As Cool As A Fruitstand

…and maybe as strange. A movie blog.

Niagara

Posted by Hedwig on September 17, 2008

My parents recently gave me three wonderful, old-fashioned linen posters of Casablanca, Gone with the Wind and Niagara. My love for the former has been well-documented here, and the middle one I’ve seen twice, but the latter? I’d never even heard of it, depite it starring Marylin Monroe and Joseph Cotten.

By accident, we acquired three (3!) copies of it, however, and tonight I watched this movie, reputed to be “the first noir in color”, with my father.

Let me start by saying I’ve never been a huge Monroe-fan. I understand her appeal, to a certain extent, the doomed glamour she represents, and far be it from me to dismiss her as a dumb blonde, but I’ve personally never been that fascinated by her. They camera does love her, and she’s beautifully photographed here, but then again, so are the Niagara falls.

They’re woven into the story in interesting ways, and turn out to be much more than just a pretty backdrop, but the rest of the plot isn’t quite as complex. It is interesting because some crucial scenes are left to our imagination, and because unlike most other noirs, there are innocents here who escape relatively unscathed (oops, was that a spoiler?). The scene in the bell tower is classic noir though, and Joseph Cotten plays the tortured protagonist well.

I can understand why this film never became a classic like the other two movies whose posters I now own. But if you like noir and/or Monroe, it’s worth an hour and a half of your time.

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4 Responses to “Niagara”

  1. Kaj said

    But you are going to put up that poster, right?

    By “the first noir in black and white” I assume you mean “in color”? By whom is Niagara reputed to be so? I thought that Leave Her To Heaven was generally accepted as the first color noir, predating Niagara by eight years.

    Oh, and if you should want to get rid of excess copies…

  2. sarcastig said

    True, I meant “not in black and white”, I’ll fix it.

    And I already sold off one of the extra copies, the other can be yours for a mere 7 euri 😉

  3. Kaj said

    Sold.

  4. Jean Peters should have had a somewhat better career. The same year as this, she was quite convincing in Sam Fuller’s Pickup on South Street with Richard Widmark as well as yet another noir, Vicki; she held her own with Brando in the previous year’s Viva Zapata!; and she was good in the next year’s Apache by Robert Aldrich with Burt Lancaster.

    Henry Hathaway is one of my favorite underrated directors. I find his use of frames, arches and other compositionally delineative objects to create portraits of his characters, usually connoting some kind of personal or even metaphysical entrapment, with many excellent sequences involving foreground-background struggles, usually telling two character stories in one shot, quite exciting. Niagara and his Western From Hell to Texas, among many others, stand out for these shots that are always constructed to aid in the screenplay.

    Hathaway’s affinity for water settings and backgrounds, such as Niagara, 23 Paces to Baker Street and a number of other pictures, is also interesting. Often he shoots those through windows as frames, which create a visually arresting schema in relation to the connection between the characters and their setting.

    Great point about certain scenes not being shown in this one, too.

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