Cast & Crew
When businessman Ray Cutler wins a sales campaign contest at work, he is awarded a trip to Niagara Falls, and takes his wife Polly on a belated honeymoon. Upon their arrival, however, they learn that their intended cabin has not yet been vacated by the current residents, George and Rose Loomis. The beautiful, young Rose tells Mr. Qua, the motel manager, and the Cutlers that her husband has been ill and begs them not to wake him, so the Cutlers accept a different cabin. Rose also reveals that George had spent time in a military psychiatric hospital, then states that she is going grocery shopping. A short time later, however, Polly spots Rose engaged in an intimate embrace with a man at Horseshoe Falls. That night at the motel, Rose asks some dancing teenagers to play a record of her favorite song, "Kiss," and an enraged George storms out of their cabin and smashes the record. Rose tells the Cutlers that George's temper frightens her, and Polly offers to tend to George's hand, which has obviously been cut by the record. In the cabin, George tells Polly that Rose is a tramp but admits that he loves her anyway. Ray joins them, and George reveals that he lost his farm because Rose was bored with country life, and then volunteered for duty in Korea to prove to her that he was young enough to serve. He was sent home with battle fatigue, however, and since then has been tormented by the idea that Rose is having an affair. Nonplussed by George's erratic behavior, Ray and Polly leave, while in the office, Rose calls her lover, Ted Patrick, and tells him that they must put their plan to kill George into action in the morning. Ted agrees, and the next day, a suspicious George follows Rose when she states that she is going to buy bus tickets for their trip home. Instead, Rose goes to the Horseshoe Falls gift shop and there eludes George, who takes the elevator to the attraction. After leaving Rose a card informing her that if all goes well, the bell carillon will play "Kiss," Ted follows George. Later in the day, Rose worriedly asks Qua, Polly and Ray if they have seen George. On Rose's behalf, the Cutlers file a missing persons report, and in the evening, when the attendant at the Horseshoe Falls discovers that one rain slicker is missing, and one pair of shoes has not been claimed, he alerts Inspector James Starkey. Starkey asks Rose and the Cutlers to accompany him, and Rose identifies the shoes as George's. As Rose walks home, she hears the bell tower playing "Kiss," and smiles. Soon after, the police discover a body along the shore and ask Rose to identify it. When Starkey raises the sheet covering the corpse, however, Rose faints and must be hospitalized and sedated for hysteria. At the cabins, Polly meets Jess Kettering, the vice-president of Ray's firm, and his wife, and they offer to take the Cutlers sightseeing. Polly promises to call them when Ray returns from town, then is told by Qua that their luggage has been moved to the Loomis' cabin. There, Polly lies down for a nap, and is startled when George, believing her to be Rose, menaces her with a knife. Polly's screams drive George away and attract Ray, who dismisses her account as a nightmare. Unknown to the Cutlers, the corpse seen by Rose was Ted's, and George is now determined to kill Rose. Later that afternoon, the Cutlers go sightseeing with the Ketterings, and George singles out Polly and tells her of Rose and Ted's plot to kill him and make his death look like suicide. Believing that George acted in self-defense when he killed Ted, Polly advises him to turn himself in, but George states that he wants to disappear and start a new life. After he leaves Polly, however, George requests that the bell tower play "Kiss," and when Rose hears it in the hospital, she is so terrified that she flees, despite her drugged state. Starkey informs the Cutlers of Rose's escape, and Polly tells him that George must be trying to kill her. Rose attempts to reach the American side of the falls, but George follows her, and in desperation, she climbs to the top of the bell tower. There, George strangles her and upon discovering that he has been locked in the building for the night, returns to Rose's body and tells her that he truly loved her. The following morning, while the police hunt for George, the Ketterings take the Cutlers fishing. The group stops to buy gas and provisions, and Polly is the first to return to the boat. George has snuck aboard, and when she tries to stop him from stealing the boat, he accidentally knocks her unconscious. George is seen as he departs, and Starkey calls American river patrol officer Morris to track the stolen boat. When Polly revives, George confesses that he killed Rose, but is interrupted as the boat runs out of gas and gets caught in the rapids leading to the falls. Morris' ship is forced to turn back, and the horrified Ray prays that George will scuttle the boat before it reaches the falls. George does attempt to sink the boat, but cannot stop it in time. Fortunately, the boat passes a huge rock in the middle of the water, and George succeeds in pushing Polly to safety just before the boat plunges over the falls. Polly is rescued by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter, and later, as Ray embraces his shaken wife, Starkey wishes them well.
Harry Carey Jr.
