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Film / Marnie

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"Call for the doctor, call for the nurse, call for the lady with the alligator purse!"

A 1964 Psychological Thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery. It was adapted from the 1961 novel of the same name by Winston Graham.

Marnie Edgar (Hedren) is a young woman with a number of quirks. She has an unnatural fear and mistrust of men, thunderstorms, and the color red. More importantly, she suffers from kleptomania. Her latest victim is her employer Sidney Strutt (Martin Gabel). She disappears with the contents of his safe. She later applies for a job to the company of publisher Mark Rutland (Connery).

Mark, a widower who happens to be an acquaintance of Strutt, easily recognizes Marnie, but is intrigued by her and decides to hire her. When the inevitable theft does happen, Mark tracks her down. He blackmails Marnie into marrying him, otherwise she'd be arrested and land in jail. His family, especially his sister-in-law Lil (Diane Baker), views this sudden marriage with befuddlement and suspicion. He waits until their honeymoon cruise to have sex with her. She is at best frigid. Her frigidity and open hostility to her blackmailer husband inspires him to perform Marital Rape. Marnie does not enjoy the experience and attempts to commit suicide.

Mark rescues her and decides to get to the bottom of her psychological problems by helping Marnie remember the traumatic childhood experience which caused said problems. By the end, a cured Marnie resolves to make her marriage work.

Marnie is considered the last film of a significant era in Hitchcock's career. It was his last use of a "Hitchcock blonde" as a main character. It was the last time he worked with Robert Burks (director of photography), Bernard Herrmann (music composer) and George Tomasini (editor). All three had been key members of Hitchcock's film crews since the 1950s. Tomasini died in 1964, Burks in 1968. Herrmann survived to 1975. But by 1966, Hitchcock felt his music was becoming outdated and some of his music themes too reminiscent of each other.note  He had Herrmann fired. With all these elements missing, Hitchcock's later films had a rather different feel to them.


