Maddy’s Pick For The Weekend 5: Niagara (1953)

I have never been to Niagara Falls in Canada, but when I watch this film I am always left feeling as though I have visited. Filmed on location, the falls play a key role (and provide a spectacular backdrop to most scenes)in this superb thriller.

Niagara is directed by Henry Hathaway. Newlyweds, Ray and Polly Cutler(Casey Adams and Jean Peters)are enjoying their honeymoon at a hotel right next to those famous falls when they are caught up in murder, jealousy and betrayal.

Staying at the same hotel is troubled war veteran, George Loomis(Joseph Cotten)and his stunning young wife Rose(Marilyn Monroe). Rose is having an affair and has plotted to have her lover kill George. At first it seems as those Rose’s terrible plans have succeeded, but we soon see that George has a few surprises in store for his wife.

Marilyn was a highly gifted comic actress, but she was also very good in dramatic roles too. I find it a real shame that her dramatic acting isn’t discussed or appreciated very much today. Marilyn is still primarily known for those comic, dumb blonde characters. If you want more dramatic Monroe, check her out in these flicks – The Misfits, Clash By Night, River Of No Return and Bus Stop(this has comedy in it, but her performance is quite serious.)


I think that Marilyn does a terrific job of portraying a memorable femme fatal. She makes Rose sexy, devious, and she also gives her own natural beauty and sexuality a somewhat sleazy quality (similar to Rita Hayworth’s performance in The Lady From Shanghai). As is always the case in a Monroe film, she steals every single scene she is in.

Jean Peters(an actress who I think should have gone on to become a much bigger star)is excellent as the young woman who befriends George, and through her pure, girl next door qualities makes him realise not all women are like Rose. I also like how Polly is independent and tries to take care of herself and offer help to George.

I find Rose and Polly to be very interesting characters depicting two different types of women, one good, kind and pure, the other shallow, deceitful, beguiling and seductive. It’s Polly’s qualities that last the longest in life and are the most meaningful, looks fade after a time, and a shallow, selfish person won’t find lasting happiness.

Joseph Cotten superbly portrays a man riddled with jealousy, personal demons and doubts. This is quite a different role to ones he usually took and he gets to show what a good dramatic actor he was.

My favourite scenes are the following. Polly and Ray taking a boat trip to the falls and going under and behind them(and Polly catches sight of Rose and her lover kissing),the falls being lit up at night, Rose singing with a group of teenagers playing records, the nail-biting finale on the runaway boat and Rose trying to escape at the bus station.

A thrilling story, with some twists, Marilyn at her best, and some beautiful location work all help to make this a must see.

Any other fans? Never seen it? I hope you check it out sometime.


10 thoughts on “Maddy’s Pick For The Weekend 5: Niagara (1953)”

  1. Jean Peters is just wonderful in this – what a terrific actress. I enjoyed the dark story and appreciated Henry Hathaway’s decision to keep the score to a minimum, building up suspense with the ambient sounds of Niagara falls.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to find another fan. Have you seen her in Pickup On South Street? I think that is her best performance. Jean is also excellent in Anne of the Indies, where she plays a pirate captain.

      I agree about the use of the falls, they really became such a large part of the film.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Me too! I feel like I’ve just been to Niagara Falls whenever I watch this film.

    And it’s a terrific film, like you said. Marilyn Monroe is fab and I really like her paired with Joseph Cotten. I never would have thought of it.

    Why didn’t Jean Peters become a bigger star? I wonder about that every time I watch this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad that’s not just me feeling like I’ve been to those famous falls. It really is a mystery to me why Jean didn’t become a bigger star. Perhaps she didn’t want to take more roles, or leading parts weren’t offered to her very often.She sure had the talent to have been a major star. I was fascinated to learn recently that she ended up married to Howard Hughes!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Did you ever see Don’t Bother to Knock? Really nifty little film noir with Monroe and Richard Widmark that also impressed me with her acting. And Widmark didn’t have to be the nasty bad guy for once, which I enjoyed.


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