Publisher: William Morrow (2016)
Length: 288 pages
Tippi Hedren is known to most as either that cat sanctuary lady or that actress that did those Hitchcock films. I first noticed her for her film Roar which involved many of those big cats she and her family came to care for. In college, I read and really enjoyed her book The Cats of Shambala which she co-wrote with Theodore Taylor. So when this book became available, I couldn’t resist.
Hedren gives an interesting and straightforward account of her life. Granted there are far more details about her early to mid-life than there is about her golden years, but I quite enjoyed learning about her early modeling career, her entry into the movie world, and then her animal sanctuary. While there is quite a bit of good-natured humor in the book, Hedren also provides some serious bits that balance the book out. In the end, I felt like I had come to know much about the real person known as Tippi Hedren.
I didn’t previously know that Hedren had been a model who migrated over to the film industry. First, it’s one of those amazing bits of luck that Hedren found an open door into the modeling world and then years later, another bit of luck that Alfred Hitchcock wanted her to star in not one, but two of his movies. Throughout the book, Hedren often acknowledges her luck and gives thanks to the people involved in furthering her career, even if things didn’t necessarily end well (like with Hitchcock).
The film industry was quite a bit different in some ways back during Hitchcock’s day and this is one of those things that I was vaguely aware of, but Hedren’s accounts of her time in the film industry really brought it home. Once the contract was signed with Hitchcock, he and his film company practically owned her. It’s really a little creepy how much of her life was controlled by this giant of the film industry. Hedren does a great job of talking about not only her horrendous time with Hitchcock but also the wonderful time she had with the cast of both Hitchcock movies (The Birds and Marnie) and the support crew. According to Hedren, Hitchcock had a history of being obsessed with one young woman after another, to the point of making things uncomfortable for her. In filming The Birds, that was apparent when Hitchcock required multiple takes of the bird attack scenes. Hedren remains a bit obscure on just how far Hitchcock takes his obsession but I was mightily relieved for her when she severed her contact with him and his film company.
Once the Hitchcock phase of her life was over, Hedren went on to bigger and better things, in my opinion. There’s plenty of interesting stuff that happens in between Hitchcock and the big cat sanctuary, but I really enjoyed the tales of Shambala and filming Roar the most. It took years to film Roar and there were plenty of hair-raising incidents along the way. First, I really appreciated that Hedren took us through the learning curve that she and her family went through. Like so many, Hedren and her family had big cat cubs in the house, raising them as part of the family and while they took some precautions, in retrospect, more could have been done. There were some little scares – a few injuries and a few escapes. Later, once the sanctuary is up and running, the big cats spent most of their time there surrounded by trained and experienced handlers and crew.
The filming of Roar had some serious incidents, along with several humorous events. Big cats bite and pounce and claw and can do all that to their favorite humans and not feel one second of grief or sorrow over the injuries they dish out. In retrospect, many of the live human/cat tricks and stunts captured in Roar are very dangerous. Despite all the injuries and near misses, the movie gave Hedren and her family the sanctuary and a continuing purpose for the care of these big cats (plus some other beloved animals such as a pair of elephants).
After the stories of Roar and the sanctuary, the book gently peters out. Hedren has had a full and adventurous life but the book glazes over the details once the bulk of the sanctuary stories are told. She does speak about her third marriage briefly, and there are a few bits about her volunteer work sprinkled throughout the book. Basically, I think her golden years plus her overseas volunteer work could probably make another book based on the brief mentions given in this book. Tippi: A Memoir was charming and entertaining. It was also educational as it covered the span of several decades of the film industry when it was in flux. Even if you’ve never heard of Tippi Hedren then I think you would fine this book interesting.
I received a free copy of this book via Bookstr.
What I Liked: Good balance of humor and serious parts; interesting details about Hedren’s life; the Hitchcock days; the filming of Roar; the establishing of Shambala; learning about big cats; all the pictures.
What I Disliked: I felt the golden years of Hedren’s life were sparsely covered but perhaps there is a second book that will cover those years in more detail.
What Others Think: