The life story of Tippi Hedren

The life story of Tippi Hedren

Natalie Kay “Tippi” Hedren is an American actress, animal rights activist and former model. She is best known for her role as Melanie Daniels in the cult horror film Alfred Hitchcock, “The Birds” from 1963. For this role, she was awarded the Golden Globe for New Star of the Year and later named one of the first “screaming queens”.

Interpreting the title role in another of Hitchcock’s films, “Marnie” (1964), she became one of Sean Connery’s first film partners. Hedren is also known for her leading role in Charlie Chaplin’s (see also: Charlie Chaplin greatest speech ever!) latest film, “A Countess from Hong Kong” (1967).

She has had supporting and episodic roles in several popular television series, such as “Providence” (2000), “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” (2008) and “Cougar Town” (2013). She was also briefly involved in voice acting, as she borrowed the voice of several characters from the animated series “Batman”.

In 2003, Tippi Hedren received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her roles in feature films. Six years later, she received a star on the Walk of Fame in front of the Orinda Theater.

In her 70-year career so far, Hedren has appeared in over 80 films and television series. She has been awarded with more than 50 awards and recognition’s.

Hedren has been fighting hard to save animals since 1969, when she realized how difficult African lions were in filming in Africa. In an effort to raise awareness of wildlife endangerment, she spent the next decade preparing with her then-husband the film “Roar”, which premiered in 1981. In 1983, she founded her own non-profit organization, the “Roar Foundation”, as well as a refuge for wildlife, “Shambala Preserve”, which allows her to continue her work and take care of injured lions and tigers. Hedren has also founded several humanitarian programs aimed at helping the hungry and damaged in natural disasters, such as hurricanes and earthquakes. She played a key role in the development of Vietnamese-American nail salons.

Her daughter, Melanie Griffith, and granddaughter, Dakota Johnson, are also famous actresses.

In the content that follows, I will present the second part of the life story of Tippi Hedren!

The life story of Tippi Hedren

Private life

Natalie Kay Hedren was born in New Ulm, Minnesota, on January 19, 1930, as the daughter of Bernard Carl Hedren and Dorothea Henrietta (née Eckhard) Hedren. She has one sister, Patty Davis. For most of her career, she was misrepresented as if she was born in 1935. However, in 2004, Hedren publicly announced that the information was incorrect and that she was actually born in 1930, which she confirmed with the Minnesota-born birth registration index.

Her father is of Swedish origin, while her mother has German-Norwegian roots. Her father owned a small shop in Lafayette and gave her the nickname “Tippi”, which she used as a pseudonym throughout her acting career. When she was four, she moved with her family to Minneapolis. As a teenager, she participated in fashion shows in department stores. Her parents moved to California while Hedren attended high school.

On her 20th birthday, she bought a ticket to New York, where she soon became a model and joined the Eileen Ford fashion house. A few years later, she began her acting career in Henry Levin’s film “The Petty Girl”. After that, Hedren rejected several offers from the producers, because she was not interested in an acting career, considering that she knew how difficult it was to succeed in it.

The life story of Tippi Hedren

In 1952, Tippi met 18-year-old Peter Griffith, a former popular children’s actor and later a marketer. The couple married in a few months and in 1957 had a daughter, Melanie Griffith. After seven years of marriage, Hedren and Griffith divorced in 1961. After that, she returned to California with her daughter and rented an expensive house in Los Angeles. In a later interview, Hedren referred to that period of her life and said: “I thought I would be able to continue my career, as I did when I was in New York. I thought everything would be fine, but it wasn’t”.

On September 22, 1964, Hedren married her then-agent, Noel Marshall, who was a late producer in three films in which Hedren played the lead role. They divorced in 1982. In 1985, she married a steel manufacturer, Luis Barrenechea. Hedren divorced Barrenechea after 10 years of marriage in 1995. After that, she was engaged to veterinarian Martin Dines from 2002 until their dissolution in mid-2008.

In September 2008, Hedren said she was still waiting for someone to “knock her off her feet”.

