Marnie (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byAlfred Hitchcock
Produced byAlfred Hitchcock
Screenplay byJay Presson Allen
Based onMarnie
by Winston Graham
Music byBernard Herrmann
CinematographyRobert Burks
Edited byGeorge Tomasini
Geoffrey Stanley Productions
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • July 22, 1964 (1964-07-22) (New York City)
Running time
130 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$3 million
Box office$7 million[1]

Marnie is a 1964 American psychological thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The screenplay by Jay Presson Allen was based on the 1961 novel of the same name by Winston Graham. The film stars Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery.

The music was composed by Bernard Herrmann, his last of seven critically acclaimed film scores for Hitchcock. Marnie also marked the end of Hitchcock's collaborations with cinematographer Robert Burks (his 12th film for Hitchcock) and editor George Tomasini (who died later in the year).


Marian Holland charms Sidney Strutt (Martin Gabel), the head of a tax consulting company, into hiring her without references. Some months later, she steals nearly $10,000 from the company safe and flees. Changing her appearance and identity, Marian, whose real name is Margaret "Marnie" Edgar (Tippi Hedren), travels to Virginia, where she stables a horse named Forio. She then visits her invalid mother, Bernice (Louise Latham), whom she supports financially, in Baltimore.

Mark Rutland (Sean Connery), a wealthy widower who owns a publishing company in Philadelphia, meets with Strutt on business. He learns about the robbery and recalls Marnie from a previous visit. Some months later, Marnie, posing as Mary Taylor, happens to apply to Mark's company and is hired after he recognizes her. While working weekend overtime with Mark, Marnie has a panic attack during a thunderstorm. Mark comforts then kisses her. They begin seeing each other socially. It is learned that Marnie suffers from bad dreams, and the color red can trigger an extreme emotional reaction.

Soon after, Marnie steals money from Mark's company and again flees. Mark tracks her to the stable where she keeps Forio. He blackmails her into marrying him, much to the chagrin of Mark's former sister-in-law, Lil (Diane Baker), who is in love with Mark. Lil grows suspicious when she discovers Mark has spent a considerable sum since marrying Marnie. On their honeymoon cruise, Marnie is repulsed by any physical intimacy. Mark initially respects her wishes, but then rapes her. The next morning, she attempts to drown herself in the ship's swimming pool, but Mark saves her.

Lil tips off Mark that Marnie's mother is still alive and living in Baltimore. Mark hires a private detective to investigate. Meanwhile, Lil overhears Mark telling Marnie that he has "paid off Strutt" on her behalf. Lil mischievously invites Strutt and his wife to a large party at the Rutland mansion. Strutt recognizes Marnie, but Mark persuades him to say nothing. When Marnie later admits to additional robberies, Mark works to reimburse her victims to drop charges.

Mark brings Forio to their estate, pleasing Marnie. During a fox hunt, Forio bolts. After a wild gallop, Forio misses a jump, breaks a leg, and lies on the ground screaming in pain. Marnie frantically runs to a nearby house and manages to obtain a gun, and shoots her horse. Crazed with grief, Marnie goes home, where she finds the key to Mark's office. She then goes to the office, opens the safe, and finds herself unable to take the money she wants to steal, even after Mark arrives and "urges" her to take it.

Mark forcibly takes Marnie to Baltimore to confront her mother and extract the truth about Marnie's past. They arrive in a thunderstorm. As it is revealed that Bernice was a prostitute, Marnie's long-suppressed memories resurface: when she was a small child, one of Bernice's clients (Bruce Dern) tried to calm a frightened Marnie during a thunderstorm. Seeing him touch Marnie and believing he was trying to molest her, Bernice attacked him. As the man fended her off, she fell and injured her leg, leaving her disabled. Marnie, frightened and attempting to protect her mother, fatally struck the man in the head with a fireplace poker. Bernice told police that she herself killed the man and prayed Marnie would forget the event. She had become pregnant as a young, unmarried girl and says she has always loved Marnie. Understanding the reason behind her behavior, Marnie asks for Mark's help. He promises to help her. They leave holding each other closely.


