Marilyn Monroe in Niagara (1953)
Marilyn Monroe starred as sexy Rose Loomis in the 1953 film noir “Niagara,” with Joseph Cotten playing her much older husband, George. In real life, he had 21 years on Marilyn.
This post is intended for folks who have already seen this film. It reveals the ending and it’s okay to discuss any part of the film in the comments.
The film opens with George Loomis walking around the base of the Falls. A voiceover conveys his troubled thoughts:
“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.”
Then we see Marilyn Monroe, uh, Rose. (Dumb question: Whoever Marilyn was playing, do you see Marilyn or the character?) She’s smoking in bed, wearing lots of red lipstick. When she hears George approaching, she quickly snuffs out her cigarette and pretends to be asleep. George lies down on the other bed and falls asleep.
Meantime, a young couple, Ray and Polly Cutler, cross the Canadian border and arrive at the Rainbow Cabins for a delayed honeymoon and a meeting with Mr. Kettering, the owner of the company Ray works for. The cabin they reserved hasn’t been vacated yet. The owner knocks on the door and Rose comes out. She pleads for extra time to stay because her husband isn’t well, implying it’s more mental than physical. The Cutlers agree to take a cabin with a less spectacular view. Rose sashays off later, claiming she’s got some shopping to do. The Cutlers also go out to take some photos when Polly accidentally spots Rose in the arms of her lover, Patrick.
Later that evening, at an impromptu dance party, Rose appears in a hot pink number and puts her favorite record on (“Kiss”). Joining the Cutlers, she sings some of the song. George comes out, takes the record off, breaks it and storms back to their cabin.
Polly decides what George needs is some mercurochrome because he cut his hand. George allows her to tend to his wound while he rants about Rose’s pink dress “cut down to her kneecaps” and says his wife is a tramp. Ray comes in and George dumps some more of his anguish on them on how his life has gone downhill since he met Rose. Ray admires a 1907 Maxwell model car George is building as they are leaving. George becomes more agitated and kicks a table over. Rose is outside calling Patrick, telling him “it’s got to be tomorrow” because no one will be surprised after George put his instability on full display.
The next morning, in a better mood, George promises Rose a new dress and envisions a brighter future for them. Rose throws cold water on all that when she decides to go to the bus station to buy their tickets. He accuses her of going to meet someone because there’s no legit reason for her to buy the tickets ahead of time. She taunts him:
“Sure. I’m meeting somebody, just anybody handy, as long as he’s a man! How about the ticket seller himself? I could grab him on the way out, or one of the kids with the phonograph. Anybody suits me. Take your pick.”
George follows her, as she knew he would. In the gift shop, she and Patrick exchange a nod. He leaves her a message on a postcard that says when she hears the Rainbow Tower Carillon bells playing “Kiss,” she’ll know he did George in. (It was more cryptic than that).
But George does Patrick in, unbeknownst to Rose who proceeds to set herself up as a worried wife with a missing husband. Rose and the Cutlers meet the police at the Falls where a pair of shoes have not been claimed. Rose identifies them as her husband’s. The Cutlers are about to take Rose back to her cabin when they hear the bells playing “Kiss,” and decides to walk. A body is found that the police believe is George. Rose is called in to identify it. She faints when she sees that it’s Patrick and lands in the hospital under sedation.
George makes his way back to the cabin intent on murdering Rose, where instead he finds Polly. The owner moved the Cutlers in there. George takes off. Polly calls the detective on the case to report that George is alive but he’s not there and she has to leave an urgent message. She tells Ray she has seen George when he returns but he doesn’t believe her. Later out on the Falls, George catches up to Polly and explains that he killed Patrick in self-defense. He wants her to let him stay dead so he can start a new life.
But George doesn’t hightail it out of there. When Rose takes off from the hospital, he spots her and chases her up to the top of the bell tower and strangles her. He gets locked in there by the caretaker and spends the night with her corpse. The next day, while the Cutlers are on an outing with the Ketterings, George steals Kettering’s boat and Polly gets on it while he’s hotwiring it. He tells her to get off but she won’t. She tells him to turn himself in and explain that he was only defending himself. “It’s too late,” he says, “I killed Rose.”
The police have already been notified and they call the River Patrol. Everyone’s in hot pursuit when George runs out of gas. The boat drifts into the current that will take it over the Falls. The River Patrol is already 1,000 feet past the danger line and refuses to follow it any longer. George is banging up the boat wherever he can to get it to take on water so it will ground. He manages to steer it close to a rock formation and help Polly get on it. Then it’s over the Falls for George and what’s left of Kettering’s boat. A helicopter comes by and sends down a chair lift to rescue Polly.
Cast Notes on Page 2