Known as the "Master of Suspense," Alfred Hitchcock directed over fifty films, but it was "The Birds" that saw Tippi Hedren become a star, and with that, Hitchcock's obsession.
Hitchcock was a big name in the film industry, with his prowess in making suspenseful movies recognized highly in the industry. He was so good at what he did that his first-ever movie "Rebecca," won him an Academy Award for Best Picture.
He went on to produce more classics, including "The 39 Steps," "Rear Window," and "Psycho," among many others. His contribution to the industry earning him the AFI's Life Achievement Award a year before his demise.
His works were recognized for their portrayal of violence, even though most of his plots were merely decoys meant to help understand his complex psychological characters.
ENTER TIPPI HEDREN
In Minnesota, Tippi was born Nathalie Kay Hedren to a general store owner, who nicknamed her "Tippi," - Swedish for "little girl." At a young age, she began modeling, propelled by her good looks and her desire to make it big in the industry.
By her high school junior year, her father's health had started failing, and the family relocated to California in search of a better climate.
They set root in San Diego, and while there, Hedren completed her high school education before joining Pasadena City College, where she studied art. That same year, she landed her first minor role in "The Pretty Girl."
However, her focus on modeling as a career was unwavering, and in 1951, she left for New York City. She quickly gained a breakthrough in modeling, gracing the covers of fashion magazines. The following year, she married Peter Griffith, a young actor.
Five years into marriage, they had their first baby, actress Melanie Griffith, but their marriage was not strong enough to withstand the pressures of Peter's failing Broadway career, and in 1960, they got divorced.
[Hitchcock's] devilry behavior became so bad that Hedren ultimately refused to continue working with him.
HEDREN MEETS DIRECTOR HITCHCOCK
Determined to make it big in modeling, the "Pacific Heights" actress relocated back to California with her daughter. In 1961, she did an ad for diet coke, catching the notorious director Hitchcock's eye.
The renowned director was so taken with the young blonde that he immediately signed her up for a seven-year contract and followed that up with a lead role in "The Birds."
Hedren had never acted before, but that was the least of Hitchcock's worries. Together with his wife Alma, they coached Hedren through the studio's screen test, which seemed to go seamlessly despite her lack of expertise in the area.
But that was not the end of it, Hitchcock proposed a second screen test, and this time, they would be drinking martinis as she answered provocative questions.
The innocent actress describes Hitchcock as being "creepy" as he excitedly described how she would be required to get wasted and lose all inhibitions on camera.
Hedren got the role of Melanie Daniels, and the project became one of Hollywood's most coveted, catapulting Hedren to fame and earning her a Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer.
It may have started as a harmless attraction to the blonde, but as time passed, Hitchcock became so obsessive with Hedren that his eyes would always follow her around the stage, and he'd grow petulant if she talked to a male actor.
She was his to do with whatever he wanted, and as Hedren explained in her book "Tippi: A Memoir," he inflicted upon her a sexual menace with his sinister and twisted obsession with her.
Hedren's life seemed to play out like one of Hitchcock's movies, and she could not get out of it, seeing as her contract bound her. And the worst was yet to come.
One evening, while going back to their hotel room, Hitchcock threw himself on top of Hedren, attempting to kiss her, but she made her escape to the hotel. This, according to Hedren's book, was just one of many attempts to force himself on her.
Hedren's changing room was situated, as if strategically, next to Hitchcock's office. And he would sneak in and out of the back door as he deemed fit. Hedren says his unwelcome advances continued, and as if expecting her to reciprocate, he would often find ways to express his obsession with her.
The "Julie and Jack" actress says one day, Hitchcock summoned her to his office, and what ensued had Hedren shivering for days to come. She writes in her book, via Daily Mail:
“He suddenly grabbed me and put his hands on me. It was sexual, it was perverse and it was ugly."
Following his failed advances towards the mother-of-one, Hitchcock was getting increasingly frustrated. His only twisted course of action was to block Universal Studios from submitting her performance for an Oscar.
He threatened to end her career and do worse if she did not succumb to his wishes. He also began belittling her to others. She tried fighting, but he became even more aggressive.
Hedren was caring for her elderly parents and a daughter all on her own. unfortunately, Hitchock used this information as leverage to ensure Hedren would give in to him.
She was helpless, she had two more years before her condemning contract with him would end, and Hitchcock would not let her take work with other directors. This, in addition to the studio's diffidence to alienate Hitchcock, ensured she would not find work elsewhere. She says:
“Studios were the power. And I was at the end of that, and there was absolutely nothing I could do legally whatsoever. There were no laws about this kind of situation. If this had happened today, I would be a very rich woman.”
His devilry behavior became so bad that Hedren ultimately refused to continue working with him. Just in time, she landed roles in two different TV series, and it was only then that Hitchcock threw in the towel. In 1966, he sold her contract to Universal Studios.
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August 28, 2021