Among the many luminaries featured in James Bawden and Ron Miller’s book, Conversations WithClassic Film Stars, are Joseph Cotten, who played Marilyn’s murderous spouse in Niagara;and Rory Calhoun, her roguish husband in River Of No Return; and Cary Grant, the unwitting object of her desire in Monkey Business.
Thanks to Gia at Immortal Marilyn
“I never met a girl as introverted as Marilyn. The whole fame explosion had just set in and whenever we filmed on location at Niagara Falls, great crowds gathered to see her. She couldn’t cope, retreated into her shell.
Director Henry Hathaway was a tough taskmaster at the best of times. He got so exasperated with Marilyn and her Russian acting coach [Natasha Lytess], he finally banned the woman from the set. I tried to keep her distracted. At night there’d always a party in my hotel suite, but she’d look in, say hi, and then go off with her instructress. We’d wait hours for her to show up. Hathaway started shooting rehearsals as backup and found she was less mannered there and actually used some of the footage.
I asked her about the nude photograph and she said, dead serious, ‘But I had the radio on.’ I’m glad I knew her before the troubles enveloped and destroyed her. I want to remember that superb girlish laughter when I told her an off-colour joke. One day Hathaway shouts at her and she yelled back, ‘After paying for my own wardrobe, my coach, my assistant, and God knows who else I barely have enough left over to pay my shrink!’ And the crowd watching applauded her!”
“She was a phenomenon that I doubt like hell this town will see the likes of ever again. There have been a lot of people trying to copy her one way or another – and to me, they’re third-stringers.”
“Howard Hawks says it’s wonderful we knew and worked with Marilyn before she got difficult. Because she was so winning and adorable in Monkey Business. When I drink that youth serum and am acting like a teenager, Marilyn really got into it. I’m diving off the high board and she’s giggling and waving me on. Years later she asked me to co-star in something called The Billionaire. It was a comedy and she said her husband Arthur Miller was reworking it. Arthur Miller a comedy writer? I ran away and so did Greg Peck, and the completed film, Let’s Make Love, showed she’d become all blurry and distant. It was sad.”
Niagara will be the second film screened in a double bill at the Redford Theatre in Detroit on September 21, starting with Trapped (1949) at 2 pm. It’s part of a weekend-long festival, ‘Noir in the 50s‘, hosted by Noir City magazine.
Blogger Robert Horvat has listed his top 10 Marilyn movies on the Rearview Mirror site. With Some Like It Hot, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire heading the list, it’s a great selection – and Robert has also reviewed Niagara, Blondes and Bus Stop separately. (Personally, though, I would choose Clash By Night, Don’t Bother to Knock and The Prince and the Showgirl over The Asphalt Jungle, River Of No Return and There’s No Business Like Show Business.)
Canadian crime writer Howard Engel, who has died aged 88, had a little-known connection to Marilyn, and a film noir classic. As Brian Kelly reports for the Sault Star, Engel played a bit part in Niagara – uncredited at the time, but now noted on IMDB – as ‘Man at Bus Stop’. It’s possible that he may be the man seated on a bench and holding a cigarette at the bus station, who briefly looks up as Marilyn hurries by, hoping to catch a bus to Chicago. However, this man looks older than his early twenties, as Engel would have been at the time.
A second possibility is that Engel was the man leaning on the pillar, who observes the commotion as the bus is cancelled. You can see his face more clearly at the left of this still photo, which shows the other players in this tense scene – including a disgruntled husband and wife, and two sailors involved in the police search for Rose Loomis (Marilyn.) Engel became a high school teacher and community theatre director, before launching his series of mystery novels featuring detective Benny Cooperman with The Suicide Murders (1980.)
The Palm Springs Cultural Centre is hosting a summer season of Marilyn’s movies each Wednesday at 7 pm, with Niagara on July 10; followed by Gentlemen Prefer Blondes on July 17, How to Marry a Millionaire on July 24, and Some Like It Hot on July 31. On Wednesdays at 7 through August, catch The Seven Year Itch, Bus Stop, Let’s Make Love and Monkey Business. And finally, the retrospective winds up in September with Don’t Bother to Knock and The Misfits.
