Some people might only know Tippi Hedren as the woman who starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 film The Birds. However, like with any other person summed up in one accomplishment, there was far more to Hedren’s life than just that. If you’ve ever wondered what Hedren has done with her life and what her legacy truly entails, scroll down to find out more!
The first time that Alfred Hitchcock saw Hedren was in a 1962 commercial for a diet soda. On this basis, he cast Hedren in The Birds, even referencing the commercial in the film itself. In both the film and the commercial, there is a scene where Hedren walks down a street and turns to smile at a man who whistles at her.
Although Hedren would maintain that The Birds was her first credited film role, she had previously appeared as an uncredited extra in the 1950 musical comedy The Petty Girl.
Hedren was born on January 19, 1930, in New Ulm, Minnesota. Her birth name was actually Nathalie Kay Hedren.
Hedren was a big fan of cats and would own several housecats over the course of her life (there’s a crazier side to this part of her story, but we’ll get to that later). Interestingly, she named two of said cats after her co-stars. One was Sean Connery, with whom she starred in Marnie, and Marlon Brando, who was her co-star in A Countess from Hong Kong.
Speaking of Sean Connery, Hedren would later admit that Connery had been her first celebrity crush, which must have made the chance to work with him all the more exciting. In May 2017, Hedren clarified on Facebook that she was still very much in contact with Connery all those years later.
Hedren is one of only two performers in the history of Hollywood to have worked with both Alfred Hitchcock and Charlie Chaplin, arguably two of the greatest British filmmakers who ever lived. The only other performer to have Chaplin and Hitchcock films on their resume was Norman Lloyd.
Hedren’s parents were of German and Scandinavian background. Her father, Bernard, was a store owner by trade, while her mother, Dorathea, worked as a school teacher.
One of Hedren’s unrealized projects was first planned in the late 1960s. The film, titled Five Against Kansas, was meant to be a drama about the American Civil War and would have starred Hedren alongside Farley Granger and Jeffrey Hunter, but it never came to fruition.
Not only has Hedren’s daughter, Melanie Griffith, followed in her mother’s footsteps to become a famous actress in Hollywood, but so has one of her granddaughters. You might know her as Dakota Johnson, the star of Suspiria and the 50 Shades series.
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Aside from Dakota Johnson, Hedren has two other grandchildren, both children of well-known actors. One is Alexander Bauer (son of Steven Bauer) and Stella Banderas (daughter of Antonio Banderas).
After The Birds finished filming, Hedren requested that she could keep the fur coat which she wears in the film. Although her request was granted, she would eventually abandon wearing the coat when she became more active in the fight for animal rights (more on that later).
Hedren’s first husband was an 18-year-old advertising executive named Peter Griffith. Married in 1952, Hedren and Griffith would remain married for around nine years. It was during this time that Hedren gave birth to Melanie Griffith, her only child.
On January 30, 2003, Hedren was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. You can find it at 7060 Hollywood Boulevard.
Fans of DC Comics might recognize Hedren for her work two TV series Batman series. First, she voiced Donna Day in an episode of The New Batman Adventures, then came back for more with Batman: The Brave and the Bold, voicing Queen Hippolyta in another single episode appearance.
In case you’re curious, the name “Tippi” has a meaning derived from Hedren’s Swedish background. In that language, “Tippi” means “sweetheart.” The nickname was given to her by her father when she was a toddler, and she decided to make it her stage name.
Some actors, if they work long enough, can acquire a unique trait which follows them across their filmographies. In the case of Hedren, a recurring theme with her films that her characters' names frequently began with the letter “M.” Without naming all the films, some of these characters were Mary Jane, Martha, Mary, Madelaine, Marnie, Marcia, and Minnie.
In 1964, Hedren’s agent was Noel Marshall. However, he became much more than that on September 22 that year, when he married her. Marshall would go on to produce three of Hedren’s films and remain married to her until 1982.
Hedren was still in high school when her conventionally attractive looks led to her building up a career as a model. She would model for local fashion shows and commercials that played within her home state of Minnesota.
