After threatening Tippi Hedren with death by pecking in The Birds (1963), Alfred Hitchcock turned her into a traumatised, man-hating kleptomaniac in Marnie.
Sean Connery – making his American debut – played Mark Rutland, the suave naturalist-cum-businessman who sets out to tame this exotic creature and unlock the secrets of her past.
Hitchcock originally offered the lead female role to Grace Kelly, hoping to entice her out of royal retirement in Monaco, but Hedren proved to be rather more than second best, bringing insight and pathos to the sexually inhibited thief in a film which told us much about the director’s own view of his heroine’s troubled psychopathology.
As often happens to Hitchcock, the film was so multi-layered it was either misunderstood or put down by some critics who found its glib paperback Freud insulting to their massive intellects. In fact, the explanation is tacked on almost as an afterthought (just like Psycho) and is purposely played in a ludicrously barnstorming style against deliberately phoney back-cloths.
But the entire build-up is matchless – rivalled only by his other ‘trauma’ movie, Vertigo.
Rita the Cleaning Woman
S. John Launer