Marilyn’s Underrated Greats: From ‘Love Nest’ to ‘River of No Return’

Writing for Collider, Yenyiyani Siegfried recommends ten ‘great, underrated’ Monroe films, including the innocuous but sweet Love Nest (1951), in which aspiring author Jim Scott (William Lundigan) returns to New York after military service overseas, only to find his wife Connie has invested their savings in a run-down apartment building.

Connie is played by June Haver, a wholesomely pretty blonde who also starred in Marilyn’s first release, Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! (1947.) Marilyn’s minor role had been cut, except for a brief moment outside church where she says ‘hi’ to June. By 1951, Marilyn’s career was on the rise while Haver’s was winding down. On screen, the two blondes are rivals: Marilyn plays ‘Bobbie,’ an old army buddy of Jim’s who turns out to be a very shapely femme.

As June recalled, “Marilyn had that electric something.” But Jack Paar, who played Marilyn’s love interest in the film, scoffed that “beneath the facade of Marilyn there was only a frightened waitress in a diner.”

Marilyn on location in Canada for River of No Return

Moving on to her more neglected star vehicles, River of No Return was first reviewed by Bosley Crowther in the New York Times on May 1, 1954.

“IT IS a toss-up whether the scenery or the adornment of Marilyn Monroe is the feature of greater attraction in River of No Return … The mountainous scenery is spectacular, but so, in her own way, is Miss Monroe. The patron’s preference, if any, probably will depend upon which he’s interested in. Certainly, scriptwriter Frank Fenton has done the best he could to arrange for a fairly equal balance of nature and Miss Monroe. He has bluntly confronted Robert Mitchum, as a hardy fellow of the Northwest frontier, with a menacing situation compounded of generous portions of the two. Not only does Mr. Mitchum have to spend several days guiding a flimsy log raft down a raging mountain stream, relentlessly stalked by Indians who make it perilous for him to come ashore, but he also has to ward off temptation in the shape—and we mean shape!—of Miss Monroe. The fact that he makes his destination without fouling on either is the show. And that should not be too lightly taken. For Director Otto Preminger has thrown all the grandeur and menace of these features upon the eye-filling CinemaScope screen … But Mr. Mitchum’s and the audience’s attention is directed to Miss Monroe through frequent and liberal posing of her in full and significant views. At the outset, she shows in spangled costumes, playing a guitar in a saloon and singing appropriate ballads that can easily be left where they lie. But for rafting on the river, she is garbed in a sort of dude rancher’s duds, which cling rather closely to her figure when she is liberally soaked in spray. Indeed, to make sure that the resistance of Mr. Mitchum is clearly understood, Mr. Preminger poses one situation that is the test of Hercules. He soaks Miss Monroe so completely that she must clothe herself in a blanket, nothing more, and then he has Mr. M. massage her to avoid her talking a chill. The magnitude of the dramatic dilemma is indicated by this sort of thing.”