Mark and Marnie on their honeymoon cruise


Development and writing[edit]

Alfred Hitchcock began developing the film adaptation of Winston Graham's novel Marnie in 1961. He commissioned Joseph Stefano, the screenwriter of Hitchcock's recently released Psycho, to work on the script. Stefano made extensive notes and wrote a 161-page treatment.[2] The director's first choice to play the title role, Grace Kelly, by then Princess Grace of Monaco, withdrew from the project when the citizens of Monaco objected to her appearing in a film, especially as a sexually disturbed thief. Also, when Kelly married Prince Rainier in 1956, she had not fulfilled her contract with MGM, which could have prevented her from working for another studio. As a consequence of Kelly's departure from the film, Hitchcock put it aside to work on The Birds (1963).[2]

After completing The Birds, Hitchcock returned to the Winston Graham adaptation. Evan Hunter, who had written the screenplay for The Birds, developed Marnie with Hitchcock, and wrote several drafts. Hunter was unhappy with the rape scene in the original novel, as he felt the audience would lose sympathy for the male lead. The director, however, was enthusiastic about the scene, describing to Hunter how he intended to film it.

Hitch held up his hands the way directors do when they're framing a shot. Palms out, fingers together, thumbs extended and touching to form a perfect square. Moving his hands toward my face, like a camera coming in for a close shot, he said, "Evan, when he sticks it in her, I want that camera right on her face".[3]

Hunter wrote a draft containing the rape scene but also wrote an additional, substitute sequence, which he pleaded with Hitchcock to use instead. Hunter was dismissed from the project on 1 May 1963.[4] His replacement, Jay Presson Allen, later told him that "you just got bothered by the scene that was his reason for making the movie. You just wrote your ticket back to New York."[3][5] Just as Hunter had been unaware of Stefano's earlier work on Marnie, Presson Allen was not informed that she was the third writer to work on the adaptation.[6]


According to royal biographer Craig Brown, Hitchcock offered Princess Grace the title role in March 1962, and she accepted; but in Monaco, the reaction to the announcement was categorically negative. "Monegasques did not like the idea of their princess being filmed kissing another man," Brown wrote. "Little did they know that Hitchcock also had plans for him to rape her." Grace's announcement that she would donate her $800,000 fee to Monaco charities did nothing to appease the critics, and she dropped out of the project in June 1962.[7]

Following the news of Kelly's unavailability, Marilyn Monroe sought the role of Marnie. “It’s an interesting idea,” Hitchcock admitted in an evasive manner to Variety's Army Archerd.[8] In his book Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie, Tony Lee Moral revealed that a studio executive at Paramount Pictures suggested actress Lee Remick to Hitchcock for the title role. Hitchcock also considered two other actresses who were, like Hedren, under his personal contract, Vera Miles and Claire Griswold, wife of director/actor Sydney Pollack. Eva Marie Saint, star of Hitchcock's North by Northwest (1959), and Susan Hampshire unsuccessfully pursued the role as well. In the end, Hitchcock opted to use Tippi Hedren, a one-time model he had seen in a commercial for a diet drink in 1961, then cast successfully in The Birds. According to Hedren, he offered her the role of Marnie during filming of The Birds. Hedren told writer Moral that she was "amazed" that Hitchcock would offer her this "incredible role", calling it a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity". In 2005, more than 40 years after the film's release, Hedren declared in an interview that Marnie was her favorite of the two films that she made with Hitchcock, because of the intriguing, complex, challenging character that she played.[9]

Male lead Sean Connery had been worried that 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 that Eon offered him. When asked what he wanted to do, Connery replied that he wanted to work with Alfred Hitchcock, which Eon arranged through their contacts.[10] Connery also shocked many people at the time by asking to see a script; something Connery did because he 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."[11] Hitchcock and Connery got on well during filming. Connery also said that he was happy with the film "with certain reservations."[12]

Marnie became a milestone for several reasons. It was the last time a "Hitchcock blonde" would have a central role in one of his films. It was also the final occasion when he would work with several of his key team members: director of photography Robert Burks, who died in 1968; editor George Tomasini, who died soon after Marnie's release, and music composer Bernard Herrmann, who was fired during Hitchcock's next film, Torn Curtain (1966), when Hitchcock and Universal studio executives wanted a more contemporary "pop" tune for the film.

