Film-Philosophy

Journal | Salon | Portal (ISSN 1466-4615)

Vol. 8 No. 1, January 2003

 

 

Bob Davis

 

Disciplining _Marnie_:

Tony Lee Moral's _Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie_

 

 

Tony Lee Moral

_Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie_

Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002

ISBN 0719064821

215 pp.

 

'Never trust the artist, trust the tale.'

 

Though Tony Lee Moral cites D. H. Lawrence's aphorism as a favorite of film theorists, Moral himself, in his new book on _Marnie_, credits neither teller nor tale. After quoting the director, exaggerating to be sure, on his intentions -- 'content I am not interested in at all. I don't give a damn about what the film is about; I am more interested in *how* to handle the material to create an emotion in the audience' (3, emphasis added) -- Moral, sadly, eschews what one might hope for given his book's title, a detailed technical analysis of the 'how' of Hitchcock's _Marnie_.

 

Not without occasional documentary value, the book instead too often reads like the kind of 'in their own words' journalism typical of many graduate theses or a slightly more gossipy and controversy-mongering equivalent of those EPK-like 'making of's one sometimes gets as 'extras' on DVD releases. Moral spends four-plus pages, for example, rehashing Grace Kelly's on-again off-again courtship with the title role, and reviewing rumors concerning why the princess might return to Hollywood, before presenting the 'real reasons' for her ultimate departure from the picture.

 

Lots of personal histories and lots of hearsay, but surprisingly little interest in checking that hearsay's claims against the evidence of the film. Moral spends way more space detailing the likes of novelist Winston Graham's vacation itinerary and his demands about screen credit type size than he does, for example, considering the lenses with which Robert Burks shot _Marnie_. The writer includes a single sentence which reports that Hitchcock's 'favorite lens was a 50mm, which he said was the lens of the eye' (107). [1] But he has not considered those moments in the film (for example, in the flashback sequence) which indicate other focal lengths were used. And consequently he has not asked whether lens length was a part of Hitchcock's 'how', a part of his handling of material to create emotions in the audience.

 

_Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie_ is broken into eight chapters, plus an Introduction and an Afterword. Half the chapters ('Genesis', 'Marketing', 'Critical Reception', 'Artistic Interpretation') concern 'making' only under the loosest of definitions. The Introduction is particularly misleading, in that it announces Moral's objectives in a language -- that of trendy academic quasi-psychoanalysis and leftist politics -- situated at the end of the spectrum opposite Moral's usual reportage. Here _Marnie_ reveals 'the underlying root cause [sic, triply redundant] of the male domination syndrome at work'; while, today, when 'the destructive actions of patriarchal capitalism threatens [sic] to destroy the planet and life as we know it . . . Hitchcock's film deconstructs all that is abhorrent about a repressive culture that rapes the environment and what is conceived to be feminine' (xii).

 

In his Introduction Moral announces five objectives:

 

1. to demonstrate _Marnie_'s current relevance as 'a ruthless examination of gender expectations, which lead to violence within our culture' (xii);

2. to suggest how _Marnie_ coheres, thematically, with other Hitchcock films;

3. to highlight, in contrast to auteurist views, _Marnie_'s 'multivocality';

4. to refute claims Hitchcock abandoned _Marnie_ in postproduction; and

5. to view _Marnie_ as part of Hitchcock's late career campaign to be taken seriously as an artist.

 

But these objectives don't generate for Moral a method of attack or structure his book. They function only as leitmotifs. And worse, the objectives often seem at odds. The third objective is particularly hollow. Not even the staunchest auteurist denies that big-budget films are made by large casts and crews, each of which contributes to the finished product. The issue is one of degree. Moral's second objective (thematic coherence across films) supports the auteurist line. And the many anecdotes Moral relates regarding Hitchcock's obsession with the details of performance, dress, language, and the casting of animals, and indeed Moral's fourth objective itself -- 'I will show that rather than the charge of neglect, it was Hitchcock's predilection for total control that was the main cause of events going awry' (xiii) -- suggest that Hitchcock was firmly ensconced on the 'auteur' end of the auteur/multivocality continuum.

