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Author Topic: Niagara (1953)  (Read 8787 times)
cigar joe
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« on: September 20, 2011, 03:16:45 PM »

Niagara (1953) Dir. Henry Hathaway with Marilyn Monroe, Joseph Cotton, Jean Peters, Max Showalter. Monroe & Cotton couple with serious marital problems after two years who are staying in a honeymoon cottage in Niagara Falls, Canada. Cotten may think they are there to rekindle their relationship, but Marilyn is meeting secretly with her lover and they are plotting to murder him. Jean Peters and Max Showalter are another couple on a delayed honeymoon who by default are intwined in the intrigue and are entertaining.

Great juxtaposition in the cinematography between the beauty and the ominous power of Niagara Falls which looms over the film. The falls and there heavy rush of water provide a tangible impression that events are in motion, unstoppable, and the results will be inevitable. The more traditional Noir archetypes of dark shadows thrown by window blinds and shutters are equally effective here when shot in color.

Marilyn as the gorgeous femme fatale is an inferno, driving her neurotic husband insane with both the innuendo of her denial of intimate affections and indications of infidelity causing rages of jealousy.



The film acts also as almost a seemless travelogue for Niagara Falls as the two couples visit all the tourist highlights of note.
Its probably one the best of the color Film Noir. 9/10

Was aired by Turner Classic Movies recently

« Last Edit: September 21, 2011, 05:45:11 AM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2012, 12:40:19 PM »

Was just aired by TCM again.

An amazing movie. Just incredible to look at.

9/10

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« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2012, 12:44:54 PM »

Marilyn as the gorgeous femme fatale is an inferno, driving her neurotic husband insane with both the innuendo of her denial of intimate affections and indications of infidelity causing rages of jealousy.
To say nothing of her plan to actually have her husband murdered, what? Kind of an important part of what makes her "fatale," wouldn't you say?

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« Reply #3 on: May 16, 2012, 01:03:34 PM »

This movie has an interesting tone.

The Falls are definitely the main character here. They are filmed beautifully, in the way that a Western landscape would have been filmed. (only a few months later, and they would have had widescreen. Too bad  Cry ). You really don't get the sense of foreboding, ominousness, claustrophobia (with the one exception of the tunnels under the Falls, shown briefly); this has a much lighter feel than a typical noir. The "normal" couple -- also cast very well, Jean Peters and Max Showalter, bring a very light feel to the movie. More than anyone, Showalter sets the tone of the movie as a very light one --  he is always giving that funny smile, like a little kid who was let out of school early. Other than the opening scene, you never really get the sense that this will be anything other than a light romance movie with beautiful cinematography. I guess that's why the first scene had to be what it is -- so the filmmakers can say, we didn't pull a fast one on you and change course halfway through; we told you right away what this was about, and the fact that the next half hour has a light feel is just to underscore how this was supposed to just be a fun vacation, till something went wrong... I mean, it is kind of hard to really feel that this is a drama... But who cares, it is a terrific watch.

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« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2012, 06:29:00 AM »

I like the film, but there's one plot problem I can't get past. Why does MM have to murder Cotten to be with her lover? Why can't she just divorce the guy? Or just split? Nowhere are we told that Cotten is a rich guy and MM wants to inherit his millions. He's just a guy with mental problems. So, maybe if she splits he'll come after her, but does that mean she has to murder him? Whatever happened to restraining orders?

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« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2012, 06:33:36 AM »

I only remember Niagara as a lame and disappointing thriller without much thrills. 5/10
And I'm surprised about the good ratings.

But I will re-watch it if it is again on TV.

