Saturday, September 5, 2009

Marnie--The Second Time Around

Has a subsequent viewing—at a later point in life--ever drastically altered the way you felt about a movie? Once Upon a Time in the West made little impression on me when I first saw it. But, as I watched it again at various points in my life, it gradually became one of my favorite films. However, no movie has made as long a journey for me as Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie.

I recently found a film journal I’d kept back in 1986 and my assessment of Marnie was a “disappointment that oddly lacked suspense.” I went on to blame Tippi Hedren’s “detached performance” and complain about Hitch’s use of a “shoddy rear screen.”

Today…and for many years now…Marnie has ranked as one of my favorite movies. There is much to admire in this underrated, multi-layered picture, from Hitch’s rich use of color to the progressively complex relationship between Marnie (Hedren) and Mark (Sean Connery). I’m always intrigued by the way Mark watches Marnie, hoping to catch her in a lie that will lead to a better understanding of this unusual woman he has blackmailed into marriage. Mark becomes the predator, observing his quarry intently and sometimes playing with it cruelly. Surprisingly, Marnie—in its own quiet way—generates suspense worthy of Hitch’s best man-on-the-run films.

As for Hedren’s performance, it’s her very detachment that makes Marnie such a vulnerable, intriguing character. I’ve read where Hitch originally acquired Winston Graham’s novel as a comeback vehicle for Grace Kelly. But I can’t imagine Princess Grace, with her warmth and classic beauty, in the role. It’s really Hedren’s film and easily surpasses anything else she’s done.

But my younger self was right about one thing: the rear screen shots are awful. Hitch hated to film outdoors, where he couldn’t control the lighting, but the scenes of Tippi on her horse and the closing shot are embarrassing.

Forget this minor complaint, though. If you haven’t seen Marnie in a few years, please give it another chance. You may be surprised. And if you’ve come to admire another movie the second time around—as I did Marnie—I’d love to hear about it.


  1. I could not imagine Grace Kelly in this movie either. Tippi Hedren did a really good acting job. My favorite scene in the movie is Tippi riding her horse in the fox hunt. I even remember the horse's name was Foreo. I didn't pay any attention to the lighting. However, I will notice it the next time I watch the film.

  2. A lot of people don't care for Tippi Hedren in this movie. She's not one of my favorite actresses, but I think she's very good in MARNIE, especially in the last scene with Forio.

  3. This is one of my favorite Hitchcock films, and Tippi Hedren did a great job in it. It really is a shame that Marnie is such an underrated film.