Tippi Hedren’s journey from “The Birds” to exotic cats

Reading your comments on Monday’s post about classic beauty of the ’50s and ’60s sent me on an entirely too long web journey of the era, mostly looking at pictures of beautiful women. But such journeys have rewards, and I want to share one in particular with you: a PopBytes post about Tippi Hedren.

That photo is from Hedren’s most famous movie, The Birds. Alfred Hitchcock certainly had an eye for beauty, didn’t he? (He also was something of a lecher, but that’s a different story.)

She was unknown at the time, a fashion model in New York. But Hitch saw something in Hedren that prompted him to debut her in the lead role in The Birds. He raved about her talent at every opportunity.

“Tippi has a faster tempo, city glibness, more humor [than Grace Kelly],” he told Look magazine. “She displayed jaunty assuredness, pertness, an attractive throw of the head. And she memorized and read lines extraordinarily well and is sharper in expression.”

Hedren earned a Golden Globe for the performance. Here, she talks about the film before a showing at the American Film Institute in 2007.

If you haven’t seen The Birds in a while, rent it. The scenes with Suzanne Pleshette and Hedren are the epitome of cattiness.

The real story, however, is Hedren’s beauty now. Sure, she’s still gorgeous at 80.

But her gown gives a clue to the kind of beauty that transcends appearance — a more literal kind of “cattiness.” Hedren is founder of The Roar Foundation, which supports abandoned exotic felines at Shambala Preserve.

The foundation was formed to educate the public on the dangers of private ownership of exotic animals, huge numbers of which are bred and sold illegally in the U.S. (The exotic cat trade is huge, second only to illegal drugs, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife.) Hedren started the organization after working with a gentle lion in the film Satan’s Harvest in 1969 — and falling in love with it. Daughter Melanie Griffith grew up on the preserve.

Shambala currently houses around 70 big cats, including lions, tigers, cougars, black and spotted leopards, bobcats, servals, Asian leopard cats, a jungle cat, a linx and “one very magnificent liger.”

The felines all came to the preserve after confiscation by government authorities and animal rescue organizations. Animals brought to Shambala remain there for the rest of their lives, given the best possible nutritional, medical, emotional and mental care.

To see more photos of these gorgeous felines — and what kind of lesbian would you be if you didn’t love cats — visit the Shambala website photo gallery. You can also find out more about Hedren’s foundation at its Facebook page.

Do you have a place in your heart for exotic animals? What do you do to support your own heart causes?