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Niagara

Niagara

By Patrick Samuel • July 23rd, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 4/5
NIAGARA (MOVIE)
20th Century Fox

Original release: January 21st, 1953
Running time: 92minutes

Director: Henry Hathaway
Writers: Charles Brackett, Walter Reisch, Richard Breen
Composer: Sol Kaplan

Cast: Marilyn Monroe, Joseph Cotten, Casey Adams, Jean Peters

Niagara

Back when I was a kid and first falling in love with the movies, the ones that my parents shared with me on weekend afternoons and during the school holidays, they told me that while there were many copies of Marilyn Monroe they would still only ever be one – the original. For years this troubled me because every time I saw a movie with her in it I wondered if it was really her or one of her many copies my parents had alluded to. With Niagara, which I first saw when I was 8 years old, I knew positively that the woman on screen was the real deal, but being just a kid then I didn’t know why.

Looking at it now with a much older pair of eyes I can see why I felt that way. It’s a noir-ish film, shot in stunning Technicolor using the backdrop of Niagara Falls to play its story out. Every frame of the film exudes a sensuality that’s both beautiful and sleazy; from the moment we first see Marilyn there’s no doubt it’s really her and not one of the dozens of wannabes that followed in the wake of her success as Hollywood’s sex bomb and subsequent untimely (and suspicious) death on August 5th, 1962 at the age of 36.

In the film Marilyn plays Rose Loomis, the wife of George Loomis (Joseph Cotten). The pair are renting a holiday cabin near the Falls but theirs isn’t a happy marriage and this is clear in the first minutes when we see Rose lying naked alone in bed smoking a postcoital cigarette. She’s radiant, fully made up and looks like she wasn’t alone, but as soon as she hears the key turning in the door; she puts out the cigarette, turns around and pretends to be asleep. George enters, tries to wake his sleeping wife and goes to sleep on the next bed without any luck and feeling frustrated. Rose smiles wickedly.

Niagara

We then meet another couple, Polly (Jean Peters) and Ray Cutler (Max Showalter) who are on their honeymoon. They’ve just arrived are due to be staying in the same cabin, but the Loomis’ haven’t checked out yet. George is still asleep and Rose begs the manager not to wake him. The waiting couple decide to take another room instead and later we see them visiting the Falls and they’re very much in love, in stark contrast to the Loomis’.

It’s at the Falls that Polly, by chance, catches a glimpse of Rose in a passionate clench with a man who’s definitely not her husband. That night Rose gets dressed and goes along to a party nearby. Wearing a tight fitting pink dress and a white shawl, Rose slinks over with a record in her hand and asks for it to be played. The song is Kiss by Lionel Newman and when Ray asked if she likes it, she replies “There isn’t any other song”. As she sings along to it the breeze gently blows through her platinum blonde hair as the light catches her face, but the moment is gone when George storms across and smashes the record to pieces.

Enraged that his wife continues to listen to a song that reminds her of her lover and wears a dress so short you can see her knee-caps, George tells Polly his wife’s a tramp but what he doesn’t know is that Rose is planning to do away with him. Niagara’s mystery slowly unravels as we start to learn more about Rose’s devious plan and what part the song Kiss plays in all of this. Though its atmosphere is at times rather like a Hitchcock thriller, Hathaway’s direction and the Niagarascreenplay never quite reaches those heights but the cinematography and lighting, together with Kaplan’s melodramatic score, might make you recall moments in Vertigo (1958), North By Northwest (1959) or Marnie (1964), though Niagara predates them all – so perhaps that says something too.

With Marilyn taking centre stage as the devious wife she shines in this role with the opportunity to do more than just look pretty and act dumb. Her wicked smile as she walks away after hearing the church bells ringing to the tune of Kiss and her expression shortly before fainting in the morgue show she was an actress with so much more to offer than she was usually credit for.

As a murder mystery Niagara keeps us guessing with what might happen next but none of that would be possible without the amount of natural sex appeal Marilyn exudes. Though I don’t know it back then when I was 8 years old I know it now as the reason why I was so sure this was the real Marilyn; a movie icon who’s so often imitated but could never duplicated.

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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