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The Director of the "Greatest" Film of All Time Was A Sexual Harasser

by Melissa Silverstein
August 6, 2012 1:02 PM
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Tippi Hedren

Last week as the film world was celebrating the elevation of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo to the top of the once a decade Sight and Sound list of "Greatest Films of All Time", the leading actress in two of his films Tippi Hedren (The Birds and Marnie) was at the annual Television Critics Association event in California talking about how Alfred Hitchcock sexually harassed her.

Hedren was at the event talking about the new HBO film The Girl (airing October 20) which depicts the relationship between Hitchcock and Hedren, in the film played by Toby Jones and Sienna Miller, which at the beginning (according to Hedren) started out well but then devolved into a power play that Hedren lost.  He became obsessive and controlling and wanted her to sleep with him or else he would ruin her career.  She refused and he did live up to his promise and derailed her movie career.   We've all heard rumors and stories about what women had to do to get parts but I don't know the last time I actually heard an actress say that a director told her she had to sleep with him or she would regret it. 

Hitchcock had her under contract so he did not let her take other parts so as she said he paid her for two years to do nothing.  Two years in the short span of an actresses life is a long time and he knew it.  He used his power and as Hedren said at panel: "He ruined my career but he didn’t ruin my life."   And TV Line says the bulk of the film is made up of "Hitchcock’s sense of power, and how the actress reacted to it during production of The Birds and Marnie."

As Alyssa Rosenberg writes in Think Progress "Brave things don’t often happen on the stage at the Television Critics Association press tour" which is usually a cheerleading session for the upcoming fall shows.  (And by the way if you don't read Alyssa you should, she is terrific and is one of the best on the gender and pop culture beat.) 

This to me is a WOW moment.   It is important to take note and give a shout out to the brave folks who are telling the truth. 

While Sienna Miller -- the star of the film who is still working today-- said she thinks things are different for women and there is no casting couch, Hedren wants to remind women that they should never have to take this shit from anybody - even if he is a great director.

I hope that young women who do see this film know that they do not have to acquiesce to anything that they do not feel is morally right or that they are dissatisfied with or simply wanting to get out of that situation, that you can have a strength, and you deserve it,” she said. “I can look at myself in the mirror, and I can be proud. I feel strong. And I lived through it beautifully. He ruined my career, but he didn’t ruin my life.

Pencil in October 20 to check out this film.

Studies in Actorly Courage: Tippi Hedren on Sexual Harassment and Alfred Hitchcock, and Lance Reddick on Race (Think Progress)

Tippi Hedren On Alfred Hitchcock And HBO’s ‘The Girl’: TCA (Deadline)

Exclusive First Look: Sienna Miller and Toby Jones as Hedren and Hitchcock in HBO's The Girl (TV Line)

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More: HBO , Sienna Miller, Tippi Hedren, Sexism

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  • Richard | September 6, 2012 7:46 PMReply

    Oh please.... "She refused and he did live up to his promise and derailed her movie career." ... Sure. gosh..

  • Tyler A. Chas | August 14, 2012 4:49 PMReply

    There is still a lot of this stuff going on yet today. People in the business don't say it publicly but its pretty rampant for men also.

  • Julian | August 12, 2012 1:21 AMReply

    Though i love Vertigo, i will admit Hitchcock was definitely a dick

  • me | August 11, 2012 10:38 PMReply

    A famous person during the middle of the 20th century was a misogynist, and commited sexual harassment. * le gasp* Next you will be telling me that ice is cold.

  • Kathy | August 11, 2012 12:15 AMReply

    Thanks for telling your story, Tippi. Hitchcock was a misogynist and we need to make sure the world doesn't forget it.

  • Sophie | August 6, 2012 8:05 PMReply

    "He ruined my career but he didn't ruin my life"

    Survivors of sexism always have to prove that they are not 'victims'. What other group ever has to do that?

  • Zinjo | August 16, 2012 4:06 PM

    Survivors of EVERY form of abuse! Next question...

  • Laura | August 6, 2012 6:37 PMReply

    I've always heard stories about the sick twisted things Hitchcock did to his leading ladies. This is the first time I've from an actual Hitchcock actress.

  • Elisa Camahort Page | August 6, 2012 2:03 PMReply

    Wow is right. Wow. Sorry I'm so brain drain. Just wow.

  • Christine Champagne | August 6, 2012 2:00 PMReply

    Thanks for writing this piece. I covered this panel, and I was so impressed with Tippi. What she went through was just awful, but I was glad to hear her say that she didn't allow the abuse to ruin her life.

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