I could not resist reading Tippi Hedren’s new memoir, Tippi. I always prefer to read the autobiographies of stars to see how they viewed themselves and to gain a more personal look into their lives. Tippi Hedren is best known to me for her role in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, which I watch every Halloween for some reason. This memoir was a delight to read because the writing had an easy conversational style that made it feel as if Tippi was speaking right to me in her throaty, sultry voice.
Tippi came across as a caring woman who is still extremely grateful for every opportunity she had and for the life she lived. Her approach felt honest because she admitted to decisions in her life that she now views as impetuous or wrong, but was also able to appreciate them for the good that came of the situation.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading about her journey from model to well known actress, which happened when Hitchcock saw her face in a print ad and declared he had to have ‘that girl’! To Tippi’s surprise, without any formal training, she won the coveted role of Melanie Daniels in The Birds that every A-list Hollywood actress wanted. Tippi detailed her interactions on the movie, and I was horrified to learn that she acted in several scenes with live birds. The scene where she was trapped in the room with the birds was actually pretty close to what really happened. She also described when she refused Hitchcock’s sexual advances and how that rejection prompted him to intentionally destroy her career. I was sorry to learn that his immature reaction caused her some hardship in Hollywood.
Tippi wrote so succinctly that within the first hundred pages she had grown up and already starred in The Birds. Next, she launched into an extremely detailed account of how a movie shot on location in Africa prompted her to make a movie starring fifty real lions. To do so, she opened her home to the big cats and relayed the exploits of trying to keep them hidden from the neighbors as well as the injuries they caused to her and the cast and crew of the movie.
As the only actress who worked for both Charlie Chaplin and Alfred Hitchcock, I assumed Tippi lived a glamorous Hollywood life, but she didn’t share many stories about that. Only about 30% of the book was about her time in Hollywood and nearly 70% was about her interactions with lions and the establishment of her wildlife preserve, Shambala. I would have liked for her to have described more about her time as a model and actress as less about the cats destroying her home. Still, I found the memoir to be fascinating and honest, and enjoyed getting to know Tippi Hedren better.