Pros: Screenplay, Connery, Hitchcock
Cons: minor pacing problems
Alfred Hitchcock's Marnie was not what audiences expected when it was released in 1964. Hitchcock's two previous films were Psycho and The Birds and this movie was a talky psychological mystery starring Tippi Hedren from The Birds and Sean, James Bond, Connery.
There wasn't much action, no gore, no crazy birds, no psycho moms. Consequently it did very poorly at the box-office.
If you enjoy psychological thrillers, and are a fan of Hitchcock movies and/or Sean Connery, you should put this one on you must see list. If you saw it several years ago on television, you should watch it again on DVD, expecting an intelligent talky mystery-not an action packed or horror based Hitchcock. Also, while it is true that Hedren does not have much of an acting range, Hitchcock used her in a way that doesn't detract from the film. Her limitation as an actresses actually works for the character she is playing.
Marnie is based on a novel by Winston Graham, with the screen adaptation handled very well by Jay Presson Allen. We also get a wonderful Bernard Herrman score. Originally it looked like Grace Kelly was going to come out of retirement to do this movie, but she did not. Hedren became a star after the success of Hitch's Birds so she was cast opposite Mr. James Bond, Sean Connery. Connery showed he was more than a one trick BOND, and does a wonderful job playing an interesting quirky and successful businessman. It's also easy to see that a few years earlier Hitch would have had Cary Grant and Grace Kelly as the leads and this would have made an excellent follow up to Vertigo.
This was the last time Herrman would score a movie for Hitch-they had a terrible argument on Hitch's next movie: Torn Curtain and never worked together again. Also Cinematographer Robert Burks and editor George Tomasini died shortly after this movie was completed. Herrman's last score was Scorsese's Taxi Driver in case you were wondering.
An attractive brunette woman (perhaps Tippi Hedren) is walking very quickly to catch a train while her purse very tightly under one arm and carrying a suitcase with her other.
There has been a robbery. Just under 10,000 dollars has been stolen from a company safe. The owner, a man named Strut (Martin Gabel) , describes the thief and we can believe the woman getting on the train may be her. It turns out Strut hired the woman a few weeks earlier. She did not have verifiable references but she seemed polished professional and very beautiful. Watching Strut describe the woman is a business associate Mark Rutland (Sean Connery).
Meanwhile, the mystery woman walks into her hotel room and washes black die out of her hair. She throws away some personal items including what we learn is a phony social security card. She picks a different identity, is revealed to be a blonde Tippi Hedren and goes and visits her Horse Florio.
Then she arrives at a row house near the docks in Baltimore. She's visiting her mother who is babysitting a young 8 or 9 year old child for a neighbor. Marnie Edgar (Tippi Hedren) doesn't like this child very much which doesn't seem normal. There is something a bit off about her and her mother as well. Then she sees the RED colored gladiolas in a vase and has a panic attack screaming at the girl to get rid of the RED flowers and replace them with YELLOW ones.
Eventually Marnie with her hair tinted brown gets a job working for Rutlands. The company is owned by Mark Rutland, (Sean Connery) and although he thinks he recognizes the woman as the thief who robbed Strutt, he is intrigued with her. Why would this beautiful woman steal money? He calls her into his office to talk with her, when a thunderstorm brews outside. The thunder really scares and freaks out Marnie. Something is clearly not right with her. Mark is interested in finding out what is wrong with her.
A romantic relationship develops; they go to a race track together. Marnie loves horses but she doesn't gamble. She picks some horses for Mark to bet on and he starts to win. When she goes to look at the horses and riders one of them has bright red polka dots and the bright red freaks Marnie out. She won't pick the horse and rider as a winner... The horse later wins, and Marnie asks to go. Mark introduced Marnie to his father.
Eventually Marnie makes her move and steals money out of the company safe. Before she can get out of town however, Mark confronts her. It turns out he realized she stole the money. Mark gives Marnie a choice. She can go to jail for being a thief or she can marry him and start her life over. Mark will help her. He knows there is something wrong, a compulsion that makes her steal and he will help her get better. Of course she chooses marriage... but the marriage is not consummated...Marnie has a strange revulsion regarding being intimate with a man.
You will probably realize where this is going, but in 1964 it is likely few in the audience could have guessed the ‘rest of the story'. There are some interesting complications, a suicide attempt, an attempt to run-away, a confrontation and finally a flashback that explains what made Marnie into what she has become.
There are wonderful Hitchcock flourishes and obsessions. If you don't mind that the movie is talky and its suspense is psychological and not based on action, or murder you'll have a great time watching a superb cast of recognizable faces.
This is a film that benefits from watching it very closely and appreciating the skillful way Hitchcock introduces several themes and subtexts often in subtle ways. Some of the character relationships are very interesting and we get many visual cues, some obvious, some not that tell us when characters are making changes or decisions that affect others. I don't want to spoil some of these brilliant little touches, other than to let you know there's quite a few things in this movie if you look very closely at it.
The cast includes: Tippi Hedren as Marnie Edgar,. Sean Connery as Mark Rutland, Diane Baker as Lil Mainwaring, (and she is not Rutland's sister, but rather his sister in law from his previous marriage-Mark's wife died... you may not get this the first time you see the movie-but it is important) Look closely for Mariette Hartley and Bruce Dern who play important supporting roles.
This film does not contain a memorable center-piece murder sequence, or exciting chase finale as many Hitchcock films do... but it is a meticulously crafted sexual mystery drama that was way ahead of its time and deserved a lot more respect and admiration than it originally received back in 1964.
Marnie is a very talky and restrained film, Connery and the supporting actors are very good and Hedren has been cast well. This is a top-notch Hitchcock that deserves the respect it is finally being given. Enjoy