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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Sex Mystery


Plot Overview

The movie opens with a long take of “a dish” Marnie Edgar (Tippi Hedren) from the rear walking away in her high heels, aka Margaret Edgar, aka Peggy Nichol­son, aka Mary Taylor, clutching tightly a large yellow purse and carrying a suit­case. Her recently quitted employer Mr. Sidney Strutt (Martin Gable) tells the detectives he's been “robbed” … of $10,000: “cleaned out” and “that girl did it.”

Marnie showers her mama Bernice Edgar (Louise Lathman) with lavish gifts that go largely unap­preciated. Bernice gives more attention to the little neighbor girl Jessie who over and over sings a jump rope song with her friends, starting:

Mother, mother, I am ill;
Send for the doctor over the hill.
Call for the doctor.
Call for the nurse.
Call for the lady with the alligator purse.

It soon becomes apparent Marnie is sick in the head, manifest as being a compulsive “cheat, liar, and a thief” while being frigid towards men. Her “doctor” who will try to cure her (“You Freud, me Jane”) is her next mark to be, one Mark Rutland (Sean Connery) who falls in love and marries her. The “nurse” he will need to help him get to the root of Marnie's troubles is her mama whom he has to track down through an investi­gator. The “lady with the alligator purse” is an accessory who will act as a necessary catalyst, Mark's sister-in-law from a previous marriage—his former wife is deceased—who has her own designs on Mark and doesn't trust this inter­loper. His method, couched in psycho­babel, is the tried and true proverb, (Prov. 16:6) “By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil.” Marnie had a strict religious upbringing.


The pose of Marnie clutching her yellow purse between arm and body is duplicated when Jessie clutches the red gladiolus (“I'll get rid of these”) that she has to remove from Marnie's sight (“Take them to the kitchen before they drip all over”) who can't abide the sight of red. Mark's father verbalizes the clutch saying, “The best thing for the inside of a man or a woman is the out­side of a horse,” and indeed at the race track we get a good look at a jockey clutching his mount between his knees. Unfortu­nately he was sporting a red polka dot shirt that set Marnie off again. For that matter Marnie is shown expertly riding her own beloved horse (“O Forio, O beauty”) until she is set off by red again, leading to a revolver and some real blood. Then there's the branch that crashes through the window in a thunder­storm into the clutch of a display case holding Mark's pre-Columbian art, and for that matter Marnie's suppressed child­hood memory of a bloody clutch involving her mother and a drunken sailor (young Bruce Dern.) Add to this repeated night­mares and clouded vision by a red mist, and the movie (Hitch­cock) is trying to convey some­thing brought forward from the past.

We don't know how much we can trust Marnie's version of her upbringing, but by employing words like: pecan, patronize & INsurance, spoken with a Southern pronunciation, the movie gives confidence that Marnie was raised in the Bible belt (Virginia.) Add to that a seriousness about Bible quotation (“We don't talk smart about the Bible in this house”) and a prominently displayed Bible on the coffee table in Marnie's child­hood memory, and we might just want to take a look in God's word for some­thing resembling a bloody clutch. In Gen. 15:9-12 a ritual is described whereby people in that day entered into covenants by passing through the clutch of bloody carcasses divided in half. In fact it was just by this means that, (Gen. 15:17-18) “the LORD made a covenant with Abram.” Lest we get too smug with our modern sensi­bilities, we should be aware that this custom survives today in a tidied-up form when a bride and a groom pass down the aisle between the two sides of the congregants, the groom's people on one side and the bride's on the other, as they enter into a marriage covenant. Mark marrying Marnie was fighting fire with fire.

Theirs was “This meager furtive little wedding” that will not outdo any of the audience's, but it did have on the man's side “Bob our banking cousin” (Bob Sweeney) and on the woman's side Lil (“You should try to be Marnie's friend”), Marnie's family being kept in the dark for now (“I always thought a girl's best friend was her mother!”)

Let's pause to look at what marriage is. I'll quote Dr. Ide: “The con­tem­­por­ary Christian stan­dard was defined not by the bible but gen­er­ated by Roman law as defined by the jurist Modest­inus who argued that marriage was ‘consortium omnis vitae, divini et humani iuris communi­catio: a life-long part­ner­ship, and a sharing of civil and religious rights’” (83–5). In some South American countries, marriage requires two separate ceremonies: a religious and then a civil. In Albania where religion was prohibited, believers would get married by the (atheistic) state and then have a separate ceremony in the woods with a priest. Here in America we have religious liberty, and the church having an interest in marriage, its priests are licensed to perform the ceremony; it's just that they all have to be similarly licensed so as to avoid the establish­ment of any one particular religion. Mark after his wedding turns to a man wearing a clerical collar and says, “Thank you, Dr. Gillian. With­out you it wouldn't have been legal.” He acknow­ledges that the legalities are a part of marriage, even an important part, just not the whole ball of wax. He even at one point quotes in part Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882):

[So nigh is grandeur to our dust,
So near is God to man,]
When Duty whispers low, ‘Thou must,’
Then youth replies, ‘I can.’

Marnie's mom is so down on men (“Men and a good name don't go together”) that she can't immediately accept that her girl's got a husband, and she certainly would not have accepted a live-in arrangement with­out the benefit of the ceremony. Here in the hippie enclave where I live, couples some­times attach the marital label to their living arrangement with­out benefit of the actual ceremony. That could not fly with her Baptist mom.

Since Marnie already doesn't like men, we might wonder if in our "enlightened" modern world, she could not have found a Lesbian spouse in a liberal state and worked out her troubles that way? Since their ceremony could not have had two sexes repre­sented to split sides between, a same-sex marriage would not embody the motif that Hitch­cock presents us but would be a variation of the legal-route–only that Mark in this movie did consider. For that matter Mark still had to negotiate a settle­ment (“Try to look at the situation from a business point of view”) with Mr. Strutt (“Yes”) on the basis: “We've been business friends for a number of years now.” We could well say he's capitalizing on their marriage of business and friend­ship. Yes, there are other kinds of marriage in the world. Just trans­­fer­ring the marital label to a homo relation­ship would not result in the same movie that Hitch­cock made.

Production Values

“Marnie” (1964) was directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The screenplay was written by Jay Presson Allen as adapted from the novel Marnie by Winston Graham. It stars Tippi Hedren, Sean Connery, and Diane Baker. Tippi Hedren did quite well as the lead, especially considering her inexperience as an actress—Hitch­cock wanted her for personal reasons. Sean Connery was chosen as a man of action after he played 007 in “Doctor No.” Bruce Dern was not a working actor then but died pretty convin­cingly in his part and became one.

Bernard Herrmann contributed a lively score. Excellent cinematography was done by Robert Burks. The hunt scene looked pretty realistic. The effects seemed slightly dated but weren't too corny.

Review Conclusion w/ Consumer Recommendation

This is considered Hitchcock's last great picture when he was on top of his form. It really held my interest and moved right along to give a satisfying experience. As long as you're not expecting credible psychiatry, this should be a good one to watch.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Well done action flick. Suitability for Children: Suitable for children 13+ years. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Suspense: A few suspenseful moments. Overall product rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Ide, Arthur Frederick. Noah & the Ark: The Influence of Sex, Homo­phobia and Hetero­sexism in the Flood Story and its Writing. Las Colinas: Monument Press, 1992. Print.