One of a string of blonde bombshells that served as the muse of famed director Alfred Hitchcock, Tippi Hedren was the beautiful girl from small-town Minnesota who became a 1960s icon through her back-to-back performances in two of Hitchcock's films during the decade -- The Birds and Marnie. Before she was mothering Melanie Griffith, Hedren played socialite avian magnet Melanie Daniels and disturbed klepto Marnie Edgar. And though the deal struck between the director and the newcomer ended up souring her career (he kept her under a tight contract that she was eager to be released from), these two performances are the clear highlights and added her to a list accompanied by the likes of Janet Leigh, Grace Kelly, and Kim Novak.
As Melanie in The Birds Hedren founder herself following a dapper gent she met in a pet store back to his hometown, Bodega Bay. Once there she finds herself in the midst of a brutal attack by migrating birds. Though the film has its somewhat unintentionally funny moments (the schoolchildren chase scene, anyone?), the crows in the playground scene preceding it is unmistakably eerie, even 45 years later. Hedren plays the done-up, well-to-do Daniels with great ease (she and Mad Men's January Jones' character Betty are dead ringers for each other!), and her transformation from delicate flower to unlikely action heroine is entirely believable. She brought delicate grace to what could've been a bombastic performance. The Birds is definitely one of Hitchcock's most enjoyable films, and Hedren took center stage like an old pro, besides it being only her second film performance.
And in 1964's Marnie, Hedren's character is vastly different, playing a mentally disturbed woman who is blackmailed into a marriage to Sean Connery's character because of her tendency to steal from work (seeing parallels to Psycho's Marion Crane?). Though the performance is less subdued and more dramatic than its predecessor, Hedren's Marnie steals the attention away from Mr. Bond himself, no easy feat considering Connery's typical scenery-chewing. The swarm of birds has been replaced by a morbid childhood memory, and Hedren seems more rattled by the latter. For this '60s bombshell, a few pecks she can stand, but the line is drawn at murderous memories.
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