…and the quest to see everything

Archive for November 5, 2011

Hysteria: The Women and “Niagara.”


One couple, the Ray Cutlers, decides to vacation in the majestically shot Canadian side of the titular Niagara but finds themselves intertwined with another couple  the Loomises, who still occupies the former’s honeymoon cabin. We can see the mismatch of the latter because Mr. Loomis’ pointed shoulders (Joseph Cotten) contrasts his wife Rose’s (Marilyn Monroe, first billing) ample voluptuousness. One could lead to the conclusion that she’s adulterous and she plans to make her husband look crazy in front of a bunch of strangers and hires her boyfriend to kill him but that plans goes wrong. And because the 1950’s thinks that it’s not easy enough for future generations to make fun of that decade, the oblivious Ray keeps calling his wife (Jean Peters) hysterical because she has seen Mr. Loomis after his supposed murder. Yeah, he’s the kind of bumbling idiot , sexually objectifying both Rose and his own wife.

There’s an ambivalence towards Monroe’s performance here since I can’t believe most of the words coming out of her. Her eyes look like someone drew her and there’s a certain camp when she is wearing make-up in bed. Although she can still look sexy while wearing an oversized yellow raincoat and a shower cap. She shows some naturalism before her 20th Century Fox musical days, her characterization of Rose being the middle ground between the polar opposites of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and The Misfits, having time to both sing a song and later be confined in a hospital’s mental health wing. There have been femmes fatale before but they’ve all had a certain maturity and a natural virtuosity for evil. She however is younger, her sexuality uncontrollably natural, more vulnerable when danger returns to her. And it’s true that the movie’s excitement goes away when her husband kills her at the bell tower as we’re stuck with Peters’ affected 50’s era speech.

But it’s also arguable that it is Mrs. Cutler’s movie because we see the movie through her perspective, a point of view that goes inappropriately deeper than a regular tourist, getting to know the locals and even the police. She congratulates Rose’s sexuality the same way her husband does – she chooses to not be that kind of woman although she shows her abs in a swimsuit. Her discovery of the Loomis’ secrets like Rose’s adultery and Mr. Loomis’ survival coincide with her visits to the falls and at one time, she gets way too close for comfort.