TIPPI HEDREN Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name: Nathalie Kay Hedren                                                             
Born: 19 January 1930 New Ulm, Minnesota                                               
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).                           
Hedren was born in New Ulm, Minnesota, the daughter of Dorothea Henrietta (nee         
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. 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."                       
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).