In Niagara (1953), Marilyn Monroe plays a tramp of a wife and Joseph Cotton her neurotic, harried husband. Sojourning in Niagara Falls, Ontario, the two wish to murder each other, the husband for revenge. . . Naturally, Marilyn’s beauty (in Technicolor) is luminous, but her mechanical acting mars the movie. By and by, however, it primarily becomes Jean Peters’s film, at least in the female department: She enacts a honeymooner who is the one person aware that the Joseph Cotton character is still alive after everyone else believes he is dead.
Savory touches abound in Niagara, directed by Henry Hathaway, who wanted a bit of artistic exploration. Hence there is a gripping pursuit on a staircase and a poignant discovery of a lipstick holder. There is the hazy nudity of femme fatale Rose (Monroe) behind a shower door contrasted with the wet but clothed body of innocent Polly (Peters) awaiting rescue from the river. There are even some shots anticipatory of something like L’Avventura (1960).
True, Hathaway seems pretty distant from his material, but it doesn’t matter. Its virtues keep Niagara from falling.