Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Critical Commentary, Old Movies Division - "Niagara"

Last night I put out one of my "DVR Alerts" for the 1953 movie, "Niagara", that was being shown on Turner Classic Movies, on Facebook, and the posts generated a lot of commentary. Rather than wait to watch it via DVR whenever I got around to it, I decided to watch it as it aired.

I have seen this movie many times, and it is a pretty good one.  It is a Hitchcock-type thriller that revolves around a couple of honeymooners, played by Jean Peters and Casey Adams, who visit Niagara Falls on their delayed honeymoon.  Staying at the same motel is another married couple played by Marilyn Monroe and Joseph Cotton.  Cotton is a troubled Korean War vet, much older than his hot-to-trot wife, and Monroe, Peters accidentally discovers, seems to be occupying her spare time with a much younger and more handsome man.

I'll say no more, but will tell you that this is pretty good thriller.  It is directed by Hollywood vet Henry Hathaway, and it is done in a Hitchcock-like style.  Some critics say it is the best Hitchcock movie that Hitchcock didn't actually direct.  It has also been described as the first film noir that was filmed in technicolor, and it was the first movie that Monroe made that was filmed in color, and it was, according to TCM's Ben Mankiewicz, the movie that took Marilyn Monroe from "up-and-coming, sexy starlet" to full-fledged Movie Star.  1953 was big year for her, as "Gentleman Prefer Blondes" and "How To Marry a Millionaire" were also released that year.

A tip of the cap also does out to Jean Peters for her performance in this one.  She was very good and quite beautiful and lovely herself, but it's tough to be the second female in a movie with Marilyn Monroe, and make no mistake about it, this was Miss Monroe's movie.  As Rose Loomis, she positively defines the word "sultry" in this one, as this one photo from the movie will attest.

The only weak spot in the movie was Casey Adams in the role of Peters' husband.  He was a complete dork in the part (or maybe the part was just written that way), and what did a babe like Jean Peters ever see in him in the first place?  Also in the movie as Adams' over-the-top boss was Don Wilson, the long time second banana to Jack Benny.

Allow me to divert a bit here with a couple of Fun Facts about Casey Adams.  He was one of the guys who you have seen a million times on television and in the movies over the years in small supporting character parts.  IMDB lists 101 acting credits for him.  At some point in his career, he reverted back to his real name of Max Showalter, and he was originally cast in the role of Ward Cleaver in "Leave It To Beaver", before Hugh Beaumont was eventually given the part.  He had an uncredited role as a travelling salesman in the opening train scene in "The Music Man" ("Cash for the merchandise..."), and he played one of Molly Ringwald's grandfathers in "Sixteen Candles".

Okay, diversion over.  If you've never seen "Niagara", I urge you to do so.  It is a pretty good thriller, and Marilyn Monroe isn't the only natural wonder in the movie.  There are some spectacular scenes of Niagara Falls in this one too.  As we watched it last night, we decided that we need to make a trip back there sometime soon.

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