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« Reply #6 on: May 17, 2012, 06:44:45 AM »

The opening scene is narrated by the Cotten character: he talks about not knowing why he is visiting the Falls alone at 5 AM, and that gives us the indication that he is having has some real mental health problems. But then we never get narration after that; this movie is certainly not told from Cotten's point of view! That is strange, and I am thinking of 2 possibilities as to why they would do this:

One possibility is similar to what I said above, that while this movie is in color and opens with a beautiful shot of the Falls and the first half has a generally light romantic feel, the filmmakers wanna let us know right away that this will be a noir, and is a serious movie; so the narration which is a noir characteristic s a wink-wink like, "don't be fooled by the color or the imagery or the scenes you will later see; this is a noir all the way."

The second possibility is that the opening voice-over is not a narration, but just Cotten enunciating his thoughts at the time. Like on a tv show when an actor is thinking something, sometimes they will play him stating what he is thinking, cuz there is no other way for us to know (unless he talks to himself). So in order to clue us in to Cotten's problems, they open with a scene that  tells us his thoughts, but it is not "narration."

SPOILER ALERT

So I know that the bad guy Cotten has to die; and considering that the Falls is the main character here, having him die the most spectacular way possible, going over the Falls, is the perfect death. But it bothers me how he makes no attempt to save himself. He is doing all that work with the boat, frantically trying to keep it from going over, and then, when they have a chance to jump onto that rock, he just helps her out and makes no attempt to save himself as well?

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« Reply #7 on: May 17, 2012, 06:47:55 AM »

I only remember Niagara as a lame and disappointing thriller without much thrills. 5/10
And I'm surprised about the good ratings.

But I will re-watch it if it is again on TV.

Well if you are focusing on the "thriller" aspect of it then I am surprised you would even give it a 5/10. The only part of this otherwise meaningless story that I find interesting, is an early reference to the issue of the mental health problems of returning war veterans; there was not nearly enough attention paid to that issue in those days. They had far less knowledge about, and far fewer treatment options available for, those suffering from what we now call "post traumatic stress disorder." it is interesting, and sad, to see an early reference to that very serious problem. Thank God, today that is an issue that is being given the appropriate attention by the medical establishment and the military.


This movie is all about the visuals; the story is concocted around displaying two things: the Falls, and Monroe.

This movie has such a wonderful sense of location. I can't say for certain whether every single scene was filmed on location
or whether some -- the walkways, the bus station, the gift shop, etc. -- may have been filmed in studio; but I can say that the movie absolutely makes you feel like you are actually spending a week there in Niagara, Ontario. Soooooo beautiful. I am just smitten with this movie.



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« Reply #8 on: May 17, 2012, 01:01:10 PM »

I like the film, but there's one plot problem I can't get past. Why does MM have to murder Cotten to be with her lover? Why can't she just divorce the guy? Or just split? Nowhere are we told that Cotten is a rich guy and MM wants to inherit his millions. He's just a guy with mental problems. So, maybe if she splits he'll come after her, but does that mean she has to murder him? Whatever happened to restraining orders?

I can think of about a million and one possible reasons why the lives of Monroe and The Lover With No Name (whom I will call "Lover") would be made easier if Cotten is dead, even if we presume that Cotten -- being an ex-military guy with mental health issues -- has no money: Firstly, they may have a house, and even if they have nothing else, that alone is a lot. And they have a car. But setting aside the money stuff, most importantly,
Monroe and Lover want to pursue their romance in peace. Until now they have been sneaking around. Sure, Monroe could just tell Cotten that she is leaving him, but what then? Cotten is obsessed with her, and not just going to walk away. Restraining orders? I don't know what the law was RE: that stuff in 1953, but we have not seen Cotten be violent toward her (just to her record  Wink). And even if he does get the restraining order, people don't always obey them. Sure, she could call the cops, but that gets messy. And divorces get real messy too. And  Monroe would prefer not to be known as a married woman openly sleeping with another man;  that has always been considered the single most immoral thing one could possibly do -- and it still is viewed that way in 2012 among many cultures/religions/people that have what we now call "traditional values"; but until a few decades ago, what we now call "traditional values" were the mainstream views of society. And when that sort of thing indeed happened  -- and of course, people committing adultery is as old as the laws prohibiting adultery -- the people involved would do everything possible to keep it secret.

