From Hitchcock and Chaplin to Ed Wood, Jr., and from drama and terror
to droll comedy, the career of actress Tippi Hedren has been meteoric,
After a few weeks of filming The Birds with Rod Taylor, director Alfred
Hitchcock told Associated Press reporter Bob Thomas, "Tippi Hedren
is really remarkable. She's already reaching the lows and highs of
terror". The former New York fashion model was making her debut
as an actress in a starring role in The Birds, and such high praise
from the enigmatic master of cinema shock and suspense was rare indeed.
"Like a dormant volcano we know one day is going to erupt,"
Hitchcock described her. "Get a look at that girl, she's going
to be good. I gave her the leading part in The Birds. It is a big
part. I think Svengali Hitch rides again."
In a cover article about The Birds in LOOK magazine (Dec. 4, 1962),
Hitchcock continued to rave, "Tippi has a faster tempo, city
glibness, more humor [than Grace Kelly]. She displayed jaunty assuredness,
pertness, an attractive throw of the head. And she memorized and read
lines extraordinarily well and is sharper in expression."
Although the critics were perplexed by the "end-less ending"
of The Birds, the movie, which premiered at The Cannes Film Festival,
was a sensation earning over $11,000,000 in the first few months,
and is now a classic. Saturday Review's Arthur Knight wrote, "Hitchcock's
newest 'find', Tippi Hedren is a decidedly lovely blonde." Her
performance in the film earned her a Golden Globe award.
Hitchcock "discovered" the cover girl while viewing a commercial
on NBC's "Today Show" and summoned her to Hollywood under personal
contract. After the release of The Birds, he starred her in Marnie, with
Sean Connery. Judith Crist wrote, "Alfred Hitchcock had given us
one Grace Kelly in our generation and seems intent on giving us another
in the person of Tippi Hedren, a classically beautiful, regally poised
blonde". Marnie has achieved cult status as an offbeat psychological
thriller, years ahead of its time.
Camille Paglia, Professor of Humanities at the University of the Arts
in Philadelphia and author of several acclaimed books about women in film,
and The Birds (BFI Publishing, 1998), a critical analysis of the film,
wrote, "It's so unfair that Tippi Hedren has never had the credit
she deserves for the two films she did with Hitchcock. I think the reason
critics did not take her seriously is because she is too fashionable and
therefore not 'serious'. The interplay between Hedren and [Suzanne] Pleshette
in The Birds tells me more about women than any number of articles on
feminist theory. Hitchcock captures the subtleties of females warring
with each other; all those nuances of knives and guns conducted in looks
and body language. He sculpts the human body in space. And I love the
way Hedren handles cigarettes and a martini glass with such remarkable
sophistication. It is gesturalism raised to the level of choreography."
The Countess From Hong Kong with Marlon Brando and Sophia Loren, directed
by Chaplin, in what was to be the "Little Tramp's" final film.
The three films, back to back, were an auspicious start for the Minnesota
girl of Scandinavian parentage. Between over twenty films and numerous
television appearances, she's been involved in a wide variety of humanitarian
and environmental causes, almost overshadowing her screen work.
As volunteer International Relief Coordinator for "FOOD FOR THE HUNGRY",
she traveled worldwide to set up relief programs following earthquakes,
hurricanes, famine and war. She aided "boat people" in the South
China Sea from a "FOOD FOR THE HUNGRY" rescue ship. Lobbying
efforts on behalf of Asian refugees have taken her before Congress and
have earned her numerous awards including the "Humanitarian Award"
presented to her by the B'hai Faith. She has been honored by the USO for
entertaining troops in Vietnam and by the CELEBRITY OUTREACH FOUNDATION
for her charitable work.
She began her long love affair with wild animals in 1969 while doing a
film, Satan's Harvest, in Africa. She "met" a mellow lion, and
much of her life since then has been devoted to the big cats.
Deeply involved with international conservation groups to save wildlife,
and an outspoken voice against cruelty to animals, both wild and domestic,
she's a board member of "The Wildlife Safari", founded by her
friend, Frank Hart, in Winston, Oregon. She also served on the board of
"The Elsa Wild Animal Appeal" founded by her friend, the late
Joy Adamson. And currently, she is on the Board of Directors of Earth
Communications Office (ECO), and President of the newly-formed "American
Sanctuary Association." Her other charity work includes serving on
The Board of Directors of The Women's Council of KCET (Channel 28), The
Minnesota Film Council, The American Heart Association, The March of Dimes,
Multiple Sclerosis, International Orphans, Inc., and several AIDS causes.
She has been honored with "The Helen Woodward Animal Center's Annual
Humane Award" (1995), the prestigious Founder's Award from the American
Society or the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (1996) and the "Lion
and Lamb Award" from Wildhaven (1997) for her work on behalf of animal
rights and conservation.
Perhaps Tippi Hedren's most unique endeavor is being "den mother"
and close friend to sixty-odd big cats - lion, tiger, leopard, cougar,
serval and an African elephant at The Roar Foundation's Shambala Preserve
near Acton, California.
The high desert game preserve is home to the felines and pachyderms and
was first established as an African-type set for the motion picture, Roar,
which Tippi co-produced and starred in with her daughter, film actress
Melanie Griffith. After the five year filming was completed, it became
the current, non-profit center for big cat care and research.
In keeping with her outlook on the environment and conservation, many
of Shambala's residents are cast-offs from private owners, zoos and circuses.
"They're living out their lives in safety and comfort." The
Preserve is open to the public on a reservation basis. Tippi is founder
and President of The Roar Foundation and resides at Shambala in a cottage
surrounded by big cat compounds. "I awaken to their roars."
The story of Tippi's life and the animals "dearest to her heart"
was told in Simon & Schuster's The Cats of Shambala (1985). The updated
and revised edition (2003) will soon be available in paperback.
Several documentaries have been produced about the Shambala Preserve including,
Lions: Kings of the Serengeti by the Richard Diercks Co, Inc. which won
the Telly Award in 1995 for outstanding video documentary; and Life With
Big Cats (1998), produced for Animal Planet, which won the Genesis Award
for best documentary in 1999.
Tippi continues to work frequently in motion pictures, theatre, episodic
and cable television, and her contributions to world cinema have been
honored with Life Achievement awards in France at The Beauvais Film Festival
Cinemalia 1994, and in Spain by The Fundacion Municipal De Cine in 1995.
In 1999, Tippi was honored as "Woman of Vision" by Women of
Film and Video in Washington, D.C., and received the Presidential Medal
for her work in film from Hofstra University. And in 2000, Tippi was honored
as "Best Actress in a Comedy Short" in the film "Mulligans!"
at the Method Fest, Independent Film Festival, and in 2002, Tippi won
"best Actress" for the short film "Tea With Grandma"
from the New York International Independent Film Festival.