Wild River

Critics Consensus

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Total Count: 12


Audience Score

User Ratings: 525
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Movie Info

Filmed on location in the Tennessee Valley, Wild River is set in the early 1930s. Montgomery Clift plays an idealistic TVA agent, assigned to convince the locals to move from their property so that a beneficial dam can be built. The principal holdout is feisty octogenarian Jo Van Fleet, who refuses to budge from her land, convinced that she will die if she ever gives an inch. Her prophecy turns out to be true, as Van Fleet becomes yet another sacrifice to progress. Clift also runs into opposition because of his fair treatment of the local black population. Lee Remick costars as Van Fleet's granddaughter, who comes to love and understand the sensitive Clift. Some dated fuzzy-headed liberalism aside, Wild River is a masterful recreation of a difficult, complex period in American history. Watch for an uncredited Bruce Dern in his film debut. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Montgomery Clift
as Chuck Glover
Lee Remick
as Carol Garth Baldwin
Jo Van Fleet
as Ella Garth
Jay C. Flippen
as Hamilton Garth
Albert Salmi
as F.J. Bailey
Big Jeff Bess
as Joe John Garth
Frank Overton
as Walter Clark
Barbara Loden
as Betty Jackson
Bruce Dern
as Jack Roper
Pat Hingle
as Narrator
Judy Harris
as Barbara Baldwin
Jim Menard
as Jim Baldwin
Jim Steakley
as Mayor Tom Maynard
Mark Menson
as Winters
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Critic Reviews for Wild River

All Critics (12) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (12)

  • Both sections of the flavorful, vernacular-filled screen play have been given professional treatment.

    Feb 19, 2015 | Full Review…
  • Shooting predominantly on location in Tennessee, Kazan makes evocative use of the mist that hangs over the river like a lingering regret.

    Feb 19, 2015 | Rating: 4/5

    Wendy Ide

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • This 1960 drama is probably Elia Kazan's finest and deepest film, a meditation on how the past both inhibits and enriches the present.

    Feb 19, 2015 | Full Review…
  • In studying a slice of national socio-economic progress in terms of people, it catches something timeless and essential in the human spirit and shapes it in the American image.

    Feb 19, 2015 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • One of [Kazan's] least theatrical and most affecting films.

    Nov 18, 2011 | Full Review…

    Geoff Andrew

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Kazan's films are better known for showcasing stratospheric Method-emoting over visual expressiveness, which makes Wild River's gorgeous imagery a shock...

    Oct 21, 2009 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    David Fear

    Time Out
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Wild River

  • Mar 19, 2016
    A government official turns up in a flood ravaged Tennessee town, circa 1930's, to order the residents to move so that a dam can be set in place. Many conflicts ensue, all set against the peaceful country surroundings. It's an interesting mood piece of a film, with the ladies doing all of the heavy lifting onscreen.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Apr 11, 2015
    Strong little known drama with excellent work from all involved.
    jay n Super Reviewer
  • Mar 28, 2013
    Will the river stay wild or be tamed? You can ask the same of the old woman who lives on the island about to be flooded or the other characters in this heartfelt melodrama. It features wonderful, yet restrained performances, particularly by Clift. The love story between Clift's character, the TVA representative and local girl Carol Garth (Lee Remick)is as important to the story as the TVA's struggle to evict the inhabitants of one island. Furthermore, the TVA and Clift struggle to drag the town into the 20th century, including some degree of racial integration. Although much younger than these characters, having grown up in a similar town in TN, I found them and their town believeable. Wild River was filmed on location on the Hiawassee river near Charleston,TN. Finally,the cinematography is excellent. Elia Kazan and his crew did a superb job all around. Highly recommended.
    Clintus M Super Reviewer
  • Dec 08, 2009
    A good movie which went deeper into the subject matters than I expected. The DVD cover read like a cheap romance pulp novel and I was surprised when the movie addressed issues of racism and old age. Unfortunately, Montogomery Clift's downfall is more than apparent in this picture and his performance is wooden and stale and almost grotesque at times. One particular scene comes to mind, when Lee Remick (who does a fantastic job) delivers a powerful monologue and Clift more or less drops off of the screen, that is how bad he is. I have always been fond of him, sincing seeing him in Red River when I was a kid. Here and then, Kazan's talent shines through and some scenes are powerful compositions illustrating the relationship between man and nature and Kazan uses fog, light and the remoteness of Tennesse to great effect. The ending is a bit inconclusive but at least it is not some Hollywood serving of candy-colour cheesecake. All in all, a good movie which could have been great with a better cast, as Lee Remick cannot pull the weight alone. HX
    Henrik S Super Reviewer

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