Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tippi Hedren

Tippi Hedren (born Nathalie Kay Hedren, January 19, 1930) is an American actress, former fashion model and an animal rights activist. She made her film debut in The Birds followed by the title role Marnie. She has been involved with animal rescue at Shambala Preserve, an 80-acre (320,000 m2) wildlife habitat which she founded in 1983. Hedren was also instrumental in the development of Vietnamese-American nail salons in the United States.


Early life

For much of her career, Hedren's year of birth was listed as 1935, although in 2004, she acknowledged that she was actually born in 1930. Hedren was born in New Ulm, Minnesota, the daughter of Bernard Carl and Dorothea Henrietta (née Eckhardt) Hedren. Her paternal grandparents were emigrants from Sweden, while her maternal ancestry is German and Norwegian. Her father ran a small general store in the small town of Lafayette, Minnesota, and gave her the nickname "Tippi".
When she was four, she moved with her parents to Minneapolis.
As a teenager, Hedren took part in department store fashion shows. Her parents relocated to California while she was a high school student. On reaching her 20th birthday, she bought a ticket to New York City and began a professional modeling career. Within the year she made her unofficial film debut as an uncredited extra in the musical comedy The Petty Girl; in interviews she refers to The Birds as her first film.

Career

Collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock

Discovery

Hedren had a successful modeling career in the 1950s and early 1960s, once appearing on the cover of Life magazine.
On Friday the 13th of October 1961, Hedren received a call from an agent who told her a producer was interested in working with her. When she was told it was Alfred Hitchcock who, while he was watching The Today Show, saw her in a commercial for a diet drink called Sego, she agreed to sign a seven-year contract. During their first meeting, the two talked about everything except the role he was considering her for. Hedren was convinced for several weeks it was for his television series, Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
Hitchcock put Hedren through a $25,000 screen test, doing scenes from his previous films, such as Rebecca, Notorious and To Catch a Thief with actor Martin Balsam. According to Balsam, Hedren was very nervous but studied every line and move she was asked and tried to do everything right. Hitchcock asked costume designer Edith Head to design clothes for Hedren's private life and he personally advised her about wine and food. He also insisted for publicity purposes that her name should be printed only in single quotes, 'Tippi'. The press mostly ignored this directive from the director, who felt that the single quotes added distinction and mystery to her name.
Hitchcock was impressed with Hedren as production designer Robert F. Boyle explained. "Hitch always liked women who behaved like well-bred ladies. Tippi generated that quality." Because he was happy with her screen test, Hitchcock invited Hedren to a dinner where he offered her a golden pin of three birds in flight and asked her to play the leading role in his film, The Birds.

The Birds

The Birds (1963) was Hedren's screen debut. Hitchcock became her drama coach and gave her an education in film-making as she attended many of the production meetings like script, music or photography conferences. Hedren said, "I probably learned in three years what it would have taken me 15 years to learn otherwise." She learned how to break down a script, to become another character and to study the relationship of different characters. Hedren portrayed her role of Melanie Daniels as Hitchcock requested. "He gives his actors very little leeway. He'll listen, but he has a very definite plan in mind as to how he wants his characters to act. With me, it was understandable, because I was not an actress of stature. I welcomed his guidance."
Hedren in a trailer for The Birds
 
During the six months of principal photography, Hedren's schedule was tight as she was given one afternoon off a week. She found the shooting to be at first "wonderful". Hitchcock told a reporter, after a few weeks of filming, she was remarkable and said, "She's already reaching the lows and highs of terror."Nonetheless, Hedren recalled the week she did the final attack scene in a second-floor bedroom as the worst of her life. Before filming it, she asked Hitchcock about her character's motivations to go upstairs and his response was, "Because I tell you to." She was then assured that the crew would use mechanical birds. Instead, Hedren endured five solid days of prop men, protected by thick leather gloves, flinging dozens of live gulls, ravens and crows at her (their beaks clamped shut with elastic bands). In a state of exhaustion, when one of the birds gouged her cheek and narrowly missed her eye, Hedren sat down on the set and began crying. A physician ordered a week's rest. Hitchcock protested, according to Hedren, saying there was nobody but her to film. Her doctor's reply was, "Are you trying to kill her?" However, she admitted the week appeared to be an ordeal for the director.
While promoting The Birds, Hitchcock was full of praise for his new protégé and compared her to Grace Kelly. "Tippi has a faster tempo, city glibness, more humor [than Grace Kelly]. She displayed jaunty assuredness, pertness, an attractive throw of the head. And she memorized and read lines extraordinarily well and is sharper in expression." For her performance, Hedren received the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year, tied with Elke Sommer and Ursula Andress.

Marnie

Hedren in Marnie
 
Hitchcock was impressed with Hedren's performance in The Birds and decided to offer her the leading title role of his next film, Marnie (1964), a romantic drama and psychological thriller from the novel by Winston Graham. Hedren was stunned and later said, "I thought Marnie was an extremely interesting role to play and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity". She voiced doubts about her ability to play that demanding role but was assured by Hitchcock she could do it. Contrary to The Birds where she had received little acting guidance, Hedren studied every scene with the director.
Hedren recalled Marnie as her favorite of the two films she did with Hitchcock for the challenge of playing an emotionally battered young woman who travels from city to city assuming various guises in order to rob her employers. During the filming, Hitchcock was quoted as saying about Hedren, "an Academy Award performance is in the making". On release, the film was greeted by mixed reviews and indifferent box-office returns, and received no Oscar nominations.

Troubled relations with Hitchcock

Hedren's relationship with Hitchcock caused much controversy. In 1973, she admitted that a major life-style difference caused a split in their relationship. "He was too possessive and too demanding. I cannot be possessed by anyone. But, then, that's my own hangup."
Hedren in a trailer for Marnie
 
In 1983, author Donald Spoto published his second book about Hitchcock, The Dark Side of a Genius, in which Hedren agreed to talk about her relationship with the director in detail for the first time. Hedren explained the shooting of the attack scene in The Birds and recalled that, during the filming of Marnie, Hitchcock made "an overt sexual proposition that she could neither ignore nor answer casually, as she could his previous gestures." The book was controversial as several of Hitchcock's friends claimed the Hitchcock portrayed in the book was not the man they knew. For years after its release, Hedren was not keen to talk about it in interviews but thought the chapter devoted to her story was "accurate as to just what he was."
Hedren explained her silence before telling her story, “It was embarrassing and insulting—there were a lot of reasons why I didn’t want to tell the story. I didn’t want it to be taken advantage of, twisted, turned and made into an even uglier situation than it was.”
Hedren and Sean Connery in Marnie
 
In Spoto's third book about Hitchcock, Spellbound by Beauty (2008), she said that it was during production of The Birds that she began to feel uncomfortable over him as she remembered he was watching her all the time. Hitchcock tried to control everything from what she wore to what she ate and drank. She said she was being followed outside the set and reports were made and sent to Hitchcock about her comings and goings. He told the cast and crew they were not allowed to talk to her. Hedren claimed he tried, on one occasion, to kiss her in the back of a car when they were alone. Hedren said she told his assistant, Peggy Robertson, and the studio chief, Lew Wasserman, she was becoming very unhappy about the whole situation. "But he was Alfred Hitchcock, the great and famous director, and I was Tippi Hedren, an inexperienced actress who had no clout." She decided she could not quit her contract because she was afraid to be blacklisted and unable to find work. Hedren's own daughter, Melanie Griffith, remembered that while Hedren was doing The Birds, she thought Hitchcock was taking her mother away from her. "Suddenly, I wasn't allowed even to visit my mom at the studio."
Hedren and Sean Connery in Marnie
 
