Marion Crane is one of the main characters - and the original female "protagonist" - in Psycho. In Robert Bloch's book she was named Mary, not Marion, and the book did not begin and center around her as the film did. Hitchcock believed that leading the audience to believe that the film was about her and then (spoilers abound from here on) having her murdered in the film's first half was key in the development of suspense and shock value.

In the book, Mary Crane is not introduced until after Norman Bates has been introduced. The opposite occurs in the film, which opens by introducing Marion, her boyfriend Sam Loomis and their predicament: they are prevented from marrying by his lack of a divorce from his estranged wife. This was done to create sympathy for Marion and to evoke a sense of compassion from the audience when she decides to take the $40 000 that her boss has entrusted her to deposit in the company's bank account so as to enable Sam to pay for a divorce.

Marion's boss sees her heading in the opposite direction from the bank and she begins to become paranoid as to what will happen to her once she is caught. She stops at a used car lot and trades in her car but is visibly nervous, evoking suspicion from the salesman and from a police officer who questioned her after she slept in her car on the side of the road.

"She's a horrible thief."
- Janet Leigh

She continues her journey during a rainstorm, feels herself becoming tired and decides to stop at the nearby Bates Motel. While there she meets Norman Bates, with whom she shares dinner and discusses things including taxidermy and mental institutions. She also overhears him arguing with his mother. Inspired by his seemingly innocent nature and friendliness, Marion decides to return to Phoenix and return the money after catching up on her sleep at the motel.

Marion returns to her cabin and proceeds to take a shower. While in the shower she is confronted by Norman's mother and stabbed to death. (In the book, Mary is decapitated). Norman finds her body, and in an attempt to protect his mother, wraps it in a shower curtain, places it in the trunk of her car and sinks the car in the nearby swamp.

Marion's family life is discussed in several parts of the film. Early dialogue indicates that her mother is deceased. Her younger sister, Lila Crane, is responsible for much of the investigation that occurs after her disappearance. A scene in the script but not included in the film also reveals that Marion did not finish college so that Lila could attend college, but Lila didn't finish college either.

Marion was portrayed by Janet Leigh in Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 version and by Anne Heche in Gus Van Sant's 1998 version.

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