Hedren played an important role in opening Vietnamese-American nail salons. During 1975, she was the international coordinator of the humanitarian organization “Food for the Hungry” and began visiting refugees in Sacramento. When she found out that there are women interested in manicures and pedicures, she hired several experts to train them and, in cooperation with the beauty school, helped them get a job. Tippin’s work with refugees was the subject of the documentary “Happy Hands”, which was awarded as the best in the category of short documentaries at the International Film Festival in Sonoma, 2014. In January 2014, several nail care companies established the Tippi Hedren Scholarship to support professional education in creative nail design.

The life story of Tippi Hedren

Hedren has suffered from migraines for years, which is why she had to cancel numerous projects, including a television series by producer Betty White. After putting a titanium plate on her neck, the situation improved and with the approval of her doctors, Hedren decided to accept a role in the soap opera “Fashion House”.

While she was preparing one of the scenes, a balloon of water fell on her head from the ceiling. Migraine then returned and continued to cause her problems. Hedren decided to sue the production and collect damages, but her lawyer, Joseph Allen, made a mistake in the court process that allowed the accused party to block her lawsuit. In return, Hedren sued Alena for abuse of office.

In December 2013, the Hollywood Reporter reported that Hedren had received a trial and compensation in excess of $1,500,000. However, Hedren was affected by this article, as she did not actually receive the money. In the interview, she explained that her former lawyer would not pay her that much money, and added that the article put her in an awkward situation, because her foundations “desperately needed help” at that time. She said: “There is every chance that I will never see that money, and what hurts especially in all this suffering is that publishing this hasty article told all the people around the world who were generous to help my foundations that their help is no longer needed”.


As early as the early 1950s, Hedren was very successful as a model. She got her first role in the romantic comedy “The Petty Girl”, but since it was just a cameo, she wasn’t even signed. Since she never planned to act, she started shooting commercials and earned money from them until she received an invitation from Alfred Hitchcock.

The life story of Tippi Hedren

On Friday, October 13, 1961, she received a call from an agent who told her that a producer was interested in working with her. When she was told that it was Alfred Hitchcock, who saw her in the advertisement for the diet drink “Sigo”, she agreed to sign a contract with him for seven years. During their first meeting, Hitchcock and Hedren talked about everything except the role he envisioned for her. For weeks, Hedren was convinced that he wanted to offer her an episodic role in his television series. Hitchcock later said of Hedren: “It didn’t matter to me how she looked live. The most important thing was her appearance on the screen and I liked that from the first moment. It was obvious that she had style, that she had the qualities of a lady, who used to represent actresses like Irene Dan, Grace Kelly, Claudette Colbert and other, but now very rare actresses”.

Hitchcock did a test shoot with Hedren on an expensive color screen, with actor Martin Balsam, as he did in his other films, such as”. The filming lasted two days and cost $25,000. According to Balsam, Hedren was very nervous, but she studied every sentence she had to say, made every move as she was told, and tried to do everything right. Hitchcock asked designer Edith Head to design clothes for Hedren in her private life, and he gave her advice on wine and food. He also asked to use only the pseudonym “Tippi” in public. The media mostly ignored this request of the director, who thought that Hedren was mysterious and different from the others. Hitchcock was completely impressed with her. The production designer, Robert Boyle, described their relationship in the following words: “Hitch has always loved women who behaved like real ladies. “Tippi was the embodiment of that quality”.

The life story of Tippi Hedren

A few days later, Hedren was invited to lunch with Hitchcock, his wife Alma and the president of “Universal Pictures”, Lou Wasserman. After lunch, she received a gold brooch as a gift with three birds in flight, decorated with small pearls, and Hitchcock then asked her if she wanted to play the lead role in his upcoming film “The Birds”. In one of the interviews, Hedren recalled that event:

“I was shocked. It never occurred to me that I would be offered the lead role in such a great film. I had tears in my eyes”.

