BACKSTORY (January 19, 1930—Present): I met actress Tippi Hedren for the first time in October 1995 at her sanctuary for big cats and other animals, Shambala. She was just as gracious as could be, and full of passion for saving the animals who had been abused by circuses and the idiots who thought that they would make great house pets...and found out otherwise. Hedren is also known for her starring roles in two Alfred Hitchcock movies, "The Birds" (1963) and my very favorite, "Marnie" (1964).
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NY TIMES REVIEW BY EUGENE ARCHER, JULY 23, 1964:
Alfred Hitchcock's "Marnie" is at once a fascinating study of a sexual relationship and the master's most disappointing film in years. It opened yesterday at the Palace and other theaters, on a double bill with a Pat Boon trifle, "Never Put It in Writing."
Certainly the material is there. In his ladylike heroine, who changes her hairdo every time she cracks a safe, Mr. Hitchcock has as provocative a character as he has ever created. When Sean Connery, playing a singularly open-minded employer, catches the angelic Tippi Hedren with a suitcase full of company funds, he is naturally surprised—and interested.
The answers, when they come, are shocking and psychologically sound, as one might expect from the craftsman who offered the last word on modern American motherhood in "Psycho." Mr. Hitchcock is not a man to let us down in the deeper regions of the filmic symbolism. His villain once again is Mama, but his time the director is making a comment on the Yankee Puritan hangover and the twisted society it leaves in its wake.
What he has to say about it is devastating. For "Marnie," in her own warped self-analysis, is a liar, a thief, a tease—but still as chaste as "Mama said."
Her obsessed lover who probes into this mystifying psyche does so less to cure her than to indulge in his own neuroses. When she accuses him of being pretty sick himself, the best reply he can muster is a wry, "I never said I was perfect."
This Hitchcockian relationship, explored in sumptuous color, is reminiscent of such memorably maladjusted lovers as Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in "Notorious" or James Stewart and Grace Kelly in "Rear Window." And there's the rub.
Hitchcock has taken a pair of attractive and promising young players, Miss Hedren and Mr. Connery, and forced them into roles that cry for the talents of Grace Kelly and Cary Grant. Both work commendably and well—but their inexperience shows.
Why, one wonders, did the most reliable of the "big star" directors -- a man whose least consequential stories have always had the benefit of the most illustrious players -- choose relative newcomers for such demanding assignments? Economy, perhaps? If so, Mr. Hitchcock must plead guilty to pound foolishness, for "Marnie" is a clear miss.
Nor is the casting—which extends to astonishingly inadequate acting in subordinate roles -- its only problem. For once, the best technician in the business has faltered where he has always been strongest -- in his style. Not only is "Marnie" burdened with the most glaringly fake cardboard backdrops since Salvador Dali designed the dream sequences for "Spellbound," but the timing of key suspense scenes is sadly askew. Mr. Hitchcock has always been a trickster, but sleight of hand is spoiled when the magician lets the trickery show.
Curiously he has also settled for an inexplicably amateurish script, which reduces this potent material to instant psychiatry—complete with a flashback "explanation scene" harking back to vintage Joan Crawford and enough character exposition to stagger the most dedicated genealogist. Poor Diane Baker, gratuitously inserted as a mystifying "menace," does nothing more than enunciate imitation Jean Kerr witticisms ("I'm queer for liars") while swirling about in Hollywood hostess gowns. At one point, just to make sure no one misunderstands Marnie's problem, the script provides the title of her lover's bedside reading matter—"Sexual Aberrations of the Criminal Female." Get it?
A strong suspicion arises that Mr. Hitchcock is taking himself too seriously -- perhaps the result of listening to too many esoteric admirers. Granted that it's still Hitchcock -- and that's a lot -- dispensing with the best in acting, writing and even technique is sheer indulgence. When a director decides he's so gifted that all he needs is himself, he'd better watch out.
'I'm too independent'
New movie star Tippi Hedren tells why she relies on no one but herself.
