On April 9th, Hilary and I and two other school chums packed our bags and took a road trip to Ann Arbor, Michigan for the TCM Road to Hollywood screening of Hitchcock’s Marnie (1964). Not only was this a TCM event, but the star herself was going to be interviewed by Ben Mankiewicz – TIPPI HEDREN!
Before we get to Tippi, let’s just talk about the theatre. The Michigan Theatre was what every theatre should be – a movie palace! When you walk into the building, you know this was built to worship the cinematic gods of the silver screen. Growing up in churches, I can verify that this theatre was attempting to instill a spirit of worship in the patrons. If you are a history buff, this short Wikipedia article has a summary of the theatre’s past: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michigan_Theater_(Ann_Arbor,_Michigan)
Did you know TCM is sponsored by Porsche? Basically, to keep TCM commercial-free, we must all buy Porsche vehicles.
The prelude came in the form of an organ player. The organ is original to the building which is a rare thing to find! The organist played songs such as the Psycho theme, Would You?, and If Love Were All.
Finally, Ben stepped out onto the stage. He started the evening talking about his victorious gambling feat the previous night due to the University of Michigan’s loss in the March Madness final. Ben, if you are reading this, please seek help for your gambling problem. You seem to talk about it a lot. We care.
We found his remark to be rude, but Tippi Hedren was not afraid to put him in his place! She may be 83 years old, but she still has spunk and can rock those three-inch heels! She was a darling to listen to and still has the Tippi Hedren voice.
Time was limited, but Tippi revealed a lot about her life. Having only been in two major Hollywood films, she is not as famous or well known as she could have been. She was a successful model before Hitchcock discovered her. When Hollywood contacted her, they could not tell her who was interested in signing her on to a seven year contract. They told Tippi it was the famous Alfred Hitchcock who found interest in her after she signed the contract. This is when Ben asked, “Did you have a ‘holy shit’ moment?”
To which Tippi replied, “It’s called acting, my dear.”
Tippi was very articulate about her experience under contract for Hitchcock. His obsession with her drove her to demand a release from her seven year contractual duty. He refused to break her contract or let other producers borrow her for their films. He answered their pleas with, “She is not available.”
Discovering that someone so highly revered acted this way toward a woman and his star is very disheartening; however, she was very positive about her experience and was respectful towards him despite the grievous wrongs he committed against her. She told us she has two images of him: one is Hitchcock the genius, the other is Hitchcock the troubled man. The greatest moment of the interview was when she confidently told us, “He may have ruined my career but he didn’t ruin my life.” There may have been some people in the audience who are or have previously experienced the same situation as Tippi and needed to hear her optimism. Thank you, Tippi, for being a voice of strength for victims of harassment.
Life after The Birds and Marnie led her to rescuing lions and tigers. She still keeps 47 big cats in her shelter which is located 45 minutes outside Los Angeles. To expand and renovate the shelter, she needs $1.2 million — that is on top of the 400-500 pounds of meat she feeds the cats each day! This little woman has made a roaring impact on the felines’ lives. For more information, or if you would like to donate, visit her website: http://www.shambala.org/index.htm
Watching Marnie in the movie palace with a packed theatre is how classic films should be treated. I have seen classic films in the general, big-chain theatres with perhaps six other people in the audience, but this was a hundred-fold more magnificent. It felt like a collective experience. We were all there for the same purpose. As a younger person who often felt alienated for adoring classic films, it was a comforting feeling to be watching a film with a community of fellow film fans.
Personally, I enjoyed the film. Every film is going to have it’s “problematic” issues, but I believe Marnie deserves to be taught in Film Studies classes. It is not a quintessential Hitchcock film, but it raises a lot of discussion surrounding gender performance and psychology.
One of the best things coming out of the screening was the ability to say, “Hello, my name is Katie and Marnie was spoiled for me by Tippi Hedren herself!” I had never seen Marnie before and Tippi spoiled the plot for me during the interview. Not many people are able to say that the star of the film revealed the plot twist to them. All in all, the evening was unforgettable, and the four of us had a grand time taking a break from exams to see Tippi and Marnie.
Now that is how movies ought to be watched!