Monday, 13 August 2012


“Every murder turns on a bright hot light, and a lot of people... have to walk out of the shadows.” - Albert Maltz

Niagara Falls is the collective name for three waterfalls that straddle the international border between the Canadian province of Ontario and the U.S. state of New York. They form the southern end of the Niagara Gorge. The three waterfalls are the Horseshoe Falls (largest), the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls (smallest). The Horseshoe Falls lie on the Canadian side and the American Falls on the American side, separated by Goat Island. The smaller Bridal Veil Falls are also located on the American side, separated from the other waterfalls by Luna Island.

Located on the Niagara River which drains Lake Erie into Lake Ontario, the combined falls form the highest flow rate of any waterfall in the world, with a vertical drop of more than 50 metres. The Horseshoe Falls is the most powerful waterfall in North America, as measured by vertical height and also by flow rate. The falls are located 27 km north-northwest of Buffalo, New York and 121 km south-southeast of Toronto, between the twin cities of Niagara Falls, Ontario, and Niagara Falls, New York. More than 168,000 cubic metres of water falls over the crest line every minute in high flow. Niagara Falls are renowned both for their beauty and as a valuable source of hydroelectric power. Managing the balance between recreational, commercial, and industrial uses has been a challenge for the stewards of the falls since the 19th century.

We visited the Falls many years ago when we were on a road trip from New York City to Toronto via Buffalo. We loved our time there and were amazed by this spectacular wonder of nature, finally understanding why their fame is so well-deserved after seeing them with our own eyes. That Niagara Falls has a long and rich history and tradition in both  native American and white North American culture is not surprising.

We watched the Henry Hathaway classic 1953 film noir “Niagara” at the weekend as I got the DVD on special from our DVD store. It starred Marilyn Monroe, Joseph Cotten, Jean Peters, Max Showalter and Richard Allan, and was based on a classic love triangle story, co-written by another triangle of writers Charles Brackett, Walter Reisch and Richard L. Breen. The film was shot in glorious technicolour, no doubt because of the scenic beauty of the setting (the director lost opportunity of showing us several rainbows as a consequence!).

The story centres on Rose and George Loomis (Monroe and Cotten) who are going through a rough patch in their marriage and are holidaying on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. Arriving at the holiday spot are Polly and Ray Cutler (Peters and Showalter), who are a young couple who have come to Niagara for a delayed honeymoon. Upon their arrival, they meet Rose and George, who are over-staying in their time in the Cutlers’ reserved cabin. Shortly after they arrive, Polly sees Rose passionately kissing another man (Richard Allan). Rose angers her husband by playing a love song (“Kiss”) on a record player a few other couples are dancing to, pushing George to destroying the record in his hands. The dysfunctional Loomises have arrow and it become apparent that something serious is amiss. Murder ensues and the ones left behind have to battle for their own survival.

The film is a nostalgic look at the 1950s and without being over-sentimental it highlights Marilyn Monroe in what has become an iconic typecast role for her: The sultry temptress of questionable morals who will stop at nothing to get her own way. She nevertheless plays this role with great gusto, supported well by Cotten who plays the psychologically disturbed husband with aplomb. An excellent performance is given by Jean Peters who manages to devote her considerable acting resources as the supporting female lead, not at all overshadowed by Monroe. The performance of Showalter is quite pedestrian, although his role is quite an annoying one to begin with. Richard Breen as the lover has a very minor role providing the beefcake factor in the love triangle. Overall the movie is competently made and despite its age stands up relatively well to scrutiny nearly 60 years after its production. One can still watch it and be entertained, although it is obviously dated in many ways.

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