Friday, May 2, 2008

Naughty Girls Need Love Too

I'm probably dating myself by using the title of a Samantha Fox song as the title of one of my posts, but it fits for one of the movies that TCM is airing on Saturday: Alfred Hitchcock's Marnie, May 3 at 2:00 PM ET.

Tippi Hedren, fresh off an appearance in The Birds, stars in the title role, that of a kleptomaniac. She consistently steals from her employers, which causes problems for everybody involved, and forcing her to seek new employment repeatedly. She eventually starts working for, and stealing from, Mark Rutland, a wealthy business scion played by Sean Connery (miscast slightly but not terrible in his role). Rutland seems intrigued by what makes Marnie tick, and also feels the need to protect her because not putting his family through a lengthy prosecution will protect him, too. So, he falls in love with her and ultimately marries her.

However, there's a slight problem with the marriage: Marnie is frigid, doesn't want to be touched at all by any man, and has a thing about the color red; hangups which only serve to make Mark more obsessed with figuring out what's up with Marnie. Meanwhile, though, Mark has his sister, Lil (played by Diane Baker) to contend with. She suspects that something about Marnie isn't quite right, and she's fully prepared to use that against Mark.

The movie is in many ways deeply problematic: Marnie's problems seem almost risible -- contrast Marnie's apoplexy over the color red to Gregory Peck's more muted response to lines on white in Hitchcock's earlier Spellbound. It's almost as though Hitchcock is parodying himself, although in reality he wasn't. Connery is, as mentioned, miscast; but worse, both he and Hedren are upstaged by Diane Baker. She plays Lil wonderfully, as a scheming woman who in many ways is the female equivalent of Jack Carson's Wally Fay in Mildred Pierce, albeit without the creepy smarminess. The backdrops have also been much discussed. Supposedly, they were deliberately made obviously fake to create a feeling of unreality, but many point out that they're too fake. Indeed, their fakeness is obviously noticeable, almost to the point of being a distraction, much like a bad rear-projection scene. Finally, Hitchcock and Hedren, it's claimed, didn't get along well at all on the set, making Hitchcock disillusioned.

All these negatives being the case, Marnie is still an interesting movie to watch. It presents some deeply disturbing ideas, with a finale that's really uncomfortable. (It's also most definitely not a suitable movie for the children.) Additionally, despite Connery's being miscast, it's a fascinating change of pace from Connery's James Bond, while not being as warped as his role in, say, Zardoz. In case you miss TCM's showing, IMDb lists Marnie as being available on DVD.

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