What’s so great about Marnie? After all, many disliked the film when it was first released in 1964. Hitchcock had just completed The Birds and couldn’t sign on Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco, so he offered the complicated role to Tippi Hedron and she accepted–it was her finest role. The plot of Marnie openly dealt with taboo topics such as sexual abuse, rape, and murder by unlikely sources.
Hitchcock seemed obsessed with abnormal psychology and searched the papers for crime stories of deviant behavior like Psycho (1960) where the real Ed Hein had an unhealthy relationship with his mother and committed barbaric crimes against women. Ed Hein inspired future scripts of horror classics like the monster Buffalo-Bill in Silence of the Lambs and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The script for Marnie was inspired by the 1961 based-on-a-true-story, crime-mystery by Winston Graham.
Joel Gunz is a Hitchcock expert and dissects Tony Lee Moral‘s 2005 book The Making of Marnie.This excellent book review can be found here: A fine post of the making of Marnie
Hitchcock had a vision. The shot to shock his audience–what would it be like to be raped and the shot of the accuser is above you?
What if your rapist was your husband and what if he were Sean Connery?
The story-line is preposterous. Yet, “true” stories usually are. Sometimes in the translation, the fiction seems too unbelievable to sustain the narrative journey. A man falls for a beautiful thief and liar? Sure. Does he black-mail her to marry him? And then try to “help” her overcome her sexual inhibitions by raping her? Oh, rape is such a strong word. How about tough love, a 60s patriarchical need to control and change his wife? That happened. So the plot is not that far-fetched.
In the last half of the film, the pace accelerates and the mystery behind Marnie’s past becomes the central thrust of suspense. I thought the best acting performance went to Louise Latham as Marnie’s mother, Bernice Edgar. The last sequence was engrossing, Marnie with expressive eyes and baby voice, while the pseudo doctor, her husband, coaxed the past out of her.
The use of color as a trigger–in Vertigo it was green for jealousy–here it’s red–adds to the tension and mystery. Hitchcock’s camera angles are always enjoyable to watch from the wide-screen shot of the safe robbery on one half and the mopping, cleaning woman on the other. What did you think about the horse jumping, chase scene and the cringing fall of rider and horse? The urban landscape shot of Baltimore was memorable.
I enjoyed watching Sean Connery play the respected, affable husband trying to figure out and fix his wife, although his possessive claim on Marnie would drive any woman nuts. Tippi Hedron is detached and cool but warms up and delivers some passionate speeches when they fight. Marnie can’t stand to be touched and her clothes show that. She is constantly covered in material throughout the film and looks stunning. Edith Head dressed her true to character. It was my favorite motif.
The musical score is important to Hitchcock. The repetivitve whine of strings and pounding instruments navigate your emotions and sustain suspense. Bernard Herrmann’s relationship with Hitchcock is long-standing. Vertigo, Psycho, North by Northwest are magical scores created by Herrmann. Bernard Herrmann’s repertoire includes film greats Taxi Driver, Citizen Kane, and Cape Fear. The score in Marnie has the same feel to it. Sometimes known as one of Hitchcock’s “lesser” films, I wonder what you think of Marnie?