During the filming, which lasted 6 months, Hedren had a very tight schedule, as she only had one free afternoon a week. In the beginning, the shooting was “wonderful”. Hitchcock said a few weeks later that Tippi was extraordinary and said:

“She has already reached the quality of acting in the subject of terror”. In contrast, Hedren recalled filming the scene of the last bird attack in the attic and said it was the worst day of her life. Before filming, she asked Hitchcock what would be the motive for her character to go to the attic, and his answer was: “Because I say so”! After that, they assured her that mechanical birds would be used to film the problematic scene. Instead, Hedren filmed an extremely dangerous scene with real birds, as the mechanical ones allegedly did not work. When one bird landed on her cheek and almost dug out her eye, exhausted Hedren drove all the birds away and started crying. Doctors demanded a week’s break. Hitchcock protested as all other scenes were over and no one had anything else to record. The doctor’s response was, “Are you trying to kill her”? Hitchcock finally decided to take a break, but, as the actress says, it was very difficult for him.

The life story of Tippi Hedren

The executive producers of “Universal Pictures”, who did not support Hitchcock’s choice of an inexperienced actress for the lead role in the big film, were impressed with Hedren’s acting and Lou Wasserman described her as “extraordinary”. At “The Birds” promotions, Hitchcock gave a bunch of compliments to his new protégé and compared him to Grace Kelly:

“Tippi has a faster pace, urban posture and more sense of humor. She is confident, persistent and attractive. She is perfect at reading replicas and has a sharper [removed]than Kelly).”

The film premiered at a prestigious competition at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1963. Heather’s performance was also praised in Variety magazine:

“Besides the birds, this film also belongs to Hedren, who had an impressive debut on the big screen. She had to make the film all by herself, especially the first 45 minutes, before the first attack from the sky. “Miss Hedren has the quality of a star, and Hitchcock gave her the opportunity to start a great career.”

For her role in the film “The Birds”, Hedren was awarded the “Golden Globe” for the new star of the year, which she then shared with Elke Sommer and Ursula Andres.

The film magazine “Premiere” declared her character, Melanie Daniels, one of the best movie characters of all time.

The life story of Tippi Hedren

Hitchcock was so impressed with Hedren’s acting abilities that he decided to play the title character in his upcoming film, “Marnie” (1964), a romantic drama mixed with elements of a psychological thriller. Hedren was delighted with the proposal and happy to have the opportunity to interpret “such a complicated, sad and tragic female character”. On one occasion, she stated: “I think that my acting is not so methodical, but it perfectly depicts my feelings. I thought Marnie was a very interesting character to interpret and a life opportunity not to be missed. “She was afraid that she would not be able to perform such a demanding role, but Hitchcock assured her that she could do it. Unlike “The Birds”, where she received a few short instructions on how to act, for this film, Hedren studied every scene with Hitchcock.

Hedren said that Marnie preferred the role of two films she worked with Hitchcock, because of the challenge to interpret the role of an emotionally upset young woman, who travels from city to city and tries to rob her new employers. Her love partner in the film was Sean Connery. During the filming, Hitchcock commented on Hedren’s acting with the following sentence:

“The Oscar performance is in the works”!

After the premiere, the film received mixed reviews and made a lot of money in different places, but it was not nominated for a single “Oscar”.

Variety magazine wrote: “Hedren is returning in a very demanding role. Ms. Hedren takes on the role originally offered to Grace Kelly for her return to an acting career. It was a difficult task that Hedren fulfilled satisfactorily”.

Hedren later said that Marnie was “ahead of her time”, because there was no talk at the time about how childhood affects later periods of people’s lives. She said: “Discussing sexuality and psychology was a taboo topic, so the film was shocking to many.”

Despite mediocre reviews at first, the film is now considered a “masterpiece”, and Hedren’s performance, one of the best of all Hitchcock’s films. Richard Brody wrote in front of The New Yorker magazine in 2016: “Hedren’s performance in that film is one of the best in the history of cinema”.

The life story of Tippi Hedren

Relationship problems and abuse

“Marnie” was the second and last film in which Hedren collaborated with Hitchcock. In July 1973, Hedren admitted that the break-up was caused by a major change in her lifestyle. “He (Hitchcock) was too possessive and too demanding. No one could own me. That’s when I decided to quit”.