Marnie continues to have its admirers. Actress Catherine Deneuve indicated that she would have loved to have played Marnie.[13] Actress Naomi Watts dressed up as Hedren's Marnie (whose outfits were by Edith Head) for the March 2008 issue of Vanity Fair magazine.[14]

Although they played mother and daughter, Latham (42) was only eight years older than Hedren (34). In the script, the mother character was only 15 years older than the daughter character.


In a making-of documentary for 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 had been assassinated three days before.


Hitchcock had noticed a strong similarity between Herrmann's score for Joy in the Morning and Marnie and believed that Herrmann was repeating himself.[15] Herrmann's music for Marnie included excerpts in his special album for Decca Records. Lyrics were written to Herrmann's theme that were to be sung by Nat King Cole.[citation needed] Herrmann's later score for Truffaut's The Bride Wore Black (1968) also repeats the main theme in Marnie, although slightly altered in its harmony.

Theatrical trailer.


Contemporary reviews were mixed. Eugene Archer of The New York Times wrote a lukewarm assessment, calling it "at once a fascinating study of a sexual relationship and the master's most disappointing film in years." Archer's main criticisms were "an inexplicably amateurish script" and the casting of "relative newcomers" Hedren and Connery in roles that "cry for the talents of Grace Kelly and Cary Grant."[16] A review in Variety wrote that the opening was slow, but once it got going Hitchcock's story "generally keeps the action fairly fast-paced—provided audience can overlook certain puzzling aspects, such as why the lady became a thief—and gets strong performances from his two stars and other cast members."[17] Philip K. Scheuer of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "As a story it seems naggingly improbable and, as drama, a nightmare from which the spectator constantly pulls away, struggling to wake up in a less disordered universe. No question, though, that it is at least fitfully effective."[18] Edith Oliver of The New Yorker called the film "an idiotic and trashy movie with two terrible performances in the leading roles, and I had quite a good time watching it. There is something bracing about Hitchcock at work, even when he is at his worst."[19] The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote that the film "opens quite brilliantly," but that "things get out of hand" after the marriage, "with both leading players floundering badly as Hitchcock piles up his demands on them." The review suggested that "the trouble seems to be that the film falls between the two stools of straight suspense (what is Marnie's secret?) and the full-dress character study that would only have been possible with a more experienced actress."[20]

Marnie's reputation would greatly improve years later as it currently holds an 83% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 40 reviews. The critical consensus reads: "A coolly constructed mystery revolving around a character who's inscrutable to a fault, Marnie finds Hitchcock luring audiences deeper into the dark."[21] Dave Kehr wrote in The Chicago Reader that while the film was "universally despised on its first release, Marnie remains one of Alfred Hitchcock's greatest and darkest achievements" as "theme and technique meet on the highest level of film art."[22] Richard Brody wrote in The New Yorker that he considered it "Hitchcock's best film."[23]

The film was a moderate box office success; it grossed $7 million in theatres[1] on a budget of $3 million. In North America, it earned estimated rentals of $3,250,000.[24] Marnie was the 22nd highest-grossing film of 1964.

In a making-of documentary on the DVD, Robin Wood, author of Hitchcock's Films Revisited, discusses the special effects of the film as having their roots 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 films; 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.

