Friday, March 29, 2013


The name alone conjures up a variety of different images to different people. Genius. Visionary. Perfectionist. Mogul. Bully. Misogynist. His stature and physique is just as widely recognizable to who he is as his name is known by anyone. His silhouette alone would become his calling card and the introduction of every “ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS” episode that originally aired on NBC between 1955 through 1962. But there was more to the man who spoke slowly and selectively that some knew of but many kept a secret for a very long time…

Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock is deemed by many to be one of the greatest film directors that came out of the twentieth century. Others consider him to be the “Master of Suspense” and will always be recognized and synonymous with the works of such directorial classics as NORTH BY NORTHWEST, THE BIRDS and PSYCHO. A certain belief of the image that is Hitchcock has been fabricated… either by scrupulous Marketing execs within the film studios, self created or placed upon by on- lookers… is one that shows a quiet man of a few words and an atonement for getting what he wants, both on the screen or in his personal life.

Latest discoveries and recent interviews and literature have collectively unveiled that many new layers have been peeled back to reveal a darker side of Hitchcock that were carefully hidden from the public’s eye for many, many years until now. The more notable ‘layer’ to show some true colors was a tell- all book written by author Donald Spoto entitled “Spellbound By Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies” released in October of 2009. The book focuses its attention on three of Hitchcock’s most famous leading ladies: Ingrid Bergman (SPELLBOUND, NOTORIOUS), Grace Kelly (DIAL M FOR MURDER, REAR WINDOW, TO CATCH A THIEF) and ‘Tippi’ Hedren (THE BIRDS, MARNIE) to which some would describe as an obsessive behavior with his main actresses, respectfully, during production of each film.

Ingrid Bergman was said to had ignored the advances by Mr. Hitchcock, however, the pair did develop a long- lasting friendship. Leaving Hollywood at the peak of her career, Grace Kelly left acting behind in order to marry Prince Rainier III of Monaco, leaving Hitchcock in need of finding a replacement. Enters newcomer Nathalie Kay ‘Tippi’ Hedren.

‘Tippi’ Hedren was discovered by Hitchcock when he saw her in a 1962 TV commercial as a cover girl. He immediately contacted her to star in his next project, THE BIRDS (1963), in which he placed her under personal contract. She was 33; he was 64 during the time of production. A made for cable film entitled THE GIRL was released in October 2012 starring Sienna Miller as Tippi and Toby Jones as Hitchcock. The film, based on Spoto’s book (he shares co-writing credit on the teleplay) illustrates the escalating and obsessive behavior Hitchcock blatantly thrusted upon the frail Hedren.

Toby Jones and Sienna Miller in THE GIRL
It is only now, after 50 years of silence, that Ms. Hedren is finally putting closure to her dark past by interviews, talks and the release of THE GIRL. As what had occurred in real life and passages from the “Spellbound By Beauty” book and the film it’s based from, she finally finds the voice to say that Hitchcock’s sexual harassment of her, both physical and verbal, is now being told. Hedren said that there were two sides to Hitchcock that is a contrast… one being the director, or ‘artist’, as she refers him as. This is was the side that she enjoyed working with as both her directorial director and as a ‘drama coach’ that presented itself with memorable moments. Hitchcock was well respected in Hollywood and would constantly have visitors on the set: various actors, directors and other Hollywood elite was an overwhelming sight for the newcomer! The other side of ‘Hitch’ was the darker side… as she referred to as being ‘evil’ because a sense of obsession was placed on her. Feeling locked into a seven year contract, Hedren couldn’t work with other studios or directors. He would remind her that she needed to abide by the drawn contract to help support her and her daughter, Melanie Griffith, who was six years old at the time THE BIRDS was being filmed. 

At one point during the filming of THE BIRDS, Tippi walked into Hitch’s office and asked for two days off to fly to New York to receive an award on television’s late- night talk show THE TONIGHT SHOW. Hitch called the request ‘outrageous’ and said that he would ruin her career if she decided to leave against his wishes. Her reply was, “do what you have to do” and she walked out the door. Hitchcock would make do of his promise to Tippi.

