Alfred Hitchcock
Tippi Hedren issue

Alfred Hitchcock holding a dead duck.
He had me followed, did things like had my handwriting analysed. He just wanted to control my life.

Of the few negative experiences people had with Alfred Hitchcock, neither was as dysfunctional as Tippi Hedren's.

A fashion model slash aspiring actress was discovered by the master of suspense himself, but soon got dragged through emotional mud that has left her broken inside. It took her years of recovery to even open up about the subject. Or did it? Did all things that Hedren describes really happen?

We're left with her word for it, but many of the things she says don't make sense. Not to mention that nobody else had similar experience with the director.

Before condemning Alfred Hitchcock, as so many publications do lately, we owe him to take a second look.

How it happened

Seeing the young Swedish model in a TV ad of Sego diet drink, Hitchcock thought she might be a great actress material and contacted her agent. Not knowing what she was auditioning for, the woman was set up for a meeting with potential employer. Thus, she got the part in The Birds without even knowing it. When Tippi was informed, her world turned on its head. It was a dream come true. For the time being.

The picture ended up a huge success. Making live birds behave so they can be filmed as planned, creating mechanical birds and having to be super-creative with cutting were all great challenges, but ones that Hitch passed with flying colors.

A black and white photograph of Alfred Hitchcock, Tippi Hedren and Alma Reville. Hitchcock welcomes the crowd with open arms, Hedren is next to him smiling and holding flowers and in the background is Alma Reville, looking at Tippi.
A warm airport welcome

Both audience and critics loved the newcomer Tippi Hedren as well. The director was impressed by her. He was grooming the actress to be the next big star - there is no doubt about it. Publicly, he hyped her a lot as well.

Hitch was spot on with casting Tippi for the role of Melanie Daniels, but then forced the same choice for the Marnie Edgar character in his following movie Marnie, which backfired.

The grand plan was to get Grace Kelly for that second picture, and she initially agreed. But Kelly was then a Princess of Monaco, which came with limitations.

Because that country was put under pressure from France for their low taxes (which it still is under to this day), the ruling family had to make few compromises to be temporarily let off the hook. Kelly's American movie was therefore a no-go. The long-awaited comeback of the princess was not to be.

In response, Hitchcock started nervously looking around for other actresses to fill her shoes, but was not satisfied with any. Ultimately, almost depressed that he didn't get his favorite star, he decided to hire Hedren for the part. Even while his instincts were going down the drain, he was still aware then that she is not right for the part. But he didn't know what else to do.

This time, both audience and critics ganged up against the film, justifiably pointing at many shortcomings. Hitchcock lost his touch. And was it the same actress that they had just enjoyed in The Birds? This time, she seemed out of place.

Despite the negative press surrounding the movie, all seemed well between the actor and the director, and in interviews she only had positive things to say about him, even praising Hitch in events that celebrated the artist. Not a single grief point.

At this stage of his career, Alfred was already losing his magical touch. The Birds was his last success, and from then it was a downward ride into pictorial obscurity. Hedren was caught up in between, getting on board in time to star in one groundbreaking work, but getting a cold shower treatment right after.

After Marnie, Hedren had a three-year break from movies and only did TV then. Coming back to the medium, she played in few awfully poor productions and then switched to TV as her main destination, where it was easier to land a job. There, she remained for decades, almost always playing minor parts in small shows.

As the director made increasingly disappointing movies and his health deteriorated, Hedren was still on his side.

Three years after his death, the female star went to famous biographer Donald Spoto (known for twisting and making things up) and enriched his Hitchcock biographical book by providing him terrifying stories of how she was mentally abused by her employer, who was bewitched and extremely possessive of her, and how when she rejected his courtship, the man exacted his revenge.

Just as the famous Hitchcock movies, now her words were giving people the chills. Throughout the years, she repeated her version of the story and does so on a regular basis to this day.