By MAY OKON
On a hot summer's day, a chat with a cool-eyed blonde named Tippi Hedren turned out to be as refreshing as a cup of lemon ice. Tippi achieved instant stardom last year in her first film, "The Birds," a scary produced by Alfred Hitchcock, under whose wing her movie career was hatched. Now Tipi was in town on behalf of her second Hitchcock starter, "Marnie," in which she is teamed with Sean Connery, he being between James Bond adventures.
Where did she get the name, Tippi? (The record books in Lafayette, Minn., where she was born on Jan. 19, 1935, list her as Nathalie Hedren.) She explained: "My father gave me the name when I weighed six pounds, seven ounces. It comes from Tupsa, a Swedish term for 'little girl.'"
Was there any truth to the story that pixie producer Hitchcock offered Tippi a 7-year contract after seeing her do a one-minute canned milk commercial on TV…through his agent and without meeting her?
"It's the absolute truth," said Tippi. "I was so stunned when I found out who the producer was, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I had started modeling at the age of 13 back home in Minnesota, but I didn't think about becoming an actress then or later, when I was modeling in New York and doing TV commercials.
"The road to acting is a very tough one, and being a starving would-be actress was not for me. I chose modeling because it was very lucrative. Being a model certainly isn't as mentally stimulating as acting, but it's a marvelous way for a girl to make a living—it's slightly glamorous and you meet exciting people—and I was terribly happy doing it.
"I was very lucky. I arrived in New York on a Friday in 1953 and on Monday morning I went to a model agency. I worked for the first person they sent me to that afternoon,a nd I worked from then on.
"I wasn't sophisticated when I came to New York. But there are situations that you live through…you survive…I was married in 1954, and divorced five years later. I have a daughter, Melanie, who's 6 now…she's the light of my life. I worked very hard at my marriage, and when I came to the realization of divorce, it was kind of the end of the rope. Everything leaves its mark. I gained strength through it, but I absolutely believe it's the wrong kind of strength.
"I'm too independent…much too much so. I think women can get into a lot of trouble by being this independent. Because you rely on no one but yourself. You say to yourself, 'I don't need anybody,' and every man reads in your eyes, 'I don't need you.' I think a woman should absolutely feel that she needs someone to take care of her.
"When you're thrown into a position of having to take care of a child…run a house smoothly…and you see that you can do these things yourself, and you're reasonably happy doing them yourself…well, this scares men off. I don't meet many men who are as capable of doing these things as I am. That's the problem…and I recognize it as a problem. When I meet the man that I look forward to marrying some day, I think I'm going to have to fake a certain amount of dependence.
"Meanwhile, I find myself being a sort of a strange character. I am not a lonely person. I can be alone and live alone…without a husband, I mean. I work very hard at being an actress…at learning my craft. But I found that I need other outlets, so I started thinking about what I could do with the months I'm not involved in pictures. First I produced some rock 'n' roll records, but the 'singers' are a temperamental, kookie group, so I gave that up. Then I bought two cement pumps—huge mechanical monsters that are used in the construction of high rise buildings and tunnels. They're very expensive new—about $25,000 apiece—I bought mine secondhand. I rent them out, and it's quite profitable. I'm in the process of buying two more.
"This wasn't enough, so I started buying houses. I own two in Sherman Oaks, Calif.—one I live in with Melanie and our housekeeper, the other I rent out. Then I bought two more that had been vandalized—you know, broken into and only the bare walls left. I had them fixed up and they're for sale. Now I'm looking for more to buy.
"I enjoy the money I'm making in pictures because it gives me the opportunity to do these things. And I need things to keep me busy or else I'll end up hanging around the pool all day.
"Being interviewed time and again doesn't bore me—I try to make a game of it. I try to change things as much as I can without changing the story or the truth. All the questions I get asked—just thinking of truthful answers helps me get to know myself better.
"I've learned several important things about myself: one is that I don't run scared. Another is that I have to think very hard to find a real big problem in my life."