Marnie vs. Gomer

Yesterday afternoon, I watched “Marnie” on TCM.  It’s an Alfred Hitchcock movie.  Generally, I don’t watch any TV during the day.  Too much to do and too much tripe on.  Most shows worth watching seem to be on after 8 p.m.  Remember when there was almost nothing on until after school?  I grew up on Sesame Street, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood and Electric Company.  My brother and I got in trouble for sneakily watching Adam-12 (too violent) or Hee Haw (too sexist).  Both of those were anathema to my mom.

It felt like a lazy afternoon.  Ruby was taking a nap and Jonathon was working/playing computer games (!) upstairs.  I missed the very beginning of the movie, but otherwise I caught the whole thing.  In case you didn’t know, “Marnie” is based on a book by Winston Graham.  I have not read the book, and so cannot comment on the movie paralleling the book with any veracity.

In brief, the story is:

Marnie Edgar (Hedren) is a troubled young woman who has an unnatural fear and mistrust of men, thunderstorms, and the color red. She is also a thief. She uses her charms on Sidney Strutt (Martin Gabel) to get a job without references. Then late one night, she steals the contents of the company safe and disappears.

Mark and Marnie on their honeymoon cruise

Mark Rutland (Connery), a widower who owns a large publishing company, is a customer of Strutt’s. He learns about the theft from the victim, and remembers the woman. Marnie applies for a job at his company; Mark hires her and they begin to date. He is robbed too, but Mark finds her. He has fallen in love with Marnie, and instead of handing her over to the police, blackmails her into marrying him.

After being hastily married, Mark and Marnie depart on a honeymoon cruise. He finds out about her frigidity. At first, he respects her wishes but later consummates their marriage against her will. (In certain syndicated broadcastings of the film, this scene is censored, making the sexual encounter more ambiguous.) The next morning she attempts suicide by drowning in the ship’s swimming pool but Mark rescues her in time.

Upon their return, Mark tries to discover the reason behind Marnie’s behavior. In the end, Marnie and Mark learn that her mother, Bernice (Louise Latham), had been a prostitute. When Marnie was six years old, one of her mother’s clients (a sailor played by Bruce Dern) had tried to calm her after she became frightened by a storm. The mother thought he was trying to molest her daughter and began attacking him. Seeing her mother struggling with the man, Marnie struck him with a fireplace poker, killing him. The bloodshed led to her distrust of men and fear of the color red. Once the origin of her fears is revealed, Marnie decides she wants to try to make her marriage work. – taken from Wikipedia

It was a tough film to watch, at least the violent parts when Marnie finally remembers the original, horrific episode from her childhood.  Luckily, Ruby was up from her nap at that point and I flipped over to “Jungle Book 2” so she didn’t see it, and I didn’t have to watch it, either. 

What struck me most about this film is Sean Connery.  I’d forgotten what he looked like as a younger man and didn’t know he played any other roles other than James Bond during this period.  He was masterful as Mark Rutland. His firmness and compassion with Marnie, his genuine love for her, was palpable.  I’d forgotten there were still films where men weren’t portrayed as fools.  He had no feminine traits whatsoever.  He knowingly hired her, a thief, in order to find out what made her tick.  He unwittingly fell for her, then chased her and married her in order to yes, blackmail her, but also to rehabilitate her.  Yes, he probably did rape her, though in the version I saw, there was just a lot of eyebrow raising.  I couldn’t really follow that, not being a product of the 1960s.  I definitely don’t agree with that, though they were married at that point.

He reminded me, if I may be so bold, of Hosea.  Obviously, Mark Rutland is a fictional character, but hear me out. Hosea, prophet of the Old Testament, is told by God to marry Gomer, a known prostitute.  I don’t suppose he was very happy about that particular word from God, but he did it anyway.  It was supposed to be an allegory about God and Israel.  God sought Israel, messed up in her sins, prostituting herself to foreign gods.  God saved her, washed her, clothed her and brought her home to be with him, a covenant relationship.  Gomer didn’t stay with Hosea.  She birthed 3 children, all with allegorical names – Jezreel (revenge on King Jehu for murders committed there), Lo-ruhamah (“not loved”), and Lo-ammi (“not My people”).  She left him and went back to her old life of sexual freedom, having taken a lover.  Hosea sought her yet again, as another allegory of God’s unfailing love for Israel.  He bought her back for 15 pieces of silver and 5 bushels of barley and a measure of wine. I am assuming that, over time, he grew to love her and the children they had together, despite the awkward beginning.

Though the two women, one real, one fictional, are on opposite ends of the sexual spectrum, they are very similar at heart. Both see no way out of their current situations.  Neither of them sought one, in fact.

At the end of “Marnie”, Marnie resolves to work on her marriage with Mark.  It can only get better from here, right?  Having faced her childhood fears of men and the darkness of a repressed memory, she has hope to live a normal, non-felonious life. She has a steadfast love of a good man, someone who believes in her. I hope Gomer felt she had a future with Hosea as well.

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