The cage

When Hedren went public with her claims, an army of Hollywood actors and other staff members, who had been working with Hitchcock, went public to question their authenticity. It was unthinkable to everyone that knew him. Unfortunately, Hedren waited with all the drama until after the director died, so he couldn't face those accusations and defend himself.

Alfred's daughter Pat (his only child) not only did not publicly defend her father, but (probably because she just wanted to keep things peaceful) maintained a positive relationship with Hedren.

Tippi's work in The Birds was already filled with terror, according to the star, and there she experienced what she claimed was the worst of her Alfred Hitchcock adventures.

She got tricked into thinking that in one scene, mechanical birds will 'attack' her, while in reality from the beginning everything was set up for the real ones to torment the actress.

The cages were installed, birds placed inside, and on command the doors were opening for the animals to start swarming the room and (hopefully) producing some good takes that would suggest that the feathered creatures are thirsty for human flesh. For multiple days, she had to come back into that horrible room for more takes. And with that, extra traumas.

Such manipulation was bizarre. The actress' anger was of course justified and, frankly, it even qualified for a courtroom case. If she had gone this way, Universal would probably agree to terminate the contract and quietly pay a hefty sum, or compensate with a new one, specifying new title, better terms and Hitchcock "out of the picture".

As cruel as it is, this kind of behavior is nothing new in the world of cinema. From its inception, directors have engaged in various dirty tricks to get the best possible material out of their actors.

Lowering temperatures to draconian ones in order to make the actors freeze their bums off in scenes where they are supposed to feel cold, throwing objects at them, punching them, scaring to catch the unsuspecting victim off-guard and register the reaction - this all had been done uncountable amount of times before Hitchcock.

Alexander Friedkin, for example, is famously known for ordering staff member to shoot a gun behind the actor's back right as the filming was about to start. He did so on the set of his masterpiece "The Exorcist". Not looking shocked enough? Well, that ought to do it!

Of all the directors, a person known for saying that actors are cattle and then defending this statement for decades in numerous interviews is the first one you would expect to have a rich bag of dirty tricks to get the effect he wants.

This stems from insensitivity and/or lack of trust in an actor. I don't believe he can do it by him-or-herself, so let's help him a bit and move on to the next scene. And if he suffers emotionally, who cares?

To make things worse, Hedren claims that Hitch ordered everyone to stay away from her. Making an actor feeling isolated is another nasty device directors use when roles call for it. All in the belief that the end justifies the means.

Hedren's interpretation of Hitchcock forcing her to go through this human cage nightmare is not that he was going for the effect though. That is why the tradition of terrorizing actors by directors was brought up - not to legitimize Hitchcock's terrible behavior towards Hedren, but to provide a credible context.

Spoto and Hedren interpreted the whole thing as Alfred materializing his dark sexual desires, as if trapping and controlling the young, pretty and innocent actress would be the giant turn on that Hitch just couldn't miss up on.

After going through all that and more, admittedly firmly believing that she has an aroused psychopath breathing down her neck, she not only decided not to sue, but didn't even dodge and continued her work under the director, later claiming that she was mentally strong, so she took a deep breath and decided to continue for the sake of her career.

Such statements were mixed up with contrasting declarations of how much she suffered. On top of that, mentally strong women fight back and, in this case, sue. This would be the opposite of what she did - continuing to tolerate the aggression.

And about her trauma: do people who get mentally damaged star in a movie like Roar later in a career? We are talking about a film where every cast member was in constant threat of being torn apart by lions. And those were accompanying actors through most of the shooting.

If anything, it looks like a desperate attempt to go back to her roots and re-do what made her famous, which is putting herself in harm's way against forces of nature.

What's more, she let her daughter Melanie Griffith star in it and even encouraged her to take extra risks to get good takes. How do birds compare?

Hitchcock and actresses

Another thing that seems to point out to the story being exaggerated at least is the fact that Alfred had relationships with dozens of beautiful actresses, and neither went public with similar allegations.

