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Hell hath no fury like a Hitchcock scorned. After the fat man with the famous profile signed Tippi Hedren to a seven-year contract and put her through what was then the most expensive screen test in Hollywood history — in that order — he resorted to more conventional wooing tactics: driving past her house, having her followed, analyzing her handwriting, asking her to touch him. Hedren was willing to give her all to The Birds (1963), but she didn’t appreciate being mauled in the back seat of a limo — and that’s when the props started acting up. First a mechanical bird broke a supposedly shatterproof telephone booth, spraying bits of glass into Hedren’s face. Then she was informed that the bird-bots were malfunctioning and that the climactic “bedroom” scene, in which her character is assaulted by the ravenous flock, would be shot with live fowl. For five days, trained ravens, doves, and pigeons dive-bombed Hedren while she bled and screamed and flapped her hands; some were fastened to her clothes with elastic bands. On the fifth day, one pecked too close to her eye, and The Girl admitted that she couldn’t take any more. “Cut,” Hitch said. He had what he wanted.

Melanie Grifth in bed with her pet lion, Neil, Sherman Oaks, Calif., May 1971 © Michael Rougier/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images.

Melanie Grifth in bed with her pet lion, Neil, Sherman Oaks, Calif., May 1971 © Michael Rougier/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images.

You might think that a person who had been abused in this fashion would avoid wildlife in the future. But as the model turned actress turned activist recounts in the absolutely charming TIPPI: A MEMOIR (William Morrow, $28.99), in the 1970s, she and Husband No. 2 Noel Marshall went a little batty for big cats. (They do kill birds.) The couple’s obsession culminated in Roar (1981), a big-budget fiasco shot at the high-desert preserve where they lived with 150 animals, including lions, tigers, jaguars, and a tiglon, as well as elephants, flamingos, three aoudad sheep, and four Canada geese. There is a plot, something about an American scientist (played by Marshall; no one else would do it) studying a pride of lions on the veld. His wife and children (played by his wife and children) come to visit, and pandemonium ensues. The finished product has the character of a deranged home movie. And before you jump to conclusions, no, Hedren’s fifteen-year-old daughter, Melanie Griffith, did not move in with twice-married, twenty-two-year-old Don Johnson to get away from the pride. True, the family home in Beverly Hills played host to six lion cubs and an adult male named Neil. But it was only after Griffith moved out that her mother moved into the zoo at Soledad Canyon.

Work on the film began in 1970 and lasted eleven years. Setbacks included a flood, an epidemic that wiped out fourteen felines, and financing woes — at one point, the producers saw the rough footage and asked for their money back. As for the injuries . . . Hedren’s leg was crushed by Timbo, the friendly elephant, which led to gangrene. Lions caused the rest. Griffith was attacked by Sheila. Marshall got one puncture wound in the hand from Casey and eight in the leg from George (those led to blood poisoning); Jerry, Marshall’s son, was bitten near the groin by Mike, who had a thing for tennis shoes. Cinematographer Jan de Bont — he went on to direct Speed, Speed 2, and Twister — was scalped by Cherries. The 475-pound Tongaru “plunged his canines” into the assistant director’s throat, “a few millimeters away from his jugular vein.” Unsurprisingly, there are moments in Roar when the cast seems genuinely anxious, but what’s truly bizarre is how boring it is. The reality of untamed nature is far less scary than a madman and his sound effects.

Tippi Hedren in The Birds © Pictorial Press Ltd./Alamy

Tippi Hedren in The Birds © Pictorial Press Ltd./Alamy

Tippi is cowritten with Lindsay Harrison, who brought the same chatty tone to The Truth About Psychics, her 2009 collaboration with the medium and television personality Sylvia Browne. It’s got stories galore — three marriages, a coma that deprives Hedren of her senses of smell and taste — and personality to spare. (On taking in two of Michael Jackson’s tigers: “I was really disappointed that he didn’t call, not once, to check on them, nor did he ever send a dime for food and upkeep.”) Hedren insists so many times that she didn’t deserve her big-screen success that you start to believe her. About the only thing she takes credit for is getting Vietnamese refugees interested in the nail business. She had been involved with a charity that rescued and housed the so-called boat people, and when the women got curious about her long, shapely claws, she brought in her manicurist to give a tutorial. Next stop, beauty school. Hedren helped twenty-five women earn their cosmetology licenses and open their own salons. In 2011, the Vietnamese advocacy group Boat People SOS gave her a Service to Humanity award.

Hedren has a keen sensitivity for the afflicted and abandoned. She weaned the blue-eyed cub Billy with a tube and bottle after he was rejected by his mother, and the two became inseparable. She once took him to a fancy restaurant in a picnic basket. When he grew up, though, they could see each other only in isolation. If anyone else was around, Billy would pounce.

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