“Tippi” wasn’t always her name. Born Nathalie Kay Hedren on January 19, 1930 to Dorothea and Bernard Hedren, she was given the nickname “Tippi” by her father — from the Swedish nickname, Tupsa, meaning ‘sweetheart’. Growing up in Minnesota, Tippi had dreams of becoming a model. As a teen, she took part in department store fashion shows. While she was still in high school, her family relocated to California, and when she turned 18, she bought a ticket to head to the greatest city in the world: New York.
From 1950 to 1961, Hedren was a successful fashion model, appearing on the cover of many national magazines. But it was her role in a commercial that would change her life forever — Alfred Hitchcock was watching The Today Show, and in a commercial for a diet drink called Sego, saw Hedren. After working with Grace Kelly, Hitchcock was looking for someone who possessed similar sophistication, self-assurance, and cool sex appeal, and he believed he had found that in Tippi.
After a costly $25,000 screen test, Hitchcock signed Hedren to a multi-year contract, his plan being to personally mold Hedren’s public image. Although Hitchcock may have been aiming to make Hedren the next Grace Kelly, Hedren had other ideas: she wanted to be known as the first Tippi Hedren.
The first, and most famous of Hedren’s films, would be The Birds. The film was met with extremely positive reviews, and would wind up being one of Hitchcock’s last successful films. Unfortunately, however, the relationship between Hitchcock and Hedren would slowly start to fall apart.
The next film that Hedren and Hitchcock collaborated on, and the last, was Marnie. The film was greeted with mixed reviews, but was Hedren’s favorite role between the two films. After Marnie, Hitchcock had several other roles in mind for Hedren, but she declined to work with Hitchcock anymore, apparently due to unwanted ‘advances’. Hitchcock kept her under contract, and when other directors expressed interest in casting her, informed them that she was unavailable. As Hitchcock wouldn’t allow Hedren to get out of her contract — Hedren could do nothing, and while doing nothing was paid a ‘small sum’ every week.
Josh Kaye for Classic Movie Hub