Niagara (1953 film)

Niagara (1953 film)

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Henry Hathaway
Produced by Charles Brackett
Written by Charles Brackett
Richard L. Breen
Walter Reisch
Narrated by Joseph Cotten
Starring Marilyn Monroe
Joseph Cotten
Jean Peters
Max Showalter
Music by Sol Kaplan
Cinematography Joseph MacDonald
Editing by Barbara McLean
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date(s) January 21, 1953
(United States)
Running time 88-92 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget US$ 1,250,000

Niagara (1953) is a melodramatic thriller and film noir directed by Henry Hathaway and starring Marilyn Monroe and Joseph Cotten. Unlike other film noirs of the time, Niagara was shot in Technicolor on location and was one of 20th Century Fox's biggest box office hits of the year.

Although it was not written as a star vehicle for Monroe, she dominated the film nonetheless. Along with Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire (which were also released in 1953), it solidified Monroe's status as a bona fide box office draw.



Ray and Polly Cutler (Showalter and Peters) on a delayed honeymoon at Niagara Falls, find their reserved cabin occupied by George and Rose Loomis (Cotten and Monroe). They politely accept another, less desirable cabin, and the two couples become acquainted.

George and Rose have a troubled marriage. She is younger and very attractive. He is jealous, depressed and irritable. It is implied that he may have recently been discharged from an Army mental hospital. While touring the falls the following day, Polly sees Rose passionately kissing a man, Patrick. That evening the Cutlers witness George's rage. Rose joins an impromptu party and George storms out and breaks a record playing a tune that he suspects has a secret meaning for Rose.

What George does not know is that Rose is planning his murder. The next day she lures him into following her to the dark tourist tunnel underneath the Falls. There Patrick has planned to kill him. Patrick is to request a nearby carillon to play a special song to let Rose know that George is dead. By chance, the tune is played and Rose concludes George is murdered.

In fact, George has killed Patrick, thrown his body into the falls and collected Patrick's shoes at the exit instead of his own. This leads the police to believe that George is the victim. The body is retrieved and the police bring Rose to identify George's body. When the cover is lifted from the face and she sees Patrick, she collapses and is admitted to a hospital.

The motel manager moves the Cutlers to the Loomises' cabin. George comes to kill Rose in revenge but finds Polly instead. She wakes and sees him before he runs away. She tells the police, who launch a dragnet.

During the Cutlers' second visit to the Falls, George finds Polly alone. Trying to escape, she slips and he saves her from falling into the Falls. He explains that he killed Patrick in self-defense and asks, "Let me stay dead." Polly leaves without answering.

A frightened Rose leaves the hospital intending to return to the U.S. Finding George waiting for her, she tries to hide in the carillon. George catches her and strangles her beneath the bells, which remain silent. Remorsefully he says, "I loved you, Rose. You know that."

The Cutlers go fishing with friends in a launch on a section of the Niagara River above the Falls. When the launch is moored to allow the party to go shopping, George steals the boat with Polly on board. The police are notified and set out in pursuit. The boat runs out of gas and drifts toward the Falls. Near the edge, George manages to place Polly on a rock before going over the Falls to his death. A camera shot reveals Rose's body clad in a red dress at the bottom of the Falls. Polly is rescued by helicopter.



A major theme is that of sex and its destructiveness.[1] Rose is a femme fatale, seductively dressed in tight clothes revealing her sensual figure. Her relationship (combining the sexual, hypocritical, and scornful) with George is contrasted with the more normal relationship of the Cutlers which also has sexual elements hinted at by the film. Ray Cutler does not fail to notice the sexual charms of Rose, but the reaction of both Ray and Polly to their interactions with George and Rose demonstration the conventionality of their attitudes.

Critical reception

When the film was released, The New York Times praised the film, if not the acting. They wrote, "Obviously ignoring the idea that there are Seven Wonders of the World, Twentieth Century-Fox has discovered two more and enhanced them with Technicolor in Niagara ...For the producers are making full use of both the grandeur of the Falls and its adjacent areas as well as the grandeur that is Marilyn Monroe...Perhaps Miss Monroe is not the perfect actress at this point. But neither the director nor the gentlemen who handled the cameras appeared to be concerned with this. They have caught every possible curve both in the intimacy of the boudoir and in equally revealing tight dresses. And they have illustrated pretty concretely that she can be seductive - even when she walks. As has been noted, Niagara may not be the place to visit under these circumstances but the falls and Miss Monroe are something to see."[2]

Critic Robert Weston also hailed the film and wrote, "Niagara is a good movie for noir fans who crave something a little different. Be warned, the film was shot in glorious Technicolor, not black and white, but still boasts an ample share of shadows and style...Undoubtedly, the best reason to see Niagara is just as trailer promised: for the scenery. There's some terrific location work that showcases the breathtaking aspects of the Falls before the city evolved into a tawdry Canadian answer to Atlantic City; and of course, there's a gal named Marilyn Monroe, burgeoning at her humble beginnings."[3]

The staff at Variety wrote, "'Niagara' is a morbid, cliched expedition into lust and murder. The atmosphere throughout is strained and taxes the nerves with a feeling of impending disaster. Focal point of all this is Marilyn Monroe, who's vacationing at the Falls with hubby Joseph Cotten...The camera lingers on Monroe's sensuous lips, roves over her slip-clad figure and accurately etches the outlines of her derrière as she weaves down a street to a rendezvous with her lover. As a contrast to the beauty of the female form is another kind of nature's beauty - that of the Falls. The natural phenomena have been magnificently photographed on location."[4]


In the weeks after Monroe's death in August 1962, Andy Warhol used a publicity photo from Niagara as the basis for his silkscreen painting Marilyn Diptych, showing multiple images of Monroe's face.

See also


  1. ^ Silver, Alain & Elizabeth Ward, Film Noir (1979). The Overlook Press: Woodstock, New York.
  2. ^ The New York Times. "Niagara Falls Vies With Marilyn Monroe," film review, January 22, 1953. Last accessed: December 27, 2007.
  3. ^ Weston, Robert. Film Monthly, film review and analysis, August 24, 2001. Last accessed: June 27, 2010.
  4. ^ Variety. Film review, 1953. Last accessed: February 2, 2008.

External links

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