Upon arriving back from New York, a pivotal screen was being set up for filming and Tippi was asked to immediately report to wardrobe and make- up. Arriving onto the set, Hitchcock had devised a scene in which Tippi’s character was being attacked by various birds with different angles and shots included. The impression that Hitch made was that mechanical birds were going to be used… that was not the case. As Tippi crawled into a mesh- wired room that had a couple of hired bird wranglers, Hitch would cue the wranglers to throw live birds at her face for a realistic close- up effect. The scene was relentlessly shot in two extensive days with actual abrasions to Tippi’s face. Not to mention the emotional anguish and continual birds flying at her. A doctor had to be brought onto the set and production shut down for a couple of days while Tippi was placed on bed rest. Hitch would continue shooting other scenes without her as to not slow down principal photography.

Shortly after production had wrapped- up on THE BIRDS, Tippi had to play- off to photographers and the press. What was it like to work with the legendary director? What’s next for the newly- found leading lady? Are you signed- on to star in Hitchcock’s next project? Hedren was taught to smile and answer with carefully devised replies… everything the press loved to gobble- up! At a budget of an estimated $2,500,000.00, the film grossed over $11 million dollars… another success for Hitchcock. It was now time to plan his next film.

Now looking back at the next collaborative effort by director/ leading lady, there are some very noticeable elements of frustration on Hitchcock’s behalf that are evident in MARNIE (1964). The underlining rejections from Hedren of Hitchcock’s advances show his frustrated obsession and her cold anguish.

The key plot point presented in MARNIE is to keep a dark secret away from the eyes of the law. Tippi’s character is a kleptomaniac who relies on her looks to deceive and allure the unsuspected. Let’s stop right here for a moment and analyze that sentence… could Hitchcock feel a ‘victim’ of sorts to the alluring beauty that Hedren naturally was? Remember, Hitch discovered her when she was a cover girl modeling. What could have been going through his head and he hoped for a chance to become intimate with a model, especially a man of his age and repulsive physique? When he couldn’t be physical with her, because of the numerous rejections, Hitchcock found other means to torment and get a rise from her. 

On the set of both THE BIRDS and MARNIE, Hitch was infamous for reciting dirty limericks and crude jokes. It was an act that Hedren found to be repulsive and sounds that she didn’t want echoing in her head as he continuously drew from the approvals and laughs from the crowds consisting of his production staff and actors alike.

But wait…stop the presses! What about Alma, Hitchcock’s wife who was known to be around the sets periodically and his personal assistant, Peggy Robertson? Surely, they had to have witnessed many kinds of tries with his various leading ladies… if so, was there an acceptance (or fear) surrounding the possible approach and making the awareness evident?
Hedren would quote Alma as an ‘enigma’ claiming that no one knew exactly what kind of relationship came from their union. Tippi recalls a point in which Alma approached her and said, “Tippi, I’m so sorry you have to go through with this.” Hedren looked her in the eyes and replied, “But you could stop it”, Alma’s eyes glazed over and she merely walked away without a reply.

Another view point to account for is the time and place that these incidents occurred from. It’s Hollywood 1962- 1964. The age of sexual awareness is beginning to peak. The Playboy magazine celebrated its 10th anniversary of publication and with sex goddesses the likes of Marylyn Monroe, Jane Russell, Mamie Van Doren and Bettie Page already gracing the tabloids or silver screen, men had become the gentleman’s gentleman. He was James Bond or Spencer Tracy when it came to putting a woman in her place and reminding her that she was there to his service! Sexual harassment 1963 is not anywhere as close to what it is today in 2013.

Again, it took 50 years for the silence to seize. But was it even worth it now to talk about Hitchcock this way and not being able to defend himself since his death in 1980? What, if any, is Hedren’s ulterior motive in releasing damaging information that alters his reputation as a sex- obsessed monster and not the revered Hollywood director that has become such an icon?

It comes to the attention of this critic that things happen and that we are allowed many choices in life to decide the path that should be followed. Could Hedren find a voice to confront Hitchcock and walk away from an illustrious career? The answer is YES because she did do just that. She found the voice and stood up to the powerful giant and walked away from his advances and a promising career. However, others may not have the same gusto, ‘balls’ or cajones to do the same. Fear takes over and reputations, careers and lives play a key point in what chess move is made next. The power to appose such behaviors does exist in the 21st century and laws are governed, based on the state or country you live in. Find the voice to speak, be it your own or a legal mouthpiece, use it wisely and swiftly. The more refusals and rejections brought forth will tear down the fabric of such behaviors and will make the wrong- doer stand down and cease with no remorse. Bravo to you, Ms. Hedren. 