 

 

Writing _Marnie_

 

Perhaps the most useful chapter is the second, 'Writing'. Here Moral details the contributions of the film's various scenarists: Joseph Stefano, who had worked with Hitchcock on _Psycho_, generated a 161-page treatment for _Marnie_ based on Graham's novel; novelist Evan Hunter, who submitted a 189-page screenplay, complete with an alternate version of the infamous honeymoon 'rape' scene; and playwright Jay Presson Allen, who, working from a sequence synopsis of Hunter's script, wrote her first movie. [2]

 

According to Moral, Stefano was largely responsible for suggesting the fetishism -- Mark Rutland (Sean Connery) wants to bed Marnie (Tippi Hedren) *because* she is a thief -- that became, for the director, the movie's raison d'etre, at least content-wise. Hunter supplied three set pieces. In the first, Marnie steals Susan's key which gives her access to the Rutland vault's combination. Later Marnie, after robbing the safe, evades a cleaning woman, despite dropping her shoe. And finally, Hunter created a flashback scene in which Marnie and the audience discover the truth about the sailor's death. Hunter, in a letter to Hedren, that Moral sensibly reprints (32-34), explains Marnie's psychosis in Oedipal terms: Marnie succumbs to the sailor, thinking him her father; the Mother, taking the sailor's friendliness as a sexual advance, attacks and kills the father figure; and the little girl's analysis of the situation is that 'my father made love to me and my mother killed him for it' (33). This, according to Hunter, helps explain Marnie's subsequent behavior. Allen streamlined the scenario. She dropped the scenes with Marnie's psychiatrist and transformed Mark into an armchair zoologist, and thus a credible amateur psychologist. Allen also replaced the novel's secondary male love interest, Terry Holbrook, with Lil, a rival for Mark's affections, thus preserving a typically Hitchcockian love triangle.

 

Moral presents all this evidence chronologically, and because of that, and because he's not working with anything even approximating a scientific methodology for investigating script revision, his history, though often insightful, seems catch-as-catch-can. A careful redaction critical analysis may have yielded interesting and more precise results. Redaction criticism (Redaktionsgeschichte) [3] is a method students of Classics and History of Religion have employed to isolate the specific contributions of specific authors to evolving literary traditions by analyzing the editorial (redactional) techniques applied in reshaping those traditions. Redaction critics note, mechanically at first, all the additions, changes, and omissions made to and from a source by a later redactor, then consider whether these additions, changes, and omissions are systematic, whether they evidence certain ideological, philosophical, sociological, psychological, what-have-you tendencies.

 

In order to efficiently compare a source and its redaction or, in this case, redactions, the critic must first prepare a 'synopsis' [4] of parallel materials, a side-by-side organization of the source, and the redacted texts. To study _Marnie_ for its redactional tendencies the critic would therefore need, at least, copies of Graham's novel, Stefano's treatment, Hunter's script, and Allen's script. Photocopies of the source novel and all preproduction treatments and screenplays would need to be reduced enough to fit onto a very big sheet of paper's horizontal aspect ratio. The copies would have to be cut so parallel materials can be placed side-by-side. [5] The 'flow' of redaction, then, becomes relatively easy to detect. [6]

 

Moral does some of this kind of work intuitively. He's particularly keen to discuss the evolution of the film's ending. But because he is trapped in his chronological presentation, the analysis never feels complete. According to Moral (47), Stefano's treatment ends when Mark and Marnie arrive in Baltimore to find Marnie's mother (called Jessie at this stage in the movie's development) has died. A love scene between Marnie and Mark follows but is interrupted by the arrival of the police, who cart Marnie away, Mark cornily promising to wait for her. Hunter keeps the post-mortem setting but has Marnie sift through her mother's trunk and find an old newspaper clipping reporting the sailor's death. Lucy Nye appears to tell the story. An oedipal flashback culminates in Marnie's mother's thwacking the sailor with an iron poker. Allen's script revives the mother (now Bernice), reworks the flashback so that little Marnie herself wields the lethal poker, and creates the speech in which Bernice explains how she 'got' Marnie.