W. D. Flick
To make strong impressions in this setting, the human stars have their work cut out for them. The one who succeeds best is, not surprisingly, Marilyn Monroe as the wicked wife, who riles her husband by wearing lusciously colored low-cut dresses, and tantalizes the audience by showering behind a translucent curtain and playing peek-a-boo with her curvaceous body behind towels and sheets. These hijinks aside, Monroe gives a nicely controlled performance, blending the sultry and the sinister without upstaging or eclipsing her costars. They're gifted Hollywood actors - Joseph Cotten plays the tormented husband and Jean Peters plays the honeymooning bride in a neighboring cabin - but they don't have the magnetism that made Monroe a unique screen personality.
After the moody introduction showing George Loomis prowling unhappily among the rocks at daybreak, we meet Ray and Polly Cutler arriving at the Canadian side of the falls for a belated honeymoon, subsidized by Ray's winnings in a contest sponsored by the Shredded Wheat Company, an actual firm with headquarters near the falls. They're supposed to take the cabin occupied by George and his wife Rose, but the Loomises haven't moved out because George, who recently left a mental hospital, has been out of sorts lately. Ray and Polly cheerfully take another cabin and settle in for a swell vacation. But the better they get to know the Loomises, the fishier things look. George's suspicions about Rose drive him berserk at a tourist get-together, where he smashes a record playing a song called "Kiss" because it obviously has secret meanings for his wife. Sure enough, Polly sees Rose kissing a different man on a stairway by the falls, and soon we learn that Rose and her illicit boyfriend are planning to murder George and run away together, figuring that George's well-known instability will lead people to assume he killed himself. One way they signal each other is arranging for "Kiss" to be played by the carillon in the bell tower. Their plan goes haywire, however, bringing sad consequences to everyone except Ray and Polly, who can finally have their honeymoon in peace.
Niagara Falls had never been a movie star until this production. According to a scholar who has studied the film's history, producer and co-screenwriter Charles Brackett had the idea for the project, writing a memo to Zanuck saying the falls "had hardly been touched by motion pictures" except for "an occasional bow in a newsreel or travelogue." Zanuck loved the concept, saying the movie should include a "violent, tumultuous, nerve-assaulting sequence on the rapids," which accurately (if hyperbolically) describes the climax of the finished film. It's interesting that the filmmakers recognized a dark side to Niagara that makes it an appropriate setting for a film-noir storyline. Although the area is most famous as a vacation and honeymoon destination, researchers and journalists report that more suicides take place there than anywhere else in North America, and in the past century more than five hundred bodies have been pulled from the river below the falls. Those facts are very much in keeping with the film's gloomy aspects.
Still and all, the predominant tone of Niagara is more exciting than melancholy, and Monroe and the falls are not the only eyefuls it has to offer, thanks to Hathaway's sure touch with noir visuals and Joe MacDonald's stunning Technicolor camerawork. Venetian blinds cast quintessential noir shadows across the cabin interior where George and Rose are losing their marriage and their sanity, and when George plods in after a night of sleepless wandering, a superb deep-focus shot shows him standing vertical in the midground, Monroe lying horizontal in the foreground, and a pink-checked sofa glimmering ironically in the background. Much later, an overhead shot of Monroe lying supine in the carillon tower, framed by silent bells hanging above, has a canted perspective worthy of a Salvador Dalí dreamscape. These are only a couple of the creative images that make Niagara more than a routine suspense story and travelogue; it's a first-rate specimen of Technicolor noir in the late years of the original noir cycle.
Monroe's well-modulated acting comes as a pleasant surprise, since this is the period of her career when she was under the spell of Hollywood voice coach Natasha Lytess, who insisted that she over pronounce her syllables, thereby weakening some of her other performances around this time; you can occasionally hear Lytess's bad advice in action, but Monroe usually sounds reasonably natural. Cotten projects a volatile temperament and underlying sadness that effectively balances Rose's sexy malevolence, and Peters is admirably self-effacing as Polly, executing her second-banana role gracefully even though husband Ray is played by Casey Adams, one of the era's least charismatic actors. Don Wilson, famed throughout the 1950s as the portly announcer for The Jack Benny Program on TV, is perfect as a back-slapping, bromide-spouting executive of the Shredded Wheat Company. Suspenseful, energetic, sometimes predictable, but often beautiful, Niagara is as alluring in its way as the location that inspired it.
Producer: Charles Brackett
Director: Henry Hathaway
Screenplay: Charles Brackett, Walter Reisch, Richard Breen
Cinematography: Joe MacDonald
Art Direction: Maurice Ransford, Lyle Wheeler
Film Editing: Barbara McLean
Cast: Marilyn Monroe (Rose Loomis), Joseph Cotten (George Loomis), Jean Peters (Polly Cutler), Casey Adams (Ray Cutler), Denis O'Dea (Inspector Starkey), Richard Allan (Patrick), Don Wilson (Mr. J.C. Kettering), Lurene Tuttle (Mrs. Kettering), Russell Collins (Mr. Qua), Will Wright (Boatman).
