Written by Patti Pauley
Alfred Hitchcock is undoubtedly a pioneer when it came to horror and macabre. However, according to one of his most stunning leading ladies Tippi Hedren (The Birds, Marnie) who opened up in an exclusive interview with The Daily Mail, revealed how the master of suspense who green-lit her career to super-stardom with 1963’s The Birds, had her living a real-life horror movie filled with brutal abuse and an ongoing victim of sexual assault.
Hedren now 86, talks about her horrific experiences with the horror directer regarding his obsessive and possessive nature over her, which would lead to unwanted advances towards the young actress. Hedren touches on this subject ever so delicately in her new memoir entitled Tippi, claiming Hitchcock would corner her in her dressing room and then threaten to ruin her career as she was under contract with the director.
From Tippi: A Memoir–
“I’ve never gone into detail on this, and I never will. I’ll simply say that he suddenly grabbed me and put his hands on me. It was sexual, it was perverse, and it was ugly, and I couldn’t have been more shocked and repulsed. The harder I fought him, the more aggressive he became. Then he started adding threats, as if he could do anything to me that was worse than what he was trying to do at that moment.”
According to the interview, after a day of filming, Hitchcock and Hedren shared a limousine back to the hotel where they were staying. As the limo reached the destination, the director then suddenly threw himself on top of her, trying to force a kiss. Repulsed by his actions, Hedren threw Hitchcock off of her and immediately exited the vehicle escaping to her hotel room.
Hedren then went on to say how her rejection towards Hitchcock turned ugly for her on set the following day while filming the infamous phone booth bird attack scene when one of the mechanical birds shattered the supposedly shatterproof glass resulting in Hedren’s face on the receiving end of glass shards.
In the climatic attic scene of The Birds where Hendren’s character of Melanie is brutally attacked by a murderous flock, Hitchcock had reassured the actress that mechanical birds were to be used in the now infamous scene. However on the day of the shoot, assistant director James H. Brown told the actress that “the mechanical birds aren’t working, so we’re going to have to use live ones.”
Hedren states “It was brutal and relentless,” as she endured five full days of ravens, pigeons, and doves being hurled at her by the bird handlers. On the final day of shooting the scene, live birds were loosely tied to Hedren’s costume while she laid on the floor. The actress says when “Action!” was called, the birds that were tied to her started pecking her while again, the wranglers threw more birds at her. Even in the midst of this abuse, the actress kept her head straight up until the closing of the day when a live bird that was tied to her shoulder, almost pecked the actresses’ eye out. That is when Hedren threw up her arms and had enough for the day.
The harshness of the environment and grueling scenes took their toll on Hedren and a doctor ordered a week of rest and a break from filming. After the smash hit of The Birds, Hedren says she was held hostage under Hitchcock’s contract for two years. On the pair’s next film Marnie, a film about a man who traps a woman into marriage and rapes her, is believed to be derived from Hitchcock’s own fantasy about Hedren. Tippi’s lavish dressing room was built adjacent to the director’s office giving him the opportunity to come and go as he pleased and when he caught her alone, Tippi reveals in her memoir how he would proclaim his love for the actress.
Once she became free of her contract, studios were hesitant to hire her in fear of antagonizing Hitchcock who repeatedly bashed her acting ability among the studio lots; all in which case pointing back to the resistance of the director’s advances to the actress.
“I’ve made it my mission ever since to see to it that while Hitchcock may have ruined my career, I never gave him the power to ruin my life.”