Ellen Gray: 'The Girl' on HBO recounts Alfred Hitchcock's harassment of Tippi Hedren

Sienna Miller (left) and Toby Jones portray Tippi Hedren and Alfred Hitchcock, and his harassment of her, in HBO's "The Girl."
Sienna Miller (left) and Toby Jones portray Tippi Hedren and Alfred Hitchcock, and his harassment of her, in HBO's "The Girl."
Posted: October 19, 2012

* THE GIRL. 9 p.m. Saturday, HBO.

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF. - Whatever abuse Tippi Hedren endured from Alfred Hitchcock - whose harassment of the actress during the filming of "The Birds" and "Marnie" is the subject of the new HBO film "The Girl" - she's not inclined to blame the birds.

Not the stuffed raven she carried with her to an HBO press conference this summer in Beverly Hills, and not the glittery brooch depicting three birds in flight that lay pinned to her right shoulder.

The brooch, a gift from the director, figures in a scene from "The Girl" in which Hitchcock (Toby Jones) presents it to Hedren (Sienna Miller) as a way of telling the ex-model that she'd be starring in "The Birds."

Given what followed, I thought it might be hard for her to wear.

"Oh, it's very easy for me to wear the pin," Hedren assured me, as she spoke with a small group of reporters after the press conference. It was "a very, very happy time. That was a thrill for me," getting cast in "The Birds."

In fact, "I have a tattoo of [the design] on my shoulder," she added, which she had done a couple of years ago.

As for the raven, that wasn't just some prop for the press.

"He's mine," she said, cheerfully, noting that her Shambala Preserve, where she's been rescuing big cats for nearly 30 years, is rife with ravens.

"Ravens are meat-eaters and we serve about 500 pounds a day. And so we have this huge flock of ravens that live at the preserve and they're so smart. And they're so big and shiny, and they follow my staff as they feed the animals, and they know which of the lions and tigers they can steal from and which they can't," she said.

If only Hitchcock had been that observant.

Hedren's problems with the director, whom she describes as "brilliant," and of whom she also has better memories that the film didn't have room for, didn't really start until "the latter part of the filming of 'The Birds,' " she said.

Things only became unbearable later as she continued to resist his advances. "It wasn't until the end of 'Marnie' [her second and final film with the director] that it just plain blew up."

But at first, it was "subtle things," she said. "I'd be on the set and I'd look over and he might be talking to somebody, but he was talking and staring at me . . . and then I heard that he had me followed. He had my handwriting analyzed. I mean, it was becoming very, very odd and something that I was not delighted about or wanted."

She didn't talk about Hitchcock's harassment for many years "because I never wanted to have my parents live with the fact that I was . . . treated so poorly, that this man had given me so much, you know, pain."

Still stunning at 82, Hedren continues to act - she and daughter Melanie Griffith recently guest-starred in the season premiere of Fox's "Raising Hope" - but she contends that Hitchcock, who had her under contract, ruined her career by refusing to let her work with other directors when she was no longer willing to work with him.

Watching "The Girl," "it was difficult to relive, but I also think there's a great message for young people."


Contact Ellen Gray at graye@phillynews.com or 215-854-5950. Follow her on Twitter @elgray. Read her blog at EllenGray.tv.

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