MY PERSONAL VIEWPOINT: I am apposed by the behaviors of Mr. Hitchcock towards women. No one person should ever have to suffer such mental and emotional deconstruction. I consider myself a fan, however, of the man who is the ‘artist’, as Ms. Hedren stated. I would and could separate the man from the monster and admire the works of his directorial classics as well as any film fan should. Keep in mind that the man is mortal and with flaws… the ones that do not show its ugly blemishes when projected in abnormal sizes onto the silver screen. ‘Let those without sin cast the first stone’ was quoted by a Man who knew mortality and the sins of being human… for He too was of flesh and blood. 
No one can truly explain why people do what they do... what sets someone out to ruin the life of another because of rejection? What causes obsession? Could wealth and power be the added keg- powder that may had pushed Hitchcock into the explosive reactor he was or were their deeper issues that we may never know about? We could ponder plenty but it is the revealed truth that we have to focus on instead. 

I met Tippi Hedren during a Las Vegas Convention back in the early 1990's. She was very classy in both appearance and demeanor. She graciously signed an autograph and even drew little gulls floating around her name. Perhaps Ms. Hedren feels that 'the birds' will always circle her name and being for the rest of her life. Perhaps it symbolizes the over- night success that a model was given by the appearance and guidance of a Mogul who wanted the attention that couldn't be returned!
My autographed photo of TIPPI HEDREN

What are your thoughts about this week's blog topic? What are your feelings about Tippi's coming out with the truth and your viewpoints on Alfred Hitchcock? Does it change anything for either or does knowing the truth shift your ideals of either?

This is a topic that I would love to hear different opinions on and I welcome all remarks and comments.

I look forward to hearing from you and all remarks shared will be posted and replied with within a day. Thank you so much for visiting and please look forward to the next topic coming at you on FRIDAY MARCH 12th!

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  1. I think it is hard to imagine what things were like for women back in those days. I think Hitchcock was a creep as well as a product of his time. Perhaps he was a great director but he was human as well. Maybe in those times it was easier to get away with bad behavior. These days people still have those urges but there are consequences for acting on them.

    1. Well said! We may say that he was a product of his own time but harassment is just as pivotal and around today as it was then and beyond. Urges will always be there but its the consequences that one has to abide by now that are far stricter than ever.
      Thank you for sharing!

  2. Hitch's films have always had a psycho/sexual underlining theme. But, he took The Birds' to another level when, he couldn't separate personal from professional! When he had an opportune time to teach Tippe an acting lesson in reacting vs. acting, regards to the multiple takes of the Attic Scene, he could have used the element of surprise, i.e., using real birds when she though they were going to be mechanical, he used the multiple "takes", as revenge on Tippe because he couldn't control her in the way he intended to! The plot of "The Birds", parallels Hitch's life...Species congregating together that normally wouldn't- the beautiful people/the over weight pervert, The birds attacking the beautiful stranger when the birds don't get what they want, the Town's people blaming Tippe's character for the problems- making the victim feel like it the victim's fault. I.E. Hitch was going to ruin anyone of his Muse's careers' that he couldn't control. He looked like an innocent unsuspecting little old man, but he was a Monger, that was he angle, he could always find another blonde to obsess over, but like I said, he took it to aer level w/ Tippe. Maybe because he was sinking deeper into psychosis or maybe he really did "love" Tippe? We will never know, but it makes for good film watching! Unfortunately, most geniuses' R border line crazy! I think he was a little of both.

    1. Very true,
      The element of surprise was also famously used when Hitch couldn't get the right reaction from Janet Leigh's screaming in the shower scene from PSYCHO. He had to change the water temperatures to an ice cold run in order to have her scream with the chills! This, however, doesn't compare to the actual emotional abuse that be-fell Tippi during both THE BIRDS and MARNIE. This was done to retaliate for the unresponsive forwardness of Hitch's. The ones we least suspect are the ones we need to pay a watchful eye upon!
      Thanks for your comments!