Tippi Hedren reflects on “Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds” and her foundation

It’s the classic story of being in the right place at the right time. Newly moved to California in 1961, Tippi Hedren appeared in a television commercial that caught the eye of one of the most acclaimed filmmakers in history: Alfred Hitchcock. “Hitch” tracked Ms. Hedren down and cast her as Melanie Daniels in his classic film “The Birds.” She worked with him again alongside Sean Connery in “Marnie.” More than five decades later she continues to work, both on screen and in her continuing fight to stop the breeding of big cats through her THE ROAR FOUNDATION. And talent runs in the family. Her daughter, Melanie Griffith, is an Oscar-nominated actress and her granddaughter, Dakota Johnson, will star in the highly anticipated film version of “50 Shades of Grey.”

As she prepared for her upcoming appearance in Omaha this week at a charity screening of “The Birds” Ms. Hedren took some time to speak with me about the event and her foundation.

Mike Smith: You’re originally from Minnesota. Will this be your first visit to Nebraska?
Tippi Hedren: Not at all. I’ve been there before and I’m looking forward to returning and taking part in the festivities.

MS: How did you get the name “Tippi?”
TH: My father gave it to me. My baptismal name is Nathalie Kay Hedren and that was quite much for a little tiny girl. My father, who was of Swedish descent, started calling me “Touksa,” which is a Swedish term of endearment apparently. It went from Touksa to Tippi. And that’s the story!

MS: What do you think it is about “The Birds” that makes it a “must see” film more than 50 years after it was released?
TH: That movie has a life of its own! But when you do a Hitchcock film you know it’s going to be good but this has just been outrageous. One decade after the other. People like to be afraid and when you can be made afraid of something that you see every day that makes it even better.

MS: As with a lot of the screenings in Omaha, the artist Nicolosi has designed a special United States Post Office envelope to commemorate the event. Have you seen it yet?
TH: No, I haven’t.
MS: It’s a beautiful piece of work. I know you’re going to like it.
TH: I can’t wait to see it.

MS: Your daughter, Melanie, is a movie star in her own right and your granddaughter is about to star in what will surely be one of the most popular films of 2015. Have you ever felt the need, or have they ever asked you, for any advice on how to deal with Hollywood?
TH: Not really. I’ve never felt the need to talk with them. As a family we certainly respect each other’s talent but we’ve never given each other advice.

MS: “The Birds” was your film debut. Do you approach a film role the same today as you did back then?
TH: No. You have to understand that “The Birds” was a unique experience. For someone who had always wanted to be an actress, this was like Cinderella. I was chosen for the part because of a commercial I had done. I had been a model for the Ford Agency in New York City in the 1950s but the 1960s brought along the television and, of course, the television commercial. Commercials were financially lucrative, so much so that I was able to take three months off and travel around the world. Apparently Mr. Hitchcock became interested in me after seeing me in a commercial for a product called Sego, which was a diet drink. It was a commercial with a story line, not just a product plug. He asked Universal to find the girl in the commercial. Lo and behold, I had just moved back to California with Melanie and…
MS: Wow! Perfect timing.
TH: Perfect.

MS: Tell a little about your work with big cats.
TH: I’ve been rescuing big cats…lions and tigers…since 1972. This has become a major, major part of my life. I feel very strongly that these animals should not be bred and born in the United States to be sold as a pet or for financial gain. I’m very busy trying to get my second federal bill passed to stop the breeding. It’s titled the “Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act” and I hope your readers will look it up and write to their senators and congressmen to stop the breeding.

For more information on how to support Miss Hedren’s bill, go to https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/1998

Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” to Invade Omaha

On Friday, November 7th, Film Historian Bruce Crawford will present his 35th Classic Film Tribute by hosting a screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” Crawford’s special guest that evening will be actress Tippi Hedren, star of the film as well as Hitchcock’s next film, 1964’s “Marnie.”

