This film was not directed by Alfred Hitchcock. But it could have been…I feel that certainly it must have been influenced by Hitchcock. All the Hitchcockonian (is that a word?) traits are there: a crime that does not turn out as it’s supposed to, the requirement of huge suspension of disbelief, jarring music to signal that SOMETHING SIGNIFICANT is happening, and of course, a beautiful blonde bombshell. In this case, the bombshell in question is Marilyn Monroe. She plays Rose Loomis, a woman who has come to Niagara with her emotionally unbalanced husband George (Joseph Cotten). However, Rose is scheming with her young lover, to murder her husband so that she and said lover can be together. Enter young couple Ray and Polly Cutler (Casey Adams and Jean Peters), on a belated honeymoon, who end up getting entangled in the Loomis’s unhappy marriage, and the fall out from Rose’s plan.
I actually did enjoy this film a lot, even though it was hard to take seriously. Marilyn Monroe is stunning and certainly looks the part of a femme fatale – all pillar box red lipstick (even when she has just woken up in the morning), and practically busting out of her very clingy clothes. I really really like Marilyn in comedies (and I do believe that she was under-rated as a comic actress). I’ve seen her in other dramas, where she did much better work than here, but in Niagara, she becomes a caricature, and at times overacts quite obviously. Casey Adams, as the husband in the honeymooning couple was beyond annoying. He seemed to spend most of the film grinning inanely and came across as nothing so much as an overgrown schoolboy.
However, Jean Peters and Joseph Cotten were both superb – Stevens in particular. I actually thought that Stevens’ character Polly, who was a demure but witty and compassionate wife, looked far more attractive – although certainly not as striking – than Rose. Peters also played the part extremely well, not being too over the top, but remaining believeable in an unbelieveable plot. Cotten also excelled as the brow beaten husband of Rose, at the end of his tether, and seemingly aware that things between them were not going to end well.
The storyline is hard to take seriously, but not hard to enjoy, with the requisite twists for such a film. The ending came somewhat abruptly – but I liked it. And with a total running time of just over an hour and half, the scripting is nice and tight, and the plot moves quickly, thus holding interest.
Overall, despite it’s obvious flaws, this is a film which is well worth watching at least once.
Year of release: 1953
Director: Henry Hathaway
Producer: Charles Brackett
Writers: Charles Brackett, Walter Reisch, Richard L. Breen
Main cast: Joseph Cotten, Marilyn Monroe, Jean Peters, Casey Adams