Did the newly divorced Roslyn Tabor (as played by MM) throw her wedding ring off Reno’s Virginia Street Bridge, and into the Truckee River in The Misfits? The answer is no – while her friend Isabel (Thelma Ritter) mischievously suggests it, Roslyn laughs and proposes to ‘get a drink’ instead.
And as Mark Robison reports in today’s Reno Gazette-Journal, the long-held belief that divorcees commonly toss their rings in the river is somewhat exaggerated – but not without precedent. (In fact, Hollywood had burnished the myth for decades before Marilyn set foot on that bridge.)
“Some have speculated it started with the 1961 film The Misfits where Marilyn Monroe’s character thinks about throwing her ring into the Truckee.
Nevada historian Guy Rocha goes back further. In a Reno Gazette-Journal column published in 2008, he writes, ‘The first-known account of throwing wedding rings into the Truckee River (is) in the pamphlet titled: Reno! It Won’t Be Long Now’ NINETY DAYS AND FREEDOM from 1927.
This topic of freedom in Reno refers to the city’s liberal divorce laws, which allowed couples to get divorced after a short residency of three months, often spent in a hotel casino. (The time was shortened even more later.) Other locations in the first half of the 20th century made divorce much harder and required much longer waits before finalizing the decision. This made Reno especially popular among people who needed a divorce before they could marry someone else.
Rocha wrote that an early pop culture reference to tossing wedding rings into the Truckee River occurs in Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr.’s 1929 book Reno. A movie of the book released in 1930 ‘first introduced movie-goers to Truckee River ring-flinging, Rocha said.
A 1931 book called The Reno Divorce Racket has a photograph of Marjorie MacArthur and Dorothy Foltz throwing their wedding rings into the river, Rocha reported.
Many stories in magazines and newspapers followed, some debunking the trend, others celebrating it.
Rocha mentions a 1950 United Press news story about 50 Junior Chamber of Commerce volunteers cleaning the river and finding one — but only one — wedding ring.
Rocha concluded, ‘The tradition might have been fakelore originating in promotional literature, then reinforced many times by publicity gimmicks. While not common practice, real wedding rings found their way into the Truckee because some divorcées acted on what they believed to be a tradition.'”