London: Film director Sir Alfred Hitchcock was a sadistic sexual predator who devoted his 40-year career to making stars of ice-cool blondes, a new documentary has revealed.
He would become fixated, fall hopelessly in love and, using his powerful position in Hollywood, try to woo them into bed via the casting couch.
Whether he succeeded or failed, Hitchcock would bully them ruthlessly. Among them were Joan Fontaine, Kim Novak, Janet Leigh and — his greatest infatuation of all — Grace Kelly, who later became Princess Grace of Monaco.
But when he plucked Tippi Hedren from obscurity, after spotting her in a TV ad for a diet drink, Hitchcock met his match.
In return for a 5,000 dollars-a-week contract in the Sixties, this blonde — with almost no previous acting experience — was offered leading roles in two of his most successful movies, ‘The Birds’ and ‘Marnie’.
Their relationship quickly switched from mentor and pupil to one of love-hate. While he loved her to the point of obsession she hated him because of his unwelcome sexual advances, which she always rejected and because he was so determined to control her that he ruined her career.
Their story is now being told in a 90-minute BBC2 biopic, ‘The Girl’, with Sienna Miller portraying Tippi, and Toby Jones as the east London-born Hitchcock, who died in 1980.
Tippi — now 82, and the mother of actress Melanie Griffith and grandmother of actress and model Dakota Johnson — had no real experience as an actress, apart from her TV ads, but the ‘Psycho’ director believed she had potential and was prepared to put her name in lights at a price she wasn’t prepared to pay.
It is only now, almost 50 years later, that Hitchcock’s sexual harassment of her, physical and verbal, is being shown on screen.
“At first I learned a lot about acting and I found it very useful,” the Daily Mail quoted her as saying.
“Hitchcock was inspirational to me, but things changed in a sickening way.
‘You have to remember that this was a very different time from now and Hollywood was a very different place.
“Of course, sexual harassment still occurs, but there are far more safeguards in place to prevent it, far more awareness and knowledge of the dangers.
“In my day, the casting couch was in regular use. It was accepted, as a matter of course, that actresses would have to do certain things to get certain parts and nobody found it that surprising.
“He made it very clear what was expected of me, but I was equally clear that I wasn’t interested.
“What Alfred Hitchcock did to me went way beyond that but my protests were still in vain. I told his PA, Peggy Robertson, and she did nothing, beyond trying to placate me and help get the movies finished.
“Nobody is denying that Hitchcock was a brilliant moviemaker and I enjoyed working with him before I realised he was starting to take an almost obsessive interest in me.
“He would stare at me across a room while supposedly in conversation with other people,” she said.
At the height of the harassment, she bumped into Hitchcock’s wife, Alma, a redhead who didn’t fit his sexual stereotype, who knew what all was going on.
“She knew full well what was going on. I said: “It would just take one word from you to stop this,” and she just walked away, with a glazed look in her eyes,’ she said.
“I felt helpless to stop what was going on, thought it pointless to try and tell anybody else about it, but unable to get away from the situation I was in.
“Hitchcock had me signed to a contract before I had even met him, and had me tied to another contract, after I finished working on Marnie, which was designed to prevent me from working for anybody else, even though he didn’t cast me in any more of his productions.
“He trapped me and ruined my career. Producers would ring up — I know the great French filmmaker Francois Truffaut was one of them — offering me parts and Hitchcock would simply tell them that I wasn’t available.
“I was heartbroken when I heard the offers he had turned down on my behalf,” she said.
Tippi has no qualms about undermining the image of a man who brought joy to millions with not only ‘Marnie’ and ‘The Birds’ but other classic suspense movies like ‘Psycho’, ‘North By Northwest’ and ‘Vertigo’.
“It is a true and accurate story that needed to be told,” she added.