C-88m. Closed Captioning.
by David Sterritt
Sean McClory (1924-2003)
Born on March 8, 1924 in Dublin, Ireland, he became a leading man at the famous Abbey Theatre in the early '40s and relocated to the United States shortly after World War II. His first roles were small bits as a police officer in two RKO quickies: Dick Tracy's Dilemma and Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome (both 1947). He eventually graduated to more prestigious pictures like The Glass Menagerie (1950), Les Miserables (1952) and John Ford's The Quiet Man (1952).
After a few more supporting roles in quality pictures: Niagara (1953); the sci-fi chiller Them! (1954); and for John Ford again in The Long Gay Line (1955), McClory turned to television. He kept busy for several years with guest roles in a variety of popular shows: Bonanza, Wagon Train, Rawhide, Gunsmoke, The Outer Limits (1964) and countless others. By the mid-'60s, McClory became slightly more heavy-set, and began tossing off variations of jovial, "oirish" blarney for, yet again John Ford in Cheyenne Autumn (1964); and in a string of Disney pictures: Follow Me, Boys! (1966, his best role, a moving performance as the alcoholic father whose behavior alienates his son, played by a 15-year old Kurt Russell); The Happiest Millionaire (1967), and The Gnome-Mobile (1967), before he returned to television. His final role was in John Huston's acclaimed Irish opus The Dead (1987). He is survived by his wife, Peggy Webber McClory.
by Michael T. Toole
Sean McClory (1924-2003)
Why should the Falls drag me down here at 5 o'clock in the morning? To show me how big they are and how small I am? To remind me they can get along without any help? All right, so they've proved it. But why not? They've had ten thousand years to get independent. What's so wonderful about that? I suppose I could too, only it might take a little more time.- George Loomis
How long do you plan to be here?- Customs Officer
Three days.- Ray Cutler
Honeymooners?- Customs Officer
That's right.- Polly Cutler
That isn't liquor you have in that case under your coat, is it?- Customs Officer
Fine thing. I tell him we're on our honeymoon and you drag out a copy of Winston Churchill! He must think I'm a pretty hard article.- Polly Cutler
You should have told him we're on a delayed honeymoon.- Ray Cutler
Delayed or not, we agreed to treat it like a regular one, didn't we?- Polly Cutler
I'm game. And it'll be just as good as a regular honeymoon.- Ray Cutler
Well, it should be better. I've got my union card now.- Polly Cutler
Let me tell you something. You're young, you're in love. Well, I'll give you a warning. Don't let it get out of hand, like those falls out there. Up above... d'you ever see the river up above the falls? It's calm, and easy, and you throw in a log, it just floats around. Let it move a little further down and it gets going faster, hits some rocks, and... in a minute it's in the lower rapids, and... nothing in the world -- including God himself, I suppose -- can keep it from going over the edge. It just -- goes.- George Loomis
Don't worry. I'm one of those logs that just hang around in the calm.- Polly Cutler
Didn't that Mrs. Loomis say she was going shopping?- Polly Cutler
Yeah. Why?- Ray Cutler
Well, she sure got herself an armful of groceries.- Polly Cutler
Hey, get out the firehose!- Ray Cutler
Why don't you ever get a dress like that?- Ray Cutler
Listen. For a dress like that, you've got to start laying plans when you're about thirteen.- Polly Cutler
Jean Peters got the role of Polly Cutler after Anne Baxter withdrew. After her withdrawal, the film was reworked to highlight Marilyn Monroe.
According to a February 1, 1952 Los Angeles Times news item, James Mason was originally set to star in this film. A March 19, 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that Anne Baxter would be co-starring with Joseph Cotten in Niagara [as "Polly Cutler"], and modern sources assert that Baxter withdrew from the project after Marilyn Monroe was cast in the film and Monroe's part was re-written and enlarged. Contemporary sources note that portions of the picture were shot on location on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. According to a July 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item, The Starlighters were to be the vocal group heard on the record of "Kiss," but their participation in the completed picture has not been confirmed.
Niagara marked Monroe's first appearance in a Technicolor film. In February 1953, Variety and Los Angeles Mirror reported that various women's groups were protesting Monroe's "frank characterization" in the film, although Twentieth Century-Fox reported that she was receiving "an average of 12,400 fan letters a month" and that the small amount of negative publicity surrounding the film had not hurt her career. In April 1953, the Niagara Falls representative to the Ontario legislature protested that the film "did the honeymoon capital nothing but harm," according a Los Angeles Herald Express article. The representative stated, "instead of a movie to show our school children, they give us murder and suicide and seamy lives." According to a modern source, the film cost approximately $1,250,000 to produce and grossed more than $6,000,000.
Released in United States Winter January 21, 1953
Completed production July 24, 1952.
Released in United States Winter January 21, 1953