Sunday, April 21, 2013
On April 12th at 7:30PM as part of the Florida Film Festival, there was a screening of Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds". I was the very last person to enter the Enzian Theater for the sold out screening. The last seat was in the front row right in front of the seats where actress Tippi Hendren was going to be interviewed after the film. I've seen the film before on TV but it is much more impressive on the big screen.
Barry Sandler acted as the moderator asking Tippi questions to get things started. She praised Hitchcock's film making genius and was thankful for all the acting tips he gave her. She also worked with Charlie Chaplin who would act out the whole scene himself and then ask the actor to repeat it. There were several truly fanatical fans in the audience who would shout out in delight to Tippi's responses.
In the middle of the interview she spoke at length about Hitchcock's dark side. He became sexually obsessed with her and asked her to do things that she refused to do. In the birds Tippi had seagulls and crows tied to her in the attic scene and for five days, they threw birds at her. The crew grew concerned for her safety but Hitchcock was unrelenting. She was pretty good at deflecting the birds, but after so many takes the birds got quite cranky. One cut her cheek just below her eye. A doctor advised her to rest for a week. After shooting "Marni", another Hitchcock film, Tippy had to get away from him. His advances became more brazen. If she broke her contract, Hitchcock vowed to ruin her career which he did. Other directors wanted Tippi to be in their films but Hitchcock would always say she was busy.
Tippi's daughter is Melanie Griffith. Tippi was shocked when Melanie told her that she got a part in a movie. She should have had some ides of how difficult it is to work as an actress. You are always looking for work and the hours are horrendous when you are working. That didn't stop Melanie.
Now Tippi is involved in an organization that hopes to save wild cats like tigers and lions from captivity. Some people assume she is rich from starring in Hitchcock's films. She was paid just $500 a week when making the birds. "That money is all gone" she assured us. She is desperate to raise money through Shambala to protect these wild cats. Hitchcock may have ruined her acting career, but he certainly didn't break her spirit.