 

A redaction critic might then ask a number of questions. Are there any parallel scenes in Graham's novel, and if there aren't does Stefano's creating a scene with a dead mother suggest any psychologically motivated tendency on his part? Does Stefano's redaction (or creation ex nihilo) of this scene cohere with his tendencies in other scenes? Does Stefano's inclusion of a love scene have precursors in Graham's novel? If not, does the love scene function as a continuation or dramatic resolution of thematic tendencies Stefano previously emphasized or introduced? How does Lucy Nye function in Hunter's screenplay? Does her character evidence any coherent tendency on Hunter's part? Does the survival of Marnie's mother in Allen's script represent a tendency? Why did Allen have Marnie, and not her mother, kill the sailor? What becomes of Hunter's emphasis on Marnie's 'oedipal complex' in Allen's revised murder scene? Does Allen consistently eliminate Hunter's 'oedipal' clues? What was Hitchcock's role in the development of this scene? Etc., etc.

 

Moral suggests that the evidence he presents in Chapter 2 most strongly supports his view of _Marnie_'s 'multivocality' (objective 3). But even here, Hitchcock's control seems apparent. Hunter certainly understood that the director's was the final word. The novelist-turned-screenwriter was fired, he believes, for not conforming to Hitchcock's vision of the honeymoon rape scene. Allen seems to have known better. Moral reports that, in her script, the rape scene 'is very specific in camera direction, suggesting that Hitchcock led his writer through the choreography' (45). Indeed, the filmed sequence reflects the script in detail. Hitchcock himself, during the months before he released Hunter, praised his writer in a most unusual way. 'He's genial enough', Hitchcock claimed, 'to accept my suggestions and, if I may say so, they are only suggestions . . . that cannot be changed' (27).

 

 

Filming _Marnie_

 

The most disappointing chapters are those in which production (chapter 4) and editing (chapter 5) attract Moral's attention. Moral's journalistic sensibilities lead him to spend four of chapter 4's mere 28 pages on _Marnie_'s rear projections and painted backdrops, not because they provide any special insight into Hitchcock's power as a filmmaker, but principally, it seems, because these filmic anachronisms caused a 'furor' among popular critics when _Marnie_ was released (120). Similarly, another four pages are wasted on the 'troubled relations' between Hitchcock and Hedren -- Hedren planned to marry her agent, against Hitchcock's will. For Moral, these amounted to 'the greatest *controversy* surrounding the production of _Marnie_' (121, emphasis added).

 

Moral hints at, then drops, potentially fruitful topics. 'We've always had problems with writers', Hitchcock suggests, 'because I find that I am teaching them cinematics all the time. You see, you've got to remember a lot of writers have to go by the page, and what is written on the page. I have no interest in that. I only have that square white rectangle to fill. With a succession of images -- one following another. Size of image . . . that's what makes a film' (21). But analysis of image size and how it contributes to building viewer emotion is never considered in Moral's book.

 

Art director Robert Boyle cues the importance of what he calls Hitchcock's 'subjective treatment' (106) and the director's extensive use of point-of-view shots. 'He'll go into a close-up, and then you'll see what that person sees. It may be a moving point of view . . . Hitchcock, in my experience, understands the subjective point of view and uses it better than any director that I know' (77). But clues to Hitchcock's filmmaking power like this one remain unpacked. Moral provides no analysis of POV in _Marnie_. The topic is recalled only obliquely in chapter 7, Critical Reception, in connection with Laura Mulvey's and Raymond Bellour's ideas about fetishism and 'the male gaze', but since Moral hasn't rigorously investigated how Hitchcock 'made' _Marnie_, he can provide no critique of those theories. [7]