eg. I was recently reading about Ingrid Bergman, and I saw that her affair with Roberto Rossellini  caused a huge scandal in the early 50's http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ingrid_Bergman#Italian_period_with_Rossellini:_1949.E2.80.931957
 
So even though she walks around dressed like a tramp and is not exactly the most modest girl on the block, still, there is no way she would want to be living openly in adultery. It's pretty darn clear that she doesn't want Cotten to know what she is doing; that is why she keeps sneaking around! So obviously she doesn't want it to be known that she is sleeping with Lover.

So, she'd have to keep seeing Lover secretly. And if she wants to marry him, she would first have to file for divorce. She can't "just divorce the guy"! Divorce can be the most incredibly messy, nasty processes known to humans. No way that a guy as obsessed with her as Cotten was would have let her go that easy. And even if the divorce would eventually happen, she wouldn't be able to live openly with her lover until the divorce actually went through.

Additionally, Cotten was suffering from mental health problems. How bad does it look for a woman to abandon her husband in his time of need? To walk away from a husband who has suffered mental scars in Korea, and is trying to seek treatment, but overall seems to be a decent enough guy and has not been violent toward her? Abandoning her husband in that situation would be looked upon almost in as much disgust as committing adultery would; and she would have done both.


So let's see: she could try the options above, all of which would cause much difficulty for her and her lover.... or,  she could be rid of him once and for all. If Lover had been successful in killing Cotten, I think the cops would have viewed this as an open-and-shut suicide case: The victim had been mentally disturbed for a while, as documented  by the doctors he had visited; was exhibiting particularly strong symptoms the night before, acting crazy in front of many strangers; his wife has acted very caring and concerned about him; she had frantically reported him to the authorities as missing; he enters a tour of the falls, but never leaves; and his body is later discovered with blunt force trauma to the head, perfectly consistent with a suicide jump. yes, this would be an easy, clean job, and she could be rid of Cotten and live with Lover (whom she no doubt would meet for the very first time at a bar in Chicago a month later) happily ever after

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« Reply #9 on: May 17, 2012, 05:21:42 PM »

Maybe the Cotten Character is old school Catholic and divorce is outa the question too.

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« Reply #10 on: June 07, 2012, 10:02:48 PM »

Just watched (most of) the movie again, this time on dvd.

Just to be clear: since this movie for me really is all about the sense of location, if you know Niagara Falls, you'll love it. It's not just watching the Falls itself, but feeling like you are actually spending a week in the area (even though the motel scenes are not really shot in a motel across from the falls). If you have never visited the Falls -- while you may enjoy its beauty -- the whole sense of location in the movie certainly won't mean as much to you. This is a 9/10 movie but only for those who know and love the area  Smiley

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« Reply #11 on: June 16, 2012, 08:54:09 PM »

any of you watch Nik Wallenda cross the falls on a tightrope last night? unbelievable

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« Reply #12 on: June 16, 2012, 10:32:39 PM »

Shit I remember hearing he was going to and missed it  Cry

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« Reply #13 on: June 16, 2012, 10:59:31 PM »

Shit I remember hearing he was going to and missed it  Cry

There are plenty of YouTube clips  Afro

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« Reply #14 on: June 17, 2012, 01:10:24 PM »

Just to be clear: since this movie for me really is all about the sense of location, if you know Niagara Falls, you'll love it. It's not just watching the Falls itself, but feeling like you are actually spending a week in the area (even though the motel scenes are not really shot in a motel across from the falls). If you have never visited the Falls -- while you may enjoy its beauty -- the whole sense of location in the movie certainly won't mean as much to you. This is a 9/10 movie but only for those who know and love the area  Smiley
I've never been there, but I get what you're saying about the film communicating a sense of location. I've wanted to go to Niagara ever since I saw this picture. I'll go sometime, although the 10 hour drive doesn't seem very inviting.

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