Like Nabokov, Hitchcock fascination with Poe is reflected in his work.
While Poe was a general influence on Hitchcock, the maker of "scary"
movies, there appears to be several very specific and direct allusions
to Poe in Marnie. As opposed to Winston Graham's novel, Marnie's last
name in the film is changed to "Edgar." The film takes place in New
York (Strutt's office), Virginia (Garrod's Stables) and Philadelphia
(Rutland Publishing and Wickwind). These are the three places that Poe
lived throughout the better part of his life. Finally, and most
conclusively, the film's climactic scene takes place at Marnie's
mother's home in Baltimore, the city where Poe died under mysterious
circumstances in 1849. Hitchcock's allusions to Poe in Marnie are not
surprising since the film is probably Hitchcock's most ambitious effort
to detail the subjective inner states of his problematic central
character through the use of cinematic technique (like the red flashes),
just as Poe devoted himself to writing stories in which his characters
are subject to psychological terror.
The intent of this article is not to suggest that there was any direct
connection or even any overt influence between Alfred Hitchcock and
Vladimir Nabokov. Nabokov is on record as having seen at least one
Hitchcock film and probably saw several others (I'd be surprised if he
did not see Strangers on a Train) and Hitchcock, in asking Nabokov to
collaborate with him, must have had a least a passing familiarity with
Nabokov's work (again, I'd be surprised if he had not read Lolita). My
intent here, however, is merely to suggest that there was a strong
affinity between the work of these two men, an affinity based on their
artistic personalities that has not, by and large, been acknowledged.
While I have tried to point out some areas of confluence in their works,
I feel the primary affinity is in the similar relationship that
Hitchcock and Nabokov established with their audience/readers; a
relationship of playfulness, obtuseness, self-allusiveness and parody.
Both men were masters of their respective mediums; Nabokov, a brilliant
user of words, and Hitchcock a manipulator of cinematic imagery. As a
result, both men attempted (usually successfully) to control the
aesthetic game that they played with their respective audiences.
In 1972 Hitchcock released Frenzy, his second to last film and Nabokov
published Transparent Things, his last novel. Alfred Hitchcock and
Vladimir Nabokov did not ever collaborate. One can only imagine the
kind of involuted, complex, and playful work these two men would have
produced; unfortunately, we can only speculate about what might have
been. Still, we can acknowledge that the works of Vladimir Nabokov and
Alfred Hitchcock share much in common, just as these two men's lives
shared many common circumstances. What is left, in the end, is the work
they produced, which can be well summarized by a line the fictional John
Shade wrote in "Pale Fire": "Life is a message scribbled in the dark."21