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FILM NOIR IN COLOR? "NIAGARA" 1953


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MV5BYjc5YzY1MGItOGQyNi00ZTc5LTkwMmMtZjEx

 

Sometimes it's fun to re-visit the old question--  can a film noir really be true to the form, and effective, and all that, if it's in color instead of black and white?

In my 'umble opinion, "Niagara" is proof that it can be.  (It's upcoming on TCM , perfect airing time of this Saturday night, 8:00 p.m. Eastern).   If colors can shimmer 'ominously', they do in Niagara.   And look how, in color, those 'stones' cladding the porch pillars look all fake-o.   Perfect for the milieu!

And in this cinematography, you get all those great flesh tones, so appropriate for a film dealing so heavily in romantic treachery.

You still get deep, fathomless shadows in this, esp. in the scenes in Marilyn's and Joseph Cotten's tourist cabin, where misery lurks.

I really love "Niagara".    Even if Joseph Cotten's  irresistible, natural bon vivant charm has to be suppressed-- it's in a good cause.   Marilyn is perfectly cast as the breathtaking, corrupt betrayer-wife.  The Jean Peters/ Casey Adams couple make an interesting counterpoint to the Cotten/Monroe couple.  (Max Showalter seemed to alternate between being billed as "Casey Adams" and "Max Showalter" in his career.) 

That insinuating music, the backdrop of the thunderous falls, just love it all.

The other noir that seems enhanced by being in color is the chromatically insistent "Leave Her to Heaven".    Stunning exteriors and interiors, and that trio of gorgeous brunets didn't hurt--  Gene Tierney, Cornel Wilde, Jeanne Crain...

I suppose "Vertigo" wasn't hurt by being in color, but it's one I could easily see in black and white.

Apart from these, I guess I do clamor for black and white in most other noirs.  

Anyway, do you countenance the use of color?  If so, please name some.   Or are you a diehard b & w purist?  

 

       

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I agree with you about a film noir being in color.  I love Leave Her to Heaven.  It's one of my favorite film noir movies and if it had been filmed in b&w, it would have been every bit as "noir-y" as Double Indemnity and Out of the Past. I also love Niagara.  It features a very different Marilyn Monroe character.  It's amazing to me that she made this film, How to Marry a Millionaire and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes all in the same year.  Her characters in 'Millionaire' and 'Blondes' are very similar.  Her character in Niagara is most definitely not.  And Joseph Cotten is in a villain role which is interesting.  The only blight on Niagara imo, is the annoying smiley Casey Adams aka Max Showalter.  I can't stand him as Grandpa Fred in Sixteen Candles and I can't stand him here.  Jean Peters, aka Mrs. Howard Hughes, is great and a completely different character than she is in Pickup on South Street

Most neo-noir is in color, such as Chinatown, and it is every bit a film noir as its b&w predecessors. 

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Agreed, both Niagara and Leave Her to Heaven are noirs,  and very good ones,  colour notwithstanding.  In fact,  Leave Her to Heaven came to my mind before I even read the part in your post where you name it.

I'm trying to think of some other noirs -"true" noirs-  that are in colour   from what's considered the classic noir period -- of course there are loads of "neo noirs" that are in colour. 

I bet our friend cigarjoe will be able to come up with a number of them. I could cheat and google  "classic colour noirs", and then I'd go,  "Oh, right, of course,  that one, how could I forget it?"   But short of doing that,  I can't think of any others at the moment, even though I'm sure there are several.

 I love the beauty of black and white film noir,  nothing can top the way those rain-soaked streets look, especially if there's a street lamp shining on them.  And of course the way black and white cinematography can capture shadows, the dark mysterious corners of stairwells and window bars and alleys   (hey,  "noir alley" ! )  So I have to say,  I do prefer traditional black and white noirs to colour ones.  But that's not to say that I don't consider certain colour films as noir,  just because a movie's in colour doesn't automatically preclude it from being deemed a "noir".

edit:  Ok,  I cheated.  You wouldn't believe how many classic colour noirs by Hitchcock came up on this list - actually, you probably would. It's quite a list. Many of them I haven't seen,  but one or two,  I should have thought of without having to resort to looking it up.  I should have remembered Johnny Guitar and House of Bamboo.  Anyway,  for what it's worth, here's a link to the list I found:

https://www.imdb.com/list/ls006197978/

 

