Favorite things about… Niagara (1953)

(Image: dvdclassik.com)
(Image: dvdclassik.com)

The favorite film:
Niagara, 1953’s “raging torrent of emotion that even nature can’t control!” This noir-thriller was directed by Henry Hathaway for Fox.

The synopsis:
Polly and Ray Cutler are taking a belated honeymoon trip to Niagara Falls. When they arrive at the Falls, they find that the cabin they were supposed to be staying in is still occupied by Rose and George Loomis, who were supposed to check out before the Cutlers arrived.

Tensions grow between Rose and George, and eventually George goes missing – but Polly is suspicious of what really happened to him and works to find out the truth about what her vacation neighbors.

The cast:
Marilyn Monroe as Rose Loomis
Joseph Cotten as George Loomis
Jean Peters as Polly Cutler
Max Showalter as Ray Cutler

Fun facts:

  • Anne Baxter was originally offered the role of Polly but had to drop out of the film.
  • Marilyn Monroe was paid less for this film than her makeup artist was. It is her first starring role, and she was still under a stock contract with Fox.
  • Upon release, the film was praised by The New York Times for its beautiful technicolor images of the Falls… and of Marilyn. The review stated that Niagara Falls and Marilyn Monroe were discovered by Fox as two more wonders of the world.
  • Andy Warhol’s famous Marilyn Diptych is based on a publicity still from Niagara.

Favorite things:

  • The opening shot of the falls always makes me want to visit again! The scenery in this film is so beautiful.
  • Grandpa Fred from Sixteen Candles!
  • Marilyn is caught kissing a non-Cotten man… DUN DUN DUNNNN.
  • Marilyn’s makeup is always perfect, even while sleeping or after showering.
  • Rose and Polly’s wardrobes are both lovely!
  • All of Ray Cutler’s great, super-corny one-liners
  • Mr. Cutler creeping on his own wife while taking photos of her – “You’ve got nothing to hide. Inhale!”
  • The perfect blend of mystery with quirky side characters and a bit of cheese
  • Polly definitely has a future as a P.I. if she can get rid of that knack for getting herself into troubling situations. There are only so many times you can survive a near-tumble over the falls.
  • The big chase scene between Joseph Cotten and Marilyn, followed by…
  • …LOW SPEED BOAT CHASE TIME!
  • Wonderful, high-tension ending. The film builds slowly up to this, and the story definitely goes out with a bang.
(Image: The Silver Screen Affair)
(Image: The Silver Screen Affair)
  • Quotes:
    • Polly: “You must think I’m a hot article.”
    • Ray: “It’s an army hospital. Mostly psycho.”
    • Polly: “Well, she sure got herself an armful of groceries.”
    • Ray: “You kind of like that song, don’t you Mrs. Loomis?”
      Rose: “There is no other song.”
    • George: “You smell like a dime store. I know what that means.”
    • George: “No, not Rose. She’ll go off to some town and drift up to the right bar stool.”
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5 thoughts on “Favorite things about… Niagara (1953)

  1. Hi Lindsey! Love that photo with Max Showalter! “Hey Max, did you pull those pants up over your belly button? And tuck in that snowflake shirt!” And if we’re taking a vote, I’d have to say my favorite Marilyn movie is ‘The Seven Year Itch’.

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  2. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is my favorite Marilyn film but this is my favorite of her dramatic films and the only one that fully explores the dark side of her persona and where she plays a despicable character. I wouldn’t consider her role in Don’t Bother to Knock in the same vein, that character did some disturbing things but she was a very damaged and lost girl not really cruel.

    She was Fritz Lang’s original choice for Debbie in The Big Heat which would have either come just before or immediately following Niagara but Zanuck wanted too much money for her loanout. It worked out extremely well of course I can’t imagine anyone better in the role than Gloria Grahame, it’s my favorite performance of hers, but it is intriguing to wonder had Marilyn been cast what effect the one-two punch of those two noirs would have had on the trajectory of her career. It’s easy to envision her as a noir femme fatale, perhaps she would have been happier with those films than the ones she was cast in.

    James Mason was originally scheduled for the Joseph Cotton role but backed out when his daughter told him she didn’t want to see him in another picture that he didn’t make it all the way through. Nothing against Joe Cotton who was fine in the part and an actor I like but the match up of Mason and Monroe would have lead to an even more amazing film.

    I really like Jean Peters in this film, again she was originally planned for Marilyn’s part but when Marilyn started breaking through Fox shuffled the parts when Anne Baxter had to withdraw and Jean makes far more sense as Polly Cutler. She was certainly an attractive woman but her more down to earth quality counterbalanced Marilyn’s overt sexuality in a way it never would have had she been cast as the murderous sexpot.

    I don’t dislike any of Marilyn’s film, I’ve seen all of them except for a couple of her very early films where she just has bits, but The Prince and the Showgirl and Let’s Make Love were both a bit of a struggle. Prince is a bit too long and she and Olivier have a serious lack of rapport but Let’s Make Love could have been saved had it not had that black hole of cinema Yves Montand in the lead. Heaven knows it was offered to enough others, Rock Hudson, Charlton Heston, Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, Stephen Boyd, Yul Brynner and Gregory Peck (initially cast who backed out when rewriting diminished his role), before they settled on Montand-they should have kept looking!

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