Year Released: 1964
Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: Tippi Hedren, Sean Connery, Dianne Baker, Louise Latham
(PG, 130 min.)
"Is it possible that blondes also prefer gentlemen?" Mamie Van Doren
Sean Connery decides the best way “to catch a thief” is to marry her in the relatively unknown and often unappreciated Hitchcock thriller. Watch it for no other reason than to see the ultimate playboy become a determined monogamist relentlessly searching for the root of his wife’s obsession.
Tippi Hedren plays Marnie, the near perfect employee who types and files her fingers to the bone just long enough to find the combination to the office safe. When she tries to pull the usual number on Mark Rutland (Sean Connery), he decides against cuffs or leg irons for a different type of constricting metal – a 6.5-carat wedding ring.
Instead of feeling gratitude for this unexpected boon – I mean half the contents of the safe are now legally hers --Marnie is fighting mad. Her husband’s touch is loathsome as is that of any man, she tells him, a view echoed by her mother, Bernice. That is one of the few things mother and daughter can agree on – the joy of living a life without the filthy presence or dependence upon men. In fact, we begin to muse that a much safer and probably more lucrative venture would be a college lecture tour for the mother-daughter duo where they could be paid to enlighten the coeds with such wisdom.
With two James bond films under his belt (Dr. No and From Russia with Love) Connery imbues Rutland with just the right amount of menace and sexuality under his charm. He puts up with quite a bit, too. After anonymously reimbursing a business contact who had been fleeced by Marnie, he whisks her away for a fabulous and very pricey honeymoon cruise. Not only does she repel all his advances, but actually has the audacity to try to drown herself in the ship’s sparkling pool.
Hedren’s Marnie is no sleepwalking zombie in this destructive compulsion, though. She works very hard to keep her fears under a very prim surface of Hitchcock’s requisite icy blond locks. Thunderstorms terrify her, though, and a certain dream is triggered by anyone knocking at her door. Rutland has witnessed both and tries to get her to talk about it. After all, he has spent their honeymoon reading books like Sexual Aberrations of the Criminal Female and other such muck, strewing the books around the boudoir in hopes that his bride might pick up a little light reading as well.
Perhaps her best line is when Marnie speaks what the rest of us have also been thinking. Isn’t Mark just about as nuts as she is -- marrying someone who categorically can’t stand men and is a thief and liar to boot? Somehow, though, Connery has the panache to pull this off, and we really do believe that his motives are sincere.
Much has been written about the shortcomings of the film, so much so that a short trailer ironically titled The Trouble with Marnie accompanies the DVD. However, before we deal with these sometimes-reasonable objections, I should commend the performance of Louise Latham, playing Marnie’s mother, Bernice Edgar, in her very first film role. The relationship between the distant mother and her troubled daughter is the crux of the film and Latham’s performance grounds it with authenticity. Long after we have perhaps rolled our eyes at the over-the-top music that makes sure we will not miss the anything but subtle hints about Marnie’s traumatic associations with the color red, we will remember the small scenes with her mother.
The tidy yet drab interior or her apartment, the respectable permed hair and dowdy shirtwaist set the scene for someone more uncomfortable than pleased with her daughter’s visits and the lavish gifts she brings with her. It is in the scenes with her mother that Hedren’s acting is the most believable and garners our sympathy. Like a child she sits at her mother’s knee and puts her head down, only to be reminded once again that it is her bad knee, the one that was injured in the “accident.” The fact that Marnie, in seeking her affection cannot help but continue to awaken her mother's ancient pain is perhaps the best explanation for the maternal aloofness.
In other scenes Tippi Hedren is less effective, particularly the grating nasal abuse she spews out at Mark, making us wonder, regular features and good teeth aside, is this the woman for him. If Grace Kelly could have been persuaded to make her comeback in this film, as Hitchcock had hoped, would we get a Marnie a bit more simpatica behind her neuroses? On the other hand, I would still choose the cocksure Connery over more urbane Cary Grant. And yes, some of the by-the-book psychology, the artificial painted backdrops and mechanical action scenes don’t live up to our modern standards, but Hitchcock, even when he scores a near miss, is head and shoulders above the pretenders to his well earned throne.
The pecan pie that I’ve chosen to go along with Marnie never gets eaten. In fact, it never even gets made. The pecans, shells and all, land on the kitchen floor, careening into each other like the mixed emotions that prompt Marnie’s enraged hand to spill them.
Marnie is obviously disappointed when the neighbor girl, Jessie, answers her mother’s door, smugly telling her that Mrs. Edgar is going to bake her a pecan pie.
In spite of the present Marnie brings her, it is clearly Jessie who is the center of Bernice Edgar’s attention. She criticizes Marnie's new blond coif, yet almost coos in contentment as she brushes Jesse’s hair. Finally, Marnie can take it no more and lets loose with the pecans.
Let’s pick them up just as Marnie and Mark try to pick up the pieces of her life and begin anew. And after all, this is just the season for fresh pecans. Be sure to save the recipe for Thanksgiving and serve along with your traditional pumpkin pie.
Sour Cream Pecan Pie
Ingredients in this pecan pie recipe include sour cream, egg yolks, brown sugar and vanilla and pecans.
1 9" pie pastry shell, baked
3 egg yolks
1 cup sour cream
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon peel
3 egg whites
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
2 teaspoons vanilla
Combine in top of double boiler the egg yolks, sour cream, sugar, cornstarch, lemon peel, and the pinch of salt; cook over simmering water until thick enough to coat a spoon.
Pour the mixture into the cooled pie shell.
Beat the egg whites and a pinch of salt together until they begin to stiffen, then add the brown sugar and pecans gradually, beating all the time.
Spread the pecan meringue over the custard, spreading all the way to the pie shell.
Recipe Source: Southern U.S. Cuisine