Literary Asides: “Niagara” & Marilyn Monroe and More

extract from email with polymath, Pedro T.:

Niagara in all its color glory arrived. This was a film that I’ve always come in on in Act 2, about when Joseph Cotten stalks her in the bell tower and chokes her to death. Right out of pulp fiction covers, graphically speaking. So I got to see MM in her Act 1 slinky dresses, her hip twanging walk and her in bed scenes. Apparently Nabokov was smitten by MM when he met her in Hollywood years later in the making of Lolita by Kubrick. He was quite impressed by her beauty and brains. I know Vlad’s wife Vera was right at his side throughout the meetings. She was really a quite small woman. Some guy recently on Antiques Roadshow got an appraisal for one of her tight dresses in Some Like It Hot for a cool $300k. Damn. Now there’s a nest egg pepper-upper. My B-actress Aunt M.E. was in Hollywood in the 50s and like many other aspirants converted to the peroxide blonde look and the bright red lipstick vagina lip look. Fetching. But I digress into shadowy libido areas and Mailer and a herd of other slavering slaves to MM have worn this trail bare. Historically, mythically, the life of a love goddess is not untroubled with all that yang energy focused on her every wiggle and wink. Back to the film itself, it was a sleazy kind of pulp novel of the 50s with the blonde draped over the cover, Niagara Falls in the background…something probably about doomed honeymoons…This was the age of paperback novels edging on the erotic/pornographic. Back then a fast typing, hard drinking, heavy smoking novelist with a run time of 60,000 words could knock out a torrid affair/crime caper in a couple of months. I know an agent from those days who had a “stable” of such writers. One guy in particular he recalled, not his name, but that his technique was to come to Chicago and rent a suite at the Drake Hotel and order a case of his favorite booze. He’s sit down at the typewriter and knock out a novel in about two or three weeks while consuming the firewater. Then he’d drop off the ms. and disappear into Main Street anonymity. The agent said  he sold everything he ever wrote. Ah, tales from the dark side of the creative world. Another odd reaction I had to Niagara. In 1952 when they were shooting the Falls area, which is structurally for obvious reasons much the same tody, I was struck by the paucity of people. There were just fewer people back then, probably half the population of today. I was about six when this shot and part of its attraction to me is to remind me visually of the stuff in the film, the cars, buildings, signage, clothing of “ordinary people.”
Anyway, old bud, I feel underneath this torrid love/murder plot something deeper…but here is not the place to go into it. Something tragic and troubling not only about an American icon of the screen, but something about America post Korea, and all the rest to come (including the love goddess’ death)…maybe it was the lie about love and marriage, about Niagara as a love renewal backdrop and Mecca? Divorce rates were about to take off like a rocket, an unheard of practice prior to this decade (a family shame); something was eating into the old standards of faith and loyalty and long term commitment. Here was a pulp story that actually emerged from the currency of the times and revealed the hollowness of the war and commercial culture (the Cutler’s & Shredded Wheat). zzzzzzzzzzzz….
Sorry, narcolepsy is my current malady! I must move on as I know you must to…but just wanting you to know I dearly love these old films. I love the hermeneutics of the visual text in my act 3 decrepitude. One more observation…from DOA with Edmund OBrien…you know I watched it recently and realized how physically gifted EO was…quite good on  his feet. In fact after watching him run and dodge bullets and death itself within…I gradually saw a correspondence to today’s bullet solid body type action guy…Bruce Willis.
No, I haven’t been drinking…not yet anyway. It’s morning in America, and god bless us, it’s actually raining in the desert! Exit Stage Obama Left:
gracias, amigo…
Jaime

PS. Difficult People may or may not reappear here. Currently the story book of 172 flash fictions is being prepped for publication as a paperback and e-book. Publication dates, etc. forthcoming…many thanks for readership! Huzzah! Turn off that TV! Bless the fiction reader!

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Filed under American popular culture, literature and movies

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