Tippi Hedren

Nathalie Kay 'Tippi' Hedren (born January 19, 1930) is an American actress with a career spanning six decades. She is perhaps best known for her role as Melanie Daniels in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, and her extensive efforts in animal rescue at Shambala Preserve, an 80-acre wildlife habitat which she founded in 1983. Hedren is the mother of actress Melanie Griffith, and they share credits on six films, notably Pacific Heights (1990).


Early life

Hedren was born in New Ulm, Minnesota, the daughter of Dorothea Henrietta (née Eckhardt) and Bernard Carl Hedren. Her paternal grandparents were immigrants from Sweden, and her maternal ancestry was German and Norwegian. Her father ran a small general store in the small town of Lafayette, Minnesota and gave her the moniker "Tippi". "My father thought Nathalie was a little bit much for a brand new baby", Hedren explained at a 2004 screening of The Birds. In the screen test found in the DVD extras, she explains that it is "a Swedish nickname, (short) for Tupsa... meaning 'Little Girl' in a specific Swedish dialect" (not found in dictionary).

As a teenager, Hedren took part in department store fashion shows. Her parents relocated to California while she was still a high school student. When she reached her 18th birthday, she bought a ticket to New York and began a professional modeling career. Within a year she made her film debut (minus dialogue) as a Petty Girl model in The Petty Girl (1950) musical comedy, although in interviews she refers to The Birds (1963) as her first film.


Hedren had a successful modeling career in the 1950s and 1960s. She was discovered by Hitchcock, who was watching The Today Show when he saw Hedren in a diet drink commercial. Hitchcock was looking for an actress who possessed something of the sophistication, self-assurance and cool-blonde sex appeal of Grace Kelly, with whom he had made three films. Hedren, expensively groomed and mentored by Hitchcock, appeared in his films The Birds and Marnie, although it would always be both unfair and unrealistic for an actress to replace Grace Kelly in the minds of both Hitchcock and the public. At the time of the films' releases, she was criticized for being too passive in The Birds and too expressive in Marnie. It took several years before she received respect for her work in both films from American film critics.

At a packed house in Lancaster, California's Antelope Valley Independent Film Festival Cinema Series screening of The Birds on September 28, 2004, Hedren recalled how she was mysteriously selected for a lead role: "I said, 'Well, who is this person? Who is interested?'... Nobody would tell me who it was." It was Alfred Hitchcock, who soon announced his choice of Hedren for The Birds.

Hitchcock put Hedren through a then-costly $25,000 screen test, doing scenes from his previous films, such as Rebecca, Notorious and To Catch a Thief with actor Martin Balsam. He signed her to a multi-year exclusive personal contract, something he had earlier done in the 1950s with Vera Miles. Hitchcock's plan to mold Hedren's public image went so far as to carefully control her style of dressing and grooming. Hitchcock insisted for publicity purposes that her name should be printed only in single quotes -- 'Tippi'. The press mostly ignored this directive from the director, who felt that the single quotes added distinction and mystery to Hedren's name. In interviews, Hitchcock compared his newcomer not only to her predecessor Grace Kelly but also to what he referred to as such "ladylike", intelligent, and stylish stars of more glamorous eras as Irene Dunne and Jean Arthur. Later, Hedren indicated that she didn't want to be known as the next Grace Kelly but rather as the first Tippi Hedren.

Hedren made her debut in The Birds with a wealth of publicity. In a December 1962 Look magazine cover story "Hitchcock's New Grace Kelly", Alfred Hitchcock compared her to his star of To Catch a Thief and Rear Window, saying, "'Tippi' has a faster tempo, city glibness, more humor. She displayed jaunty assuredness, pertness, an attractive throw of the head. And she memorized and read lines extraordinarily well and is sharper in expression."

Hedren said of Hitchcock, "He is subtle as a psychiatrist and never gives displaced encouragement." With the release of the film, she got a very tepid reception, the only exceptions being critic Bob Thomas ("Miss Hedren makes an impressive debut") and Time ("pleasant and ladylike, as Grace Kelly was.") Years after the film's release, she remembered the location work at Bodega Bay as dangerous and taxing, commenting, "For a first film, it was a lot of work."