During Marnie, Hedren found Hitchcock's behavior toward her more difficult to bear as filming progressed. "Everyone - I mean everyone - knew he was obsessed with me. He always wanted a glass of wine or champagne, with me alone, at the end of the day. (...) he was really isolating me from everyone." She said Hitchcock had no consideration for her feelings and remembered she was humiliated after he asked her to touch him, just before shooting a scene. "He made sure no one else could hear, and his tone and glance made it clear exactly what he meant."
Hedren asked Hitchcock’s permission one day to travel to New York to appear on The Tonight Show where she was supposed to be presented an award as the Most Promising New Star. Hitchcock refused because, according to his biographer, he thought a break would harm her performance. Hedren said it was during that meeting Hitchcock made offensive demands on her. "He stared at me and simply said, as if it was the most natural thing in the world, that from this time on, he expected me to make myself sexually available and accessible to him – however and whenever and wherever he wanted." She told him she wanted to get out of her contract because, "He made these demands on me, and no way could I acquiesce to them," and recalls Hitchcock telling her he'd ruin her career. "And he did: kept me under contract, kept paying me every week for almost two years to do nothing. Hedren was furious and apparently called the director a fat pig in front of people on the set. Hitchcock made only a comment about it to his biographer, John Russell Taylor, "She did what no one is permitted to do. She referred to my weight." The two communicated only through a third party for the rest of the film.
As her contract allowed Hitchcock to approve or not any offers she received, Hedren said that he turned down several film roles on her behalf and was particularly disappointed when French director François Truffaut told her he had wanted her for a film. Although Hedren never mentioned the title, it was reported the film was Fahrenheit 451 (1966), starring Julie Christie in the role Hedren was considered for. Truffaut's daughter Laura disputed this saying her father was not secretive about the actors he considered and never mentioned Hedren for that film, "It is extremely unlikely in my view, that my father seriously entertained this project without sharing it with my mother or mentioning it to us in later years."
In 1966, Hitchcock finally sold her contract to Universal Studios after Hedren appeared in two of their TV shows, Kraft Suspense Theatre (1965) and Run for Your Life (id.). She was released from her contract after she refused to work on a TV Western for them.


Controversy
Hedren's account contrasted with the many interviews she gave about her time with Hitchcock, her warm tribute she paid to him when he was honoured with the AFI Life Achievement Award by the American Film Institute in 1979, and her presence at his funeral. When asked about it, Hedren answered, "He ruined my career, but he didn’t ruin my life. That time of my life was over. I still admire the man for who he was."
The BBC/HBO film The Girl (2012), featuring Sienna Miller as Hedren and Toby Jones as Hitchcock, was based on Spoto's book Spellbound by Beauty. The film was controversial as others who knew and worked with Hitchcock responded to it negatively. Other actresses have spoken about the close attention Hitchcock paid to details of the leading ladies' characters and appearances in his films, but said that no harassment was involved. Kim Novak, who worked on Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958), disputed Hitchcock's portrayal as a sexual predator in The Girl, "I never saw him make a pass at anybody or act strange to anybody. And wouldn't you think if he was that way, I would've seen it or at least seen him with somebody? I think it's unfortunate when someone's no longer around and can't defend themselves."[ Novak previously described Hitchcock as a gentleman and, when asked about reports of his behaviour, she said, "Maybe I just wasn't his type." Eva Marie Saint stated that Hitchcock was very protective of her during the filming of North by Northwest (1959) and that all his leading ladies had a different take on him adding, "I mean, look at how he tried to overpower Tippi Hedren – not only in her career, but in her life. He never did that with me." She said her relation with Hitchcock was “a different scenario," than Hedren's, "I was married and he really liked my husband.”
Upon its release, Hedren said although she believed the film accurately portrays Hitchcock's negative behaviour towards her, the time constraints of a 90-minute film prevented telling the entire story of her career with him. "It wasn't a constant barrage of harassment. If it had been constantly the way we have had to do it in this film, I would have been long gone". She recalled there were times she described as "absolutely delightful and wonderful,” and insisted that “Hitchcock had a charm about him. He was very funny at times. He was incredibly brilliant in his field."
James H. Brown, the first assistant director on The Birds and Marnie, who was interviewed several years before The Girl, said Hedren and Hitchcock had differences on Marnie, recognized it was possible the director lost control and interest on the set of the film, but added, "I thought some of the things expressed about Hitchcock were highly over exaggerated. I think Hitchcock became a little upset with Tippi because she wasn't fulfilling the star qualities that he thought she had or was looking for."
Rod Taylor, her co-star in The Birds, remembered, "Hitch was becoming very domineering and covetous of 'Tippi,' and it was very difficult for her. (...) No one was permitted to come physically close to her during the production. 'Don't touch the girl after I call "Cut!" he said to me repeatedly."
Diane Baker, Hedren's co-star in Marnie, said that her memories of the film were so painful she tried to forget the experience and turned down participation in any Hitchcock tributes. She added, "I never saw Tippi enjoying herself with the rest of us. (...) None of us ever saw her having a warm, friendly relationship with him. (...) Nothing could have been more horrible for me than to arrive on that movie set and to see her being treated the way she was." Baker knew everything she said was reported to Hitchcock and she made sure he learned how unhappy she was about his attitude toward Hedren. Baker was happy not to be under contract to him, the way Hedren was, because she could get away.
Jay Presson Allen, Marnie's screenwriter, admitted Hitchcock was "mad" for Hedren. She added that she was unhappy for both and described the situation as "an old man's cri de coeur".
Virginia Darcy, Hedren's hairdresser, declined an invitation from Hedren to see The Girl, but she admitted she told Hitchcock he should not be possessive with Hedren. "Tippi felt rightly that she was not his property, but he'd say, 'You are, I have a contract.'"

Bulk of career

Hedren has appeared in over eighty films and TV shows. Hedren's first feature film appearance after Marnie was in A Countess from Hong Kong (1967), starring Marlon Brando and Sophia Loren. She was told by writer/director Charlie Chaplin that she was offered a major supporting role as Brando's estranged wife and had to accept the film without reading the script. However, when she finally received it, she realized that her part was little more than a cameo, and asked Chaplin to expand the role. Although Chaplin tried to accommodate her, he could not, as the story mostly takes place on a ship, which Hedren's character boards near the end of the film. Hedren later said that it was both very amusing and strange working for him.
In 1968, Hedren returned to film with the leading role of Rita Armstrong, a socialite who helps her boyfriend (played by George Armstrong) to catch a killer, in Tiger by the Tail. In the same year, she guest-starred on The Courtship of Eddie's Father as Bill Bixby's girlfriend. She then agreed to take part in two films, Satan's Harvest (1970), opposite George Montgomery, and Mister Kingstreet's War (1973), shot back-to-back, for the only reason they were made in Africa.
In 1973, Hedren was in The Harrad Experiment with James Whitmore and Don Johnson. She confessed at the time she was occasionally depressed over the fact she wasn't doing any major films.
Hedren starred alongside her then-husband, the agent and occasional producer Noel Marshall in the 1981 film Roar (directed by Marshall), about a family's misadventures in a research park filled with lions, tigers, and other wild cats. The film cost $17 million to make but grossed only $2 million worldwide. In 1982, she co-starred with Leslie Nielsen in Foxfire Light.
In the 1980s, Hedren appeared in several primetime television series including Hart to Hart in 1983 and Tales from the Darkside in 1984. In the 1985 pilot episode of The New Alfred Hitchcock Presents, she made a brief appearance as a waitress in a bar who berates a customer, played by her daughter Melanie Griffith. In 1990, Hedren had a role on the daytime soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful. That same year, she had a non-speaking, minor part as a wealthy widow romanced by Michael Keaton in the film Pacific Heights (1990), which starred her daughter Griffith.
In the early 1990s, Hedren appeared in many television movies such as Return to Green Acres (1990), Through the Eyes of a Killer (1992), and Treacherous Beauties (1994). In 1994, she appeared in the made-for-cable sequel The Birds II: Land's End, in a role different from the one she played in the original. Before its release, she admitted she was unhappy that she didn't get a starring role and, when asked about what could have been Hitchcock's opinion, she answered : "I'd hate to think what he would say!".In a 2007 interview, Hedren said of the film, "It's absolutely horrible, it embarrasses me horribly."
Hedren (far right) with Dee Wallace and Donna Mills in October 2010.
 
