NiagraSuggested by Brad Nelson • A modestly enjoyable thriller in the pseudo-Hitchcock style, Niagara offers film noir themes (although in Technicolor) and abundant and striking location shooting. And it has Marilyn Monroe as a ripe femme fatale married to unstable Joseph Cotten.
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10 Responses to Niagara

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    The Marilyn-thon continues. This one is directed by Henry Hathaway and probably should have been directed by Hitchcock. This movie is “recommended” by me, but only in the sense that it has Marilyn Monroe in it and isn’t completely awful.

    This starts out as an interesting psychological thriller, although slow-building. Polly and Ray Cutler are innocent travelers, taking the opportunity to have a second honeymoon at Niagara Falls because her husband has a meeting with the big honcho at Shredded Wheat. Ray gained the attention of the cereal higher-ups because he marketed a turkey-stuffing recipe that used those little wheat pillows.

    Ray Cutler is played by the ever-smiling Max Showalter. His performance is of the “so bad it’s good” variety. He’s really quite unintentionally funny. He’s all smiles, even in the face of mystery and murder. His wife, played by Jean Peters, is solid enough.

    In the cabin next door are Rose Loomis (Marilyn) and George Loomis (Joseph Cotton). George has obviously married way over his head, although part of the cognitive dissonance of this movie is that this extremely hot blonde is some waitress he supposedly found in a diner and was able to woo her. I guess sheep farmers have their appeal.

    It’s a somewhat dopey setup but all goes well at first. Marilyn is obviously stepping out on her husband, even while at Niagara Falls, and this is driving Cotten berserk. He’s obviously a nice fellow but they don’t call it “femme fatale” for nothing. He is the male black widow who is being eaten by the female. The Loomis couple get mixed up in their affairs as innocent bystanders in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    So the movie does a fairly good job of setting all this up with the characters fleshed out nicely, and with Marilyn even kinda-sorta singing one song around the campfire. But then when the tripwire of plot is set off, the movie goes fairly goofy as the necessities of a rushed and simplistic plot then move the characters as if they were mere chess pieces. Gone is the psychological thriller to be replaced with people running around trying to kill each other or escape being killed. But along the way are cool views of Niagara Falls which smooths over a great many flaws in this film.

    Marilyn is superfluous to this movie. It could have been any blonde. She has one scene that is Marilynesque where she is walking away from the camera in an extended shot. Few could walk like that broad. The murder, when it happens, is done offscreen which is odd. The movie needed a bit more suspense and action. There are some strange choices in this production. But the scenery is fantastic (cancel your trip to Niagara, just watch this film) and this has the wooden charm of an old movie shot with moderate skill.

    Marilyn has a couple changes of outfit that do the Technicolor justice. Her presence (though not the presence of stellar acting), juxtaposed with a couple actors who are bland and a plot with a few watery holes, makes for a “I’m glad I watched that but I’ll never watch it again” sort of film.

  2. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Few could walk like that broad.

    Please show a little more respect for an appearance/ugly-challenged woman who sold sex appeal on the movie screen. Name calling is beneath you.

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    There are a couple good lines in the movie that are very Marilynesque. One is when Monroe strolls out of her Niagara Falls cabin in a stunning magenta dress towards an outdoor party full of partygoers (and lots of seemingly unattached men). Ray Cutler says:

    “Hey, get out the fire hose.”

    Ray Cutler than asks his wife, “Why don’t you ever get a dress like that?”

    She replies, “Listen. For a dress like that, you’ve got to start laying plans when you’re about thirteen.”

    And in an obvious foreshadowing of what is to come to George Loomis, George philosophizes about the falls:

    Let me tell you something. You’re young, you’re in love. Well, I’ll give you a warning. Don’t let it get out of hand, like those falls out there. Up above… d’you ever see the river up above the falls? It’s calm, and easy, and you throw in a log, it just floats around. Let it move a little further down and it gets going faster, hits some rocks, and… in a minute it’s in the lower rapids, and… nothing in the world – including God himself, I suppose – can keep it from going over the edge. It just – goes.

    That’s somewhat dopey dialogue, at least when delivered by Cotton. Me thinks out of the mouth of Bogart it would have been given a lot of weight instead of sounding like a script writer who was trying too hard.

    Or perhaps Dana Andrews would have made it work. I can certainly see him giving a little more punch to this interchange between Joseph Cotton and his cheatin’ wife, Monroe:

    George Loomis: You smell like a dime store. I know what that means.

    Rose Loomis: Sure. I’m meeting somebody, just anybody handy, as long as he’s a man!

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I’m about a half hour into “How to Marry a Millionaire” which is supposed to be one of Marilyn’s best. So far it’s a rather artless and witless comedy. The premise is good enough: There women come together to pool their womanly guile to attract millionaire husbands. There are no rules other than winning.

    So far, Marilyn’s one-joke shtick is that she’s near-sighted. Lauren Bacall is charmless and doesn’t belong in this picture. However, Betty Grable does show some humorous spunk as the con-woman whose white lies get her all things from men (including today’s groceries). She has most, if not all, of the best lines so far.