Throughout her career, Hedren has been directed by five Oscar winners. These five people are Alfred Hitchcock (though his was an honorary Oscar), John Schlesinger, Alexander Payne, Charlie Chaplin, and Billy Bob Thornton (though her scenes in his film Jayne Mansfield’s Car were cut from the final edit).
One of the lesser-known films of Hedren’s career is the dark comedy I Woke Up Early the Day I Died. What makes this film noteworthy is that it was the final film written by notorious filmmaker Ed Wood Jr. Sadly, Wood had long since died by the time the film was finally released—he passed in 1978, while the movie finally hit screens in 1998.
In the mid-1960s, veteran filmmaker Charlie Chaplin got into contact with Hedren and offered her the role of Marlon Brando’s estranged wife in A Countess from Hong Kong, which would become Chaplin's final film. However, he wouldn’t let her see the script until she agreed to do the film. Given that it was Chaplin, Hedren was only too happy to sign on, but when she arrived, she found out that her role was basically a cameo appearance.
When she asked Chaplin why he’d deceived her and been so secretive, Chaplin admitted that he’d been convinced that she wouldn’t have come if she'd known how small her role was. The irony, of course, was that Hedren was only too happy to have done the film in any part, regardless of size!
In 1964, Hedren won her only Golden Globe, for her performance in The Birds. Interestingly, the category was the now-defunct “Most Promising Female Newcomer.” That year, the award was actually shared between her and two other actresses. They were Ursula Andress for Dr. No and Elke Sommer for The Prize.
Despite the plethora of handsome leading men that she’s acted alongside throughout her film career, Hedren categorically denied having ever had a fling with any of them. In case you doubt the power of that kind of resilience, keep in mind that she worked with Burt Reynolds, Sean Connery, Marlon Brando, Kiefer Sutherland, Jude Law, and James Brolin.
In her first appearance in a TV commercial, Hedren was so worried that people would mock her inexperience with cigarettes that she developed a smoking habit purely so she could look convincing on the small screen. It wasn’t until her 10-year old daughter learned about the health risks of cigarettes and begged her mother to stop smoking that Hedren quit the habit.
On Premiere magazine’s list of the 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time, Hedren’s character Melanie Daniels in The Birds made the list, sitting at a respectable #86.
At the age of 88, Hedren was cast in a series of commercials and advertisements for Gucci’s line of jewelry and timepieces.
Despite the difficulties of working on Marnie, especially given the unwanted sexual interest from her director (more on that later), Hedren still considered it to be the favorite of her films, as she loved playing such a complex and interesting character.
In 1985, Hedren once again tried her hand at marriage. The third time around, it was a steel manufacturer named Luis Barrenechea. The two of them would be a couple until 1995.
Reportedly, Hedren’s work with Alfred Hitchcock would inspire the appearance and performance of Naomi Watts in David Lynch’s film Mulholland Drive. Later on, Watts and Hedren would co-star in the David O. Russell film I Heart Huckabees. While they didn’t act in any scenes together, Russell did at least introduce them to each other.
One of Hedren’s most lasting contributions to American society stemmed from a visit she made in 1975 to a refugee village comprised of people fleeing the Vietnam War. Hedren wanted to help them acquire a skill set to begin a new life in the US, and she was inspired by the women’s fascination with how she’d done her nails.
Hedren arranged for those Vietnamese women to earn their licenses and also got them jobs in salons. More women followed in their footsteps, even as these original students went on to open salons of their own. The rest is history.
Given that she was such a passionate fan of animals, it shouldn’t surprise you to know that Hedren was in a long-term relationship with a veterinarian. However, in an ironic twist, her engagement to Martin Dinnes came apart over their differing views on how to deal with cats. Dinnes was very much in favor of declawing cats, which Hedren was deeply opposed to. This rift proved too much to get past, and they ended their relationship.
The last time that Hedren met with Alfred Hitchcock was in 1966. He and his wife, Alma Reville, took her out to tea in London while Hedren was working on A Countess from Hong Kong (the final film in Charlie Chaplin’s career). Seeing as Hitchcock had been committed to destroying Hedren's career, he was deeply resentful that she'd been cast in such a big film. Unsurprisingly, this made for an awkward meal.
