From: Tony Lee Moral, Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie (Scarecrow Press, 2002; pb 2005)

The real Marnie triangle - Hitchcock, Hedren and Baker

[Editor's note.  Strictly speaking, the following isn't an excerpt from Tony Moral's meticulous and insightful book but a report based on two interviews he conducted for the book.  Some of the material is published here for the first time.  Tony Moral is a documentary producer for television and has written numerous articles on film.  He holds a degree in Zoology and Psychology from the University of Reading, UK.]

ON A TYPICALLY SUNNY Southern California weekend in June 1999, I went to interview the female stars of Marnie for the book I was preparing on the making of Hitchcock’s film. Tippi Hedren welcomed me to her Shambhala animal preserve just outside of Acton; and Diane Baker invited me for Sunday afternoon tea at her home in the Hollywood Hills above the Mann Chinese theatre.

It was easy to see what Hitchcock saw in these two beautiful yet contrasting women. Now in their sixties, both women were casually but elegantly dressed, coiffed, poised and slim. And they were not too distant from their on screen personas. Tippi was professional, courteous but slightly aloof just like Marnie Edgar; Diane was warm, friendly and as inquisitive and smart as Lil Mainwaring. Life was imitating Art just as it had done over thirty years earlier.

During the making of Marnie, Hitchcock began having trouble with his rising star Tippi whom he hoped to be the new Grace Kelly.  By casting Diane, Hitchcock attempted to create an offscreen triangle in addition to the onscreen triangle of Mark, Marnie and Lil. As Diane remembers, “I’ve never worked on another film where there was so much going on behind the camera as during Marnie.”

As the production was gearing up for filming, relations were turning sour between Hitchcock and Tippi, who felt that the director was making unreasonable demands over her personal life. Diane recalls:

“It seemed that some of his personal disappointment and anger played out during the making of the film. He was often very cold to Tippi, but he was warm and friendly to me. I was possibly too naïve to realize all this at the time, but as the film progressed, I became more aware that Hitch’s and Tippi’s working relationship was coming to an end. Feelings were raw and tinged with innuendo. I’ve always been a private person, and Hitch was the first director I worked with who seemed to have a personal and emotional agenda on the set.”

Hitchcock felt that the actresses were his property and whenever they had suitors on the set, he would react jealously. He often said to Tippi, “Actors shouldn’t marry” and that they should remain committed to their craft. No doubt the disintegration of Hitch’s and Tippi’s relationship during the making of Marnie was due in large part to Tippi’s engagement to her agent Noel Marshall, as the actress herself admits. Diane similarly remembers:
“A male family friend who was head of transportation at Universal came to visit me on the set. Hitch made a comment in front of the crew which upset me, and I reacted spontaneously without thinking. I actually spoke up in my own defence; I stood my ground. Hitchcock was such a powerful presence that very few people dared to speak up. However, when I look back I wonder if these “incidents” weren't as much deliberate to make me a better actress as part of his own personal turmoil from Tippi’s imminent departure. Luckily most of the time he treated me with genuine warmth and sensitivity, but during the filming of one particular scene, he turned his back on me and was very abrupt. While they were readjusting the lights for the scene on the front porch when Sean and I watch Tippi ride away, he caught my eye and then just turned away and talked to someone else. I thought that he was upset with me personally, that I had done something wrong, but he gave no direction, and later I realized he wanted Lil to be strong-willed and have an element of hurt. He succeeded in getting that from me. He was the master, the Svengali, the one in charge. He was provoking me to act in a certain way . . . though I didn’t realize it at the time.”

Similarly, a scene that remains indelible in Hedren’s mind is when Mark has caught Marnie after her theft of the Rutland money, and she is packing under his interrogation. Just before filming, Hitchcock walked up to Hedren and said something that made her so mad and irate that for the first time she could hardly remember her lines. The fact that Hitchcock may have done it deliberately didn’t occur to Hedren until she had time to reflect on his directing methods.

Was Hitchcock’s riling of his actors a ploy to elicit a more convincing performance? He famously terrorised Joan Fontaine on the set of Rebecca into believing that every other cast member hated her, so that she would act like a frightened mouse on screen. It would be in keeping with Hitch the Svengali to try similar tactics on Marnie. Diane Baker described the competitive triangle Hitchcock tried to create between himself and his two actresses:

“It was difficult being in the middle between Hitch and Tippi. Here the leading actress was leaving a contract. As far as a falling out, there was definitely a change in their relationship. Hitch enjoyed his long lunches with the best red wine; he was a connoisseur of both good wine and good food. Of course, I never ate much lunch normally, but I was invited along with several others to join him in his bungalow where these extraordinary lunches were catered, but I couldn’t drink during the filming and never will. The conversations were stimulating, often with the creative team. But Tippi was never there, which made me uncomfortable. I felt he was uncomfortable. I felt he was ignoring Tippi and bringing me in to replace her. I was thrilled on the one hand to be included in this special world, but I was afraid of falling under his control. Once when Tippi was nearby, Hitch was talking to me, with respect and warmth, then he said something unkind about her which was meant to hurt her. I was determined not to engage in this backbiting.”

The actress found herself retaliating in the only way she knew how. Baker confronted the director: “Mr. Hitchcock, if you are saying these things about Tippi, I’m wondering what you’re saying behind my back?” To which Hitchcock replied, ‘Oh, I would never say anything against you. I would never to do that to you.’ One of the studio people took me to lunch one day and saw that I was disturbed, with the result that whatever I said during that lunch was reported back to Hitchcock, so that he knew that I was upset. The tension did get so great, one day just before Christmas I was sick.”

At the end of the shoot, all three would go their separate ways. Diane went on to make another film in Israel and never worked with Hitchcock again. She later became a successful film producer and continues to work on projects today. By mutual agreement, Tippi’s contract was terminated two years after Marnie and later she found her true vocation with the rehabilitation of big cats and the formation of Shambhala. But interviewing both actresses that day, one gained an insight into the Hitchcock leading lady – feline, mysterious, intelligent and very cool.