Posted by Richard Harland Smith on October 24, 2006
Marion Crane and Mary Henry never met, yet they have much in common. In America’s optimistic postwar years, pre-Dallas, pre-Vietnam, pre-Manson, these desirable, fair-haired single women just don’t fit in. Independent and intelligent, they share aspirations beyond their station, added to the misfortune of living at a time when the world is the province of button-down white men with Brylcreamed hair and the beautiful, silent women who love them. Marion and Mary are both beautiful women, but not content to be kept, nor to keep quiet.
Both women have troubled pasts. Marion has embezzled money, Mary has walked away from an automobile accident that has drowned two female friends. To burn their bridges, both make their getaway across the desert, where they are haunted by voices and visions and come to doubt themselves. Both take refuge in discomfiting lodgings reflecting a suffocating past rather than a bright future. Both strip off their travel clothes to reveal black lingerie coding them as tainted and both are spied upon by predatory males as they prepare to bathe — baptismal rituals they hope will cleanse them of the clammy grasp of their pasts.
If you’ve seen Psycho (1960) and Carnival of Souls (1962), you know how these stories end. Marion and Mary both die screaming — Marion slashed to death after deciding to return the stolen money (to return to her point of origin) and Mary learning she didn’t survive that car crash after all (her journey looping back to where it started). Both women die in water, their cars dredged up out of oblivion’s drink, rebaptized in their shared annihilation.
It’s too bad Marion and Mary couldn’t have crossed paths at some point along the way, in some diner off the old highway, and shared a cup of coffee. They might have provided one another a moment’s respite before meeting their fates. Marion Crane and Mary Henry were kindred spirits, maybe even soul mates. They deserved better. May they rest in peace.
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