I don't read many celebrity memoirs, for two reasons: 1. It's hard for most people, famous or not, to examine their lives with an appropriate degree oI don't read many celebrity memoirs, for two reasons: 1. It's hard for most people, famous or not, to examine their lives with an appropriate degree of self-awareness and context and 2. many celebrities don't have that much to say.
I don't mean #2 as a slam at all; many fictional books, from very successful authors, suffer from the same failing. A series of connected events can move you from Point A to Point B and that can be the end of it. But a plot becomes a story, and a biography becomes a memoir, when it has something more to express about the author's view of his or her place in the world. Tippi, written by the iconic Hitchcock star of The Birds and Marnie, is probably the most satisfying celebrity memoir I've ever read, in no small part because Tippi Hedren expresses passion and purpose in every aspect of her life.
Whether she's writing about her childhood or early beginnings as a model (I love books and films set in the 40s, 50s, and 60s, and this book provides wonderful detail about what it was like to be a young woman embarking upon a career in that era) or luminaries of the screen or passing acquaintances, she writes about the people in her life with extraordinary warmth and generosity. Of particular note are the way she describes her relationship with her parents and her daughter and granddaughter (actresses Melanie Griffith and Dakota Johnson), and the pride she feels in how their extended families have retained relationships. She writes about her marriages with clear-eyed candor and appreciation, examining how each of her four major relationships led to other great loves in her life.
One of the most important was her second marriage, which led to a project that sparked her dedication to animal activism. I've been longing to go to her Shambala Preserve in southern California for ages (safari tours? overnight tent stays? yes, please!) and after reading this, I want to go even more. The lengthy chapters describing Tippi and her then-husband's efforts to make a film about the big cats slows down the book pacing-wise quite a bit--this is probably the book's biggest misstep--but they do effectively make you understand her passion and determination to educate and provide sanctuary for endangered exotic felines.
It's also fascinating to read about a young Jan de Bont's dedication to getting the perfect shot--so much so that this future cinematographer/director/producer of DIE HARD, SPEED, THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, MINORITY REPORT was literally scalped by a lion but was back to work within days; Tippi and her husband's initially cordial but eventually fraught involvement in THE EXORCIST; and of course, of particular interest to a lifelong lover of Hitchcock films, the day-to-day details of the actress' work on THE BIRDS and MARNIE. (I could go on and on about that last part obsessively, but I'll spare you.)
After many years of being circumspect in her interviews, the author finally talks about the way she was essentially groomed, sexually assaulted, and then blackballed in the industry by Alfred Hitchcock. These are all allegations I've heard before, but not with this detail; I cannot feel anything other than enormous sympathy for anyone enduring this, particularly as she is publicly questioned for the veracity of her statements. It's so easy to doubt victims, especially when it involves people you revere.
I come away with this with a great deal of admiration for the way she handled herself then and now; this is a self-portrait of a woman is sure of herself, aware of her own worth, and gracious and appreciative under all circumstances. Throughout the book, she repeatedly expresses gratitude for friends and employees who have been with her for decades, particularly through exceedingly difficult circumstances at Shambala; what she doesn't say, but what should be noted, is that it also speaks volumes that people have chosen to stay with her.
I got more than I expected with this celebrity memoir, and anyone who is interested in Hitchcock history should definitely pick this up. Tippi Hedren has things to say--and she says them exceedingly well.
Oh, PS! Tippi talks about how her daughter threw big parties for her 75th and 80th birthdays. I used to live 5 minutes from Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas' house, so I'm rather tickled to think that was happening literally a few blocks away. :)...more