  • Altar the Speed: Mark insists on marrying Marnie within a month of finding her she can't get away.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Marnie as a deeply-closeted lesbian is a common reading of the character.
  • Anti-Hero: Marnie, at times moving toward Villain Protagonist. Mark isn't a terribly great person either.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The opening makes you think it's going to be a light-hearted film about a sexy female master thief, but instead it turns into a character study about her and her psychology.
  • Berserk Button: Several for Marnie, but especially the color red.
  • Betty and Veronica: There is a love triangle between Mark, Marnie and Lil. Lil is his sister-in-law, she seems to be a nice person and she is in love with him, so she is Mark's Betty. Marnie is a thief, she has a very cold personality and she is not interested in him, so she is his Veronica. Subverted because Lil is revealed to be a Rich Bitch.
  • Book Ends: The film opens and closes with Marnie visiting her mother in Baltimore.
  • Brainy Brunette: Lil Mainwaring, who's well-read enough to casually correct an Emerson misquote.
  • Break the Haughty: Mark spends the whole film trying to humanize the cold Marnie, before finally forcing her to confront her inner demons at the climax. In the process, he also succeeds in getting her self-righteous mother Bernice to break down and confess to her past misdeeds.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: During her first visit to her mother, Marnie calls her mother out for being so distant with her.
  • Cheshire Cat Grin: Lil's default expression whenever Marnie's in her presence.
  • Consummate Liar: Marnie, which Mark calls her out on repeatedly.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Marnie happens to apply for a job to the company of Mark Rutland, who had met her before because he is a customer of her previous employer.
  • Creator Cameo: Hitchcock, walking out of a hotel room early in the film.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Marnie's backstory: her mother was a prostitute. Marnie accidentally killed a customer of her mother who was molesting them.
  • Dating Catwoman: The movie is about a rich publishing executive falling in love with the woman who tried to rob him and reforming her in his own way. Marnie flat out calls Mark Rutland for being crazy for trying to do this. But he insists that he's in love with her.
  • Daughter Of A Whore: In the film, Marnie's mother was a prostitute.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Mark, in the great Hitch leading man tradition.
    • Marnie has her moments too.
      Lil: How do you take your tea, Miss Taylor?
      Marnie: Usually with a cup of hot water and a tea bag.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Marnie is a cold woman who does not want to be touched by men. Mark tries to change her. He guesses that her cold demeanour is due to a childhood trauma and he tries to treat her. He succeeds in the end, when Marnie tells him that she wants to stay with him.
  • Dress Hits Floor: Used sinisterly when Mark rips Marnie's nightgown off.
  • Driven to Suicide: Marnie attempts suicide after Mark rapes her, but is rescued. And, fortunately, gets better.
  • Dutch Angle: When Marnie is startled by a branch crashing through the window during a thunderstorm.
  • Easy Amnesia: Averted. In the movie, Marnie suffers from psychogenic amnesia. She only recovers through the difficult acceptance of her traumatic experience.
  • Fear of Thunder: One of the many phobias that Marnie suffers from.
  • Flashback Effects: During the flashback which shows Marnie's childhood trauma, the colors are desaturated and Vertigo Effect is used.
  • Freudian Excuse: The climax of the story is a flashback that explains all of Marnie's pathological issues, via Single-Issue Psychology.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Lil, the sister of Mark's late wife, is in unrequited love with him and is deeply jealous of Marnie, which leads her to create some trouble for Marnie later in the story.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: Mark, the "hero" of the story, is pushy and manipulative, blackmails a woman into marriage, and invokes Marital Rape License on the honeymoon. Besides, he sincerely wants to help Marnie. Marnie is a thief, but she has a legitimate Freudian Excuse for her actions.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery both have very on-the-nose, exclamatory acting styles, so the Marnie/Mark arguments feel a bit like this.
  • Hates Being Touched: Marnie freaks out when Mark tries to touch her on their wedding night.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Lil tells Mark "I'm queer for liars", using the old sense of "queer for" as "have a preference for". She means Mark, but with the homoerotic undertones in her interactions with Marnie, who's most definitely a liar, it's an obvious Double Entendre.
  • Interrupted Suicide: On the cruise ship, Marnie is going to drown herself when Mark shows up to save her.
  • Intimate Hair Brushing: Played for Drama. Bernice happily brushes Jessie's hair in front of Marnie, also tossing a barb that she never had time to do so for her actual daughter.
  • Intimate Open Shirt: On the wedding night, Mark's lost a tie and his shirt has opened by a couple of buttons, so he's clearly in the mood. Marnie of course isn't.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: The neighbor girls chanting the "Mother, mother, I am ill" jump rope rhyme when Marnie visits her mother, which seems like a commentary on Marnie and her situation.
  • Killing in Self-Defense: When she was a child, Marnie killed a customer of her mother who was molesting them.
  • Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: Seemingly inverted at first, with blonde career criminal Marnie as Dark and brunette upper-class Lil as Light, but as the film goes on Marnie's girly interest in fashion and horses becomes clearer, while Lil proves to be a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing.
  • Marital Rape License: During their honeymoon cruise, Mark rapes his wife Marnie and Marnie suffers from it (she is even Driven to Suicide), but this act does not define Mark as a villain: he is rather depicted as an Anti-Hero.
  • Meaningful Name: The name of Marnie's favorite horse is "Forio". "Phorion" is Greek for "stolen goods", an appropriate name given Marnie's behavior.
  • Mercy Kill: Marnie kills her horse Forio because he is seriously injured.
  • Multiple Identity IDs: After she leaves the company of Sidney Strutt, Marnie chooses a social security card from a collection of cards with different names.
  • My Beloved Smother: Bernice Edgar is an overbearing woman and Marnie's whole life is spent reacting to her in one way or another (either trying to please her or rebelling against her).
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Sean Connery has a Scottish accent in some scenes, particularly when Mark and Marnie go to Bernice's house. He has an American accent most of the time though. Mark comes from an old established Pennsylvania family.
  • Paralyzing Fear of Sexuality: Marnie, as a result of an overly-strict upbringing, and hidden childhood trauma.
  • Protagonist Title: Marnie, short for Margaret.
  • Real Name as an Alias: Margaret "Marnie" Edgar uses first names in her aliases that are either similar to Margaret (Marion, Mary) or nicknames of Margaret (Peggy).
  • Red Light District: Marnie grew up in one in Baltimore and her mother still lives there.
  • Searching the Stalls: Zig-zagged. Marnie hides in a toilet stall waiting for the Rutland office to clear out so she can rob the safe, but no one knows she's in there and she doesn't get caught.
  • Sex for Services: Bernice worked as a prostitute when Marnie was a child, but even before then Bernice became pregnant with Marnie as a teen after a boy promised to give her a sweater in exchange for sex.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: The camera lingers on Marnie's stony expression during the sex scene.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The quote that Mark says to Lil is of Ralph Waldo Emerson, "When Duty whispers low, Thou must, The youth replies, I can!" but he replaces "the" with "then" which is why Lil says he misquoted.
    • Hitchcock put Edgar Allan Poe references throughout this film. Marnie's last name is Edgar. In the novel, Marnie's last name is Elmer. Unlike the film, the novel takes place in England. Like Poe's characters, Marnie Edgar is subject to Psychological terror. The film takes place in New York (Strutt's office), Virginia (Garrod's Stables) and Philadelphia (Rutland Publishing and Wickwind). These are the three places that Poe lived throughout the better part of his life. The film's climactic scene takes place at Marnie's mother's home in Baltimore, the city where Poe died under mysterious circumstances in 1849. Tippi Hedren played Marnie. Both Hedren and Poe were born on January 19. In the novel, Marnie's mother's name is Edith Elmer. In the film, Alfred Hitchcock changed Marnie's mother's name to Bernice Edgar. "Berenice" was a short story written by Poe. In a 1960 article called "Why I Am Afraid of the Dark", Hitchcock noted this information - "'s because I liked Edgar Allan Poe's stories so much that I began to make suspense films."
  • Sleeping Single: Mark and Marnie on their honeymoon cruise.
  • The Sociopath: Marnie, who steals and lies with seemingly no conscience or regrets.
  • Stealing from the Till: Marnie steals from the safe of her employers.
  • Sticky Fingers: Marnie is a kleptomaniac who takes office jobs as a way to get access to safes.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Marnie accidentally killed one of her mother's clients as a child.
  • Talking in Your Sleep: Marnie talks during the nightmares caused by her childhood trauma. Mark hears her talking and it helps him (and the viewer) to understand the cause of her problems.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Bernice was a teen when she gave birth to Marnie.
  • Troubled Backstory Flashback: In the end, a flashback reveals the cause of Marnie's trauma: she killed a customer of her mother (who was a prostitute) when she was a child.
  • The Unfair Sex: Arguably an inversion. The three main female characters are a kleptomaniac, a former prostitute who's now a self-righteous moralist, and a Rich Bitch. The male lead forces the female lead into non-consensual sex, but it's just brushed aside.
  • Vertigo Effect: A rare and very effective indoor example, when Marnie's flashback begins, by the man who invented it no less.
  • Visual Innuendo: The very first shot is a close-up of Marnie's purse, which has folds that make it resemble a certain part of the female anatomy.
  • Word Association Test: Mark tries this on Marnie, but it doesn't get him any closer to figuring her out.