Albuquerque, New Mexico was treated to something rare when the TCM Road to Hollywood series took over the historic KiMo Theater to show the Alfred Hitchcock thriller Marnie (1964) with special guests Ben Mankiewicz and star Tippi Hedren. The KiMo a jewel of the South West was a wonderful backdrop to the TCM event which proceeds their annual Film Festival in Hollywood. The theater opened in 1927 in downtown Albuquerque, is said to be the last of its kind to still be standing in Art Deco-Pueblo Revival style. The theater which features beautiful tiles and hand painted murals is a beautiful sight to see if visiting this city in the South West.
Before the film, TCM weekend host Ben Mankiewicz sat down for a discussion with Marnie star Tippi Hedren. The discussion took the audience to the beginning of her career where in the 60’s Hedren was working regularly as a model for the Eileen Ford Modeling Agency, and was appearing in television ads for various products. It was in a commercial for Sego (a popular diet drink in the 60’s) that Hedren was spotted by Hitchcock and his wife Alma. As Hedren tells the story, it was Friday the 13th in October 1961 and she received a phone call inquiring about the girl in the commercial. She had just moved out to Los Angeles and now had an opportunity to meet with an unidentified top film director. It wasn’t until after the first meeting that she was told that if she would sign a contract she would be taken to meet Alfred Hitchcock. The mystery continued during her first meeting with Hitchcock. They talked about several different subjects, but no mention of what project he had her mind for. She endured a three-day screen test in which she played scenes from previous Hitchcock films, Rebecca, Notorious, and To Catch a Thief. Hedren herself acknowledges the difficulty in this screen test, each of the characters being completely different women and were all played by very different actresses. After the screen-test, she was invited to meet Hitchcock, Alma, and talent agent and studio executive Lou Wasserman. At the meeting she was given a box which contained a gold pin with a seed pearl and three birds in flight. Stunned and surprised she was informed that she would be playing Melanie Daniels in the new Hitchcock film, The Birds (1963).
Hitchcock and Alma would become Hedren’s acting coaches using Hitchcock scripts to teach her skills and character development. The Birds was a challenging film for Hedren, the challenges of carrying a film, her first film, and the physical demands of the script. It was towards the end of shooting The Birds that her relationship with Hitchcock began to change. However, Hedren had already signed to the coveted title role in Hitchcock’s next film, Marnie.
Marnie was originally intended to be the film to draw
Grace Kelly out of retirement; however, under pressure from the people of Monaco she had now turned down the role.
Other actresses in Hollywood were interested in playing the lead in Marnie, it was a challenging and rare female character for that time in American film. The title character, Marnie, was a compulsive thief (not to be confused with a kleptomaniac).
However, her underlying issues were her overpowering distress of men, fear of the color red and thunderstorms all of which stemmed from a repressed childhood trauma. When Mark Rutland (Sean Connery) enters her life, she is unable to runaway as she had in the past.
It was near the end of shooting Marnie that Hedren demanded to be released from her contract with Hitchcock, she states, “he ruined my career, but he didn’t ruin my life.” Hitchcock’s career also changed after Marnie. Marnie marked the end of his long-time collaboration with composer Bernard Herman who had written the scores to Hitchcock’s films beginning in 1955 with The Trouble with Harry. Marnie was also the last time Hitchcock would work with cinematographer Robert Burks.
Hedren talked much of her current work which includes the Shambala Preserve, which
rescues large cats that have been raised in captivity. Interestingly, she went into detail about another group of residents at the preserve, ravens. The ravens, who are also meat eaters, tend to watch, follow, and steal meat that is given to the cats. Her fascination with the ravens, led her put a skylight in her bedroom so she can wake up watch them fly over head. “Everything that I’ve done in my life was to lead me to my work with the animals.”
Tagged: Alfred Hitchcock, Ben Mankiewicz, Bernard Herrmann, KiMo Theater, Marnie, Robert Burks, Sean Connery, Shambala Animal Preserve, TCM, TCM Road to Hollywood, The Birds, Tippi Hedren, Turner Classic Movies