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The Master Of Suspense Is Still Scaring Up Classic Movie Moments 115 Years After His Birth On Aug. 13 With A Little Help From His Favorite Type Of Leading Lady: Blonde And Smoking Hot
Tippi Hedren in Hitchcock's "Marnie" trailer.>
By David Fantle and Tom Johnston
Reel to Real Special for Modern Times Magazine
Aug. 11, 2014 — It’s no secret that master British director Alfred Hitchcock liked his leading women sleek and blonde. Case in point: Grace Kelly in Dial M for Murder, Rear Window and To Catch a Thief; Kim Novak in Vertigo; Janet Leigh in Psycho; and Tippi Hedren in The Birds and Marnie.
Before being cast as the ill-fated “Marion Crane” in Psycho, Janet Leigh was known for her voluptuous curves, likable performances in some not-too- memorable films and her paparazzi-frenzied marriage to actor/heartthrob Tony Curtis.
In a 1995 interview at her Beverly Hills home, she said that she flew “solo” developing her character in Hitchcock’s most disturbing suspense thriller.
“Hitch had a hands-off policy unless you were really blocked,” she said. “He was the consummate shot-maker and he trusted his actors to come up with their own motivation. I do remember that he didn’t feel there was enough passion between John Gavin and I in the opening hotel room scene, so he told us to turn up the heat, which we did.”
Tippi Hedren found Hitchcock unsympathetic as she was nearly pecked to death during the filming of The Birds.
“Everything (in the film) culminated with that last scene where I go up to the attic,” she said in a 1995 interview from the Shambala Preserve, her Southern California wildlife sanctuary. “They had a cage built around the attic door that I opened, and three prop men were there wearing leather gauntlets with huge cartons filled with ravens and seagulls which they begun to hurl at me.
“Cary Grant visited the set and told me I was the bravest women he had ever met. By the last day of filming, they had me on the floor of the attic, my dress torn to shreds from the talons of the birds. One broke loose and scratched me right under the eye. I freaked and started to cry from sheer exhaustion.”
Hedren did suffer a sort of mini-nervous shutdown after that final scene and remembers sleeping for a solid week – against the strenuous protest of Hitchcock who wanted to proceed with the filming.
Whether fending off berserk birds or psychotic motel managers, Leigh and Hedren can attest to the fact that in Hitch’s universe, blondes didn’t always have more fun!
Q: Known for his brief cameo appearances in his own films, how did Hitch appear in “The Birds”?
A: Leaving the pet shop in San Francisco with two of his own Sealyham terriers (Geoffrey and Stanley) as Tippi Hedren enters.
David Fantle & Tom Johnson have interviewed more than 250 celebrities, mostly from “Hollywood’s Golden Age. They are co-authors of the 2004 book, Reel to Real: 25 years of celebrity profiles from vaudeville to movies to TV. Reach them at www.reeltoreal.com
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