Marnie is a 1964 psychological thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock and based on the novel of the same name by Winston Graham. The film stars Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery. The original film score was composed by Bernard Herrmann.
(Spoiler Alert) Marnie Edgar (Hedren) is a troubled young woman who is both frigid and suffers from ereuthophobia. She is also a compulsive thief. She uses her charms on Sidney Strutt (Martin Gabel) to get a job without references. Then late one night, she steals the contents of the company safe and disappears.
Mark Rutland (Connery), a widower who owns a large printing company, is a good customer of Strutt's. He learns about the theft from the victim, and remembers the woman. So when Marnie applies for a job at his company, he is intrigued. He is robbed too, but unlike Strutt, Mark manages to track Marnie down. Instead of handing her over to the police, he blackmails her into marrying him.
On their honeymoon, he finds out about her frigidity. At first, he respects her wishes, but her undisguised hostility to him incites him to rape her. The next morning, she tries to commit suicide, but Mark finds her in time.
He attempts to discover the reasons behind Marnie's behavior. In the end, Marnie and Mark learn that her mother, Bernice (Louise Latham), had been a prostitute. When Marnie was six years old, one of her mother's clients (a sailor played by Bruce Dern) had tried to calm her after she became frightened by a storm. Bernice thought he was trying to molest her daughter and began attacking him. Seeing her mother struggling with the man, Marnie struck him with a fireplace poker, killing him. The bloodshed led to her fear of the color red. Once the origin of her fears is revealed, Marnie decides she wants to try to make her marriage work.
The film's special effects are often criticized as unconvincing, with critics noting such things as obvious matte paintings and back projection. However, in a making-of documentary on the DVD, Robin Wood, author of Hitchcock's Films Revisited, argues that they can be defended if one notes the roots of the film in German Expressionism:
[Hitchcock] worked in German studios at first, in the silent period. Very early on when he started making films, he saw Fritz Lang's German silent movies; he was enormously influenced by that, and Marnie is basically an expressionist film in many ways. Things like scarlet suffusions over the screen, back-projection and backdrops, artificial-looking thunderstorms—these are expressionist devices and one has to accept them. If one doesn't accept them then one doesn't understand and can't possibly like Hitchcock.
Wood, a passionate defender of the film, went on to argue later in the documentary (precisely the final words) that, "I'm going to say something provocative...If you don't like Marnie you don't like Hitchcock. I'll go further and say that if you don't love Marnie, you don't love cinema."
Hitchcock biographer Spoto said something very similar in his book The Films of Alfred Hitchcock. He changed his story in his later biography of the filmmaker, however, claiming that the film was technically sloppy not because Hitchcock was going for an elaborate, quasi-Expressionistic feel, but because after his advances to Hedren had been rebuffed, he lost all interest in the film. In an August 2006 article in The Guardian, Hedren, while not confirming this story, said that when she told Hitchcock that she wanted to be released from her contract, he replied, "Well, I'll ruin your career. Sean Connery said that he wasn't aware of this incident and didn't want to dwell on it many years later, complimenting Hitchcock as a "special" person.
However Patrick McGilligan in his biography, Alfred Hitchcock : A Life in Darkness and Light has called into question several of Donald Spoto's claims regarding Hitchcock in general and Marnie in particular. McGilligan based his research on the several hours of available audio tapes Hitchcock used as personal research on all his productions after The Birds (he got the idea from Francois Truffaut's use of tapes in their joint interview) where Hitchcock discussed the character of Marnie with Hedren extensively down to the last detail. McGilligan argued that Hitchcock's manipulative behaviour on the set of Marnie stemmed out of his desire to help his inexperienced leading lady through a complex role rather than any personal infatuation. More importantly he points out that such behaviour on the part of Hitchcock was not altogether unique citing his experiences with Joan Fontaine on Rebecca. He also cites Tony Lee Moral's research on the production of the film to refute Spoto's claim that Hitchcock lost interest in the film. Pointing out that the falling-out between Hitchcock and Hedren happened only in the last quarter of production during which Hitchcock indeed communicated to his actress through a go-between but as Hitchcock often did with other difficult productions, he marched on and completed the film as per his original vision.
The reason for the fall-out according to McGilligan's research was that in January 1964, Tippi Hedren asked to be excused for a few days to travel to New York to pick up the Photoplay award in New York City. Hitchcock refused, believing it would upset the atmosphere and concentration necessary for her performance. Hedren, irritated by Hitchcock's obsession with her on the set, insulted him in front of the entire crew upon which Hitchcock, equally incensed threatened to ruin her career as he still kept her under contract. He had also threatened to cancel Hedren's next film, his never produced film of J. M. Barrie's Mary Rose. Hitchcock, after Marnie, tried to patch up with his actress but to little avail, and he kept her on salary for two more years before the contract was terminated. In 1966, Hitchcock and his wife Alma Reville took Hedren out to tea in London, when she was filming Charlie Chaplin's final film A Countess from Hong Kong. They didn't see each other again until 1979, when Hedren attended the American Film Institute tribute to Hitchcock. Hedren also attended Hitchcock's funeral in 1980.
In 2005, more than 40 years after the film's release, she would declare in an interview that Marnie is the favorite of her two films for Hitchcock, because of the intriguing, complex, challenging character that she played. Marnie continues to have its admirers, as actress Catherine Deneuve indicated that she would have loved to have played Marnie. Actress Naomi Watts dressed up as Hedren's Marnie for the March 2008 issue of Vanity Fair magazine. Future soap opera actress Melody Thomas played the uncredited role of Marnie as a child in the flashbacks.
Sean Connery had been worried that his being under contract to Eon Productions for both James Bond and non-Bond films would limit his career, and turned down every non-Bond film Eon offered him. When asked what he wanted to do, Connery replied that he wanted to work with Alfred Hitchcock, and Eon arranged that through their contacts. Connery also shocked many people at the time by asking to see a script; some regarded that as an affront to Hitchcock. But Connery was worried about being typecast as a spy and he did not want to do a variation of North by Northwest or Notorious. When told by Hitchcock's agent that Cary Grant did not ask to see even one of Hitchcock's scripts Connery replied, "I'm not Cary Grant. However, Hitchcock and Connery got on well during filming.
Marnie became a milestone for several reasons: It was the last time that a "Hitchcock blonde" would have a central role in his films. It was also the final time that he would work with his key team members, who had figured so prominently in his films: Director of Photography Robert Burks who died in 1968; editor George Tomasini, who soon died after Marnie's release; and music composer Bernard Herrmann was fired during Hitchcock's next film, Torn Curtain (1965), when Hitchcock and Universal studio executives wanted a more contemporary "pop" tune for the film. Also, Hitchcock had noticed a strong similarity between Herrmann's score for Joy in the Morning and Marnie and believed Hermann was repeating himself. Hermann's music for Marnie included excerpts in his special album for Decca Records, also lyrics were written to Herrmann's theme that was performed by Nat King Cole.
In a making-of documentary on the DVD release, unit manager Hilton A. Green explains that shooting had been scheduled to begin on November 25, 1963, but had to be postponed because the nation was in mourning for John F. Kennedy, who was shot three days before.