This movie is a hoot. Apparently it began as a serious adventure story but morphed into an all-out farce with two very compatible stars. Well worth a look. I wrote this a while ago.
“Many Rivers To Cross” was a delightful surprise. I enjoy westerns but they’re not my favorite. So to discover that “Many Rivers” is a farce set in the post-Revolutionary War period made it much more interesting. The lead actors are Robert Taylor and Eleanor Parker, who had worked together twice before (in “Above and Beyond” and “Valley of the KIngs”) and who had wonderful chemistry, on-screen and off. I’ve even read that Ms. Parker had hopes of being the second Mrs. Taylor.
“Many Rivers” was filmed in 1954. In May of 1954 Mr. Taylor married the love of his life, Ursula Thiess, and immediately returned to the movie. This must have caused a bit of stress for Ms. Parker. However, there is no sign of any problem in her performance. She is robustly wonderful. The way she wears her costumes, her accent, her comic delivery are all spot on. She pulled out all the stops.
Mr. Taylor, on the other hand, was called “wooden” by some of the critics. Most of the critics don’t seem to have understood that this wasn’t a real western and tried to review it as though it were. What critics called “wooden” (was it in some handbook, Robert Taylor=wooden?) was a low-key, subtle and genuinely delightful performance. Very early in his career learned to limit gestures, to use his eyes, to exploit stillness so that when he does move it has much more impact. So many actors today never seem to stop moving.
“Many Rivers To Cross” is available on DVD from Warner Archive. I got it as part of a set of western classics that also included “Saddle the Wind” and “The Law and Jake Wade.”