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After Dinner Speaker | Entertainment | Environmentalism


From Hitchcock and Chaplin to Ed Wood, Jr., and from drama and terror to droll comedy, the career of actress Tippi Hedren has been meteoric, and eclectic.

After a few weeks of filming The Birds with Rod Taylor, director Alfred Hitchcock told Associated Press reporter Bob Thomas, "Tippi Hedren is really remarkable. She's already reaching the lows and highs of terror." The former New York fashion model was making her debut as an actress in a starring role in The Birds, and such high praise from the enigmatic master of cinema shock and suspense was rare indeed. "Like a dormant volcano we know one day is going to erupt," Hitchcock described her.

Although the critics were perplexed by the "end-less ending" of The Birds, the movie, which premiered at The Cannes Film Festival, was a sensation earning over $11,000,000 in the first few months, and is now a classic. Saturday Review's Arthur Knight wrote, "Hitchcock's newest 'find', Tippi Hedren is a decidedly lovely blonde." Her performance in the film earned her a Golden Globe award.

Mr. Hitchcock "discovered" the cover girl while viewing a commercial on NBC's Today Show and summoned Ms. Hedren to Hollywood under personal contract. After the release of The Birds, he starred her in Marnie, with Sean Connery. Judith Crist wrote, "Alfred Hitchcock had given us one Grace Kelly in our generation and seems intent on giving us another in the person of Tippi Hedren, a classically beautiful, regally poised blonde." Marnie has achieved cult status as an offbeat psychological thriller, years ahead of its time.

Later, Tippi Hedren appeared in The Countess From Hong Kong with Marlon Brando and Sophia Loren, directed by Chaplin, in what was to be the "Little Tramp's" final film.

The three films, back to back, were an auspicious start for the Minnesota girl of Scandinavian parentage. Between over thirty films and numerous television appearances, Ms. Hedren been involved in a wide variety of humanitarian and environmental causes, almost overshadowing her screen work.

As the volunteer International Relief Coordinator for "FOOD FOR THE HUNGRY", Tippi Hedren traveled worldwide to set up relief programs following earthquakes, hurricanes, famine and war. She aided "boat people" in the South China Sea from a "FOOD FOR THE HUNGRY" rescue ship. Lobbying efforts on behalf of Asian refugees have taken her before Congress and have earned her numerous awards including the "Humanitarian Award" presented to her by the B'hai Faith. She has been honored by the USO for entertaining troops in Vietnam and by the Celebrity Outreach Foundation for her charitable work.

Ms. Hedren began her long love affair with wild animals in 1969 while doing a film, Satan's Harvest, in Africa. She "met" a mellow lion, and much of her life since then has been devoted to the big cats.

Deeply involved with international conservation groups to save wildlife, and an outspoken voice against cruelty to animals, both wild and domestic, she has served on the board of 'The Elsa Wild Animal Appeal" founded by her friend, the late Joy Adamson, and has been on the Board of Directors of Earth Communications Office (ECO). Tippi Hedren is currently President of the "American Sanctuary Association." Other past charity work includes serving on The Board of Directors of The Women's Council of KCET (Channel 28), The Minnesota Film Council, The American Heart Association, The March of Dimes, Multiple Sclerosis, International Orphans, Inc., and several AIDS causes. She has been honored with "The Helen Woodward Animal Center's Annual Humane Award" (1995), the prestigious Founder's Award from the American Society For the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (1996) and the 'Lion and Lamb Award" from Wildhaven (1997) for her work on behalf of animal rights and conservation.

Perhaps Ms. Hedren's most unique endeavor is being "den mother" and close friend to sixty-odd big cats--lion, tiger, leopard, cougar, liger, lynx, bobcat, and serval at The Roar Foundation's Shambala Preserve in Acton, California.

The high desert animal preserve is home to the felines and was first established as an African-type set for the motion picture, Roar, which Tippi Hedren co-produced and starred in with her daughter, film actress Melanie Griffith. After the five-year filming was completed, it became the current, non-profit sanctuary for big cat care.

n keeping with her outlook on the environment and conservation, many of Shambala's residents are cast-offs from private owners, zoos and circuses. "They're living out their lives in safety and comfort." The Preserve is open to the public one weekend a month, on a reservation basis. Ms. Hedren is founder and President of The Roar Foundation and resides at Shambala in a cottage surrounded by big cat compounds. "I awaken to their roars." The story of her life and the animals "dearest to her heart" was told in Simon & Schuster's The Cats of Shambala (1985).

Several documentaries have been produced about the Shambala Preserve including, Lions: Kings of the Serengeti by the Richard Diercks Co, Inc. which won the Telly Award in 1995 for outstanding video documentary; and Life With Big Cats (1998), produced for Animal Planet, which won the Genesis Award for best documentary in 1999.

Tippi Hedren continues to work frequently in motion pictures, theatre, episodic, and cable television. The Beauvais Film Festival Cinemalia 1994 in France and The Fundacion Municipal De Cine in 1995, honored her contributions to world cinema with "Life Achievement" awards. In 1999, she was honored as "Woman of Vision" by Women of Film and Video in Washington, D.C., and received the Presidential Medal for her work in film from Hofstra University. In 2000, she was honored as "Best Actress in a Comedy Short" in the film Mulligans! at the Method Fest, Independent Film Festival, and in 2002, she won "Best Actress" for the short film Tea With Grandma from the New York International Independent Film Festival. In January 2003, she was honored with a star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame. Other awards include, the "Living Legacy" award from the Women's International Center, the "2006 Dino Award" at the Las Vegas Natural History Museum as "Conservationist of the Year, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Riverside International Film Festival in February 2007.

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