Donald Spoto published his second book about Hitchcock in 1983, entitled “The Dark Side of Genius”, and Hedren agreed to talk for the first time about the details of his relationship with the director. The book became very controversial and met with harsh criticism from Hitchcock’s friends, who claimed that the man described in the book was not the one they knew. For years after the book was published, Hedren did not want to talk about the Hitchcock incidents in interviews. She later explained why she could not tell her story earlier: “It was humiliating and insulting. There were a lot of people because of whom I didn’t want to tell that. I did not want the matter to get out of control and make the situation even worse than it already was”.

According to Spot’s book, Hitchcock asked several of his collaborators in the film “The Birds” to carefully follow everything Hedren does: “when she left the set, where she went, when she visited, how she spent her free time…” studied her manuscript as well. Then he started advising her what kind of food she should eat, who she should see and how she should live. He told other people who participated in the making of the film that they were not allowed to talk to her. Hedren’s partner in “The Birds”, Rod Taylor, later recalled: “Hitch was becoming very arrogant and greedy for Tippi, and the situation was getting harder and harder for her. No one was allowed to physically approach her during the production phase”.

The life story of Tippi Hedren

He kept telling me: “Don’t touch the girl after I say: Cut”! Hitchcock tried several times to grab and forcefully kiss Hedren in the back seat of the car as they rode to the set. Hedren complained to his assistant, Peggy Robertson, and the head of the studio, Lou Wasserman, and she became very unhappy about the whole situation.

“But, he was Alfred Hitchcock, a great and famous director, and I was Tippi Hedren, an inexperienced actress without so much respect”.

She realized that she must not leave him, because of the seven-year contract that she was forced to sign at the beginning of the cooperation, but also out of fear that she would be blacklisted and that she would not be able to find a job. Even Melanie Griffith recalled that she had a feeling that Hitchcock was taking her mother away while she was filming “Birds”. She stated: “Suddenly, I was forbidden to visit my mother in the studio.”

During the filming of “Marnie”, Hedren realized that Hitchcock’s behavior towards her was getting worse and worse. “Everyone, I think, literally everyone knew he was obsessed with me. He always asked us to stay alone at the end of the day of filming and drink a glass of wine or champagne. He completely isolated me from the other actors and the people on the set. “Heather’s colleague from” Marnie”, Diana Baker, later recalled the events from the filming”: She was never allowed to be with us, the other actors. Hitchcock demanded that every conversation between her and him be private, so that the others would not listen. For me, at that time, nothing could be worse than coming to the filming and watching him treat her like that”.

The life story of Tippi Hedren

Hitchcock once told Hedren that he was constantly dreaming of her approaching him and whispering in his ear: “Hitch, I love you. I will love you forever”. Hedren replied, “But it was just a dream”, and then left the room under some pretext. She believed that Hitchcock was not interested in her feelings and later recalled humiliating her before filming each scene by demanding that she touch him: what he thought. ”

Towards the end of the filming of “Marnie”, Hedren asked Hitchcock for permission to be absent from the set for one day, in order to go to New York to receive the award for the most promising new star in the show “The Tonight Show”. Hitchcock did not allow it, under the pretext that the break would affect her performance. At that meeting, Hitchcock sent her an “open sexual request” for the first time…

It wasn’t until 2008 that Hedren revealed exactly what Hitchcock had told her: “He stared at me and, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, simply said that he expected me to be sexually available to him in the future, however, whenever and wherever he wishes”.

This sentence of his caused a “terrible, terrible quarrel” according to Hedren.

