Tippi Hedren was born in Minnesota in 1930. As a young girl she began a modeling career that later took her to New York and Los Angeles. In the early 1960s her role in a television commercial caught the eye of famed director Alfred Hitchcock, who signed her to a contract and gave her the lead in his films The Birds and Marnie. While her roles earned her critical acclaim and made her star, Hedren’s relationship with Hitchcock quickly soured and the two parted ways. While continuing her work in television and film, Hedren has also devoted a good portion of her time to a range of charities, most significantly with animal-rights and wildlife-conservation causes. In the early 1970s she founded the Shambala Preserve in Southern California as a sanctuary for rescued exotic cats, and in 1983 she founded the Roar Foundation to continue her work with animals. During her career, she has received countless awards for both her acting and charitable endeavors. Hedren has been married three times and is the mother of actress Melanie Griffith.
Nathalie Kay Hedren was born on January 19, 1930, in New Ulm, Minnesota. Her father, who ran a general store in the nearby town of Lafayette, gave his daughter the nickname “Tippi”—Swedish for “little girl”—when she was a baby. While she was still a young girl, Hedren’s good looks helped launch her career as a model, and during high school she appeared in local advertisements and fashion shows. However, by her junior year her father’s failing health led the family to leave Minnesota for the more temperate climate of Southern California.
They settled in San Diego, where Hedren finished her secondary education at Huntington Park High School. Following her graduation in 1950, Hedren began to study art at Pasadena City College. That same year, she also landed her first film job, with a bit part in The Petty Girl (1950). But despite these budding interests, Hedren remained intent on a career in modeling, and in 1951 she left California for New York City.
Success came quickly for the attractive Hedren, who was soon gracing fashion magazine covers. She also found love soon after her arrival, and in 1952 she married a young actor named Peter Griffith. His career peaked with a few appearances on Broadway and, like his marriage to Hedren, would not prove lasting, but the same would not be true for his wife, or for their daughter, future actress Melanie Griffith, who was born in 1957. After their divorce in 1960, Hedren returned to California with Melanie, poised for a major breakthrough.
Settling in the Los Angeles area, Hedren found work acting in television commercials. In late 1961, her ad for a diet drink was aired during an episode of the Today Show and caught the eye of Alfred Hitchcock. The famed British director was so taken with Hedren that he quickly signed her to a seven-year contract and gave her the lead role in his 1963 classic The Birds. A popular and critical smash, the film propelled Hedren to stardom and won her a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer.
Following the success of The Birds, Hitchcock cast Hedren in the lead for his next film, Marnie (1964), which also starred Sean Connery. However, despite outward appearances, Hitchcock and Hedren’s relationship behind the scenes had become much more complicated. According to Hedren, Hitchcock was so angered by her rejection of his advances, during the filming of both The Birds and Marnie, that he persistently subjected her to a range of sexual and mental harassment, which she would later refer to as being like "a mental prison.” His behavior eventually became so unbearable to Hedren that she refused to work with Hitchcock, who vengefully—and successfully, for a time—set out to ruin her career. However, after Hedren used her newly won star power to land roles in two separate television series, Hitchcock finally gave up, and in 1966 he finally sold her contract to Universal Studios.
Though the details of Hitchcock’s mistreatment of Hedren remained a secret at the time, they came to light in two biographies published after his death, The Dark Side of Genius (1983) and Spellbound by Beauty (2008). The latter title would become the primary resource for the 2012 HBO film The Girl, starring Sienna Miller as Hedren and Toby Jones as Hitchcock.
A New Passion
Freed from Hitchcock’s control, Hedren worked to get back on track, appearing alongside Marlon Brando and Sophia Loren in Charlie Chaplain’s final film as a director, the 1967 comedy A Countess from Hong Kong. Unfortunately the film was a critical failure and marked the beginning of a period of stagnation in Hedren’s career, during which she appeared in just a few low-profile films and television series, including Mister Kingstreet’s War (1971) and The Harrad Experiment (1973), which were produced by her second husband, Noel Marshall, whom she had married in 1964.
However, it was also during this period that Hedren’s film work to her to Africa, where she first became enamored of exotic cats and grew concerned about their exploitation and mistreatment. Inspired to act, in the early 1970s Hedren began what would become a lifelong mission working with wildlife charities to assist in their rescue and protection by purchasing land north of Los Angeles to establish the Shambala Preserve as a sanctuary. A decade later, she established Roar Foundation to continue her conservation work.
Since its inception, Shambala has sheltered hundreds of rescued animals and Hedren has received numerous awards for her efforts, from such organizations as the ASPCA and Wildhaven. Hedren’s animal work also led to the production of the wildlife thriller Roar (1981), directed by husband Noel Marshall (whom she would divorce in 1982) and featuring Hedren and her young daughter, Melanie Griffith. Hedren has also been involved with numerous other charity organizations, including the March of Dimes, the American Heart Association and international relief groups.
But despite her tireless philanthropic efforts, Hedren has continued to find time to act as well. Among her television credits over the last few decades are appearances in series such as Murder, She Wrote, Chicago Hope, CSI and Cougar Town, and notable films she has acted in include Pacific Heights (1990), Citizen Ruth (1996) and I Heart Huckabees (2004).
In 1985 Hedren married for a third time, but divorced again in 1995. She was engaged to a veterinarian in 2002, but their relationship ended in 2008. Hedren now lives in a house built on the Shambala Preserve, so she can be close to her beloved animals.
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