957. In 1958, “An Evening with Fred Astaire” was broadcast on NBC. In 1963, Dion and the Belmonts broke up. In 1966, “Hollywood Squares” made its debut on NBC. In 1967, “Hair” had its premiere off Broadway. Today is Gary Puckett’s 76th birthday.

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