For the final attack scene in a second-floor bedroom, filmed on a closed set at Universal-International Studios, Hedren had been assured by Hitchcock that mechanical birds would be used. Instead, Hedren endured five solid days of prop men, protected by thick leather gloves, flinging dozens of live gulls, ravens and crows at her (their beaks clamped shut with elastic bands). Cary Grant visited the set and told Hedren, "I think you're the bravest lady I've ever met." In a state of exhaustion, when one of the birds gouged her cheek and narrowly missed her eye, Hedren sat down on the set and began crying. A physician ordered a week's rest, which Hedren said at the time was riddled with "nightmares filled with flapping wings".

The Birds brought her a Golden Globe as Most Promising Newcomer. Premiere magazine chose Hedren's character, Melanie Daniels in The Birds as one of "The 100 Greatest Characters of All Time".

Marnie (1964), a psychological thriller from the novel by Winston Graham, was Hedren's second Hitchcock assignment, co-starring with Sean Connery. She recalls Marnie as the favorite of her two films for Hitchcock because of the central character, an emotionally battered young woman who travels from city to city assuming various guises in order to rob her employers. On release, the film was greeted by mixed reviews and indifferent box-office; over the years, however, it has significantly grown in stature among Hitchcock fans.

Although Hitchcock continued to have Hedren in mind for several other films after Marnie, the actress declined any further work with him. Other directors who wanted to hire her had to go through Hitchcock, who would inform them she was unavailable. "It grew to be impossible. He was a very controlling type of person, and I guess I'm not about to be controlled", said Hedren, who bought out her contract. Ending their professional relationship on a sour note, she recalled, "He said, 'Well, I'll ruin your career.' And he did. Hedren then recorded a couple of songs, "If You were a Carpenter" and "My life without you," which were released in 1966, and guest-starred in a couple of television shows.

Charles Chaplin cast her as the sophisticated, brittle, cheated-upon wife of Marlon Brando in his shipboard comedy A Countess from Hong Kong (1967). She made more than 40 films between 1967 and 2006, including Pacific Heights, Citizen Ruth and I Heart Huckabees. More recently, she has appeared in episodes of The 4400 and Fashion House and the forthcoming thriller Rodeo Girl (2007).


Hedren's influence on actors and films has surfaced in recent years: A Louis Vuitton ad campaign in 2006 paid tribute to Hedren and Hitchcock with a modern-day interpretation of the deserted railway station opening sequence of Marnie. Her 1963 publicity picture from The Birds was the cover for Jean-Pierre Dufreigne's book Hitchcock Style (2004). In interviews, Naomi Watts has stated that her character interpretation in Mulholland Drive (2001) was influenced by the look and performances of Hedren and Kim Novak in Hitchcock films. Watts and Hedren later acted in I Heart Huckabees (2004) but didn't share any scenes together. Watts is expected to star in the remake of The Birds (1963) and has dressed up as Hedren's title character from Marnie for a photo shoot for March 2008 issue of Vanity Fair magazine. In the same Vanity Fair issue, Jodie Foster dressed up as Hedren's character, Melanie Daniels from The Birds (1963). Michael O'Donoghue, one of the writers of the original Saturday Night Live (1975), praised its star Jane Curtin when he said she had "an icy Tippi Hedren quality" about her. Bridget Fonda, who played Hedren's daughter in the straight-to-cable film Break Up (1998), told her she had watched Marnie "a million times".

Shambala Preserve

In 1981, Hedren produced Roar, an 11-year project that ended up costing $17 million and starring dozens of African lions. "This was probably one of the most dangerous films that Hollywood has ever seen", remarked the actress. "It's amazing no one was killed." During the production of Roar, Hedren, her husband at the time, Noel Marshall, and daughter Melanie were attacked by lions; Jan de Bont, the director of photography, was scalped. She later co-wrote the book Cats of Shambala (1985) about the experience.

