Many Rivers to Cross (1955) Robert Taylor / Eleanor Parker Trilogy Part 3
The higher up the berry tree
The sweeter grows the berries
The more you hug and kiss a girl
The more she wants to marry
Robert Taylor would have been the first to admit that he’s no Sinatra. Still his rendition of this tune has been stuck in my head for thirty years and I still catch myself humming the words now and then.
This wonderful frontier adventure sees the star power of Robert Taylor as fur trapper Bushrod Gentry. He’s a master at dodging both women with marrying on their minds to the fists of beaus they have waiting in line for their hands in marriage. This includes Betty Lynn in the opening scene and her young man in waiting wanting a piece of Taylor. It’s a nice set up to the Taylor character and the troubles he faces due to “frisky females.” With Eleanor Parker around the next bend in the river he’s about to get more than he ever bargained for.
While traveling through the backwoods Taylor is attacked by four Indians and just as it looks like he’s about to meet his maker a shot rings out saving his life. Low and behold it’s a coon skinned cap wearing red head. She binds his wounds and takes him back to her family farm where she has four brothers and Victor McLaglen as a Father.
With tall and handsome Taylor decked out in buckskin, fur hat and a trusty musket in hand, Parker sets her sights on catching her a real live mountain man. From here forward this turns into a rollicking battle of the sexes adventure with Taylor doing everything he can to steer Parker and her plotting ways back into the willing arms of her one time beau, Alan Hale Jr.
Despite the insults and frowns that Taylor continually throws at Miss Parker, she’ll stoop to any means to land her dream husband. She sets him up to not only battle Hale with McLaglen sort of refereeing but she’ll ultimately resort to a whispered accusation in her Father’s ear which leads to the shotgun wedding of which Taylor barks at through the entire ceremony.
Going forward it’s the wild life adventures that follow as Taylor hits the trail with Parker in tow. There’s bound to be arguing, fisticuffs and Indian’s rampaging as the film moves towards the conclusion we’re all expecting when Taylor is tired of running and just might have to start doing the chasing himself.
Enough about the plot. Of the three films the duo made together this one stands tall above the other two titles when it comes to sheer entertainment which is what watching movies is supposed to be all about. Isn’t it?
From the opening scenes Robert and Eleanor are perfectly matched in this battle of wills. He’s the strong and stoic type who takes his kisses where he can but doesn’t figure on no “she fiend” tying him down. Not only is he hilarious through all the mishaps that befall him but he’s so well suited to the look of the Kentucky frontiersman. Although I am not sure of the reasons, I sometimes wonder why Taylor never turned up in a fifties/sixties western opposite “The Duke.” I think we missed out on great opportunity as film fans there.
Speaking of John Wayne, this film plays right into the John Wayne-Maureen O’Hara styled fun and games of McLintock. Makes for a fine double feature.
Eleanor Parker is all sex appeal in this cinemascope feature from MGM. She plays it as tough as any man when it comes to fighting and shooting but for trapping her a man she goes into the soft voiced sex kittenish female that she believes will be sure to net her a Robert Taylor type. Putting it plainly, Parker is a joy to watch in this western that allows her a strong female role with plenty of action scenes.
A nice bit of trivia for television fans in this Roy Rowland directed fun is seeing both Alan Hale Jr. (The Skipper) and Russell Johnson (the Professor) sharing some scenes together. They also both get to tangle with Taylor but to no avail. Another famed television star making an appearance as a man of the frontier is James Arness just as he took on the Matt Dillon character on Gunsmoke. The above mentioned Betty Lynn in the opening scene for the trivia buff is better known as Thelma Lou, girlfriend to Barney Fife over in Mayberry.
Hopefully my love for this film has shined through just a little bit as I usually point to it when cornered over naming my favorite Robert Taylor film. Miss Parker has a lot to do with that statement as well. Not saying it’s his best film critically, just the one I enjoy revisiting most often. And it’s sooooo funny!
Finally to steal a line from Curly Howard, I have been known to jokingly say on occasion “I’m the Robert Taylor type.” Now if I could find some co-workers who know who I am referring to they just might get a chuckle.