In 1996, Hedren played an abortion rights activist in Alexander Payne's political satire Citizen Ruth with Laura Dern. In 1998, she co-starred alongside Billy Zane, Christina Ricci, Eartha Kitt, Andrew McCarthy and Ron Perlman in I Woke Up Early the Day I Died, a film she particularly liked due to the fact that it had no dialogue in it. After appearing in a number of little-exposed films between 1999 and 2003, Hedren had a small but showy role in the 2004 David O. Russell comedy I Heart Huckabees, as a foul-mouthed attractive older woman who slaps Jude Law in an elevator.
Hedren continued to guest-star on television series throughout the 1990s and 2000s, in series such as Chicago Hope (1998), The 4400 (2006) and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2008). She was a cast member of the short-lived primetime soap opera Fashion House in 2006 with Bo Derek and Morgan Fairchild. While filming an episode on June 22, 2006, a gallon of water fell from the ceiling and hit Hedren "at about 25 mph" leading to a return of crippling headaches she had suffered earlier in life. Later in 2006 the actress retained lawyer Joseph Allen to file a personal injury claim against the owner of the sound stage; after a seven-year litigation, she was awarded $1.5 million in damages in December 2013.
In 2009, Hedren appeared in the Lifetime movie Tribute, which starred actress Brittany Murphy in one of Murphy's last roles. She provided the voice for the character of Queen Hippolyta on the animated series Batman: The Brave and the Bold in 2011. In 2012, Hedren and her daughter Griffith guest-starred together on an episode of Raising Hope. She then acted in Jayne Mansfield's Car, directed by Billy Bob Thornton and starring Thornton, Robert Duvall and Kevin Bacon, but her scenes were left on the cutting room floor. In the same year Hedren starred, alongside Jess Weixler and Jesse Eisenberg, Free Samples, directed by Jay Gammill. Hedren guest-starred in the fourth season finale of Cougar Town; her episode ("Have Love Will Travel") aired on the 9th April, 2013.
In 2013, exactly fifty years after The Birds, Hedren returned to Bodega to shoot a film called The Ghost and the Whale.

Influence

A Louis Vuitton ad campaign in 2006 paid tribute to Hedren and Hitchcock with a modern-day interpretation of the deserted railway station opening sequence of Marnie. Bridget Fonda, who played Hedren's daughter in the straight-to-cable film Break Up (1998), gushed to her that she had watched Marnie "a million times."
In interviews, Naomi Watts has stated that her character interpretation in Mulholland Drive (2001) was influenced by the look and performances of Hedren in Hitchcock films. Watts and Hedren later acted in I Heart Huckabees (2004) but didn't share any scenes together onscreen. Off-screen, the film's director David O. Russell introduced them both, and Watts has said about Hedren, "I was pretty fascinated by her then because people have often said that we're alike." Watts dressed up as Hedren's title character from Marnie for a photo shoot for March 2008 issue of Vanity Fair. In the same issue, Jodie Foster dressed up as Hedren's character, Melanie Daniels from The Birds.
Another issue of Vanity Fair referred to January Jones's character in Mad Men as "Tippi Hedren's soul sister from Marnie". The New York Times television critic earlier had echoed the same sentiment in his review of Mad Men. January Jones said that she "takes it a compliment of sorts" when compared to Grace Kelly and Hedren. Actress Téa Leoni said that her character in the film Manure (2009) is made up to look like Hedren.


Personal life

In 1952, Hedren met and married 18-year-old future advertising executive Peter Griffith. Their daughter, actress Melanie Griffith, was born on August 9, 1957. They were divorced in 1961. On September 22, 1964, Hedren married her then-agent Noel Marshall, who later produced three of her films; they divorced in 1982. In 1985, she married steel manufacturer Luis Barrenechea, but they divorced in 1995.[She was engaged to veterinarian Martin Dinnes from 2002 until their breakup in mid-2008.In September 2008, Hedren told The Sunday Times "I’m waiting for someone to sweep me off my feet.”
Hedren played a role in the development of Vietnamese-American nail salons in the United States. In 1975, while an international relief coordinator with Food for the Hungry, she began visiting with refugees at Hope Village outside Sacramento, California.When Hedren found that the women were interested in her manicured nails, she employed her manicurist to teach them the skills of the trade and worked with a local beauty school to help them find jobs.Her work with the Vietnamese-Americans was the subject of "Happy Hands" directed by Honey Lauren, which won Best Documentary Short at the Sonoma International Film Festival in 2014. Vietnamese-Americans now dominate the multi-billion dollar nail salon business in North America. CND and Beauty Changes Lives Foundation (BCL) have announced the BCL CND Tippi Hedren Nail Scholarship Fund to support professional nail education and will be administered starting January 1, 2014.
Hedren suffered from severe and persistent headaches for a long time and therefore was unable to accept several projects, including a television series produced by and starring Betty White. After she got a titanium plate put in her neck, she was able to improve and was not feeling as much pain she had endured for years. She then agreed, with the blessing of her doctor, to take the part of a dying woman in the soap opera Fashion House. While she was rehearsing a scene, a gallon of water fell from the ceiling onto her head. The headaches returned after the incident and persisted. Hedren filed a suit to receive recompense following her inability to work. Hedren's lawyer, Joseph Allen, made a mistake in his discussions with the defendants that allowed them to block him from filing suit. Hedren then sued Allen for malpractice. In 2013, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Hedren had been awarded a $1.5 million settlement, including $213,400 for past lost earnings and $440,308 for future lost earnings, against her former lawyer. Hedren was hurt by the report as she had not collected the award. She gave an interview to explain that her former lawyer does not have the money to pay her. She also discussed how the report put her in a difficult situation as her Foundation is in dire need of funds. She explained she has to raise $75,000 every month to keep it going. "Chances are I won’t ever even see the money, and that what hurts so badly, that in all of this pain and suffering that publication ran with a swift and not researched story, which told people around the world who have been so gracious and thoughtful about sending donations, that I no longer needed them."