    I’ll stick with it, and it could get better. Certainly this movie is rated higher than what I’ve seen so far. It should get better. But the chemistry between the three girls is just not there. I can imagine Jean Harlow (as the elder stateswoman, replacing Bacall), Doris Day, and perhaps Marilyn playing the manipulative Grable part as a better cast. Still, so far the material is dull. It depends upon the characters themselves lighting up the screen. And Marilyn’s talent is wasted as her main thing is to walk into walls.

  5. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I finished “How to Marry a Millionaire” last night. It picks up a little in the second half. But overall it’s just not a good script so I can’t recommend this but thought I’d mention it as I play a game of Pokemon Go with Marilyn movies.

    The moral of the story (spoiler alerts, but this isn’t the kind of movie where it matters) is to marry the man (or woman, presumably) that you have genuine affection for and share interests. All three broads start out looking for nothing but millionaires, but two of them (Grable and Monroe) fall for good men but men who have a moderate income, at best. One is a forest ranger (Grable’s beau). The other is some kind of dodgy character on the lam (Monroe’s beau) and who also wear glasses. One of the points of departure from monotony is when the two are seated next to each other on an airplane and he convinces Monroe to feel comfortable wearing her glasses instead of walking into walls. More of this kind of charm would have made this a much better movie.

    In the meantime, Bacall holds out for the millionaire and actually finds one. And they get married…or get as far as standing in front of the minister when Bacall calls it off. She had previously met a man that she very much fell in love with (grudgingly, all the way) but she thought that he was poor. The millionaire she was going to marry was actually a nice guy (although much older than her) and the height of the movie is his display of even-temperedness and magnanimity (think: opposite of the little monster, Donald Trump) as the millionaire gives way to Bacall’s true love (who she doesn’t yet know is another millionaire…an even bigger one).

    So all’s well that end’s well. This is another Hollywood movie stamped out. The screenplay is by Nunnally Johnson who otherwise did some nice work with “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit,” “The Grapes of Wrath,” and “Bedtime Story.” But this isn’t going on the highlight reel except for the big names attached to it. Pared down a bit into a Grant (who would have been 49…perhaps the rejected millionare)/Monroe movie (instead of fussing with 3 different story lines but do nothing but overlap the same message) where you more fully flesh out all the philosophical, material, and emotional swings, this could have been great. But you can’t go back in time and changes things. (Can you?)

  6. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Wipe “My Man Godrey” from the list of movies you must see before you die. This movie was listed at as Carole Lombard’s best. If that’s her best, I’d hate to see her worst. Lombard is terrible in this, her character a bizarre one-note whine or whimper…until the very end where she has one scene with William Powell that is adequate…a hint of what could have been.

    The premise is that Powell, a successful businessman, takes time off to reassess his life after a failed love affair. He decides (for reasons I never understood) to live with some bums down by the river. He is discovered by Lombard and her sister in a curious game of scavenger hunt. Needed on their list is “the forgotten man.” The bitchy sister offers Powell (who she thinks is a bum) five dollars to come back to the party where he can be registered as her find.

    Long story short, Lombard wins Powell’s light affection and agrees to come home and be her butler. No one asks why this bum suddenly has the refinement and skills of a butler. It’s just a dumb movie, Powell being the only jewell in this tarnished set.

    Many modern commenters absolutely love it because it is a “socially conscious” movie. That basically means glorifying the poor and showing the rich as a bunch of dimwits. Name a movie or TV series that has shown the English aristocracy to be anything but dimwits. There are surely some examples. But a “socially conscious” movie is one that shows the successful in a bad light and the drunks as victims.

    Yours truly might be moved by the plight of the poor but they are not helped by demonizing the rich, nor is a movie made any more entertaining by forwarding this overused plot. And, of course, I don’t pretend that a movie is more entertaining than it actually was because it is supposedly “socially conscious.”

    But such is the mood these days amongst the low-information moviegoers. You see a movie such as this highly rated at, for example, surrounded by glowing reviews. And then you actually watch it and understand that the taste of the American public sometimes cannot be under-rated. This movie has totally put me off even trying another Carole Lombard movie. I could perhaps be persuaded to try “In Name Only” with Cary Grant. We’ll see.

    One of the functional aspects of this site is to separate the wheat from the chaff, at least in terms of movies and books. I suppose we should create a special section for “Don’t bother watching these over-rated turkeys.” Maybe.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      You see a movie such as this highly rated at, for example, surrounded by glowing reviews. And then you actually watch it and understand that the taste of the American public sometimes cannot be under-rated.

      I believe it was Mencken who said, “Nobody ever went bust underestimating the taste of the American public.”, or something to that effect.

      P.T. Barnum was also close when he said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” That’s a lot of suckers.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Well, if they like it because it involves a lot of bums, they should make a movie of the Cleveland torso slayer (aka “the mad butcher of Kingsbury Run”). He targeted a lot of bums (they’re very convenient targets for a serial killer), and you have the advantage that the police chief who tried to catch him was Eliot Ness.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        This movie did inspire me to put “William Powell movies” on the list. He was the only thing good in “My Man Godfrey.”

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