 

Though Moral sometimes provides the tantalizing tidbit (for example, underdeveloped descriptions of deleted scenes, or Hitchcock's interest in zero degree acting and the Kuleshov effect), missed opportunities and puzzling omissions abound. Moral has dug up and appropriately prints (133-134) a list of eight 'notes' Allen gave Hitchcock and his editor, George Tomasini, after viewing a rough cut of the film. But, strangely, Moral doesn't even bother to record whether any or all of Allen's suggestions were implemented! Allen's eighth note, to take just one example, follows:

 

'8. Exterior Mark's bedroom [sic] -- return from honeymoon -- After she shuts the door in his face, the line 'You don't have to lock the door, Marnie. Believe me.' Should be reinstated at whatever costs and his smile -- all of it -- should be cut.' (134)

 

Moral fails to note that Hitchcock and Tomasini do not, in fact, reinstate the missing line, but they do eliminate the smile by dissolving to the next scene as soon as Marnie has shut the door in Mark's face. This visual, and thus more Hitchcockian end to the scene -- Allen's dialogue was redundant -- results in the audience's sympathizing with the shunned Mark. It manipulates the audience's emotions. It is part of Hitchcock's 'how'. [8]

 

It's particularly ironic that Moral ends his book with a quote from Hitchcock which could have (should have, perhaps) been the focal point of _Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie_. The year after he completed _Marnie_, the director received the 1965 Producer's Guild Award. With typical precision and clarity, he summarized his art:

 

'There is one impression with which I wish to leave you, and I want it to be unmistakable. It is this: that the recipient of this award aims to create emotion in an audience, not through subject matter, but through technique . . . He is not interested in making a film that is merely photographs of people talking, but strives always to tell his stories in a way that no other medium can -- in strictly cinematic terms.' (203)

 

California State University

Fullerton, California, USA

 

 

Notes

 

1. Moral follows this line with a longish quote from AD James Brown, a gee-whiz-wow anecdote about how Hitchcock was able to correctly identify a shot's image size by noting the distance between camera and subject.

 

2. There's still a fair amount of unintegrated biographical faff here. We learn how much each writer was paid, where he or she stayed while in Southern California, and even which brand of typewriter (1949 Underwood) Miss Allen used.

 

3. Norman Perrin, _What Is Redaction Criticism?_ (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1969), provides a standard introduction.

 

4. 'Synopsis' is Greek for 'viewed together'. Published examples of synopses include Albert Huck and Heinrich Greeven, _Synopse der drei ersten Evangelien_, 13th edition (Tubingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1981), a synopsis of the first three gospels' Greek texts, with critical apparatus.

 

5. In addition to the four parallel columns (novel, treatment, and two screenplays) room for two more columns -- for a, notes derived from Hitchcock's preproduction conferences which Moral often quotes, and b, a transcript of the finished film -- would facilitate a more rigorous analysis which includes Hitchcock's own redactional efforts.

 

6. Together with a group of graduate students and advanced undergraduates at California State University, I have created synopses of the Burgess-Kubrick _A Clockwork Orange_ and the James-Raphael-Bogdanovich _Daisy Miller_. A Grubb-Agee-Laughton _Night of the Hunter_ is forthcoming.

 

7. Even a cursory look at _Marnie_ shows numerous shots taken from the POV of Marnie, as well as Mark's. And Lil, Bernice, and even the sailor Marnie kills, all of them 'gaze'.

 

8. Similarly, color design is treated from the standpoint of preproduction anecdotes (65). No analysis of what's actually in the film is undertaken in order to test the veracity of that oral history.

 

 

Copyright © Film-Philosophy 2004.

 

 

Bob Davis, 'Disciplining _Marnie_: Tony Lee Moral's _Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie_', _Film-Philosophy_, vol. 8 no. 1, January 2004 <http://www.film-philosophy.com/vol8-2004/n1davis>.

 

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