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Making of "Marnie": Experimental or Burned Out

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In the three TCM/Ball State/Canvas online classes in which I have now participated, I have always looked forward to Dr. Edwards’ insights into dozens of films across multiple genera, and I will continue to do so for the remainder of this class and (hopefully) in future classes as well.  I do have to take exception, though, to part of Dr. Edwards’ assessment of the film Marnie that was presented in the Curator's Note for Daily Dose #19.


Dr. Edwards tells us that, while Marnie was not especially well received by critics and audiences when it was released in 1964, there has been a reassessment of the film in recent years.  He goes on to state:


“Part of the current shift in Marnie’s critical assessment is that Hitchcock was ahead of the curve (again) in how he used the formal elements of films in an experimental fashion.”


And then he says,


“As Robin Wood has argued as a fan of the film, things that many critics saw as ‘unreal’or ‘artificial’ are really just Hitchcock going back to his German Expressionist roots, and using the formal devices of film—such as rear screen projection—to bring greater subjectivity and emotional resonance to the film.”


I gotta tell you that I think Robin Wood is making one heck of a stretch right there.  I’m thinking that Hitchcock was very likely burned out after dealing with all of the technological challenges of The Birds.  And here he was producing a second film in back to back years for the only time in the ‘60s and beyond.  And he may well have been sorely disappointed that a role he had envisioned for Grace Kelly was being filled by Tippi Hedren.  I’m thinking that burned out, disappointed Hitchcock  simply did whatever was the easiest thing to do in order to get the film into the can and into theaters.  I’m probably wrong about this, but it’s what I think happened.  What do YOU think?

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I agree with you--I think he was burned out.  That's what I get from watching it (although I have watched the film just once so far), and that is the view I recall from Donald Spoto's bio of Hitchcock.


A director can make a  movie that is artificial and yet artful.  To me, a good example of that is Coppola's Dracula.  Marnie is not that.


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I not certain I agree that this was Hitch suffering from "burn-out", but then again I'm biased, I like Marnie. It may not be the same high standards as  his other more collaboratively successful efforts like Rear Window, North by Northwest, Psycho, The Birds, etc., but I believe Hitch was continue to try to reinvent himself or experiment with his art form. And he has chosen a most intriguing theme, the psychosis of the criminal and how one invokes the other, with Sean Connery, fresh from his James Bond role, acts as psychiatrist and narrator for the film to guide us through the murky waters of the subconscious mind of his wife's criminal acts and how she came to be this way.

       Marnie also does not have many of the funny or thrilling moments of previous films, either. But maybe it is not meant to. It is a more serious look at why a person becomes a "bad" person, an exploration into the id of evil.


...I too may be totally off the mark with my review of this film, and maybe Hitch was becoming tired or slowing down in his formative years, but I think he still had a few tricks up his sleeve and he worked diligently  to show them at his own pace.

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I don't see burnout, unless maybe it's with the resolution. The movie seems very personal to me, and even more a return to psychological thriller elements than many of Hitchcock's other works from around this period, but pushing them more than he had before, especially in darker directions.

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