Niagara (1953)

Niagara (1953), directed by Henry Hathaway.


I met her in a big beer hall. She was the most popular waitress they had. I guess it was the way she put the beer on the tables.

A wholesome happy couple on their second honeymoon meet another couple at a lodge overlooking Niagara Falls: they are neither wholesome nor happy. Excruciatingly hot Marilyn Monroe is tired of her mentally distressed husband, Joseph Cotton. He is subject to moods and rages and she winds him up at every opportunity. She has a new boyfriend and they have a cunning plan to make her a widow.

The trouble with a murder plot: that gate swings both ways.

Jean Peters, last seen in Captain from Castile (1947) and Pickup on South Street (1953) is the "normal" wife who gets wrapped up in the murder plot.

This is a great vehicle for Monroe: she gets to be sultry, duplicitous and conniving, then finally terrified when her efforts go awry. As a thriller it is mild but gorgeous, the gimmick being the fine location shooting at the Falls and an action sequence on the river at the end.

We have a foot in two genres: the adventures of the sunny couple when they encounter a mystery, and a more noirish and sordid tale of murder by the odd couple.

The film makes a gesture to Code compliance in sexual matters (the twin beds at the honeymoon lodge) but I have to wonder how the rules were applied in this case. The normal husband has his wife turn so he can photograph her boobs at the best angle. (And why not? What could be more wholesome than that?) But Cotton and Monroe talk bluntly of makeup sex after fighting, and the way she nakedly writhes, covered only by a sheet -- good grief. The studio must have gotten the censors drunk.

Sol Kaplan's score reminds me of Miklos Rozsa.

Available on a rather fine Blu-ray with gorgeous Technicolor -- maybe just a bit too saturated.