As with most Classic Film Tributes, artist Nicolosi has designed a commemorative U.S. Postal Envelope honoring the film and it will be unveiled at the event. The envelope will be available for purchase by fans and both Miss Hedren and Nicolosi will autograph it.

Crawford has brought many classic films to Omaha over the years, pairing each one with a special guest star. Recent films (and guests) include “Jaws” with Carl Gottlieb, “Young Frankenstein” with Cloris Leachman, “The Miracle Worker” with Patty Duke and “The Great Escape” with David McCallum.

The screening will be held at the beautiful Joslyn Art Museum, 2200 Dodge Street, Omaha, Nebraska. Tickets are now on sale and available locally at all Omaha Hy Vee Food Store customer service counters. Proceeds from the screening will benefit the Nebraska Kidney Association.

For more information, call 402-932-7200 or visit www.omahafilmevent.com

Book Review “The Making of Hitchcock’s The Birds”

Author: Tony Lee Moral
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Oldcastle Books
Release Date: September 1, 2013

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

When you think of great suspense horror films, you can’t help but immediately think of Alfred Hitchcock. The guy has such an eye for making films.  He was meticulous about his shots and has inspired a countless number people since with this style. “The Birds” was Hitchcock’s next film after “Psycho” and I am sure that the anticipation surrounding it was very high.  I saw this film first when I was a child and it scared the living daylights out of me.  Watching it as an adult, it is still very effective as it was then.  This new behind-the-scenes book is planning perfectly to coincide with the film’s 50th anniversary this year and it is also the first book-length look into the making of this production.  I had the privilege of speaking with the film’s star Tippi Hedren earlier this year, read here, and she reflected on this film and it’s reign over popular culture. The recent HBO film, “This Girl”, read our review here, also focused on the topic of the making of “The Birds” as well. Highly recommend. This book is a must for any fast of Hitchcock’s work and a very in depth look into the making of this amazing and rather timeless film.

Official Premise: Featuring new interviews with stars Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren, and Veronica Cartwright, as well as sketches and storyboards from Hitchcock’s A-list technical team, Robert Boyle, Albert Whitlock, and Harold Michelson, the book charts every aspect of the film’s production all set against the tumultuous backdrop of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis and JFK’s presidency. Using unpublished material from the Alfred Hitchcock Collection, Evan Hunter’s files, Peggy Robertson’s papers, and Robert Boyle’s artwork, this is the ultimate guide to Hitchcock’s most ambitious film. This book analyzes the film’s modernist underpinnings, from art director Robert Boyle’s initial sketches influenced by Munch’s The Scream, to the groundbreaking electronic score by pioneering German composers Remi Gassmann and Oskar Sala. There is also a time line detailing the film’s production to its release at MOMA in New York, and the 1963 Cannes Film Festival.

The book is authored by Tony Lee Moral, who is a documentary filmmaker, a writer, and the author of “Alfred Hitchcock’s Movie Making Masterclass” and “Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie”. So I think that he is the right person for this job.  He has a vast understanding of Hitchcock and a real passion in his words. You can tell when you are reading this book that there is a certain admiration behind the words.  The only thing that I would have wanted more from this book would have been more photos.  I am sure that there are tons of great behind-the-scenes photos from this production. Don’t get me wrong there is a nice middle section with some very crispy color and black and white shots. I am just a visual guy and a big fan of the art of books.  I would have like to have seen the photos spread out throughout book and posted in areas where they were relative to the book’s narrative. Overall though, I enjoy this quite a bit and look forward to passing it to a friend to enjoy as well. Now if you excuse me, I have to go watch “The Birds” again on Blu-ray. I have a sudden urge to enjoy this masterpiece of cinema for some strange reason.


