HBO’s “The Girl” premiered on Saturday, October 20th. I actually thought it was really good but, expecting a typical biopic lionization, I was caught off guard. This movie was harsh on Hitchcock. I felt bad for him and his obsessive nature on occasion, but felt much much worse for Tippi Hedren (The Birds, Marnie) and the treatment she suffered at his hands (at least in the version of events depicted in the film).
“The Girl” depicts severe sexual harassment and shooting conditions that border on assault. Is it accurate? I have no idea. I’m much less of an expert on Hitchcock than I’d like to be. While the director once famously stated “I never said all actors are cattle; what I said was all actors should be treated like cattle”, many actors have given rather warm accounts of working with him. Of course, Hedren is not one of them.
As stated in the the production notes, “Hedren cooperated with the film by giving interviews to writer Gwyneth Hughes, while Hitchcock biographer Donald Spoto consulted on the project.” In a statement Hughes said: “It’s been the most enormous privilege to talk at length to Tippi Hedren, the last ‘Hitchcock blonde’ in the life of Britain’s most original and successful film director. At the time, in the early 1960s, the American star suffered in silence. But now, at the age of 81, her wisdom and insights have helped me to put her real life ordeal on to the screen.”
I was wondering how all of this would go over when I watched the film the other night. And, it turns out, “The Girl” has created a bit of controversy. Head inside for more.
Per The Telegraph, screenwriter Gwyneth Hughes used interviews with Jim Brown, assistant director on The Birds and one of Hitchcock’s confidants, to help build the foundation of her script. But with Brown now deceased, his widow is calling bullsh*t on the results. “Mrs Brown told The Daily Telegraph she was “absolutely sure” that her late husband would not have endorsed the allegations of sexual harassment. ‘He had nothing but admiration and respect for Hitch, understood his clever Cockney sense of humour and thought the man a genius,’ she said… Mrs Brown said she had written to The Girl’s scriptwriter, Gwyneth Hughes, to convey her anger. Her late husband agreed to speak to Hughes for what he believed would be an affectionate portrayal of Hitchcock.”
Ms. Hughes goes on to defend herself, ““I carried out extensive research in preparation for writing my script and had the huge privilege of interviewing Jim Brown before he died. I’m confident that our film represents very truthfully the intimate memories and heartfelt insights he shared about Alfred Hitchcock’s painful relationship with Tippi Hedren.”
Memories are often muddied by time and emotion, so it’s difficult to really call out the accuracy of Hedren’s accusations towards the director. Maybe she’s dead accurate, maybe she’s not. And while I can’t imagine why anybody would slander someone – especially in this manner – my imagination has no impact on the facts. All I know is that “The Girl” left me sympathizing with the woman onscreen.
As far as real life is concerned, didn’t Hughes record her conversations with Mr. Brown? I have a feeling a lot of this – especially Mrs. Brown’s concerns regarding the accuracy of the interpretation of her husband’s testimony – could be cleared up by pressing “play.”
Also, while we’re talking Hitchock and controversy, Devin Faraci over at Badass Digest was written an excellent piece addressing Saul Bass’ claims that he directed the shower scene in Psycho. I strongly suggest you give it a read