In the 2012 Sight & Sound poll of the greatest films ever made, Marnie received nine total votes—six (out of 846) from critics and three (out of 358) from directors.[25][26] Marnie was ranked 47th in BBC's 2015 list of the 100 greatest American films.[27]

Marnie has been described as a neo-noir film by some authors.[28]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b Box Office Information for Marnie. The Numbers. Retrieved May 19, 2013.
  2. ^ a b De Rosa 2001, p. 199
  3. ^ a b Hunter 1997, p. 35
  4. ^ Hunter 1997, p. 37
  5. ^ Gottlieb & Brookhouse 2002, pp. 204–05
  6. ^ De Rosa 2001, pp. 199–200
  7. ^ Brown, Craig. "Can This Marriage Be Saved? A real actor joins the longest-running soap opera in history". New York Magazine, April 30–May 13, 2018. pp. 8–14. Retrieved 2018-05-05.
  8. ^ Gray, Tim (August 5, 2015). "Marilyn Monroe: Nine Years of Stardom and a Legacy That Won't Quit". Variety. Retrieved December 23, 2018.
  9. ^ Worden, Leon. "SCV Newsmaker of the Week: Tippi Hedren". Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society. Retrieved 2005-03-05.
  10. ^ Broccoli & Zec 1999
  11. ^ "Canny Scot". Time. January 10, 1964.
  12. ^ "Playboy Interview: Sean Connery". Playboy. November 1965. p. 78. Archived from the original on 2018-10-11. Retrieved 2019-10-04.
  13. ^ Andrew, Geoff (September 21, 2005). "Catherine Deneuve". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  14. ^ Vanity Fair photograph
  15. ^ Smith 1991, p. 268
  16. ^ Archer, Eugene (July 23, 1964). "Hitchcock's 'Marnie,' With Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery". The New York Times: 19.
  17. ^ "Film Reviews: Marnie". Variety: 6. June 10, 1964.
  18. ^ Scheuer, Philip K. (August 6, 1964). "Hitchcock 'Marnie' Nightmare of Color". Los Angeles Times: IV–9.
  19. ^ Oliver, Edith (August 1, 1964). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker: 65.
  20. ^ "Marnie". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 31 (367): 116. August 1964.
  21. ^ "Marnie". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 26, 2018.
  22. ^ "Marnie". The Chicago Reader. Retrieved November 3, 2020.
  23. ^ ""Marnie" Is The Cure For Hitchcock Mania". The New Yorker. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
  24. ^ "Big Rental Pictures of 1964", Variety, 6 January 1965, p. 39. Please note this figure is rentals accruing to distributors, not total gross.
  25. ^ "Directors' 10 Greatest Films of All Time". Sight & Sound. BFI. 2012. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  26. ^ "Votes for Marnie". Sight & Sound. BFI. 2012. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  27. ^ "The 100 Greatest American Films". bbc. 20 July 2015.
  28. ^ Spicer, Ronald (2005). Historical Dictionary of Film Noir. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press. p. 423. ISBN 978-0-8108-5960-9.


  • Broccoli, Albert R.; Zec, Donald (1999). When the Snow Melts: The Autobiography of Cubby Broccoli. Trans-Atlantic Publications.
  • De Rosa, Steven (2001). Writing with Hitchcock: The Collaboration of Alfred Hitchcock and John Michael Hayes. Faber and Faber. ISBN 0571199909.
  • Gottlieb, Sidney; Brookhouse, Christopher, eds. (2002). "An Interview with Evan Hunter". Framing Hitchcock: Selected Essays from the Hitchcock Annual. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0814330614.
  • Hunter, Evan (1997). "Me and Hitch". Sight & Sound. British Film Institute. 7 (6): 25–37. ISSN 0037-4806.
  • Moral, Tony Lee (2017) [2013]. Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1442214330.
  • Smith, Steven C. (1991). A Heart at Fire's Centre: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0520229396.
  • Spoto, Donald (1983). The Dark Side of Genius. Ballantine Books.

External links[edit]