The Girl 2012

The Girl is a 2012 British television film directed by Julian Jarrold, written by Gwyneth Hughes and produced by the BBC and HBO Films. The film stars Sienna Miller as Tippi Hedren and Toby Jones as Alfred Hitchcock. It is based on Donald Spoto's 2009 book, Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies, which discusses British-born film director Hitchcock and the women who played leading roles in his films. The Girl's title was inspired by Hitchcock's alleged nickname for Hedren.
The film depicts Hitchcock's alleged obsession with Hedren, the American model and actress he brought from relative obscurity to star in his 1963 film The Birds. Hitchcock becomes infatuated with his leading lady; when she rebuffs his advances, he subjects her to a series of traumatic experiences during the filming of The Birds. Hitchcock's obsession with Hedren continues when she stars in his next production, Marnie. Hedren grows increasingly uncomfortable with his attentions, and decides that she needs to escape the situation. However, she cannot work elsewhere because of her exclusive contract with Hitchcock; this effectively ends her Hollywood career.
The Girl made its television debut in the United States on 20 October 2012 on HBO and aired in the United Kingdom on BBC Two on 26 December. Jones and Miller were nominated for awards at the 2013 Golden Globe Awards and the British Academy Television Awards for their roles in the film, which received mixed reviews from critics. The Daily Mirror's Jane Simon praised Miller's portrayal of Hedren. Although she endorsed the film, Hedren said its length kept it from showing some of the positive aspects of her relationship with Hitchcock. Others who knew (and worked with) Hitchcock criticised the film because of its portrayal of him as a sexual predator. Kim Novak (who starred in one of Hitchcock's films) and Nora Brown (widow of one of Hitchcock's close friends) disputed the film's version of events.


Plot summary

The film is a partially fictionalised account of the relationship between Alfred Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren. In 1961, Hitchcock notices Hedren in a television commercial for a diet drink. He wants to turn her into the next Grace Kelly, with whom he had worked extensively during the 1950s. Hedren passes her screen test and is groomed for the starring role in Hitchcock's latest film, The Birds; the director instructs her about her dress and appearance.
Captivated by Hedren's Nordic looks, Hitchcock becomes infatuated with her. While filming The Birds, he makes advances to her in the back of a limousine but she rebuffs him. In retaliation for her rejection, Hitchcock exposes Hedren to terrifying encounters with birds. A mechanical bird breaks the apparently shatterproof glass of a telephone booth during filming, showering Hedren with glass. After arriving on set to shoot a scene where Hedren's character (Melanie Daniels) is trapped in an attic with aggressive birds, she discovers that Hitchcock has ordered the mechanical birds to be replaced with live ones. He demands the scene be repeated until he is satisfied that Hedren's reaction looks authentic. This takes several days, leaving Hedren traumatised.
With The Birds a box-office success, Hitchcock and Hedren begin work on Marnie. However, Hedren finds the film's content (including a marital-rape scene) and Hitchcock's obsession with her mentally and emotionally exhausting. The director is frustrated by what he sees as Hedren's coldness towards him. During a conversation with writer Evan Hunter, Hitchcock admits that he has erectile dysfunction and his only sexual partner is his wife (screenwriter Alma Reville). He later declares his love for Hedren; she walks away, leaving him to imagine her reciprocating his feelings.
Hitchcock refuses Hedren's request for time off to attend the Photoplay Awards in New York City (where she is nominated for the Most Promising Actress award), and tells her he will include in her contract a clause requiring her to make herself sexually available to him on demand. Hedren quits working for Hitchcock after completing Marnie, but he refuses to release her from her contract; this prevents her from working for another production company, effectively ending her Hollywood career. Two notes before the titles inform the viewer that Hitchcock and Hedren never worked together again, and The Birds and Marnie are considered his last classic films.

Cast

Production

Background and development

Head and shoulders shot of a woman with blonde hair.
Tippi Hedren, seen here in a trailer for The Birds, was described as "absolutely thrilled" that Sienna Miller had been cast to play her.
 
The Girl is based on Donald Spoto's 2009 book, Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies, which examines the relationships between Alfred Hitchcock and the female stars of his films. Spoto wrote that Hitchcock attempted to turn Tippi Hedren (star of The Birds and Marnie) into his perfect woman, choosing the clothes and lipstick he thought she should wear. Hedren told Spoto that Hitchcock fantasised about running off with her.
Details of a film examining Hitchcock's obsession with Hedren were reported in December 2011. The Girl, written by Gwyneth Hughes, would star Toby Jones as Hitchcock and Sienna Miller as Hedren. In a post-production BBC press release about the film in November 2012, Hughes described her enthusiasm when she was approached about the project while on holiday: "[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." Hughes interviewed Hedren and members of Hitchcock's crew before preparing a script. She described her discussions with Hedren: "Her wisdom and insights have helped me to put her real life ordeal on to the screen. I know Tippi is absolutely thrilled, as I am, with the casting of Sienna Miller to play her." The film's title was inspired by the name Hitchcock used for Hedren after she stopped working for him.
Diana Cilliers designed the costumes, recreating what Hedren wore (including Melanie Daniels' green suit) in Hitchcock's films: "[T]here were certain items that we just copied – such as the Birds suit and the yellow Marnie bag, but otherwise we looked at clean lines, colours. Nothing too fussy."

Filming

Filming began on 8 December 2011. As part of her research Miller (who was in the early stages of pregnancy) spoke to Hedren several times during filming, and the two became friends. Live birds were used to recreate the filming of the attic scene in The Birds. Miller told the Radio Times, "I did go through a bird attack for two hours. It pales in comparison to what [Hedren] was subjected to, but it was pretty horrible. There were men off-camera with boxes of birds, throwing seagulls and pigeons in my face".
Jones's role as Hitchcock required him to spend four hours each day being made up with prosthetic makeup and a fatsuit, and he did daily twenty-minute vocal exercises to imitate Hitchcock's distinctive speech. In a December 2012 interview with The Scotsman, Jones said "[Hitchcock's] voice was so beautiful. There's something in the rhythm and roll of it that is connected to the way Hitchcock thinks and moves. Then there is everything he ingested – the cigar smoking and drinking that's imprinted on his voice. And everywhere he lived; you can hear cockney London, California, and a plummy received pronunciation in that voice".

Release

As part of its marketing campaign for The Girl, HBO released a 30-second trailer in August 2012. During a Television Critics Association press tour promoting the film, Hedren said "I have to say that when I first heard Toby's [Jones] voice as Alfred Hitchcock, my body just froze". Hedren's daughter, Melanie Griffith, attended a screening; when the film ended, the audience was silent until Griffith said "Well, now I have to go back into therapy again!" Hedren attended a London screening in October. The Girl made its US television debut on HBO and HBO Canada on 20 October 2012. It had its UK premiere on 26 December, as part of BBC Two's Christmas programming. The film was released on DVD in the UK on 7 January 2013.

