Alfred Hitchcock. Artist. Genius. Monster. And now one of his most well-known victims is telling her story.
Tippi Hedren was famously abused by Alfred Hitchcock on the set of The Birds. Attacking her with real and highly stressed live animals, Hitchcock refused to allow Hedren to take time off until a doctor warned him he would kill her. As we all long assumed, Hedren confirms in her new book that his treatment of her went far beyond the stories we’ve always heard.
Before filming 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.”
It was so bad that co-star Suzanne Pleshette pulled the ingénue aside and said, “This is so sad, because I promise, making movies isn’t always like this.”
And as all monsters do, he escalated. He would go on to tell Hedren about getting an erection during a scene he was directing on To Catch a Thief. He would have his driver drive him past her house. He told her to “touch him.” He forced his body on top of hers and tried to kiss her in a 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?”
Because of the nature of the industry and treatment of women at the time, she went on to make another Hitchcock film—Marnie. His treatment of Hedren continued, undeterred and perhaps boldened.
On the set of that movie, Hedren says the director installed a secret door that connected his office with her dressing room and had the makeup department create a life mask of her face — not as a prop for the movie , but just for him to own.
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.”
Had Hedren spoken up at the time, who would have listened? Who would have cared? Would anyone’s career been affected but hers?
We all know the answer. The answer that’s still true to this day to the questions that are just as relevant now as they were then.
Today, at 86 years old, Hedren is owning her story. She won’t let him take anything more from her.
“I’ve made it my mission ever since to see to it that while Hitchcock may have ruined my career, I never gave him the power to ruin my life.”