Released in the summer of 1964, “Marnie” wasn’t a typical Alfred Hitchcock thriller. While a moderate success at the box office, the eponymous psychological mystery was panned by some critics at the time.
“People didn’t understand the film when it first came out,” said Tippi Hedren, who starred as Marnie, a disturbed woman, compulsive liar and thief, with a resolute distain for men.
“Something really bad happened in Marnie’s childhood,” she said. “Critics look at ‘Marnie’ entirely differently today, now that we understand more about how an early traumatic experience can manifest itself later in adult life. The story was really ahead of its time.”
Hedren went to great lengths to prepare for the role.
“I read the novel the film was based on over and over, spoke with author Winston Graham, and consulted psychologists and psychiatrists in order to understand the character.”
Although Hedren embraced the role, her cold, man-hating character had little interest in embracing costar Sean Connery.
“The man was absolutely gorgeous!” said Hedren of Connery, who was fresh off the success of his first James Bond role in “Dr. No.” “I asked Hitch how could I play a character who wasn’t attracted to one of the sexiest men alive!”
His response, she says, was typical Hitchcock: “It’s called acting, my dear.”
Hedren’s acting skills were also evident in one scene where she appears to confidently gallop across the countryside on horseback. In fact, she was perilously staged atop a 17-hands high horse trotting on a large treadmill.
“It was horribly dangerous – a horse on a treadmill! If he had tripped, I would have gone flying off,” said Hedren. “Hitchcock made me do such dangerous things, I’m amazed I’m still alive!”
The experience was reminiscent of Hedren’s previous movie, “The Birds,” a year earlier – her debut in feature films, also directed by Hitchcock. In the final brutal bird attack scene, Hedren was secured in a cage and mauled by ravens and gulls.