Monday, July 9, 2012

Cinema with Style Fourth Edition: Marnie

When I drafted the To Catch a Thief post I mentioned that it was one of my top three favorite films. One of the other two is the movie Marnie, also by Alfred Hitchcock and also starring a Hitchcock blonde, Tippi Hedren.

Grace Kelly was actually slated to star in Marnie, a film made in 1964, after she had started her career as Princess of Monaco. When Grace Kelly left Hollywood to assume the role of princess, she had promised her Prince that she would give up acting but she believed that as time passed she would be able to persuade him to allow her to return to the big screen. When Hitchcock offered her the role of Marnie in the film of the same name, Prince Rainier agreed that she should make the film if it would make her happy. However, the subjects of Monaco, a principality so small & exclusive that the residents essentially know all of their neighbors by name, were dismayed at the idea that their Princess would return to the screen. The subject matter of Marnie, described as a film about sexual blackmail, was also a source of concern. Monaco had already curtailed public screenings of To Catch a Thief because of the sexual innuendo that runs rampant in the dialogue. The Country Girl, the role that had won Grace Kelly her Oscar, was shown more often and considered more acceptable in its modesty. A sex mystery and a film shoot that would take their Princess away from Monaco caused much consternation among the Monegasque subjects and Grace elected to step down.

HRH Princess Grace of Monaco

In her place, Hitchcock cast Tippi Hedren who had already starred in his movie, The Birds (1963). Tippi Hedren later claimed to have been terrorized & sexually harrassed by Hitchcock on the set of Marnie and her fallout with Hitchcock during the making of the film is often credited with the subsequent stalling of her film career (she focused instead on animal rights groups and playing the role of mother to another famous blonde, Melanie Griffith).  Sean Connery was cast as her love interest & Edith Head was assigned the task of compiling the costumes.

Tippi Hedren in a Bird Shop in one of the Opening Scenes of The Birds

Sean Connery as Mark Rutland in Marnie

Marnie is the tale of a psychologically damaged young woman & kleptomaniac named Marnie who assumes different hair colors, clothing & identities as she moves across the country from city to city playing the role of unassuming & extremely competent secretary until the day she empties the company safe and moves on to her next job & identity. The audience, in between her jobs, is introduced to a mother in Baltimore with whom Marnie has a strained relationship & a horse just outside of Baltimore that seems  to be the only living thing that Marnie loves. In addition to her tendency to steal, Marnie has extreme phobias of the color red, thunderstorms and men.

Enter Mark Rutland who plays the role of Marnie's boss, captor and eventual husband. Mark is infatuated with Marnie and wants to help her discover the source of her kleptomania (and her other issues). However, Marnie's psychological scars go deeper than he initially anticipates and he soon realizes he has his work cut out for him. The supporting cast complicates the relationship. Mark Rutland's first wife, who passed away, has a younger sister who lives with him (and who loves him as more than a brother-in-law) and who is suspicious of Marnie's changing behavior and appearance. Mark Rutland's business associates have also been a victim of Marnie's thievery and he must keep them from reporting her to the authorities. Mark believes Marnie's mother may very well hold the secret to Marnie's wounded past (once he learns she actually has a mother) but she has her own reasons for keeping the past in the past. 

The movie keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat & Edith Head captures that suspense in every element of the costuming beginning with the opening scene. The costuming is particularly important in this movie because the clothing represents Marnie's changing identity and also indicates the role in life she is attempting to play. 

An Edith Head sketch for Marnie

The movie opens with a close up on a yellow purse and then slowly the shot widens so that we see a brunette walking beside the tracks in a train station with the yellow purse under arm. The next time we see the brunette she is in a hotel room with two suitcases. In one suitcase she discards her old clothing. In the other suitcase, a brand new and expensive-looking suitcase, she places beautiful new clothes. Then we see the brunette at the bathroom sink washing her dark hair color down the drain. She lifts her head, flips her wet hair back and looks in the mirror. She is now a blonde, she is now Tippi Hedren as Marnie and her clothes and hair continue to drive the story from this first scene until the end of the film.

Marnie Opening Scene

In 2003, Louis Vuitton actually used this opening scene as the inspiration for their ad campaign:

 Louis Vuitton advertisement

Two Suitcases:
One for her discarded persona in the background and one for her new identity in the foreground
Seconds later, the brunette Marion Holland becomes the blonde Margaret Edgar

"she seemed so nice, so efficient..."