Hedren then told Hitchcock that this was the end and that “Marnie” would be their last collaboration. In numerous later interviews, she recounted the conversation they had at the time: “I told him: I want to terminate the contract, he replied: You can’t. You have a little daughter that you have to support, your parents are old. I thought about it and told him: None of them would want me to be in this situation. I want to quit! He threatened to ruin my career and he did. He kept me under contract and I couldn’t do anything for the next two years”. Hedren felt so humiliated that on the set of “Marnie” she called the director a “fat pig” in front of all the actors and people who worked on the set. Hitchcock only commented on that in his biography: “She did what no one is allowed to do – she mocked my obesity”.The life story of Tippi Hedren

After that, Hedren and Hitchcock communicated only through a third person until the end of the filming. According to “Marnie” screenwriter Jay Preson Allen, Hitchcock was “crazy about Hedren”. Allen also stated that Hitchcock had a Pygmalion effect on Tippi. Several famous directors wanted to collaborate with Hedren after her quarrel with Hitchcock, but he did not allow it. Hedren later said that what hurt her the most was that Francois Trifo wanted to work with her, and Hitchcock told him that she was not available. Hitchcock later tried to reconcile with Hedren and make another film with her, but she refused. Two years later, Hitchcock finally sold Tippin’s contract to Universal Pictures. Hedren then appeared in their two television series, and the studio finally lifted her contractual obligation after she refused to appear in their western series.

In 2012, a film was made about the scandal between Hitchcock and Hedren, entitled “Girl” (as Hitchcock called Tippi). Hitchcock was played by Toby Jones, and Hedren by Sienna Miller. Hedren described the film as “90 most emotionally tense minutes of her life”. The film met with very mixed reactions, as many people who were friends with Hitchcock commented negatively.

Kim Novak, who worked with Hitchcock on the film “Vertigo”, said: “I have never seen him treat anyone like that. Don’t you think I would have noticed that he really was? I don’t think it’s right to do that to someone who is no longer with us and who can’t defend himself”. Novak described Hitchcock as a gentleman, and when reporters asked her why he didn’t treat her like that, she replied: “Maybe I just wasn’t his type”.

She added that, on the other hand, she cannot even dispute Tippin’s claims.

The life story of Tippi Hedren

In her interviews, Hedren was asked several times why she accepted to give a speech at the AFI Hitchcock Lifetime Achievement Award (1979) and why she attended his funeral. She explained it as follows: “He ruined my career, but he didn’t ruin my life. That period of my life ended then. I still admire what it used to be. She added: “I managed to separate it. A man who was an artist and what he did for cinema can never be taken away from him, nor would I want to try that. But, on the other hand, there was also the dark half, which was really terrible”.

Hitchcock’s revenge and the beginning of career failure

After the final cessation of cooperation with Hitchcock, he did what he told her – he ruined her career. As Hedren later learned, he blocked her Oscar nomination and made her blacklisted by numerous studies very quickly.

The first film in which she appeared after “Marnie” was “A Countess from Hong Kong”, the last film of Charlie Chaplin, starring Marlon Brando and Sofia Loren. Chaplin told her that he offered her a big role in the film, that she should play the character of Brand’s estranged wife, and she accepted the role without even reading the script.

However, when she arrived for filming in England, she finally got the whole script and realized that she had something more than a cameo role. She asked Chaplin why he lied to her: “Every actor in the world would like to appear in this film of yours, even in the smallest role, and not be paid”. Why didn’t you just tell me he was a cameo? I would act in this film no matter what”. He replied, “I thought you wouldn’t want to come”. Hedren later commented that Chaplin’s answer was “very sweet” and that he was a very smart man. Hedren asked him to expand the role. Chaplin wanted to please her and expanded the role a bit, but it was limited since most of the film’s action takes place on a ship, on which Hedren’s character is boarded just before the end of the film. In the end, she stayed in the film and commented that it was very fun and strange to work with Chaplin. She described him as a very serious man and said she loved his way of directing. She later stated the following: “I would like someone to be allowed to make a documentary about him. The way he directed was different from all the other directors I worked with. He would act out all the scenes himself. He would do Sofia’s part, then Marlon’s, then mine, and then he would say: “Okay, now you can. But it was impossible to imitate a master. It was amazing what he did. None of us could believe it. Only Marlon hated it”.

The life story of Tippi Hedren

After filming “A Countess from Hong Kong”, the media described Hedren’s career as “spectacular”. She once told reporters:

“I don’t want to wait in this business, but working with Hitch and Charlie was really special for me and now I’m going to wait for something special to appear”.