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Blu-ray Review “Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train”

Actors: Farley Granger, Ruth Roman, Robert Walker, Leo G. Carroll
Directors: Alfred Hitchcock
Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Warner Bros.
Release Date: October 9, 2012
Run Time: 101 minutes

Film: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

“Strangers on a Train” has always been one of my favorite Hitchcock pictures. It really shows him at his pure best. I know, I know “Psycho” is amazing but this is a completely different type of picture. It literally keeps you on the edge of your chair from once the plot to “exchange” murders begins on that train. Warner Brothers delivers a really fantastic 1080p transfer within it’s aspect ratio of 1.36:1. The black and white film looks so crisp and sharp. The audio is also near-perfect with its DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track. Dimitri Tiomkin’s score really secures your seat placement on your couch.  There are two different cuts of this film on the Blu-ray. There is the final release version, which we all know and love and then there is the preview version which runs about two minutes longer and features some alternate takes. They are subtle changes but if you are a hardcore fan of Hitchcock, you are going to want both versions.

The special features are ported from previous DVD releases but still great.  There is a jam-packed commentary track with Alfred Hitchcock, Peter Bogdanovich, Joseph Stefano, Patricia Hitchcock O’Connell and about fifteen others who pop in. Obviously, it is edited together and done very well. Next up with five behind-the-scene featurettes, including “Strangers on a Train: A Hitchcock Classic”, which is a nice chat with Peter Bogdanovich and a few others about film. “Strangers on a Train: The Victim’s P.O.V.” looks into the shot uses for Laura Elliot in the film (one of my favorite shots). “Strangers on a Train: An Appreciation by M. Night Shyamalan” is the “The Sixth Sense” director’s tribute to Hitchcock.  “The Hitchcocks on Hitch” is a chat with both Hitchcock’s daughter and granddaughter. “Alfred Hitchcock’s Historical Meeting” is a short extra with the director meeting up with actors made up as historical characters. Lastly there is the theatrical trailer included.

Premise: Before anyone though of “throwing Momma from the train,” the idea of a double “crisscross” murder has already been hatched. Or “hitched,” as in Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train”. Tennis star Guy Hanies (Farley Granger) half-jokingly muses about killing his wife with a stranger he meets on a train, unhinged playboy Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker), who’d prefer his father be deceased. In theory, each could murder the other’s victim. Crisscross. No motive. No clues. No problem…except: Bruno takes the idea seriously, with deadly consequences.

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3D Blu-ray Review “Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder 3D”

Actors: Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, Robert Cummings
Directors: Alfred Hitchcock
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: Warner Home Video
Release Date: October 9, 2012
Run Time: 105 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2 out of 5 stars

When I found out that Hitchcock’s “Dial M for Murder” was being released on 3D Blu-ray, I was thrilled to see this picture as it was original intended to be seen.  The film itself is still great, though the 3D presentation is not as impressive.  I feel like Hitchcock didn’t really embrace the format and didn’t use it to it’s fullest.  I recently saw “Creature from the Black Lagoon” on 3D Blu-ray and let me tell you that blew me away.  That film really took advantage of the 3D format.  Overall, it is still great to have the film as it was seen in the theaters, even if the 3D isn’t perfect. Hardcore fans of Hitchcock, will enjoy this opportunity for sure.

Warner Brothers delivers both the  2D and 3D version of this film with both transfers presented in 1.78 aspect ratio. The colors are sharp and look nice on Blu-ray, though there are a few scenes that is some noticeable fuzz.  The audio sounds great with its DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track.  This works really well its Dimitri Tiomkin’s score and makes it comes it life.  The special features are also a let down, there is just one short SD feature called “Hitchcock and Dial M”, which runs about 20 minutes. Lastly there is also a theatrical trailer included for this release.

Synopsis: When American writer Mark Halliday visits the very married Margot Wendice in London, he unknowingly sets off a chain of blackmail and murder. After sensing Margot’s affections for Halliday, her husband, Tony Wendice, fears divorce and disinheritance, and plots her death. Knowing former school chum Captain Lesgate is involved in illegal activities, Tony blackmails him into conspiring to kill Margot. When she kills Lesgate in self-defense, Tony implicates her as being guilty of premeditated murder. Halliday must out-stratagize Tony to save Margot’s live.

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