Les Oiseaux sur Arte: Hitchcock gave Tippi Hedren a nightmare on set -…

Go behind the scenes of the collaboration between actress Tippi Hedren and filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock on the set of the horror classic “The Birds”.

On Friday, October 13, 1961, Teepee Hedren is called by the Universal studio who offers her to pass a secret audition. The actress who recently arrived in Hollywood discovers on the spot that it is Alfred Hitchcock, who wants him to work with her on an undisclosed project. Hedren has no film experience, and imagines it to be an episode of the popular Alfred Hitchcock Presents series.

On site, the filmmaker’s favorite collaborators were brought together (Robert Boyle for the set, Edith Head for the costumes) so that Hedren auditioned for three days, playing excerpts from Rebeccaof the Chained and of The Hand in the Collar by responding to Martin Balsam (who had just done Psychosis). An expensive device that the director, king of the box office could easily impose on the studio.

Following an advertisement broadcast on television, Tippi Hedren caught the eye of filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock. This ad touts the Sego brand, a dietary supplement, and the focus is on the actress’ hourglass figure, as you can see below. This advertisement will also inspire Hitchcock for the opening sequence of Birds :

After several interviews with producers, Hedren meets Hitchcock and his wife Alma accompanied by agent Lou Wasserman. The filmmaker offers the actress a brooch of three birds in flight adorned with pearls and gold to offer her the main role of his next feature film, The Birds.

It’s a major milestone in the career of Hedren, who only shot commercials and an uncredited appearance in The Scandalous Ingenue more than a decade prior. By agreeing to work with Hitchcock, she will find herself on the front of the stage.

Les Oiseaux sur Arte Hitchcock gave Tippi Hedren a nightmare

Teepee Hedren

Hitchcock will involve him in all stages of the preparation of the film, from the costumes to the script through the director of photography. Hedren learns a lot at his side about the backstage of making a film and forges experience.

The filming of The Birds begins, and the actress begins to notice something:

He was glancing at me insistently on the set, impossible not to notice. Wherever he was, and as he spoke to other people, his eyes were on me.

One day, after a long day of filming. Hedren and Hitchcock are in the car taking them back to their hotel. The director monologue, as usual, and Hedren, tired, stares into space. The vehicle stops in front of the hotel entrance where guests and team members are gathered.

In the car, Hitchcock suddenly rushes at Tippi Hedren and tries to kiss her. Quoted in the documentary Actress Tippi Hedren: From Cursed Birds to Wild Beasts (aired this evening after the film), the actress remembers:

I shouted: “But finally!” and I pushed him away, jumped out of the car and ran back into the hotel.

The next day, filming resumes and Hedren behaves as if nothing had happened, keeping to be the “offense” and “shock” that this sexual assault represented. The actress must shoot the scene in which Melanie, her character, is locked in a telephone booth, attacked by a mechanical bird which smashes against the glass of the booth.

1663522001 155 Les Oiseaux sur Arte Hitchcock gave Tippi Hedren a nightmare

Tippi Hedren is told that it is safety glass (impact resistant) but it is not, it is classic glass and in shock, she receives shards of glass in her face. Later in the six months of filming, the scene of the attack of the birds takes a week made of throwing birds in the face, risk of blinding.

After this exhausting shoot, Hedren respects his contract and continues with No spring for Marnie, by the same filmmaker, on whom she will also experience very difficult situations, seeking once the film has been boxed to end her employment contract with Alfred Hitchcock. In her memoir in 2016, the actress will remember her powerlessness to assert her rights and denounce her attacker at the time:

“He was Alfred Hitchcock, one of the stars of Universal and I was just a lucky little blonde model he saved from complete anonymity. Who was more valuable to the studio, him or me ?”

1663522002 339 Les Oiseaux sur Arte Hitchcock gave Tippi Hedren a nightmare
Universal Pictures

Note that for the needs of a TV movie broadcast in 1994, Tippi Hedren will make an appearance in The Birds II which, as its name does not indicate, is not a sequel to Les Oiseaux but a remake.

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