Hitchcock haterade is held back as ‘The Birds’ stars celebrate 50 years

Meriah Doty
Movie Talk
Tippi Hedren and Veronica Cartwright
Tippi Hedren and Veronica Cartwright

It's been nearly 50 years since the release of Alfred Hitchcock's film about a Northern California town that becomes the target of flocks of attack birds. To mark the occasion, two of the stars of "The Birds," Tippi Hedren and Veronica Cartwright, appeared at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood on Thursday night for a special screening of the half-century-old flick. And Hedren, known as the film's star but also as the target of Hitchcock's abuse, abstained from airing her complaints.

It's hard to believe the movie's child star, who played little Cathy Brenner, is now 63 years old. Since "The Birds," Cartwright has enjoyed a full and lengthy career in film and television, appearing in a lot of -- you guessed it -- horror films. "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1978), "Alien" (1979) and "The Witches of Eastwick" (1987) are arguably her most memorable roles. (Remember when she spontaneously regurgitated cherry pits as the villain in "Eastwick"? Or when she was paralyzed with fear as the creature accosted her in "Alien"?) She is still acting today, appearing on ABC's "Revenge" as well as in various films.

It's widely known that Hedren, also the mother of Melanie Griffith, hasn't been as lucky in her career. It all stems from her contentious relationship with Hitchcock on the set of the famous 1963 horror film. "He ruined my career, but he didn't ruin my life," she told the audience on Thursday.

Hedren hasn't been quiet about her feelings toward Hitchcock in other venues, telling the Huffington Post in December that the famed late auteur was both brilliant and also "evil." "It is a terrible thing to be the object of that obsession," she recalled of the director who discovered her. HBO's recent film "The Girl" depicts the tumultuous time -- when a married Hitchcock is said to have romantically pursued a repulsed Hedren. Rebuffed, Hitchcock sought revenge on the young starlet, making her endure cruelties on the set of "The Birds" as well as later holding her career hostage in a multi-year contract.

Hedren never became the huge Grace Kelly-like star that Hitchcock initially set out to make her, but she has also since enjoyed a lengthy career in film and television with roles in "The Bionic Woman" (1976), "Tales from the Darkside" (1984), "Baby Boom" (1988), "I Heart Huckabees" (2004) and "Cougar Town" (2013).

"The Birds" today seems more campy than scary with its '60s-era special effects. It's also hard not to giggle when school children are given the worst advice ever as the threat of angry birds appears imminent: to run outside amongst them.

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