 

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Desert Fury (1947) Lewis Allen, John Hodiak, Lizabeth Scott, Burt  Lancaster, Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | RareFilm

Desert Fury (1947)

More colour noir: Desert Fury. Burt Lancaster in a supporting role in his first film role, partially shot on location in Arizona, with Lizabeth Scott and John Hodiak, among others. Not a great film but okay, with vibrant Technicolor of those desert scenes. To be honest I didn't pick up on the gay subtext to which some critics have referred but I can understand what they're talking about.

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Many years ago I wandered in half-way through the movie "Niagara."  Just stared at the screen trying to convince myself that I was actually seeing Marilyn Monroe and Joseph Cotten together in this strange color film with Cotten going down with the ship at the end.  Since then, "Niagara" is a movie I simply can't not watch when it's on.  I think a great deal of that attraction is the color in the film, as the natural locations are so beautiful in this part of the country.  I suppose it would work in black and white, but I suspect my imagination is a trifle deficient to bring it to life in my mind.

Same holds true for"Leave Her to Heaven."  As many times as I've seen this film, I am always mesmerized by Gene Tierney's wholly psychopathic and evil character.  This movie, however, I really can't imagine in black and white.  And this time not for want of imagination on my part.  The colors just seem to be so much an element of the film itself, the overwhelming effect of the drive of the story would be lessened. 

Fascinating topic, Lilypond.  Quite thought-provoking.

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We screened this for one of our Monday Night Movies and the crowd was stunned. (apparently few had seen NIAGARA before) The story kept everyone's attention, but any shots including Marilyn were simply mesmerizing. The contrast between the rustic, natural colors of the background and MM's brash colorful dresses helped tell the story.  There was a close up on MM that MrTiki still mentions, "you could see the peach fuzz on her face". Just beautifully lit & shot, it's the only Technicolor film he's ever enjoyed.

Since I've been to the Falls many times, the movie also brilliantly captures on film the power of the massive river pushing towards the edge & crashing onto the rocks below.  Pity the motel has recently been "remodeled"...it had stayed exactly the same for decades since the filming and was a film buff's tourist attraction.

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A professor of mine, a former photo journalist, hustled himself aboard a plane Marilyn Monroe was on and sat down beside her, getting an interview. Seems incredible that there was no one near her to stop him. There was a man sitting in a seat beside her, with his hat pulled down over his face for the same trip. When he finally removed the hat it turned out to be Robert Mitchum. This took place in Canada so I always assumed it must have been in 1954 when they made River of No Return.

When I asked my professor what Monroe was like he described her as mousy with hair on her arms. The Hollywood dream factory sure does make a difference with what we see on the screen. Keep in mind, though, that my professor was gay so that may have influenced his opinion of her.

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14 hours ago, speedracer5 said:

  The only blight on Niagara imo, is the annoying smiley Casey Adams aka Max Showalter.  I can't stand him as Grandpa Fred in Sixteen Candles and I can't stand him here. 

 

Max Showalter was his real name.  When he was under contract to 20th Century Fox in the 1950s, Fox head Darryl Zanuck renamed him Casey Adams which, I understand, Showalter hated.  Actually, I like him as Ray Cutler in Niagara.  I think he plays off Jean Peters' Polly very well.   Maybe it was his character who was smiley and annoying rather than the actor?  He also has a small but good part in With a Song in My Heart with Susan Hayward as Jane Froman.

On Broadway in Hello, Dolly!, he was excellent as Horace Vandergelder to several of the actresses who played Dolly.  When I was living in NYC,  I saw him starring with Carol Channing, Ginger Rogers and Betty Grable in Hello, Dolly.   He also composed for musicals, including the Broadway tuner, Harrigan 'n Hart, in 1985. 

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TomJH, This makes me think of Marilyn Monroe and David Wayne aboard the Midland Skychief en route to Atlantic City -- or Kansas City?  So the truth must lie somewhere between "Mousy with hairy arms" or "a real strudel!"  I'll take strudel, if you don't mind, and leave my balloon unburst.  

