Sir Alfred Hitchcock, inarguably the greatest director of suspense films the medium ever produced, died in 1980.
In the subsequent years since his passing, his personal reputation has been repeatedly impugned by those trying to cash in– often with great success — on stories based on weak hearsay and blind speculation.
The wholly fictional 2012 movie Hitchcock, starring Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren and dubbed a “flight of fancy’ by its filmmakers, helped to stir baseless innuendo. Donald Spoto’s worthless 1983 bio The Dark Side of Hitchcock desperately strove to portray this brilliant, sarcastic and lovable artist as a monster to sell books (which it did with no substantiation).
Today, Hitchcock discovery Tippi Hedren, who was his leading lady in two movies, claims in her new book Tippi that Sir Alfred forced her to kiss him in the back of a limousine during The Birds shoot, made constant lewd and suggestive comments to her and built a secret door attached to her dressing room during the filming of Marnie.
The 86-year-old former model writes in her autobiography that the iconic director, who she says was “obsessed” with her, sexually assaulted her on the set of Marnie when she was alone in her dressing room.
Coming soon……………… pic.twitter.com/8opolpOERZ
— Tippi Hedren (@Tippi_Hedren) April 25, 2016
I interviewed Ms. Hedren at length after a fundraiser for her Shambala Roar Big Cat Preserve in California during the Sarasota Film Festival some years ago. According to Hedren, “Shambala costs $1 million a year to run and it’s a constant battle to find funds so I need to do whatever is necessary to guarantee its operation.”
Might a little post-mortem scandal revealed in her autobiography be the ideal way to safeguard the lions, tigers and other animals and meet the mortgage at the preserve?
When I questioned her about the difficult shoot of The Birds, and her handling by Sir Alfred in her first film role, she expressed an admiration and appreciation for Hitchcock and said nothing about being sexually assaulted.
In fact she said it didn’t happen.
She told me on tape that he [Hitchcock] was “probably infatuated with me, as with all of his leading ladies. He worked hard to make me an actor and after The Birds, I was thrilled that he honored my Universal contract and cast me again as the lead in Marnie, which he took at great risk as my co-star Sean Connery was the hottest actor in the world after the just released Goldfinger and I was still basically unknown.”
She continued: “Our relationship was one of mutual flirtation and fondness and he was never inappropriate with me and there were many opportunities for that. A perfect British gent, he kept the sinister on the screen.”
Tippi Hedren and Alfred Hitchcock attend Cannes Film Festival to promote their film The Birds May 1963 pic.twitter.com/94zLFAc5Bn
— History in Moments (@historyinmoment) October 4, 2016
It was the antithesis of her claims of near rape that will flock the curious to her bio today. Regarding the alleged rape attempt, she writes in her book, “I’ve never gone into detail on this, and I never will,” but, “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. I couldn’t have been more shocked and repulsed.”
Yet she attended Hitchcock’s funeral and, sobbing, called him a “great, great artist”. It is not only cruel but indecent to savage a man who cannot defend himself.
It is telling that not a single one of Hitchcock’s joyously living and beautiful leading ladies including Doris Day, Kim Novak, Eva Marie Saint and Julie Andrews have ever said Sir Alfred was anything less than a consummate professional in the nearly four decades since his death. They too have all written books referencing him.
Tippi Hedren’s original discovery is classic Hollywood lore. Hitchcock was looking to cast the leading role for The Birds, his first film in three years since the international smash Psycho. Hitchcock wanted an unknown actor to portray the icy Melanie character originally created by Daphne du Maurier in the short story.
While watching television in bed in L.A. he caught a commercial featuring Hedren and, along with his wife and often uncredited collaborator Alma Reville, felt she was worth trying out. Universal Pictures was skeptical but they signed Hedren to a contract on Sir Alfred’s insistence.
The shoot was difficult and young Hedren struggled with the role until Hitchcock vowed to make her into an credible actor and demanded her diligence and concentration. When The Birds was released it initially topped Psycho‘s first few weeks but mixed reviews focusing mainly on what was considered a baffling conclusion to the film harmed its commercial prospects (yet it is now considered a success).
The grueling shoot over, Hitchcock focused on his next film, the psychological thriller Marnie in 1964. Although once again Universal execs scoffed, Hitchcock insisted that Hedren get the lead. The film fared poorly with critics and the public and Hitch chose Julie Andrews to star with Paul Newman in his next film, the disappointing Torn Curtain.
Her claim that Hitchcock told her she would never work in Hollywood again after turning down his alleged request to sleep with her is questionable as Hedren went on to star with Marlon Brando in Charlie Chaplin’s woeful The Countess from Hong Kong in 1966. After two flops in succession, Hedren retired to raise her daughter, actress Melanie Griffith.
Tippi Hedren has led a fascinating life and there is much in her book that is entertaining and insightful. But there is no doubt she is scarring the one person who enabled her to achieve so much, especially in relation to the precious animals she provides for.
It’s a classic red herring- a last-minute twist that even Sir Alfred, beloved for decades by his leading ladies, would not have seen coming.