Controversy

Hedren gave Spoto an account of the director as a sexual predator for his 2009 book, Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies. She alleged in Spoto's earlier book The Dark Side of Genius (1983) that Hitchcock propositioned her, but her other allegations of harassment by Hitchcock revealed in Spellbound by Beauty did not come out until nearly three decades after his death in 1980. Hedren said: “It was embarrassing and insulting—there were a lot of reasons why I didn’t want to tell the story. I didn’t want it to be taken advantage of, twisted, turned and made into an even uglier situation than it was. It wasn’t until years later that I told Donald the story. (...) He is absolutely true and honest in this book.” She previously said, in 1973, while Hitchcock was still alive, that a major life-style difference caused a split in their relationship. "He was too possessive and too demanding. I cannot be possessed by anyone. But, then, that's my own hangup."
Hedren's account contrasted with the many interviews she gave about her time with Hitchcock, her warm tribute she paid to him when he was honoured with the AFI Life Achievement Award by the American Film Institute in 1979, and her presence at his funeral. When asked about it, Hedren answered, "He ruined my career, but he didn’t ruin my life. That time of my life was over. I still admire the man for who he was."
Shortly before the film was due to air on British television in December 2012, Hedren gave an interview to the Daily Mail in which she repeated her claims about Hitchcock: "He made it very clear what was expected of me, but I was equally clear that I wasn't interested ... Nobody is denying that Hitchcock was a brilliant moviemaker and I enjoyed working with him before I realised he was starting to take an almost obsessive interest in me." Other actresses have spoken about the close attention Hitchcock paid to details of the leading ladies' characters and appearances in his films, but they said that no harassment was involved. Eva Marie Saint, who starred in 1959's North by Northwest, told The Daily Telegraph "Hitchcock was a gentleman, he was funny, he was so attentive to me, with the character, and he cared about everything my character Eve Kendall wore. He had an eye for the specifics of the character."
Kim Novak, who worked on Hitchcock's 1957 Vertigo, disputed Hedren's (and the film's) view of the director. Novak told The Daily Telegraph, "I feel bad about all the stuff people are saying about him now, that he was a weird character. I did not find him to be weird at all. I never saw him make a pass at anybody or act strange to anybody." Louise Latham, who played Hedren's mother in Marnie, dismissed claims of Hitchcock's predatory nature in Broadcast: "I find some of the allegations hard to believe ... I wasn't aware of her being hassled on the set."
Nora Brown (widow of James H. Brown, first assistant director on The Birds and Marnie, who knew Hitchcock for several years) said that her husband would not have endorsed The Girl's interpretation of events and the film's portrayal of Hitchcock would have saddened him. Gwyneth Hughes interviewed James Brown as part of her background research for the film, but he died before the film was completed. In October 2012, Nora Brown told The Daily Telegraph that she had written to Hughes expressing her anger. Hughes has said that James H. Brown backed up Hedren's claims of sexual harassment. Tony Lee Moral, author of two books about the making of the Hitchcock films in which Hedren starred, echoed Brown's comments. Writing for Broadcast in December 2012, Moral (who interviewed Jim Brown at length for his 2013 book, The Making of Hitchcock's The Birds) recalled a remark Brown made about Hitchcock. "Some of the things that are expressed about [Hitchcock] are highly over exaggerated. I think Hitch became upset because he thought Tippi wasn't fulfilling the star quality that he thought she had or was looking for."
In an interview with FT Magazine's Rosie Millard, Hedren discussed Hitchcock's attitude towards her after she decided not to work for him again: "He did ruin my career. He kept me under contract, paid me to do nothing for close on two years." Hitchcock sold her contract to Universal Studios, which dismissed her when she refused to work on one of its television shows. However, her acting career continued and she appeared in a number of film and television productions. Hedren said that while she was still under contract to Hitchcock, he turned down several film roles on her behalf, and was particularly disappointed when she heard from French director François Truffaut that he had wanted her for his film Fahrenheit 451. Truffaut's daughter Laura disputed this, telling Moral her mother had expressed surprise at the mention of Hedren's possible involvement in the project. Laura Truffaut was also sceptical of the story. "It is extremely unlikely in my view that my father seriously entertained this project without sharing it with my mother as he was not secretive about the other actors who were considered for casting."

Reception

Criticism and reaction

Black and white image shows head and shoulders shot of a man dressed in suit and tie.
Studio publicity shot of Alfred Hitchcock, who some felt was unfairly represented in The Girl.
The film's portrayal of Hitchcock as a sexual predator was criticised. Some audience members at a British Film Institute private screening expressed their concerns that writer Gwyneth Hughes and director Julian Jarrold unfairly represented Hitchcock. On the day of its UK television premiere, David Millward of The Daily Telegraph quoted Eva Marie Saint, Doris Day and Kim Novak (who worked with Hitchcock); all refuted Hedren's account of him. Writing for savehitchcock.com (a website established in response to the media's portrayal of Hitchcock), John Russell Taylor – author of the 1978 biography Hitch – said the film is "totally absurd".
In an interview with London's Evening Standard in January 2013, Anthony Hopkins (who played the eponymous role in the 2012 Alfred Hitchcock biopic Hitchcock) questioned The Girl's portrayal of the director and the need for a film about that period of Hitchcock's career: "I talked to Tippi Hedren one day ... and she never mentioned that ... Whatever his obsession was, she didn't want to dwell on it ... I don't think it's necessary to put all that into a movie." Speaking to The Independent later that month, Hitchcock director Sacha Gervasi said, "[The Girl] seems a rare one-note portrayal of a man who was a little more complex than that. A lot of people, who were there, do not recognise this portrayal of him as this monster". Danny Huston, who played screenwriter Whitfield Cook in Hitchcock, told WENN.com that he believed Hitchcock would not have contested Hedren's account of him: "Hitchcock was such a deliciously dark character that I don't think he would dismiss what Tippi was saying as not true."
Tony Lee Moral questioned the accuracy of events depicted in the film, particularly their chronology (which does not tally with his research into the production archives of The Birds and Marnie): "Why for example would Hitchcock offer Tippi the coveted part of Marnie on June 7, 1962, during filming of the sand dune scene in The Birds, only to deliberately attempt to physically harm her ... by smashing the glass telephone booth, which was filmed on June 12 only a few days later?"
In October 2012 Hedren said although she believed the film accurately portrays Hitchcock's negative behaviour towards her, the time constraints of a 90-minute film prevented telling the entire story of her career with him. She told television critic Rob Salem, "It wasn't a constant barrage of harassment. If it had been constantly the way we have had to do it in this film, I would have been long gone".

Reviews

Before the film's US television debut, Alessandra Stanley of The New York Times was critical of the film's objectives: "[T]he trouble with The Girl is that it tries to psychoanalyze Hitchcock but fails by trying to know the man too much. It's a movie about Hitchcock that ignores his best advice: 'Suspense is like a woman. The more left to the imagination, the more the excitement'". Richard Brody of The New Yorker also gave the film a negative review, writing that instead of a drama the film is an unoriginal work of criticism which "points to what everyone ought already to have been talking about in the first place: not least, that it's no surprise to learn that a filmmaker whose art is devoted to pain, fear, control, and sexual obsession also experienced and inflicted them in life". On the day of its UK premiere, James Rampton of The Independent wrote that The Girl was "no mere black-and-white hatchet job on Hitch. It does not seek to portray him as an unambiguous monster; rather, it highlights the profound psychological damage that plagued the director throughout his life". The Guardian's Deborah Orr was generally positive about the film: "[T]here was only one thing wrong with The Girl. There was no Hitchcock in the director's chair to make it the utterly compelling psychological drama that it could have been."
The Telegraph's Nigel Farndale praised the film's balanced view of the director: "[E]ven though he was portrayed in this exquisite drama as a manipulative, vindictive martinet, the portrait was not unsympathetic." The Daily Mirror's Jane Simon echoed this view, praising Jones's Hitchcock and writing that the actor "managed to give [Hitchcock] touches of humanity, too. There are moments when you feel a real pang of sympathy for Hitchcock, although admittedly they don't last long" "[G]liding gracefully through it all (and with an impeccable American accent) Sienna Miller brings untouchable beauty and icy glamour, but also captures the extraordinary resilience Hedren must have had to withstand everything Hitchcock threw at her." In The Telegraph, Clive James said "[a] better choice [to play Hedren] could not have been made than Sienna Miller, who is even lovelier than Hedren was ... Toby Jones, quite believably looked stunned". John Doyle of Canada's The Globe and Mail was less impressed with the actors' performances. Of Miller (whom he described as "good but not great") he wrote, "She doesn't have the iciness that Hedren had in her youth and she struggles to convey Hedren's enormous strength of character as a woman unwilling to let Hitchcock have his way". Doyle was equally critical of Jones, describing him as someone who "seems to be imitating Hitchcock rather than inhabiting the role".
Historian Alex von Tunzelmann gave the film a mixed review in The Guardian: "The Girl is perhaps a more effective piece of film-making than Hitchcock, though it is also more questionable in its portrayal of the director the film depicts [the attic scene] accurately, though Jones's Hitchcock appears to be more gratified by the spectacle than the real Hitch was". Simon quotes Donald Spoto's book The Dark Side of Genius (1983), in which Hedren told Spoto "[Hitchcock] was terribly upset by all this"; screenwriter Evan Hunter said, "[h]e wanted to shoot it, but something in him didn't want to shoot it, and everybody could hear how nervous he was". Nancy deWolf Smith of The Wall Street Journal wrote that the film should not be viewed in terms of truths or untruths, but instead as "an exquisitely lurid morality play in the Hitchcock style", calling The Girl "an original masterpiece that pays tribute to Hitchcock's talent and vision".