In such situations, women usually open up after years have passed, when they feel relatively safe and more comfortable speaking about it, given that the pain is then half-gone. Not a single soul came out, nor even claimed in public interviews that they saw Hitchcock act suspicious.

While Hitch was often flirting, he was doing it humorously. Alfred was a professional first and foremost and always fought to protect the set from things that could damage his movie. Chasing his actresses would definitely fall under this category.

While there were actresses who couldn't find common ground with the director, Hedren remains the only person affected by Alfred Hitchcock's supposed dark side.

Hitch might have fallen in love with only one actress - Grace Kelly, ironically a primary candidate for the leading role in Marnie. Given that she was probably the prettiest actress in Hollywood history, who would blame him?

He reserved his flirting for the off-work hours and did not push things too far, if we're to believe the anecdote. Grace elegantly brushed him off and that was that. Did he exact his sociopathic revenge on her? No. The fact that he wanted to bring her from Monaco for another main part in his film says it all.

A common theme of sexual predators is the urge that renders them restless, forcing to seek satisfaction, even if it means putting themselves in harm's way. And here was a self-admittedly impotent man going overboard over only one person in his entire career, while living and working in Hollywood, surrounded by all kinds of glamour.

So many other pretty faces could have triggered his obsessions even slightly, yet not a single soul doubled Tippi's accusations. For a man with lust so overtaking, if we're to believe Tippi, he was surprisingly inactive with his hunts for prey.

Biographical movies

Tarnishing of the director's reputation was extended to the 2012 biopic simply titled Hitchcock (IMDb). The casting is rich, but that doesn't save the film from being average, and worse: lacking credibility.

Most roles are played out of character, as if they would portray completely different people. Some were justified - surprisingly little is known about Peggy Robertson's character, for example, so how was Toni Collette supposed to play her?

One thing where the movie failed the most is presenting Hitchcock under the same light that Spoto and Hedren put him under, even though those are largely wild and unconfirmed statements. Spoto's biography is one of Hitchcock's most popular ones, so people behind the picture could just blindly base the story on the author's fantasies.

On the other hand, they could go for the same cheap sensationalism that Spoto was going for, and for the same reasons. Why would they have a semi-interesting man who ate too much, mostly kept to himself and worked very hard, when they could have a sadistic maniac? The first one might be a recipe for box office disaster, while the other could be a selling point.

Unfortunately, after Spoto's book, Hedren's endless accusations and the movie, Hitchcock is almost guaranteed to have an opinion of a pervert among the younger generations, as if it was a confirmed fact.

And let's not even begin to describe the flaws in a horrible mess of a movie called The Girl (IMDb), which concentrates on Hedren's version of her relationship with Alfred.

That story is based on series of interviews with James Brown, an assistant director in both problematic Hedren movies and many others (convincingly unnamed) people from his circles. Being that Brown had a first-row seat on everything that happened on these sets, he is a credible source, so the film is true.

Except that for his entire life, he cherished his friendship with the director and absolutely adored him, an opinion that he didn't keep to himself. And just like Hedren started her anti-Hitchcock campaign after the director passed away, production of The Girl movie began one year after Brown died. Convenient.

His wife also holds an opinion that he is probably spinning in his grave if aware of the fact that sensationalists whom he trusted are now using him as their credibility shield in an effort to validate the smearing of a man so close to him. Interviews with others were also conducted, but here BBC's and HBO's hired guns are surprisingly quiet and are adamant to drop names. Maybe they're still alive?

The obvious question here is: how come nobody went public with these revelations, and yet suddenly multiple people began quietly testifying to a half-professional crew behind a low-budget straight-to-TV movie? Did all of these assumed trustworthy sources make a weird choice for their recollection and decided to maintain anonymity and never speak about it to anyone else?

We know that wasn't the case with the only supposed informer whose name was revealed - James Brown's wife claims that her husband went to those interviews convinced that it is going to be a tribute to the director. It turned out a different kind.

