wed 24/07/2024

The Hitchcock Players: Tippi Hedren, The Birds, Marnie | reviews, news & interviews

The Hitchcock Players: Tippi Hedren, The Birds, Marnie

The Hitchcock Players: Tippi Hedren, The Birds, Marnie

When the director went too far

Tippi Hedren (centre) in 'The Birds'

The relationship between Hitchcock and Hedren was already subject to scrutiny, and is symbolic of his fascination with blondes. Soon, with Sienna Miller playing the leading lady of 1963’s terrifying The Birds and Toby Jones as the director, it’s going to be revisited with the TV film The Girl (2010’s Hitchcock’s Women had trodden this path).

Hedren has advised Miller, and also told press that Hitchcock “was an extremely sad character…deviant almost to the point of dangerous”. (See the clip below for more of her views on Hitchcock.)

After seeing Hedren in a drinks’ ad on TV, Hitchcock put her through a series of screen tests to confirm where she could be his successor to Grace Kelly. Hedren though was more a model than actress, her film experience limited. As Melanie Daniels in The Birds, she was otherworldly, verging on the unreal. Her countenance and look weren’t model-haughty, but edged towards the disengaged, as if she was moving in neutral gear even while frantic with fear.

Hitchcock, for his part, manipulated her. He said that she would be working with model birds at the film’s climax. Instead, he threw the real thing at her. Her terror was real. So were the injuries sustained. He stretched the filming of the scene over days. Whether the end justifies the means or not, this was abuse. Yet Hedren went on in 1964 to appear in the title role of his less-successful Marnie. Her character had been subject to childhood abuse. Hitchcock then sold her contract to Universal. Hedren’s film career lost momentum. He used her, then spat her out.

Whatever its context, The Birds was her defining role. Actors act. They assume the role, the character. Hedren, though, was made to do more than that. It’s a wonder her daughter Melanie Griffith followed her into film.

Visit Kieron Tyler’s blog

Watch Tippi Hedren discuss her relationship with Alfred Hitchcock


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