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Blonde ambition; A new TV movie will show how director Alfred Hitchcock sexually harassed starlet Tippi Hedren and tried to control her life. Here screenwriter Gwyneth Hughes writes about what inspired The Girl.

Iwas dozing in a heap by a swimming pool on a summer holiday when I got a phone call from producer Amanda Jenks.

She only managed to get out the words "Alfred Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren" before I was already shouting "Yes, yes, yes!" to this seductive, sinister, deeply touching story of love and obsession among Hollywood royalty.

The door was first opened for us by Tippi's friend and biographer Donald Spoto.

His 2008 book Spellbound By Beauty is a close examination of the director's well-known serial interest in an array of elegant, cool, blonde stars like Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman and Kim Novak.

We call them 'Hitchcock Blondes', but Hitch himself only ever called them 'The Girl' - and he was at the height of his fame and creativity when, in 1962, he chose a new girl to star in his most ambitious film, The Birds.

But as Alfred Hitchcock sculpted an unknown fashion model from Minnesota into the perfect blonde of his imagination, he became obsessed with the impossible dream of winning the real woman's love.

When Tippi finally felt able to describe her ordeal to Donald Spoto, she ended almost half a century of silence.

Back then women were supposed to put up with unwanted male attention, or risk getting the blame for it.

So Tippi felt powerless in the face of the great man's desire, and had nobody she could talk to about it.

She suffered in lonely silence, until she could stand it no more, and the dream of a film career ended in a bleak, ugly rupture with the man who discovered her.

How life has changed since then! When I went to interview Tippi myself at Shambala, the charitable foundation where she cares for abandoned or maltreated big cats, she told me with a wry smile that if the whole thing happened today, she could sue and become a rich woman.

But as I talked in more depth with her, and with surviving members of Hitch's film crew, I began to see more and more clearly that this was much more than just an everyday story of a powerful boss and a casting couch.

There were two victims in this story; two careers came off the rails and two hearts were broken.

Francois Truffaut, the celebrated French film director, interviewed Hitch at length during post-production on The Birds.

In Truffaut's opinion, Hitchcock never got over the collapse of his personal and professional relationship with Tippi Hedren.

Alfred Hitchcock was Britain's greatest and most original screen talent, and I've always loved his films.

As I watched them all over again, I felt I could see more and more clearly how much his own inner torment and unhappiness drives them.

There were unwanted sexual advances here, certainly, but there was also a terrible need and loneliness. I could not see Alfred Hitchcock simply as a villain.

Our film opens in 1961, as Hitch and his wife Alma spot a pretty young mother modelling in a television commercial.

It takes their story through the filming of The Birds, restaging the terrifying scene where the birds attack The Girl in the attic - from the actress's point of view.

It ends in 1964 as Tippi completes her iconic role as the frigid thief Marnie, and walks out of her tormentor's life forever. | The Girl is on Boxing Day on BBC Two at 9pm

As Hitchcock sculpted an unknown model from Minnesota into the perfect blonde of his imagination, he became obsessed with the impossible dream of winning the real woman's love


Sienna Miller plays Tippi Hedren in The Girl
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 22, 2012
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