At any rate, that must have been one heck of a flight with Mitchum aboard as well!  Thanks for the vignette.

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By this definition:

noir[ nwar ]SHOW IP

 

adjective French.
1. black; noting the black numbers in roulette.
 
Probably not.
If you consider "noir" in film terms as a genre rather than a film technique, then you'll probably say "yes".  
But NIAGARA is a good murder mystery and one of Monroe's better vehicles so "noir" or not matters little to me.
Sepiatone
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15 hours ago, lilypond said:

MV5BYjc5YzY1MGItOGQyNi00ZTc5LTkwMmMtZjEx

 

Sometimes it's fun to re-visit the old question--  can a film noir really be true to the form, and effective, and all that, if it's in color instead of black and white?

In my 'umble opinion, "Niagara" is proof that it can be.  (It's upcoming on TCM , perfect airing time of this Saturday night, 8:00 p.m. Eastern).   If colors can shimmer 'ominously', they do in Niagara.   And look how, in color, those 'stones' cladding the porch pillars look all fake-o.   Perfect for the milieu!

And in this cinematography, you get all those great flesh tones, so appropriate for a film dealing so heavily in romantic treachery.

You still get deep, fathomless shadows in this, esp. in the scenes in Marilyn's and Joseph Cotten's tourist cabin, where misery lurks.

I really love "Niagara".    Even if Joseph Cotten's  irresistible, natural bon vivant charm has to be suppressed-- it's in a good cause.   Marilyn is perfectly cast as the breathtaking, corrupt betrayer-wife.  The Jean Peters/ Casey Adams couple make an interesting counterpoint to the Cotten/Monroe couple.  (Max Showalter seemed to alternate between being billed as "Casey Adams" and "Max Showalter" in his career.) 

That insinuating music, the backdrop of the thunderous falls, just love it all.

The other noir that seems enhanced by being in color is the chromatically insistent "Leave Her to Heaven".    Stunning exteriors and interiors, and that trio of gorgeous brunets didn't hurt--  Gene Tierney, Cornel Wilde, Jeanne Crain...

I suppose "Vertigo" wasn't hurt by being in color, but it's one I could easily see in black and white.

Apart from these, I guess I do clamor for black and white in most other noirs.  

Anyway, do you countenance the use of color?  If so, please name some.   Or are you a diehard b & w purist?  

 

       

You probably can get away with it in Niagara because of the films location not because of the beautiful flesh tones.

    Other than that, I am against colorization because you are destroying the vision of the people responsible for creating the film in the first place.

 

 

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12 minutes ago, cody1949 said:

You probably can get away with it in Niagara because of the films location not because of the beautiful flesh tones.

    Other than that, I am against colorization because you are destroying the vision of the people responsible for creating the film in the first place.

 

 

??  Niagara was filmed in 3-strip Technicolor, and one of the last to be filmed in the format at 20th Century-Fox.  It wasn't colorized.

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3 minutes ago, txfilmfan said:

??  Niagara was filmed in 3-strip Technicolor, and one of the last to be filmed in the format at 20th Century-Fox.  It wasn't colorized.

Yea,  colorized - odd misunderstanding.    Anyhow,  both Niagara and Leave Her To Heaven have many outdoor scenes so being filmed in color does enhance those scenes.   I.e. these are not noir films with gritty outdoor city scenery or indoor inner-city scenes (e.g. small apartment in a cheap looking apartment building).   

Of course there are B&W noirs that also feature such outdoor scenes;    Take Out of the Past:  What if the film was shot like the Wizard of Oz?    The Sierra Nevada scenes in color while the San Francisco scenes are in B&W?

 

 

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39 minutes ago, cody1949 said:

Other than that, I am against colorization because you are destroying the vision of the people responsible for creating the film in the first place.

 

I think we all are against colorizing black & white films.

There are b&w versions of color movies that were used for TV broadcast before color TVs were the norm, haha. But many people don't care for the "look" of Technicolor. I understand this because I was once one if those people. But experience has taught me to embrace the over saturated colors due to the bright lighting & now I love it. I can't imagine the discomfort Ray Bolger, Jack Haley & Bert Lahr endured in their make up/costumes under those intense lights. But that exact shade of dusky green of the Scarecrow's jacket or Flynn's Robin Hood top would not have translated properly any other way.

