It's true. There ain't no party like a Marnie party. If you haven't had one, you really, really should. Fresh off the success of PSYCHO and THE BIRDS, Alfred Hitchcock, took his birdwatching leading lady and gave her what would be her ultimate role. Tippi Hedren tears the screen up as MARNIE. It is an actor's dream role. The film would eventually cause the unraveling of the Hitchcock/Hedren merger, but for two hours and ten minutes, Tippi shows us that there is more to her than trying to get birds out of her hair.
The novel MARNIE by Winston Graham, which I am dying to get my hands on, was WAY too racy for the sixties silver screen.
But luckily, Jay Presson Allen penned the screenplay. Allen is best known for her screenplay for Cabaret. You want someone to turn the shit out? Get Allen. Most of her work is ahead of it's time and underappreciated. I guess that is why Alfred Hitchcock personal asked her to write Marnie. That is an opportunity you don't just pass up! So, she took a stab at adapting the psycho-sexual tale of greed and abuse, with Hitchcock behind the lens. The film censor board were always some hard cats to get past, but if you were clever and smart enough, you could. This pairing sailed right by. It's all there. You just have to look for it.
When Grace Kelly turned down the role, Hitchcock went to his newest blonde muse. Tippi Hedren has got to be just about one of the most beautiful women in the world. Strikingly gorgeous, she has possesses two qualities that I love in a woman. Glamour and a sense of humor. The two are a difficult match, but if you can pull it off, you definitely leave an impression. Tippi does it. Rather easily it seems.
A dashing and VERY tan Sean Connery is her leading man. He was already an established film star with a couple of classic Bond films under his belt, but even he paled in comparsion to the movie's real star. the director himself, Alfred Hitchcock. Style and Substance. Always his first two rules. He makes me feel like he went into work everyday with a goal to make the best film he could possibly make. And he always kept challenging himself. And his next feat would be if he could make Marnie a marketable hit with the general public. He succeeded, but why isn't Marnie talked about when someone brings up Hitchcock? I think it is because Marnie is really dark. Most Hitchcock movies are bathed in darkness, but soaped up with a little fun, Marnie is darker, but also a little more fun. It is just past that line that most people seem to not like to cross with Hitchcock. The film is a deeply rich character study about a woman tormented by her past and haunted by what the future holds for her. Hitchcock likes to keep it real and tawdry and calls it a SEX MYSTERY! That sells better than a boring old tag line that reads CHARACTER DRIVEN.
The outstanding thing about Marnie is that we get lots of Tippi in it. We don't see her face for the first ten minutes of the movie, but when we do she never escapes us again. Almost in every scene, Hedren had to WORK IT. Tippi's film credits are odd. Still working today, she has never slowed down in film and television productions. But there is nothing like Marnie. It is her finest two hours.
As the film opens, she see a woman who appears to have just walked away from a white collar crime. Then, we see a woman washing the color out of her hair. This is always a good sign of intrigue to come. When we finally see Tippi's face, you are glad you waited for it. She is a woman on the move though. It is never questioned that Marnie took off with her boss' money. Unlike, Marion Crane, she ain't planning on giving it back. The entire first 45 minutes is white knuckle. Everything is a clue and you must pay attention.
I also love that Marnie can land any job she wants too. I envision her circling a Want Ad and marching right into the office and seizing the job. She has got work to do. She can type well, takes notes and wins the trust of all her co-workers. But all this typing shit is a cover-up her real job, STARING! And she works hard for the money, honey. She watches everything single movement by every single person at the office. She learns to read body language and takes mental notes on people who make the same mistakes over and over. With all this staring she might be able to get what she really wants. INSIDE THE SAFE! She has poker face down to a fine science. Ah...but unbeknown st to her, someone else is watching and studying her every move. He has only one objective and that is get inside Marnie! HOLLA! One of the joys of Marnie is that we know that he knows that Marnie doesn't know that he knows....It's complex. Naturally, as anyone else would, he falls in love with her. She so lovable with all her staring and such. She screams anytime a man touches her and FREAKS the fuck out when a thunderstorm rolls in. She is nightmare prone and ain't afraid to scream in the middle of the night and wake up everyone. Tons of fun! He will learn that Marnie cannot be loved. Marnie doesn't have time for romantic side plots. She has got to get back to STARING!
What follows is a frenzied display of Mechanical horses, Stare Offs, Red Menace and lots of Diane Baker sassing off to anyone who will listen. Characters action are questioned and answers aren't handed over to you. You have to work form them. In one of Tippi Hedren's finest scenes, she goes to visit her mother, which is NEVER a good idea. Her arch enemy is Jesse, the little girl next door. This bitch has moved in on Marnie's territory and has snatched all the attention from her Mother. Now, Marnie's mom doesn't have a lot of love and attention to be handing out, so to have it yanked from you and given to some little brat hurts like fuck. The scenes between Tippi Hedren and Kimberly Beck (Roller Boogie and TRISH!) have an amazing chemistry between each other. Hitchcock kids are always the best.
The nightmares start to come more frequently and when the shit hits the fan, the entire cast descends upon Mamma Marnie's home. The truth SUCKS. But I guess you gotta know to move on. It's a pretty good pay off and we get a great mural of a ship full of horny sailors.
But on the DL, the best part of Marnie is Marnie's clothes. And we get to see her in two different looks. We get middle class glamour that seems to involve lots of twill and then SUPER RICH glamour when Marnie hits the big time. Whenever a opening credit reads COSTUMES BY EDITH HEAD, you know you are in for a good time.
Marnie remains one of my favorite Hitchcock films. It is a great film to rediscover and it hasn't be over saturated in pop culture. It also dares you go out and practice your STARING!