Monday, August 25, 2014

Harris Glenn Milstead, a.k.a. Divine






























Harris Glenn Milstead, also known by his stage name Divine, (October 19, 1945 – March 7, 1988) was an American actor, singer and drag queen. Associated with independent filmmaker John Waters, he was a character actor, usually performing female roles in cinematic and theatrical appearances, and adopted a female drag persona for his music career; People magazine described him as the "Drag Queen of the Century". Born in Maryland to a conservative, middle-class family, he embraced the counterculture of the 1960s and became involved with Waters's acting troupe, the Dreamlanders, starring in early Waters films Mondo Trasho (1969), Multiple Maniacs (1970), Pink Flamingos (1972) and Female Trouble (1974). Hits on the U.S. midnight movie circuit, the films became cult classics. In the 1970s, Divine moved to theater, appearing with The Cockettes before performing in Women Behind Bars and The Neon Woman. Continuing cinematic work, he starred in Polyester (1981), Lust in the Dust (1985) and Hairspray (1988). In 1981, Divine embarked in the disco industry, producing Hi-NRG tracks that were mostly written by Bobby Orlando. He achieved global chart success with hits like "You Think You're a Man", "I'm So Beautiful", and "Walk Like a Man". Although Divine died in Los Angeles, California from cardiomegaly in 1988, he has remained a cult figure ever since, particularly within the LGBT community, and has provided the inspiration for fictional characters, artworks and songs. Various books and documentary films devoted to his life have also been produced, including Divine Trash (1998) and I Am Divine (2013).


Harris Glenn Milstead was born on October 19, 1945, at the Women's Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.\His father, Harris Bernard Milstead (May 1, 1917 – March 4, 1993), after whom he was named, had been one of seven children born in Towson, Maryland to a plumber who worked for the Baltimore City Water Department. Divine's mother, Frances Milstead (née Vukovich; April 12, 1920 – March 24, 2009), was one of fifteen children born to an impoverished Serbian immigrant couple who had grown up near to Zagreb, Yugoslavia, before moving to the United States in 1891. When she was 16, Frances moved to Baltimore where she worked at a diner in Towson, here meeting Harris, who was a regular customer. Entering into a relationship, they were married in 1938 before both gaining employment working at the Black and Decker factory in Towson. Due to his problems with muscular dystrophy, Harris was not required to fight for the U.S. armed forces in the Second World War, and instead Harris and Frances worked throughout the war in what they saw as "good jobs". Attempting to conceive a child, Frances suffered two miscarriages in 1940 and 1943.
By the time of Divine's birth in 1945, the Milsteads were relatively wealthy and socially conservative, adhering to the Baptist denomination of Christianity. Later describing his upbringing, Divine would recollect: "I was an only child in, I guess, your upper middle-class American family. I was probably your American spoiled brat." His parents lavished almost anything that he wanted upon him, including food, and he became overweight, a condition he lived with for the rest of his life. Divine preferred to use his middle name, Glenn, to distinguish himself from his father, and was referred to as such by his parents and friends.
At age 12, Divine and his parents moved to Lutherville, a Baltimore suburb, where he attended Towson High School, graduating in 1963. Bullied because of his weight and perceived effeminacy, he later reminisced that he "wasn't rough and tough" but instead "loved painting and I always loved flowers and things." Due to this horticultural interest, at 15 he took a part-time job at a local florist's shop. Several years later, he went on a diet that enabled him to drop in weight from 180 pounds to 145 pounds (80 to 65 kg), giving him a new sense of confidence. When he was 17, his parents sent him to a psychiatrist, where he first realized his sexual attraction to men as well as women, something then taboo in conventional American society. He helped out at his parents' day care business, for instance dressing up as Santa Claus to entertain the children at Christmas time. In 1963, he began attending the Marinella Beauty School, where he learned hair styling and, after completing his studies, gained employment at a couple of local salons, specializing in the creation of beehives and other upswept hairstyles. Milstead eventually gave up his job and for a while was financially supported by his parents, who catered to his expensive taste in clothes and cars. They reluctantly paid the many bills that he ran up financing lavish parties where he would dress up in drag as his favourite celebrity, actress Elizabeth Taylor.


John Waters and Divine's first films: 1966–68

Milstead built up a large collection of friends, among them David Lochary, who became an actor and costar in several of Divine's later films. In the mid-1960s, Milstead befriended John Waters through their mutual friend Carol Wernig; Waters and Milstead were the same age and from the same neighborhood, and both embraced Baltimore's countercultural and underground elements. Along with friends like Waters and Lochary, Milstead began hanging out at a beatnik bar in downtown Baltimore named Martick's, where they associated with hippies and smoked marijuana, bonding into what Waters described as "a family of sorts".Waters gave his friends new nicknames, and it was he who first called Milstead "Divine". Waters later remarked that he had borrowed the name from a character in Jean Genet's novel Our Lady of the Flowers (1943), a controversial book about homosexuals living on the margins of Parisian society, which Waters – himself a homosexual – was reading at the time. Waters also introduced Divine as "the most beautiful woman in the world, almost", a description widely repeated in ensuing years.
"Divine. That's my name. It's the name John [Waters] gave me. I like it. That's what everybody calls me now, even my close friends. Not many of them call me Glenn at all anymore, which I don't mind. They can call me whatever they want. They call me fatso, and they call me asshole, and I don't care. You always change your name when you're in the show business. Divine has stuck as my name. Did you ever look it up in the dictionary? I won't even go into it. It's unbelievable."
— Divine, 1973.[26]
Waters was an aspiring filmmaker, intent on making "the trashiest motion pictures in cinema history". Many of his friends, who came to be known as "the Dreamlanders" (and who included Divine, Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce and Mink Stole), appeared in some of his low-budget productions, filmed on Sunday afternoons.Following the production of his first short film, Hag in a Black Leather Jacket (1964), Waters began production of a second work, Roman Candles (1966). This film was influenced by the pop artist Andy Warhol's Chelsea Girls (1966), and consisted of three 8-millimeter movies played simultaneously side by side. Roman Candles was the first film to star Divine, in this instance in drag as a smoking nun. It featured the Dreamlanders modeling shoplifted clothes and performing various unrelated activities. Being both a short film and of an avant-garde nature, Roman Candles never received widespread distribution, instead holding its premier at the annual Mt. Vernon Flower Mart in Baltimore, which had become popular with "elderly dames, young faggots and hustlers, and of course a whole bunch of hippies". Waters went on to screen it at several local venues alongside Kenneth Anger's short film Eaux d'Artifice (1953).
Waters followed Roman Candles with a third short film, Eat Your Makeup (1968), in which Divine once more wore drag, this time to portray a fictionalized version of Jackie Kennedy, the widow of recently assassinated U.S. President John F. Kennedy. In the film, she turns to kidnapping models and forcing them to eat their own makeup. Divine kept his involvement with Waters and these early underground films a secret from his conservative parents, believing that they would not understand them or the reason for his involvement in such controversial and bad-taste films; they would not find out about them for many years. Divine's parents had bought him his own beauty shop in Towson, hoping that the financial responsibility would help him to settle down in life and stop spending so extravagantly. While agreeing to work there, he refused to be involved in owning and managing the establishment, leaving that to his mother. Not long after, in the summer of 1968, he moved out of his parental home, renting his own apartment.

