In her new memoir, Tippi Hedren reportedly goes into greater detail than ever before about her awful experiences working with Alfred Hitchcock—including accusing the director of what today would be described as sexual assault.
86-year-old Hedren’s memoir Tippi debuts Tuesday, and The Daily Mail and the New York Post and have previews her nightmarish account of her time on the sets of The Birds and Marnie. It started early, after a screentest that she thought had gone well.
It was all so seamless, until she was called into Hitchcock’s office to meet with a grim-faced attorney who informed her there was a problem. Various sources from her days modeling in New York claimed she’d been ‘available to men’.
Hedren stormed out offended.
Hitchcock then proposed another screen test. In this she would drink martinis and answer provocative questions.
The naïve actress found the excitement in his voice ‘creepy’ as he described how, under his direction, she’d slowly get wasted and ‘lose all my inhibitions on camera’.
And via the Post:
Before filming [of The Birds] even began, the director warned Hedren’s castmates, particularly the handsome Rod Taylor, not to socialize with or “touch The Girl,” she writes. On set, every time Hitch saw Hedren laughing or talking with a man, he would turn “icy” and “petulant” and fix her with an “expressionless, unwavering stare . . . even if he was talking to a group of people on the other side of the soundstage.”
He talked about getting turned on while filming Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief, according to Hedren, who also said:
Once, the portly director actually threw himself on top of her and tried to kiss her in the back of his limo.
“It was an awful, awful moment,” she writes. But she didn’t tell anyone because “sexual harassment and stalking were terms that didn’t exist” in the early 1960s. Besides, she adds, “Which one of us was more valuable to the studio, him or me?”
According to Hedren’s account, also via the Post, this type of behavior continued on the set of her next film with the director, Marnie, possibly the most sexually fucked of all midcentury movies, which is a very high bar to clear. Hedren says Hitchcock had a secret door between his office and her dressing room and had a life mask of her face made, just to have around. And:
Finally, he showed up in her dressing room and “put his hands on me. It was sexual, it was perverse,” she writes of the assault. “The harder I fought him, the more aggressive he became.”
This isn’t the first time Hedren has alleged appalling behavior by Hitchcock in the time they worked together. We’ve known for years that filming The Birds was a grueling experience—here’s a 1998 CNN review that mentions the inclusion of live birds in filming the infamous, climactic attic scene. It makes for a pretty upsetting rewatch:
Then, in 1983, came Donald Spoto’s biography, The Dark Side of Genius. Spoto revealed that Hitchcock had harassed actor Tippi Hedren on the set of 1963's The Birds to the point of physical and psychological collapse. During the filming of the followup, Marnie, Hedren claimed that he also “made an overt sexual proposition”, and when she resisted “became threatening”, saying he would ruin her career. He never forgave her for turning him down, and refused thereafter to call her by her name. She became simply “that girl”.
The release of two biopics around that time—Hitchcock, about the filming of Psycho and starring Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins, and The Girl, about the director’s treatment of Hedren and featuring Sienna Miller and Toby Jones—drew fresh attention to the stories. Hedren spoke out at the time; for instance, ThinkProgress reported on her comments at a Television Critics Association event:
“I had not talked about this issue with Alfred Hitchcock to anyone. Because all those years ago, it was still the studio kind of situation. Studios were the power. And I was at the end of that, and there was absolutely nothing I could do legally whatsoever. There were no laws about this kind of a situation. If this had happened today, I would be a very rich woman.”
But this is the first time she’s written about her time working with Hitchcock, and in such detail.