Plot: Marnie (Tippi Hedren) seems like a sweet, well meaning woman, but she is a habitual thief and carries some dark secrets. She has a pattern of taking a job as a receptionist, building some good will at the position, then stealing cash before she moves on. But her latest job puts her under the employ of Mark (Sean Connery), a no nonsense boss who recognizes her from a previous office she worked in, though he has no intention of turning her in. He is drawn to Marnie, despite her kleptomaniac ways and is determined to help her turn things around, though she pulls away from him and refuses to let him get close to her. Mark even plans to blackmail her into being his bride, but Marnie keeps her secret buried and as such, he hires an investigator to uncover the truth about her past. But what lurks within Marnie’s past that causes this shadow to loom over her and can Mark ever break through to reach her?
Entertainment Value: Marnie leans on the performances more than most of Alfred Hitchcock’s films, but I think it still a sharp thriller that has some real mind bending moments. And while the focus is more on characters and the performances behind them, a lot of Hitchcock’s signature elements are present here, so it feels like his work through and through. The narrative is offbeat and loose, but this is more about characters and mood than story threads. As the pieces come together, the narrative starts to feel more and more solid as well, so it might take a while for Marnie to build steam, but it more than delivers when it needs to. As you’d expect from Hitchcock, the movie is tense and has effective atmosphere, though Marnie is often darker and more eerie than you might expect. This isn’t so much a mystery as it is a deeply psychological thriller, with Marnie as this enigma in the middle of it all. The slow burn and more intimate, deliberate approach is bound to alienate some viewers, but those who appreciate tense, psychological thrillers should be at home here. I think this is one of Hitchcock’s more unusual, darker films and well worth a look.
The relationship between Alfred Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren is much discussed and documented, though also disputed. While the specifics are debated, it is clear the two had a unique creative dynamic and her work for Hitchcock was excellent. This was her second and final role for the master of suspense, a performance that is eerie and unforgettable. She is able to convey the cold, detached Marnie in such vivid, authentic fashion, especially in the scenes where Sean Connery tries to get her to open up. But that chill melts when she brings Marnie’s emotional outbursts to life, scenes that are as manic and explosive as the role demands. Connery is charismatic and has a strong presence, while the chemistry between the two is quite good, despite the icy demeanor Hedren’s role requires. The two leads shoulder much of Marnie’s duration, so their on point performances are a prime reason the movie works so well. The cast also includes Louise Latham, Diane Baker, Alan Napier, and Bruce Dern.