Niagra (1953): Marilyn Monroe Thriller

Henry Hathaway’s “Niagra” is a film noir in color, a tale of an adulterous woman named Rose, played by Marilyn Monroe (at her most sensual) and her insanely jealous husband, George Loomis (Joseph Cotten).

The plot, co-written by Charles Brackett, Walter Reisch, and Richard Breen, contrasts two couples: The straight-laced happy honeymooners Polly (Jean Peters) and Ray Cutler (Casey Adams) and the more mature, cynical and unhappily-wed Rose and George Loomis. The foursome meet at a small resort, set against the always magnificent, often stormy, and occasionally ominous sight of the Niagara Falls.

When their promised cottage is still occupied by the Loomises, the Cutlers temporarily take another cabin. For the next two days, the lives of the two couples are bound together for a variety of reasons.

Polly discovers that Rose is having an affair and that George, though emotionally unstable, has good reason for his jealous bursts of rage. George suspects that Rose flaunts her sexuality to make him act crazy in front of witnesses. Indeed, Rose plans for her lover Patrick (Richard Allan) to kill George and make it look like suicide, or better a disappearance.

Things go wrong, and instead, George kills Patrick. When George returns to kill Rose, he finds Polly in her place. Since she had been sympathetic to him, George asks Polly not to tell anyone that he is alive so he can disappear quietly. But, realizing that he wants to kill Rose, Polly informs the police.

George begins stalking Rose, who’s desperately trying to leave town. The police are searching for both of them, and finally George and Polly are on a boat heading for the precipice.

Niagara Falls, one of the most favorite honeymoon spots in the 1950s, serves as an ironic metaphor for the destructive power of out-of-control carnal and murderous obsessions. The color cinematography is deliberately lurid, heightening the tension inherent in the story, and Walsh makes the most of the unique locations.

Hathaway’s direction is reliably taut, and he coaxes strong performances from Cotten as the obsessive, older hubby, and Monroe as the neurotic wife, who has just been released from a mental institution.

The very blond Monroe is dressed in voluptuous pink and red dresses, which contrast her with the more conventionally bourgeois Jean Peters, as well as with the dark and masculine looks of her lover, Richard Allan.

Credits
Running time: 90 Minutes.
Directed by Henry Hathaway
Screenplay Charles Brackett
DVD: May 14, 2002

Cast
Marilyn Monroe as Rose Loomis
Joseph Cotten as George Loomis
Jean Peters as Polly Cutler
Casey Adams as Ray Cutler
Denis O’Dea as Inspector Sharkey
Richard Allan as Patrick

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