Niagara (1953)

Niagara movie poster

Marilyn Monroe’s makeup man, Whitey Snyder, never did get to learn the secret to her glossy lips – that she kept to herself. And they’re the first natural attraction you admire here – as she feigns sleep in the motel room while her psychologically disturbed Army vet husband Joseph Cotten prowls around, convinced she’s cheating on him. She lies in a tangle of bedsheets, clearly nude, teasing him. Another couple is due to take over their cabin but Monroe says her husband is too disturbed right now. And Jean Peters, the wife, sees her in a clinch with a hot young hunk at the Falls. She reports the sighting to hubby Max Showalter who can appreciate Monroe’s derriere. She does an awful lot of walking in constrained costume, always photographed from the rear. Monroe insists that a certain record is played by the youngsters at the night-time dance and sings along, lost in a lust-filled reverie. Her plan to off hubby is signalled by another sound, the bells from a nearby tower. In a nod to Strangers on a Train, there is a clue to the crime in the men’s shoes. And Monroe doesn’t last the whole film through, foreshadowing another Hitchcock outing, but not before she’s in hospital, entirely free of sexuality, frightened, in rougher sheets, the lipgloss gone. And when Cotten returns, he holds her bejewelled lipstick case, opening it to reveal the ruby red stain that should be on her lips. It makes me think about Theresa Russell’s bustier when Art Garfunkel first sees her in Bad Timing and it has all those psychosexual connotations too. Monroe’s femme fatale in Technicolor is as great a natural phenomenon as the Niagara Falls. Sexy, sultry, sulky, sullen,  scornful, scheming. Staggeringly beautiful.