Wild River

Wild River is a 1960 American drama film directed by Elia Kazan and starring Montgomery Clift, Lee Remick, Jo Van Fleet, Albert Salmi and Jay C. Flippen. The film was shot on location in the Tennessee Valley, and was adapted by Paul Osborn from two novels: Borden Deal's Dunbar's Cove (1957) and William Bradford Huie's Mud on the Stars (1942), drawing for plot from Deal's story of a battle of wills between the nascent Tennessee Valley Authority and generations-old land owners, and from Huie's study of a rural Southern matriarchal family for characters and their reaction to destruction of their land. It marked Bruce Dern's film debut.


In the early 1930s, Chuck Glover (Montgomery Clift) arrives in Garthville, Tennessee, upstream from a new hydroelectric dam of the Tennessee Valley Authority, to head the TVA's land purchasing office after its previous supervisor quit. He is responsible for supervising the clearing of land to be flooded but must first acquire Garth Island on the Tennessee River, the last piece of property yet to be sold to the government. The previous supervisor was unable to convince elderly Ella Garth (Jo Van Fleet), matriarch of a large family that has lived on the island for decades, to sell her land to the government, which to avoid bad publicity the TVA wants to acquire without using force. The clearing of the land for the coming lake is also proceeding behind schedule because the mayor, the town's barber, uses only white labor. Chuck goes to Garth Island but Ella and the other Garth women, including Ella's granddaughter Carol Baldwin (Lee Remick), refuse to listen to him. He tries to reason with Ella's three grown sons, Hamilton (Jay C. Flippen), Cal (James Westerfield), and Joe John, but being relocated means working for a living and they have never worked in their lives. Joe John tosses Chuck into the river. Hamilton comes to Chuck's room soon after to invite him to the island for a formal apology and to speak with Ella.