The Diane Linkletter Story, Mondo Trasho and Multiple Maniacs: 1969–70

Divine appeared in Waters's next short film, The Diane Linkletter Story (1969), which was initially designed to be a test for a new sound camera. A black comedy that carried on in Waters's tradition of making "bad taste" films to shock conventional American society, The Diane Linkletter Story was based upon the true story of Diane Linkletter, the daughter of media personality Art Linkletter, who had committed suicide earlier that year. Her death had led to a flurry of media interest and speculation, with various sources erroneously claiming that she had done so under the influence of the psychedelic LSD. Waters's dramatized version starred Divine in the leading role as the teenager who rebels against her conservative parents after they try to break up her relationship with hippie boyfriend Jim, before consuming a large quantity of LSD and committing suicide. Although screened at the first Baltimore Film Festival, the film was not publicly released at the time, largely for legal reasons.
Soon after the production of The Diane Linkletter Story, Waters began filming a full-length motion picture, Mondo Trasho, starring Divine as one of the main characters, an unnamed blonde woman who drives around town and runs over a hitchhiker. In one scene, an actor was required to walk along a street naked, which was a crime in the state of Maryland at the time, leading to the arrest of Waters and most of the actors associated with the film; Divine escaped, having speedily driven away from the police when they arrived to carry out the arrests. In their review of the film, the Los Angeles Free Press exclaimed that "The 300-pound (140 kg) sex-symbol Divine is undoubtedly some sort of discovery."
In 1970, Divine abandoned work as a hairdresser, opening up a vintage clothing store in Provincetown, Massachusetts using his parents' money. Opening in 1970 as "Divine Trash", the store sold items that Divine had purchased in thrift stores, flea markets and garage sales, although had to move from its original location after he had failed to obtain a license from the local authorities. Realizing that this venture was not financially viable, Divine sold off his stock at very low prices. In the hope of raising some extra money, he sold the furniture of his rented apartment, leading the landlady to put out a warrant for his arrest.He evaded the local police by traveling to San Francisco, California, a city which had a large gay subculture that attracted Divine, who was then embracing his homosexuality.
In 1970, Divine played the role of Lady Divine, the operator of an exhibit known as The Cavalcade of Perversion who turns to murdering visitors in Waters's film Multiple Maniacs. The film contained several controversial scenes, notably one which involved Lady Divine masturbating using a rosary while sitting inside a church. In another, Lady Divine kills her boyfriend and proceeds to eat his heart; in actuality, Divine bit into a cow's heart which had gone rotten from being left out on the set all day. At the end of the film, Lady Divine is raped by a giant lobster named Lobstora, an act that drives her into madness; she subsequently goes on a killing spree in Fell's Point before being shot down by the National Guard. Due to its controversial nature, Waters feared that the film would be banned and confiscated by the Maryland Censor Board, so avoided their jurisdiction by only screening it at non-commercial venues, namely rented church premises. Multiple Maniacs was the first of Waters's films to receive widespread attention, as did Divine; KSFX remarked that "Divine is incredible! Could start a whole new trend in films.


Rise to fame

Pink Flamingos: 1971–72

Following his San Francisco sojourn, Divine returned to Baltimore and participated in Waters's next film Pink Flamingos. Designed by Waters to be "an exercise in poor taste," the film featured Divine as Babs Johnson, a woman who claims to be "the filthiest person alive" and who is forced to prove her right to the title from challengers, Connie (Mink Stole) and Raymond Marble (David Lochary). In one scene, the Marbles send Babs a turd in a box as a birthday present, and in order to enact this scene, Divine excreted into the box the night before. Filmed in a hippie commune in Phoenix, Maryland, the cast members spent much of the time smoking cigarettes and marijuana and taking amphetamines, although all of the scenes had been heavily rehearsed beforehand. The final scene in the film proved particularly infamous, involving Babs eating fresh dog feces; Divine later told a reporter, "I followed that dog around for three hours just zooming in on its asshole," waiting for it to empty its bowels so that they could film the scene. The scene became one of the most notable moments of Divine's acting career, and he later complained of people thinking that "I run around doing it all the time. I've received boxes of dog shit – plastic dog shit. I have gone to parties where people just sit around and talk about dog shit because they think it's what I want to talk about." In reality, he remarked, he was not a coprophile but only ate excrement that one time because it was in the script.
The scene at the end of Pink Flamingos, in which Divine (in character as Babs Johnson) consumes fresh dog feces, became a significant part of American cinema history and dominated discussion of Divine and Waters' films for decades to come.
The film premiered in late 1972 at the third Annual Baltimore Film Festival, held on the campus of the University of Baltimore, where it sold out tickets for three successive screenings; the film aroused particular interest among underground cinema fans following the success of Multiple Maniacs, which had begun to be screened in New York City, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. Being picked up by the small independent company New Line Cinema, Pink Flamingos was distributed to Ben Barenholtz, the owner of the Elgin Theater in New York City. At the Elgin Theater, Barenholtz had been promoting the midnight movie scene, primarily by screening Alejandro Jodorowsky's acid western film El Topo (1970). Barenholtz felt that being of an avant-garde nature, Pink Flamingos would fit in well with this crowd, screening it at midnight on Friday and Saturday nights. The film soon gained a cult following at the Elgin Theatre. Barenholtz characterized its early fans as primarily being "downtown gay people, more of the hipper set," but after a while he noted that this group broadened, with the film becoming popular with "working-class kids from New Jersey who would become a little rowdy". Many of these cult cinema fans learned all of the film's lines, reciting them at the screenings, a phenomenon which became associated with another popular midnight movie of the era, The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975).
While keeping his involvement with Waters's underground filmmaking a secret from his parents, Divine continued relying on them financially, charging them for expensive parties that he held and writing bad checks. After charging them for a major repair to his car in 1972, his parents confiscated it from him and told him that they would not continue to financially support him in such a manner. In retaliation, he came by their house the following day, collected his two pet dogs and then disappeared, not seeing or speaking with them for the next nine years. Instead, he sent them over fifty postcards from across the world, informing them that he was fine, but on none did he leave a return address. Frances and Harris Milstead retired soon after and moved to Florida at the advice of Harris's doctor, who prescribed the southern state's warmer weather as being beneficial for Harris's muscular dystrophy.


