Marion Crane

Alfred Hitchcock’s cinematic masterpiece Psycho features a rich score written by veteran composer Bernard Herrmann. Just as identifiable as John Williams’ music from Jaws, the piercing violins replicating knife slashes has become a staple trademark in horror movies utilizing the theme’s signature in multiple variations. But the subject of the film’s music is the woman in the shower scene, and the stabbing that goes on as the music repeatedly plays that recognizable theme.

Janet Leigh as Marion Crane
Janet Leigh as Marion Crane

Women Who Wow Wednesday presents Marion Crane, the woman in the Psycho movie who meets with a premature death, shocking audiences in 1960 into an unknown they’ve never had the opportunity to explore.

Played by Janet Leigh, mother to scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis star of the Halloween franchise, the part entailed Leigh to work a full three weeks on set, seven days of which she partook in the infamous shower scene.

The making of the film is a story in itself. Hitchcock declined his usual $250,000 directorial fee for a 60% cut of the box office. He made $15 Million, which adjusted for inflation translates to $150 Million in 2006 dollars. Additionally, to thwart MPAA censors, he had added obvious red herrings to the film in order to confound them into removing the red herrings all the while keeping the objectionable scenes intact.

As for filming of the shower scene, Hitchcock used Bosco chocolate syrup to emulate the blood, since it appears better contrasted in black and white. Some audience members, however, believed they saw red when blood washed down the drain. Of course, this is a physical impossibility for the obvious reason the movie is not in color.

The infamous shower scene.
The infamous shower scene.

Further adding to the list of interesting tidbits, ophthalmologists approached Hitchcock soon after the opening to emphasize a truly dead corpse, as seen in Psycho, should not have contracted pupils but dilated instead. They suggested Hitchcock use belladonna drops to achieve the dead-eye affect in subsequent films, which he did.

Trivia’s all very well and fine, but what does that have to do with Marion Crane? The story goes something like this: Marion steals $40,000 from her employer and goes on the lamb. She changes cars in an effort to thwart discovery by the police and checks into a motel by the side of the highway—the Bates Motel. I’m sure you’ve heard of it.

Owned by Norman Bates and his sick mother, the Bates Motel poses as the scene for the eventual turning point in Marion’s life. Thinking she’d gotten away with robbery, she didn’t think she might have walked into a far worse situation. As the cliché goes, out of the frying pan into the fire. As the movie’s title suggests, someone has to be the psychopath. It’s not Marion.

And this is what makes Marion Crane unique in Horror. Hitchcock purposely gave her top billing, even though she dies halfway through the film. Marion’s death in the shower is the most recognizable scene in movie history. When people talk about Psycho, in the same breath they’re talking about the shower scene. In so doing, culture made Marion Crane a poster child for how a good Horror flick should go.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale October 22.

Have you seen Psycho? If so, what did you think of it?

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14 thoughts on “Marion Crane

  1. Nice write-up and blog, Jack. It’s always nice to see some appreciation of horror in the blogosphere. Also, thanks for checking out–and liking–my site. My best to you.

  2. I’m a Hitchcock fan and this one of my all time favourite movies. I’ve actually got a soap dish in my bathroom which has “Bates Motel” printed on it, complete with a bar of soap with the same branding.

    The shower scene is genius. Hitchcock suggests everything but actually shows very little, leaving it all to the viewer’s imagination – people coming away thinking they’ve seen much more than they actually did. A great piece of cinematography.

    • Try it out! The movie is more suggestive than anything else. The shower scene is a work of genius since censors back in the 60s were ultra-conservative at the time. Hitchcock had to find a way to amp up the suspense without showing anything at all. To me, those are the scariest movies!

  3. For this week’s W.O.W., I don’t think you could have pick a better candidate. When you talk aboout women in horror, Crane is always at the top of the list (along with her daugher, Jamie). Hitchcock’s films are still a large portion of the curriculum for starter film students. One aspect about the shower scene that was always interesting was that at no time through the scene is the knife shown stabbing into Crane. However, it took Hickcock showing the scene frame by frame to the MPAA to get the scene passed their review.

    As always, a great article. I am looking forward to seeing the rest of this months W.O.W.

    jb

  4. This is a very interesting post! I’ve read, or heard, most of what you have offered but I was not aware of the belladonna used to make her eyes dilate as through she were really dead. Great post.
    Leslie

    • In the 60s, Belladonna used to be part of every girl’s cosmetic case to widen the pupils in order for them to appear more attractive. Unfortunately, a notorious side effect was blindness!

      • My goodness! I was not aware of that. Vanity always has a price and in this case…blindness. Wilikers! That is interesting and odd.

        You do have some totally awesome posts and I’m happy to have found your blog.

        Leslie

  5. Nice write-up. It is good to see Marion Crane get some attention. Although she only acted in half the movie, she worked very hard for the borderline crazy/homicidal Hitchcock, who put her through the ringer. He was notoriously hard on his female actors, often resorting to psychological torture and threats to their physical selves. Just ask Tippi Hedren.

    That scene in the shower is so notorious. I think Crane deserves more of the credit for it than she gets.

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