In 1968, she signed a contract to work on a drama about the American Civil War, “Five Against Kansas”, but the project was never realized. Later that year, she began filming “Tiger by the Tail”, in which she played Rita Armstrong, a social girl who helps her boyfriend catch a killer.

Together with her daughter, Melanie, then husband, Noel Marshall and his sons, she spent the next 11 years working on the film “Roar” in Africa. Her husband got the idea to shoot during his stay in Africa with Hedren, while she was making two South African films. Hedren later said: “We were thrilled with how people adapted to living there. It was so much fun that we knew right away that we had an idea for the film”. Marshall wrote the screenplay under the original title “Lions, Lions and More Lions”, to be later changed to “Roar”.

They started filming in 1974 and finished it only after five years. The filming was extremely dangerous as most of the scenes were done with a large number of lions, which their instructors could not always control. No one was injured during the filming, and no animals were injured, but more than 70 people were seriously injured. Hedren broke her leg when the elephant she was riding knocked her down. One lion bit her neck and made a wound that was sutured with 38 buckles. Her daughter also suffered severe injuries. She had a wound of 50 buttons on her face and there was a possibility that she would lose her eye, but she recovered. In the 1978 floods, the film set was destroyed, and three lions, who starred in the film, were killed. The following year, they again suffered heavy losses in forest fires.

The life story of Tippi Hedren

The film finally had its world premiere in October 1981. It cost $17,000,000 and earned only $2,000,000. Hedren divorced Marshall after a few months, and as one of the main reasons for the divorce, Marshall’s sons mentioned his treatment of Hedren’s daughter Melanie, during the filming. However, the film was a turning point in Hedren’s life, since after him, she founded the Roar Foundation and the Shambhala Sanctuary.

After making the film in Africa, Hedren accepted every and the smallest role in low-budget films, just to provide money for her foundation and funds to maintain the Shambhala sanctuary.

Hedren is also active as an actor in the 10th decade of her life. It has been announced that he will play the lead role in the film “Unforgettable” together with Frank Nero. Filming has not started yet, and it is expected that one part of the action will take place in India.


In November 2016, Hedren published her autobiography entitled “Tippi: Memoirs”. She was assisted in her writing by Lindsay Harrison, and the book was published by William Morrow.

In the foreword to the book, Hedren wrote: “It was high time I stopped telling that story to everyone around me and finally told it to myself”.

In the book, Hedren describes the details of her relationship with director Alfred Hitchcock, and especially how he abused and harassed her while making films just before she decided to end her collaboration with him. At the promotion of the book, she stated: “The worst thing is when you become an obsession of someone when you are not interested. It has become unbearable”. She described one of the incidents with Hitchcock in the book:

“He suddenly grabbed me and started touching me. It was perverse, it was disgusting. The more I resisted him, the more aggressive he became”.

The book, like the film “The Girl”, met with very mixed reactions. From those who congratulated her on her courage to talk about it, to those who accused her of “blessing the famous director”.

The life story of Tippi Hedren


Tipina’s daughter, Melanie Griffith, is also a famous Hollywood actress, and she became most famous for her roles in the films “Busy Girl” (1988) and “Lolita” (1997). For the role in “Employed Girl”, she was awarded the “Golden Globe”, as well as her mother. Together with Tippi, she appeared in the film “Roar” (1981).

Tippin’s granddaughter, Dakota Johnson, continued the family acting tradition. She was also awarded the “Golden Globe” in 2006. She gained world fame for her leading role in the film “Fifty Shades of Gray”. In an interview, Tippi said with a laugh that she did not watch the film, and that neither Melanie nor Don would watch it, because that would be too embarrassing. However, at the premiere of the remake of the cult horror of Darius Argent, “Suspiria”, Dakota (who plays the main role) appeared with Tippi, since it is the genre in which her grandmother became famous. On that occasion, Dakota stated: “My grandmother is my biggest and best critic”.

The life story of Tippi Hedren


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