Marion Crane was a victim of Norman Bates.
Unhappy in her relationship with her boyfriend, a divorcee named Sam Loomis, Marion rejected his idea to take the afternoon off and rushes back to her workplace, a real estate office. Her boss, George Lowery, arrived shortly afterwards with Tom Cassidy, a wealthy customer whose daughter was about to be married. Cassidy was a successful rancher who was buying a house from Mr. Lowery as a wedding present for his daughter. Mr. Lowery was nervous having such a hunk of cash in his office and was browbeaten by Cassidy into a night of drinking. He asked Marion to safeguard the cash by depositing it at the bank. However, instead of going to the bank, Marion impulsively went on the run with the money. She turned off the main road without realizing it and arrived at the Bates Motel and checked in with the proprietor, Norman Bates, who shyly invited her to have dinner with him. After wrapping the remaining money inside a newspaper, Marion overheard a heated argument between Norman and his mother about letting Marion into the house.
During dinner, Marion listened to Norman's tale of being trapped by his obligation to his mentally ill mother and realized that she, too, was stuck in a "private trap", and could only escape it by taking responsibility for stealing the money. She gently suggested to Norman that he put his mother in a mental hospital, which he heatedly refused to do. She bid him goodnight and returned to her room. There, she undressed while Norman watched through a peephole hidden in the wall of his office. Resolving to make amends to her employer, Marion made a few calculations based on how much the escapade had cost her. She then took a shower. Suddenly, a mysterious figure entered the bathroom — shadowy through the shower curtain — and stabbed Marion to death (in the novel, her head is cut off). Believing his mother had committed the murder, Norman hid the body in a tar pit.
Following Bates' arrest, Marion's car was pulled out of the tar pit.
Creation and filming
Janet Leigh, who portrayed Marion in the original film, has said that when he cast her, Hitchcock gave her the following charter: "I hired you because you are a talented actress! I will only direct you if A: you attempt to take more than your share of the pie, B: you don't take enough, or C: if you are having trouble motivating the necessary timed movement."
According to Leigh, wardrobe worn by her character Marion Crane was not custom made for her, but rather purchased "off the rack" from ordinary clothing stores. Hitchcock wanted female viewers to identify with the character by having her wear clothes that an ordinary secretary could afford.
Contrary to a widely told tale, Hitchcock did not arrange for the water to suddenly go ice-cold during the shower scene to elicit an effective scream from Leigh. This urban legend appears to have originated with Universal Tour guides as they passed the "Psycho" house, one of the most popular attractions on the lot. Leigh said that the crew took great care to keep the water warm, and filming of the scene took an entire week. Anthony Perkins, who narrated part of the Universal Tour, said that the "shower scene" was shot with a stunt double, as they were waiting for Perkins' contract to expire from a play he had been doing in New York before filming was to begin. Believing (correctly) the shower scene would be very time-consuming, Hitchcock elected to film it ahead of schedule.
Hitchcock tested the shock value of Mother's corpse by placing it in Leigh's dressing room and listening to how loud she screamed when she discovered it there.
The trailer was shot after completing the movie, and because Leigh wasn't available anymore, Hitchcock used costar Vera Miles in the shower sequence in the trailer.
Leigh wore moleskin adhesive patches covering her nipples when she acted out the shower scene. However, after the warm water of the shower washed off the moleskin, Hitchcock still did one more take. The take was used in the finished film.
Appearances in the rest of the series
Psycho's first sequel, 1983's Psycho II, starts off with a flashback to the shower scene. Vera Miles returns as Marion's sister, Lila Crane, now Lila Loomis, who is on a crusade to keep Norman committed. The film introduces Mary Loomis, Lila's daughter with Sam and Marion's niece. Both are killed in the film; Lila is stabbed while in Norman's fruit cellar by a woman who looks like him in his "Mother" guise (later revealed to be Emma Spool), and Mary is shot by a policeman when she attempts to stab Norman, thinking he killed Lila and the other victims in the film.
Marion makes no appearance in the final sequel, 1990's made-for-TV Showtime film Psycho IV: The Beginning. She is merely referred to a few times as "the girl he killed in the shower."
Marion appears in the 1992 three-issue comic book adaptation of the first Psycho film released by Innovation Publishing.