Max Showalter as Ray Cutler, honeymooning salesman
The Canadian side of Niagara Falls, Summer 1952
Release Date: January 21, 1953
Director: Henry Hathaway
Costume Designer: Dorothy Jeakins
Niagara remains one of the rare examples of colorful film noir, a seemingly oxymoronic cinematic phenomenon that had been established nearly a half-decade earlier by the great Leave Her to Heaven. Of course, many early 1950s dramas that would eventually be classified “film noir” were still being made in color, but Joseph MacDonald’s stunning Technicolor cinematography of Niagara captured the picturesque beauty of the titular falls… as well as the titillating beauty of its breakout star, Marilyn Monroe.
Niagara Falls brings honeymooning to mind, and that was exactly what had inspired producer Charles Brackett, who co-wrote the script with Richard Breen and Walter Reisch, with the latter specifically recommending that the story be a murder mystery.
Monroe stars as Rose Loomis, the seductive wife of volatile Korean War veteran George Loomis (Joseph Cotten), whose erratic depression and irritability suggest he suffers from PTSD. The troubled marriage is contrasted by the saccharine dynamic of their cheerful fellow vacationers, Polly (Jean Peters) and Ray Cutler (Max Showalter).
Born 105 years ago today on June 2, 1917 (one day after Monroe’s 1926 birthday), Showalter was a frequent face on screen during the ’50s and ’60s, perhaps best known as the original Ward Cleaver in the Leave It to Beaver pilot before he was replaced by Hugh Beaumont. He was credited for much of his career as Casey Adams, the more “bankable” name selected by 20th Century Fox executive Darryl F. Zanuck when Showalter had signed as a contract player in the late 1940s.
Happy but aloof, Showalter’s Ray has yet to grasp the finer points of being married, such as not pointing out to his newlywed wife how attractive another woman is… even if she’s Marilyn Monroe. One evening early in their delayed honeymoon, the Cutlers are subject to the turbulence percolating within the Loomis marriage as Rose, who had been dancing among the hotel’s fellow guests during an outdoor bash, invites George’s rage by playing a ballad called “Kiss” that enrages him to the point of storming out of the couples’ cabin to violently smash the record.
What’d He Wear?
The emergence of men’s sportswear in the mid-20th century was influenced by returning servicemen’s uniforms, aloha shirts, and an overall slackening of American sartorial standards. The convergence of these factors resulted in the increased allowance for men to dress for warmer, informal environments in short-sleeved shirts. Thus… the rise of the camp collar.
Also known as the “revere collar” or “Cuban collar”, the camp collar generally refers to a casual shirt’s notched collar, meant to be worn open and flat, though some—like Ray’s shirt—feature a short loop on the left side that corresponds to a button hidden under the right collar leaf that could close the shirt over the chest, if needed.
Ray’s shirt is a rich dark navy rayon with a large-scaled print of white branches, all collected into quasi-medallion circles. As reported, the fashionably wide collar has a short loop that he wears undone. The shirt also boasts a pair of non-matching chest pockets and a plain front (no placket) with three flat white plastic buttons visible above his waistline.
- Abercrombie & Fitch Camp-Collar Button-Up Shirt in "blue pattern" cotton/viscose (Abercrombie & Fitch, $37.50)
- Bloomingdale's Linen Geo-Print Regular Fit Camp Shirt in "navy white" linen (Bloomingdale's, $68.60)
- Gap Vacay Shirt in "nautical medallion blue" cotton/spandex (Gap, $49.95)
- J. Crew Short-Sleeve Slub Cotton Camp-Collar Shirt in "square dot navy ivory" print (J. Crew, $69.50)
- Kardo Chintan Bandhani Geo Dot Shirt in indigo cotton (STAG Provisions, $175)
- Officine Générale Eren Camp-Collar Printed Cotton-Voile Shirt in navy and white cotton voile (MR PORTER, $350)
- Todd Snyder Boat Print Short-Sleeve Camp-Collar Shirt in cotton/elastane (Todd Snyder, $198)
Given the cyclical resurgence of retro-minded camp-collar shirts (as you need look no further than the above list to see how they’ve been embraced by modern outfitters), perhaps the most dated part of Ray’s honeymooning party garb are his high-waisted and double-pleated trousers.
Made from a light gray woolen flannel, Ray’s double forward-pleated trousers appropriately rise to Max Showalter’s natural waist, where they’re self-suspended with side adjusters in lieu of a belt. The trousers are styled with slanted side pockets, button-through back pockets, and legs that taper down to the bottoms, finished with turn-ups (cuffs).
Ray’s black leather apron-toe slip-on shoes are penny loafers, the relaxed style that had been introduced two decades prior with G.H. Bass pioneering the “Weejun” in 1936. In Icons of Men’s Style, Josh Sims writes that the characteristic slot on the strap traversing the vamp was intended to be purely decorative, “but when American college students began to wear the style—comfortable and smart, but sufficiently casual to avoid being corporate—during the period after the Second World War that saw the birth of the teenager, they slid a coin into the slot, hence the style’s nickname.”
His dark socks may be black, though certain light suggests a dark navy that would coordinate with his shirt.
Ray illustrates the practical versatility of penny loafers, wearing them with both casual outfits like this as well as with a navy sports coat and tie in a later scene.
Throughout Niagara, Ray wears a simple gold wristwatch with a round off-white dial on a gold bracelet.
How to Get the Look
The honeymooning Ray Cutler in Niagara neatly illustrated casual and comfortable yet classy mid-century leisurewear with his dark blue printed camp shirt, pleated slacks, and penny loafers. As printed camp shirts once again find favor as a retro-informed summer staple, you can respond in kind by dressing up your lower half with tasteful trousers and leather loafers.
- Navy and white medallion-printed rayon short-sleeve sports shirt with wide loop/camp collar, plain front, and two chest pockets
- Light gray woolen flannel double forward-pleated high-rise trousers with side adjusters, slanted side pockets, button-through jetted back pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- Black leather apron-toe penny loafers
- Dark navy socks
- Gold wristwatch with round off-white dial on gold bracelet
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie. Please also share some tips in the comments for me as my fiancée and I plan for our honeymoon after our wedding this October!
There’s still some shredded wheat in my joints!