At first I thought Natalie Kalmus was a joke. But as a colorist myself, I know completely understand her genius with Technicolor.

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Hey, DARGO,  thanks for that nifty film noir link!   I love that that guy addresses us the readers as "bub" and "you bums",  ha.   I'm going to be going back there as it looks like lots of fun reading.  For color noirs, he reminds us of "A Kiss Before Dying",   another one in which color really enhances the action.

Thanks for that invaluable list too, MISSWONDERLY3.   So handy since it is impossible to keep all the color ones in mind, and already I'm hearing about ones I didn't know about.

TOMJH,  of course--  "Desert Fury" ,  a fab example of lurid Technicolor noir!   I rarely pick up on supposed subtexts either.   I saw it years ago and would love to see again. 

Agreed, BRIANNH ,  your comment well and succinctly put--  "the colors just seem to be so much an element of the film itself" .

Oh, what a shame, TIKISOO,  that the motel has been redone!  Did not know that.   It was a vital piece of film history-- should have remained unmolested.

FILMNOIRGUY,  thanks for that excellent background on Max Showalter.    I have to say, I like him too, that sort of guileless, boyish quality in this.   Also, it's fun to see him pop up on shows like "Perry Mason",  sometimes more malevolently.    How hilarious that Hollywood can take a "Max Showalter" and come up with "Casey Adams".   Although, "Casey" does capture a happy-go-lucky trait, in evidence in this role, at least.   I always like Jean Peters too.  It was neat the way she intuitively felt for poor Joseph Cotten, and tried to help him.

That train car,  oh yes, observant UNWATCHABLE!

CODY1949,  agreed, I can't stand colorization of already-made black and white films, esp. noir.  But if one is originally shot in color,  I'm more persuadable, depending on the movie.

Wow, TOPBILLED,  thanks, the only one of those I'm familiar with is "House of Bamboo".    I like Victor Mature and think he was a good fit for noir.

Thank you everyone who bothered to comment on this topic--  you've given me so much to think about. 

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I love Niagara but Showalter almost ruins it for me, he SO annoying!   

Desert Fury is a favorite,  if only to see Wendell Corey get slapped around instead of Lizabeth Scott for a change. lol   It's not really a great movie but the scenery is gorgeous and that includes Burt Lancaster.

16 hours ago, TomJH said:

Desert Fury (1947)

More colour noir: Desert Fury. Burt Lancaster in a supporting role in his first film role, partially shot on location in Arizona, with Lizabeth Scott and John Hodiak, among others. Not a great film but okay, with vibrant Technicolor of those desert scenes. To be honest I didn't pick up on the gay subtext to which some critics have referred but I can understand what they're talking about.

 

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7 minutes ago, Katie_G said:

I love Niagara but Showalter almost ruins it for me, he SO annoying!   

Yesterday,  at the Svengoolie  thread,   I mentioned how many old-timers here find Showalter annoying.     You're a relative newbie and it appears you feel the same way.

 

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4 hours ago, cody1949 said:

You probably can get away with it in Niagara because of the films location not because of the beautiful flesh tones.

    Other than that, I am against colorization because you are destroying the vision of the people responsible for creating the film in the first place.

 

 

I don't believe the original poster was talking about the colourization process,  ie, the altering of a film originally made in black and white to colour via modern technology.

I'm pretty sure she was speaking of movies that are made in colour,  and discussing whether such movies could be regarded as noir  ( that is, if they meet other noir criteria, just not made in black and white.)   Niagara, along with Leave Her to Heaven and a significant number of other movies that could be considered films noir  ( or is it "film noirs" ),  was originally made in colour.   Not  "colourized". 

EDIT:  Eek !  This is what I get for not looking before I leap,  or in other words,  for not reading all the thread's posts before commenting myself.  Clearly many people beat me to it,  they were all quick to point out that Niagara was not colourized.

I imagine cody 49 read the original post quickly, saw the word  "colour",  and thought the O.P was talking about colourizing B and W films.   It can happen to anyone,  I've misread posts sometimes.

 

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