Roar made only $2 million worldwide. Hedren ended her marriage to Marshall a year later in 1982. The film directly led to the 1983 establishment of the non-profit Roar Foundation and Hedren's Shambala Preserve, located at the edge of the Mojave Desert in Acton, California between the Antelope Valley and the Santa Clarita Valley 40 miles northeast of Los Angeles. Shambala currently houses some 70 animals, including African lions, Siberian and Bengal tigers, leopards, servals, mountain lions and bobcats. Hedren lives on the Shambala site and conducts monthly tours of the preserve for the public.

Hedren took in and cared for Togare, a lion that belonged to Anton LaVey, after he was told by San Francisco officials that he couldn't keep a fully grown lion as a house pet. More recently, Shambala became the new home for Michael Jackson’s two Bengal tigers after he decided to close his zoo at his Neverland Valley Ranch in Los Olivos, California. On December 3, 2007, Shambala Preserve made headlines when Chris Orr, a caretaker for the animals, was mauled by a tiger named Alexander.

Several documentaries have focused on Shambala Preserve, including the 30-minute Lions: Kings of the Serengeti (1995), narrated by Melanie Griffith, and Animal Planet's Life with Big Cats (1998), which won the Genesis Award for best documentary in 1999. The animals at the preserve served as the initial inspiration for the life's work of artist A. E. London, who started her career working for Hedren.

Personal life

Hedren met and married actor/producer Peter Griffith in 1952. The marriage lasted until 1961, and produced one daughter, actress Melanie Griffith, in 1957. She married her then-agent Noel Marshall, who later produced three of her films, in 1964; they divorced in 1982. She married businessman Luis Barrenechea in 1985 but divorced him 10 years later. In 2002, she married veterinarian Dr. Martin Dinnes. In a recent LA Times article, Ms. Hedren was described as being a pivotal figure in the modern development of Vietnamese owned nail salons in the US. She was apparently drawn to the plight of Vietnamese refugees from the Vietnam War and in 1975, helped 20 Vietnamese immigrants by having her manicurist teach them the skills of the trade. This single event in history has been cited as the genesis of the modern proliferation of Vietnamese owned nail salons in the US.

Listen to



Year Title Role Other notes
2008 The House of Good and Evil In Production
Her Morbid Desires Aunt Gloria
2007 Dead Write Minnie
2005 The Last Confederate: The Story of Robert Adams Grandmother Adams
Diamond Zero Eleanor Kelly
2004 I Heart Huckabees Mary Jane Hutchinson
Raising Genius Grandma Babe
Return to Babylon unknown
2003 Rose's Garden Rose
DarkWolf Mary
Searching for Haizmann Dr. Michelle Labner
111 Gramercy Park Mrs. Granville
IceMaker Mrs. Kelly
Julie and Jack Julie McNeal
2001 Tea with Grandma Grandma Rae
Ice Cream Sundae Lady
2000 Mind Rage Dr. Wilma Randolph
1999 Replacing Dad Dixie
The Darklings Martha Jackson
The Storytellers Lillian Glosner
1998 I Woke Up Early the Day I Died Maylinda Austed
Break Up Mom
Exposé unknown
1997 Mulligans Dottie
1996 Citizen Ruth Jessica Weiss
1994 Inevitable Grace Dr. Marcia Stevens
Treacherous Beauties Lettie Hollister
The Birds II: Land's End Helen
Teresa's Tattoo Evelyn Hill
1993 Perry Mason: The Case of the Skin-Deep Scandal Beverly Courtney
1992 Through the Eyes of a Killer Mrs. Bellano
1991 Shadow of a Doubt Mrs. Mathewson
In the Cold of the Night Clara
1990 Pacific Heights Florence Peters
Return to Green Acres Arlenn
1989 Deadly Spygames Chastity
1985 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Waitress
1984 Terror in the Aisles archival appearance
1982 Foxfire Light Elizabeth Morgan
1981 Roar Madeline
1976 Where the Wind Dies unknown
1973 The Harrad Experiment Margaret Tenhausen
Mr. Kingstreet's War Maggie Kingstreet
1970 Satan's Harvest Marla Oaks
1968 Tiger by the Tail Rita Armstrong
1967 A Countess from Hong Kong Martha
1964 Marnie Marnie Edgar
1963 The Birds Melanie Daniels
1950 The Petty Girl Ice Box Petty Girl uncredited



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