Feature

The actress who beguiled Hitchcock

The director groomed Tippi Hedren for stardom and gave her the leading role in his 1963 classic, The Birds.

Tippi Hedren has mixed feelings about her mentor, Alfred Hitchcock, said Geoffrey Macnab in the London Independent. The director, then in his 60s, groomed the young Hedren for stardom and gave her the leading role in his 1963 classic, The Birds. But he was so infatuated with the glacial blonde that, when she refused to sleep with him, he kept her under contract at $600 a week but stopped her from working for almost two years. “It was an extremely difficult time. To be the object of someone’s obsession is horrible,” says Hedren. “I demanded to get out of the contract, but he just said, ‘Well, you can’t. You’ve got your daughter to raise and your parents are getting older.’ I said, ‘No, I want to get out. The people who love me do not want me in this situation.’” Yet Hitchcock’s obsession with Hedren had its upside. “He was such a fabulous drama coach,” she says. “He gave me an education in filmmaking that would have taken 15 years for me to acquire. He had me sit in on meetings at every phase of making a motion picture.” Now 82, she chuckles affectionately when recalling Hitchcock’s penchant for reciting dirty limericks. “He ruined my career,” she says, “but he didn’t ruin my life.”

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