A final post (for now) on the Julien’s Legends series, in advance of the auction on June 13-14. As well as Marilyn’s bathrobe from How to Marry a Millionaire (see here) her costume from A Ticket to Tomahawk (1950) is also on offer. She wore it to perform ‘Oh, What A Forward Young Man You Are’ with Dan Dailey and her fellow chorines.
As well as an archive of material by Manfred ‘Linus’ Kreiner (see here), several other photographers are also represented.
UPDATE: I have now added the final bids for each item.
“A group of seven color slides, all showing Marilyn performing for U.S. troops in Korea in 1954. Four slides show Monroe wearing a purple spaghetti-strapped dress on stage, three show her wearing a bomber jacket and pants in the camp, and one has a further handwritten annotation in black fountain pen ink reading in part ‘6 Feb 54 – A little/ closer this time.'” (SOLD for $448)
The Lithgow Valley Film Society in New South Wales, Australia are presenting a wonderful double bill from 2 pm this Sunday, April 28 at their Main Street cinema. Introduced by an ‘MM expert’, the acclaimed 2012 documentary Love, Marilyn will be followed by the 1953 ‘Technicolor Noir’, Niagara, in a restored print, the Lithgow Mercury reports.
Niagara was released in the U.S. 66 years ago, on January 21, 1953. Despite its success at the box-office, Marilyn would never play such a villainous role again. But while Niagara is now considered an important film noir – in the genre’s latter phase, and one of the few made in Technicolor – the Hollywood Reporter‘s original review, reposted here, was one of the first to recognise Marilyn’s dramatic achievement.
“Around the scenic splendor of Niagara Falls, Charles Brackett has produced and co-scripted a gripping murder melodrama that is loaded with sex and suspense. With Marilyn Monroe, Joseph Cotten and Jean Peters turning in superb performances that help maintain a mood of dynamic tension, Niagara should pile up huge grosses for 20th-Fox.
Henry Hathaway makes wonderful use of the falls to heighten the suspense and to add pictorial beauty to the production which gains additional exploitation value by its locale, never before used as the focus for a motion picture plot. Those who have never been to Niagara will be fascinated by the exciting shots of the falls, the awesome grandeur of which has been thrillingly captured by Joe MacDonald’s fine photography.
Hathaway draws splendid performances from his cast and maintains a taut, spicy tempo that grips the attention consistently. Miss Monroe turns in her finest acting performance yet, adding to her acting laurels by playing a sexy tart with a provocative abandon that has a powerful impact … Sol Kaplan’s music, directed by Lionel Newman, helps heighten the mood of suspense, with other technical functions on the high-quality level one expects from 20th-Fox productions.”
Over at Vulture, film critic Angelica Jade Bastien names Fritz Lang’s Clash By Night (1952) in a list of ’10 Female-Led Noirs’. Some might argue that Clash isn’t a classic noir, as it’s not set in a major city and no serious crimes are committed – but for me, its gritty treatment of post-war discontent, and repressed sexuality and simmering violence place it firmly in the canon. (I would argue that Don’t Bother to Knock and Niagara also partially qualify, thanks to Marilyn’s gripping scenes with Anne Bancroft and Jean Peters, respectively.)
“What happens when the woman people view you as isn’t who you really are, nor who you want to be? Clash by Night poses this question by beginning where most noir ends. Mae Doyle (Stanwyck) has grown accustomed to a decadent life, but is forced to return to her hometown of Monterey, California, after that life falls apart. Soon, Mae settles into a life in which she’s uncomfortable, navigating marrying a gruff fisherman (Paul Douglas) and having a daughter quickly after. She finds herself drawn to the far more exciting, equally restless Earl (noir stalwart Robert Ryan). Clash by Night is a domestic noir bolstered by its rich insight into the ways women feel confined by society, as well as by its amazing direction by the legendary Fritz Lang and its performances, including a magnetic supporting turn by Marilyn Monroe. But it’s Stanwyck’s performance as a woman of temerity who is far too bold and yearning for the prosaic existence she finds herself trapped within that earns it a spot on this list.”