NIAGARA (1953) 

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Marilyn Monroe
Joseph Cotten
Jean Peters
Max Showalter
Denis O'Dea
Richard Allen
Don Wilson
Lurene Tuttle

Henry Hathaway



About Monroe

Time: 92 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Genre: Suspense/Drama

The only reason NIAGARA is still around today is because it stars the luminous Marilyn Monroe. This was one of her first major roles and she makes the most of it. Not that there's any character development or even a decent, script, but, for whatever reasons magic happens between an individual and the camera, you can't take your eyes off her. Her role as Rose Loomis is one of the only serious ones she ever had. Most of Monroe's parts had her in a comedy playing the sexy, dim blonde. Not so here. She's sexy and blonde, but also mean-spirited and devious. It's refreshing to see something behind those eyes other than dollar signs. I think it's also one of her sexiest roles, mainly because she spends much of the film naked. It's implied of course, but still incredibly powerful. After watching this film, there can be no doubt that she'd become a major star.

Despite top billing, Monroe's screen time is more of a supporting one, though her character is the one to push the plot into motion. Rose is a disgruntled young wife who married her husband to rise up in the world. Unfortunately, George (Cotten) isn't the type of man who can keep a woman like Rose satisfied. Since he lost his ranch, George has been depressed and volatile. They are at the Rainbow Cottages to try to renew the spirit of their marriage. It's clearly not working. Another young couple, the Cutlers, find this out first hand when Polly (Peters) discovers Rose kissing another man at the falls. Instead of helping her husband get back on his feet, Rose is trying to mentally destroy him. She constantly hums a love song they both know isn't one they share. Polly and her husband Ray (Showalter) don't want to get involved, but they are soon dragged into this ugly mess.

It turns out that Rose and her lover have unfortunate plans for George's future...basically a lack of one. What they don't count on is George's will to live and how utterly pissed off he's going to be when they don't succeed. Betrayal is a dangerous thing, a hard lesson learned by the lovers. It's something Polly learns as well, when she's continually dragged into the middle of this triangle. All she wanted was a simple and quiet honeymoon. What she got was a lesson in how love can go seriously wrong. It's the presence of both women that actually keep this film afloat. Monroe definitely steals the show, but Peters has the tougher role and holds her own.

For what it is, NIAGARA isn't a bad film. It just isn't as wonderful a thriller as it could have been. The one thing that saves it is the acting. Everyone involved seems to know they've seen better scripts, especially Joseph Cotten, but they give this little potboiler all they've got, considering what little they have to go on. This film has one of the thinnest plots you'll ever find. There's no backstory and no character development. It's like these people fell out of thin air and landed at Niagara Falls. We learn almost nothing about them, nothing at all about Rose's lover, so it's hard to really care all that much about what happens to them. Besides the fact that she doesn't love him anymore, why would Rose go to the trouble of trying to kill her husband? Why not just leave him?

"Listen. For a dress like that, you've got to start laying plans when you're about thirteen."

There are a million questions that go unanswered. The only character you feel anything for is Polly, who almost pays for her kindness with her life. All I can say is at least they had the decency to keep it short. If you're a fan of Monroe's this is definitely a flick to see, mainly because she actually gets to use her brain in this one. She's not too successful, but it's a departure from the roles she was later forced to continually play. Joseph Cotten has had much better roles in films like CITIZEN KANE and THE THIRD MAN, so don't expect much from him here. He doesn't embarrass himself, but that's not saying much. NIAGARA is a great flick if all you're looking for is a nice way to pass the time. It's an average film that will keep your attention, but won't knock your socks off.

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