“The story is most imaginatively treated, and the production values are excellent”, wrote CEA Film Report of intriguing murder-mystery Niagara, MARILYN MONROE’s eighteenth film and the one that confirmed her as a major star. The action takes place against the excellently used background of the Niagara Falls where JEAN PETERS and CASEY ADAMS arrive for a belated honeymoon. They encounter Monroe and her Korean War veteran husband JOSEPH COTTEN who are staying at an adjoining motel cabin.
They soon find that Monroe is deliberately going out of her way to taunt Cotten. Flaunting her charms on strangers, stinging him with disparaging remarks -and is engaged in a clandestine affair with RICHARD ALLAN. Peters and Adams are drawn into Monroe and Adams’ plot to murder Cotten which back-fires when Cotten succeeds in getting the better of his attacker and pushes Adams over the Falls. The tension racks up as Cotten pursues Monroe and strangles her and then, stealing a motorboat to race up the river to Buffalo, takes Peters with him as a hostage to hold off the pursuing police…
The smart screenplay by producer Charles Brackett (Billy Wilder’s long-time collaborator), Waiter Reisch and Richard Breen created an atypical character for Monroe, callous, tough fibred’and morally corrupt and, under the sustained direction of Henry Hathawy and caressed by the superb colour camera of Joe MacDonald, she gave a fascinating performance. Her physical charms were clearly at the core of her portrayal (Twentieth Century-Fox publicists made much of their selling point that Niagara featured two of the world’s great natural assets – Monroe and the Falls themselves) but Monroe also made the most of her part.
Said the New York Herald Tribune, “Miss Monroe plays the kind of wife whose dress, in the words of the script, ‘is cut so low you can see her knees’. The dress is red; the actress has very nice knees, and under Hathaway’s direction she gives the kind.of serpentine performance that makes the audience hate her while admiring her, which is proper for the story”. The Morning Advertiser wrote that she, “now comes into her own with a splash… displays her paces as an actress with a boast of a singing voice”, and, for CEA Film Report, she “is excellent in an unsympathetic role”.
Sterling support was provided by Cotten, Peters, Adams, Allan, DON WILSON, supplying comedy relief, and LURENE TUTTLE and the superbly used locations’ added impact And carried the film through its more unlikely melodramatic contrivances.
“Seen from any angle”, noted The New York Times, “the Falls and Miss Monroe leave little to be desired by any unreasonably attentive audience”, “Director Henry Hathaway has put on quite a show … One must admit that the spectacle is the main attraction, but the script … is steady combination of menace and comedy relief”, thought the New York Herald Tribune and, reported CEA Film Report, “The scenic backgrounds are a great asset, the colour is remarkably fine and the acting is good”.
USA / Twentieth Century Fox / 89 minutes / 1952 in Technicolor
Writers: Charles Brackett, Walter Reisch, Richard Breen / Producer: Charles Brackett / Cinematography: Joe MacDonald / Music: Sol Kaplan / Director: Henry Hathaway
Cast: Marilyn Monroe, Joseph Cotten, Jean Peters, Casey Adams, Richard Allan, Dennis O’Dea, Don Wilson, Lurene Tuttle