Anyone curious to learn the full extent of Hedren’s tempestuous work relationship with Alfred Hitchcock has a number of sources to choose from. Two biographies (The Dark Side of Genius and Spellbound by Beauty) were published after Hitchcock’s death, and in 2012, HBO released the film The Girl, starring Sienna Miller as Hedren and Toby Jones as Hitchcock.
During the filming of The Birds, Hedren was shocked to discover that she would be interacting with real birds, and she didn’t know about it until members of the crew flung them at her while the cameras were rolling! Although the beaks of the birds were all secured shut with elastic bands, their claws were still very dangerous, and Hedren suffered a serious cut on her face dangerously close to her eye. When she broke down and sobbed, a physician insisted (over Alfred Hitchcock’s protests) that Hedren get a week off to recover.
Aside from her film work and her efforts with animal sanctuaries, Hedren has also spent much of her life working as a philanthropist. She has traveled all over the world to set up relief programs for victims of war, natural disasters, and famine.
According to Hedren, she was once propositioned for a sexual fling by a famous American politician when she was on vacation in the south of France. Despite his charm and good looks, Hedren didn’t want to spend the night with him since they were both married at the time. In case you’re curious, that man would become US president John F. Kennedy.
Hedren is one of the main people behind the Shambala Preserve in California. This preserve is 80 acres in size and focuses on looking after wild animals which were raised in captivity. Among the “residents” of Shambala Preserve have been wild cats owned by occultist Anton LaVey and Michael Jackson.
In case you weren’t convinced that Hitchcock behaved completely inappropriately around Hedren, keep in mind that for her performance in Marnie, Hedren was initially a strong contender for a Best Actress Oscar nomination. However, Hitchcock spitefully sabotaged the campaign behind the scenes, even though he was the movie's director. As of 2019, she has yet to even get an honorary Oscar for her career in film.
After casting her in The Birds and Marnie, Alfred Hitchcock’s obsession with Hedren reached the point where he was propositioning her for sex (keep in mind that he was a married man with a child at the time). When Hedren refused to sleep with him, Hitchcock vowed revenge by sabotaging her career. As long as she was under contract with him, he would ensure that she was not cast in any other films—and for a young actress in the prime of her career, coming back from an absence like that was all but impossible.
In case anyone was concerned that Alfred Hitchcock wasn’t a creep, we’ll bring up something that we’ve uncovered before. While Hedren was working on The Birds, Hitchcock had her come in and make a face mask for the supposed reason of promoting the movie. Hitchcock took the face mask and used it to make a doll that looked exactly like Hedren. It was even wearing the costume that Hedren wore for The Birds.
When Hedren’s daughter, Melanie Griffith, was six years old, Hitchcock gifted her the doll, encased in a miniature coffin. Griffith would famously declare that Hitchcock “was a motherf*****.”
In 1969, Hedren and her husband, Noel Marshall, were inspired to create a family film titled Roar. It was an adventure comedy about a family who lives with a menagerie of lions and other wild cats. And when we say “family film,” we mean that it starred Hedren, Marshall, and their children. Marshall also wrote and directed the film, with he and Hedren serving as producers.
They were also very serious about the concept: they spent the film in very close proximity with actual lions, tigers, and cheetahs.
The filming of Roar took five years, and it was a thorough nightmare to complete. For one thing, the animals were untrained, and the scenes filmed with them were pretty much improvised as a result. During those five years, seventy cast and crew members were mauled by the dangerous animals which they were working with daily.
That included Hedren (who had to get 38 stitches after being bitten on the neck by a lion) and her daughter, Melanie Griffith (who got 50 stitches and nearly lost an eye). In case anyone’s curious, none of the animals themselves were harmed during the filming.
While Hedren would later admit that she and her husband had been “stupid beyond belief to have that lion in our house,” her experience making Roar did lead to something positive. In order to look after the animals which had featured in the film, Hedren founded The Roar Foundation, a non-profit organization which would go on to run the Shambala Preserve.
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