Marnie was originally marketed as a "Suspense Sex Mystery" but inevitably wound up as one of Hitchcock’s most misunderstood films as the Hitch blonde films came to an end. In Hitch’s own words ... "It is a very difficult film to classify."
A screen adaptation of the novel (by Winston Graham), the story begins with the character of Marnie (Tippi Hedren) who casually floats from town to town, in varying identities, calmly robbing her employer and then disappearing without a trace. She winds up in Philadelphia working for a company owned by Mark Rutland (Sean Connery). Despite her new appearance, Rutland recognizes Marnie but keeps her in his employ while he begins a game of baiting her.
Before long Marnie strikes again as she attempts to rob Rutland's office but is caught red-handed [excuse the 'red' pun]. Rutland, finding himself falling for the icy blonde, decides not to hand her over to the authorities but tries to cure the kleptomaniac. He proposes [blackmails?] marriage to the frustrated Marnie who finds matrimony even more repulsive than an 8 X 10 jail cell. When parts of Marnie’s past become clearer [the reasons why she behaves so] Rutland’s dreams of "...and they lived happily ever after" seem uncertain.
To really get a grasp of Marnie, it is recommended to view the film several times. While a single viewing might satisfy the needs of the casual moviegoer, it is the repeated examination that helps deconstruct the complexities of the plot. Produced in a period when "surfer flicks" and "musical fluff" were the norm, this depiction of "sex and mental illness" were fairly mature; almost ahead of its time one might say. While Hitchcock had touched upon psychoanalysis in prior films (Spellbound and to a lesser extent Shadow of A Doubt), Marnie teems with the ills of the mind and how they can infect the body.
One might even say that this film is a bit autobiographical. That is, if you believe the tale of how Hitchcock was scarred by the traumatic "mock arrest" his father put him through as a child. In Marnie, the events of a grisly event have created this habitual thief and compulsive liar. A person who must steal from men to buy back her mother’s love. Sadly, Marnie cannot experience true love. Even her prize possession (her horse) undergoes a tragic event that further destabilizes her.
If anything ever came out of this film, it is the various gossip that makes Hollywood the capitol of slander. First appearing in The Birds, this was Tippi Hedren’s final appearance in a Hitch film. Spoto wrote that Hedren rejected an overt proposition by the director but whatever may have happened behind close doors, the two had a major falling out during the filming and by the end, Hitch was directing her through intermediaries.
Some might even say the film was doomed before it even began. The first day of filming was delayed as that Monday had become a national holiday in memory of JFK -- who was slain over the weekend. Hedren wasn't even Hitch's first choice as he originally wanted Grace Kelly to make her screen comeback in the title role. The people of Monaco though were not happy with the idea of their princess playing a compulsive thief; hence Hedren.
RATING: 8.0 (of 10). While the story itself is deep in structure and complex characterization, some of the backgrounds (the waterfront scene for instance) are quite crude and are a bit distracting. Overall, one of Hitch’s more intricate works.
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