And who was a script consultant for the movie? An impartial observer called Donald Spoto turned out for the job to make sure all things stay as close to facts as possible.

Fortunately, both Hitchcock and The Girl were poor movies and many people criticized them for going wild with the accusations, but the damage has been done. Many more people who saw those pictures now believe that Alfred Hitchcock was a creepy twisted man.

More issues

Anger on her part was additionally fueled by Hitchcock supposedly blocking her after Marnie. She was under further contract, and the director neither used her in his following projects, nor loaned her out to interested parties.

In Hedren's eyes, she had a promising career that got stomped on by Alfred, and because she didn't get any big project when still bound by her contract, the interest faded, which ultimately ruined her career.

But the truth is that after one year of absence from films, Hedren's deal was moved to Universal. Since then, records show that the studio made few movie offers and Hedren rejected all of them.

The situation quickly turned dire, as she was guaranteed weekly pay even if she didn't lift her finger. It seems that the studio was not willing to give her bigger roles and the actress did not want to compromise and settle for smaller ones. And that was it between the two - she was let loose after 3 years of her 7-year contract.

So, she first made Hitchcock her enemy and their contract had to go. Later, Universal found that they can't really work with her either and that contract was gone too.

Without talent and with an opinion that she (and not Hitchcock) is a hard person to work with, nobody was interested. And it was all Alfred Hitchcock's giant conspiracy that nobody can't prove.

Tippi was never talented above of what an average aspiring actor can do. Hitchcock knew how to utilize actors and had fantastic instincts when it came to finding the right person for the job. Not only was he amazing with casting against type, but he could sometimes get below average actors and give them parts where their shortfalls didn't matter.

Hedren had a very pretty face, nice temperament, but possessed limited acting skills and lacked charm and magnetism necessary to maintain playing large roles in major Hollywood productions. Her first Hitchcock role was straightforward and accented her positive qualities. Even the fake posing that's so visible in the movie somehow sits well with her character. The second movie was much more demanding from its main part, though.

She was not good enough to fully express her character's complicated personality. The performance was ok, but far from top standards that were expected from directors such as Hitch.

The amount of grief she gave to the press throughout the years also paints a picture of woman desperately seeking attention. TV appearance after TV appearance, she made it her favorite story, always told with rich details.

While at it, she sometimes justified her years of silence about the topic before opening up to Donald Spoto and then the following silence before starting to openly talk about it in interviews by saying that she didn't want to do unnecessary damage. She says she realized that the press commits to witch-hunts easily and kept thing in the dark to prevent it.

This claim stood in sharp contrast with the fact that she herself was the main spinning machine of the story, increasing in intensity as she aged. Even now, few times a year she makes headlines by refreshing everyone's memories with her testimonies in yet another interview.


Donald Spoto used Hedren's revelations to paint a very terrorizing image of Alfred Hitchcock in his famous biography of the artist (Amazon).

The man is a skilled writer who has a rich track record of making things up and going completely wild with his interpretations, sometimes presented as straight up facts. His angle was to maintain sensationalism, which helped him sell his books. At the cost of some people he fantasized about, unfortunately.

Is Tippi Hedren doing exactly the same thing? Is she playing a victim because she knows this will give her more attention that she couldn't earn through her underwhelming acting career? Did the two create a false image to put themselves at the center of things?

Unfortunately, we will never know for sure, but issues presented above are probably enough to prove that if anyone, it's Hedren that has some explaining to do.

Of thousands of people who encircled Hitchcock throughout his life-long directing career, there is not a single one that would suggest similar allegations, and of all the people present during the shooting of The Birds and Marnie, nobody has seen even a trace of the abuse Hedren describes outside of being rough for the sake of the final result. Hedren also has nothing except her word to justify anything she says, and plenty of her claims are proven lies, or exaggerations.

Is Tippi Hedren a victim? Or maybe her activity in this regard sits closer to a con artist Marnie Edgar, whom she played in her second Hitchcock picture?