Margaret Edgar or Marnie is buttoned up, polite and proper. She is described as almost too nice, too efficient and very modest. The first time we see Marnie as a blonde (her natural hair color although we later learn she has made it a few shades lighter here) she reflects that buttoned-up mentality. Her hair is pinned up in a perfectly structured French twist. Her suit is a pale green, knee-length and very structured and businesslike. She wears a matching scarf at her neck. In fact, Marnie will never show her neck throughout the entire film. She is always completely covered from neck to knees. She wears makeup but it is a natural look and clearly not designed to attract the opposite sex. 

Marnie's one passion in life is her horse, Forio. When she rides Forio, she lets her hair down figuratively and literally. Her equestrian style is still buttoned up but more relaxed than her other clothing selections. 

Next we meet Marnie's mother. For the visit, Marnie wears a different green structured suit. This suit is darker in color and accompanied by chocolate brown accessories rather than the cream accessories that accompanied her mint green suit.

More bows

Marnie's next identity is as Mary Taylor, an employee at Rutland & Company.

First, she arrives in her new city:

Then, the job interview:

Again, tailored & bland so that she blends into the background.
 Modest & nondescript

The other character who had her costumes designed by Edith Head was Lil Mainwaring, Mr. Rutland's sister-in-law, played by Diane Baker. 

Note the difference in their costumes. 

Marnie looks as though she is stuck in the 1950s in her Mamie Eisenhower propriety. She is buttoned-up, muted and her hair is swept up and off of her face. She wears little white cotton gloves. 

Lil is firmly in the 1960s with her blunt bob, mustard yellow suit, and the more relaxed (and open) fit of her entire outfit. 

Mary Taylor starts work:

The bow blouse resembles one of her earlier riding costumes.

The white matches her characters emphasis on modesty and also serves as the perfect backdrop for the red ink that will spill, frightening Marnie and forcing her to have her first conversation with Mark Rutland.

More chocolate brown: both her skirt and her pumps

Another modest work outfit:

Notice the bow & the muted color

Working overtime & discussing zoology, female predators & instinctual behavior with Mark Rutland:

At the horse races:

Camel Coat, Chocolate Brown Turtleneck, Pencil Skirt & Mark Rutland's Description of Mary Taylor as the "paragon of virtue"

Meet the parents:

Mary Taylor as the Picture of Modesty
Lil the lounging 60s Youth
Buttoned up versus relaxed

Mary Taylor disappears and so does the money in the Rutland safe. The next time Mark sees Mary, she is Marnie again.

At the wedding:

Wedding night:

This time she is literally buttoned all the way up to her neck
The button & turtleneck combination show her desire to keep her new husband away & preserve her modesty

If you are going to have an awkward honeymoon, at least dress for dinner:

Back on the farm with Lil & Mark:

Mr. Strut finds Marnie:


The Hunt:





For Work (i.e. figuring out what your brother-in-law's new wife is up to):

For play:

For playing society hostess when Marnie is pre-occupied with Mark's therapy sessions:

As always, I leave you with one final image...

Sienna Miller as Tippi Hedren in the Upcoming Movie The Girl

& an additional one...

Mad Men, Season 5 Megan Draper Constantly Reminded me of Lil in Marnie

1 comment:

  1. An interesting study of the part played by fashions in 'Marnie'.Hitchcock was probably given a lot of the credit that should have gone to the hired-in craftsmen and -women (the Herrmanns, the Heads, the ace cameramen) whose talents, I believe, made up for his own shortcomings as a director and for the weakness of a lot of the material that he had to (and often did) turn into gold at the box-office. His not getting Grace Kelly for "Marnie" may, in itself, have sunk the picture but it would have been hard for Kelly to convince as the neurotic, frigid, personality that-in my opinion-the relatively unknown 'Tippi' Hedren was able to become (whatever else she couldn't do).In "Notorious", the essentially arcane,incredible plot-line (marrying-the-enemy-for-Uncle Sam) is 'carried' by the attractiveness of the three main actors alone rather than by the director's gimmicks (the long kiss,the zoom shot down to the key and so on). Once t.v-budgets were de rigeur and the Cary Grants and the real talent had gone, there wasn't anything left to sublimate the unremarkable into the magical/memorable.