Theater work and Female Trouble: 1973–78

When the filming of Pink Flamingos finished, Divine returned to San Francisco, where he and Mink Stole starred in a number of small-budget plays at the Palace Theater as part of drag troupe The Cockettes, including Divine and Her Stimulating Studs, Divine Saves the World, Vice Palace, Journey to the Center of Uranus and The Heartbreak of Psoriasis. It was here that he first met androgynous performer Sylvester. Divine purchased a house in Santa Monica, which he furnished to his expensive tastes.On visits to Washington D.C. during the early 1970s, Divine and Waters attended the city's balls that were frequented by LGBT African-Americans. Here, Waters encouraged Divine's drag persona to become more outrageous, exposing her overweight stomach and carrying weapons. He later commented that he wanted Divine to become "the Godzilla of drag queens", a direct confrontation with the majority of Euro-American drag queens who wanted to be Miss America.In his private life, Divine became the godfather of Brook Yeaton, the son of his friends Chuck Yeaton and Pat Moran; Brook and Divine remained very close until Divine's death.
In 1974, Divine returned to Baltimore to film Waters's next motion picture, Female Trouble, in which he played the lead role. Divine's character, teenage delinquent Dawn Davenport, embraces the idea that crime is art and is eventually executed in the electric chair for her violent behavior. Waters claimed that the character of Dawn had been partly based on the mutual friend who had introduced him to Divine, Carol Wernig, while the costumes and make-up were once more designed by Van Smith to create the desired "trashy, slutty look." In the film, Divine did his own stunts, including the trampoline scene, for which he had had to undertake a number of trampolining lessons. Divine also played his first on-screen male role in the film, Earl Peterson, and Waters included a scene during which these two characters had sexual intercourse as a joke on the fact that both characters were played by the same actor. Female Trouble proved to be Divine's favorite of his films, because it both allowed him to develop his character and to finally play a male role, something he had always felt important because he feared being typecast as a female impersonator. Divine was also responsible for singing the theme tune for Female Trouble, although it was never released as a single. Divine remained proud of the film, although it received a mixed critical reception.
Divine was unable to appear in Waters's next feature, Desperate Living (1977), despite the fact that the role of Mole McHenry had been written for him. This was because he had returned to working in the theater, this time taking the role of the scheming prison matron Pauline in Tom Eyen's comedy Women Behind Bars. Performed in New York City's Truck and Warehouse Theater, the play proved popular and was later taken to London's Whitehall Theater next to Trafalgar Square. Containing a new cast, it proved less successful than it had in New York. It was in this city that Divine met a group of people whom he would come to know as his "London family": fashion designer Zandra Rhodes, photographer Robyn Beeche, sculptor Andrew Logan and the latter's partner, Michael Davis. While in London in 1978, Divine attended as the guest of honour at the seventh annual Alternative Miss World pageant, a mock event founded by Logan in 1972 in which drag queens – including men, women and children – competed for the prize. The event was filmed by director Richard Gayer, whose subsequent film, entitled Alternative Miss World, premiered at the Odeon in London's Leicester Square as well as featuring at the Cannes Film Festival, both events which were attended by Divine.
Impressed with Divine's performance in Women Behind Bars, playwright Tom Eyen decided to write a new play that would feature him in a starring role. The result was The Neon Woman, a story set in 1962 featuring Divine as Flash Storm, the female owner of a Baltimore strip club. It played at the Hurrah! club in New York City before moving on to the Alcazar Theatre in San Francisco. Divine would remain very proud of the work, seeing it as evidence that his acting skills were coming to wider recognition, and his performances were attended by such celebrities as Eartha Kitt, Elton John and Liza Minnelli. It was during the New York leg of the play's tour that Divine befriended Jay Bennett; they subsequently began renting an apartment together on 58th Street. In the city, Divine assembled a group of friends that came to be known as his "New York family": designer Larry LeGaspi, makeup artist Conrad Santiago, Vincent Nasso and dresser Frankie Piazza. While there, he frequented the famous club Studio 54, having a love of partying and club culture.


Early disco work and Polyester: 1979–83

Divine eventually decided to abandon his agent, Robert Hussong, and replace him with his English friend Bernard Jay. Jay suggested that with his love of clubs, Divine could obtain work performing in them; as a result, Divine first appeared in 1979 at a gay club in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where his unscripted act included shouting "fuck you" repeatedly at the audience and then getting into a fight with another drag queen, a gimmick that proved popular with the club's clientele. Subsequently, he saw the commercial potential of including disco songs in with his act and, with Tom Eyen and composer Henry Krieger, created "Born to be Cheap" in 1981. In 1981 Divine appeared in John Waters's next film, Polyester, starring as Francine Fishpaw. Unlike earlier roles, Fishpaw was not a strong female but a meek and victimized woman who falls in love with her dream lover, Todd Tomorrow, played by Tab Hunter. In real life, tabloid publications claimed a romantic connection between them, an assertion both denied. The film was released in "Odorama," accompanied by "scratch 'n' sniff" cards for the audience to smell at key points in the film. Soon after Polyester, Divine auditioned for a male role in Ridley Scott's upcoming science-fiction film Blade Runner. Even though Scott thought Divine unsuitable for the part, he claimed to be enthusiastic about Divine's work and was very interested in including him in another of his films, but ultimately this never came about.
That same year, Divine decided to get back in contact with his estranged parents. His mother had learned of his cinematic and disco career after reading an article about the films of John Waters in Life magazine, and had gone to see Female Trouble at the cinema, but had not felt emotionally able to get back in contact with her son until 1981. She got a friend to hand Divine a note at one of his concerts, leading Divine to telephone her, and the family were subsequently reunited. The relationship was mended, and Divine bought them lavish gifts and informed them of how wealthy he was. In fact, according to his manager Bernard Jay, he was already heavily in debt due to his extravagant spending. In 1982, he then joined forces with young American composer Bobby Orlando, who wrote a number of Hi-NRG singles for Divine, including "Native Love (Step By Step)," "Shoot Your Shot", and "Love Reaction". To help publicize these singles, which proved to be successful in many discos across the world, Divine went on television shows like Good Morning America, as well as on a series of tours in which he combined his musical performances with comedic stunts and routines that often played up to his characters' stereotype of being "trashy" and outrageous. Throughout the rest of the 1980s, Divine took his musical performances on tour across the world, attaining a particularly large following in Europe.


Later life

Later disco work, Lust in the Dust and Hairspray: 1984–88

Divine's career as a disco singer continued and his records had sold well, but he and his management felt that they were not receiving their share of the profits. They went to court against Orlando and his company, O-Records, and successfully nullified their contract. After signing with Barry Evangeli's company, InTune Music Limited, Divine released several new disco records, including "You Think You're A Man" and "I'm So Beautiful", which were both co-produced by Pete Waterman of the then-up-and-coming UK production team of Stock Aitken Waterman. In the United Kingdom, Divine sang his hit "You Think You're A Man" – a song which he had dedicated to his parents – on BBC television show Top of the Pops. He gained a devout follower, Briton Mitch Whitehead, a man who would declare himself to be Divine's "number 1 fan", tattooing himself with images of his idol and eventually aiding Bernard Jay in setting up for Divine's show onstage. In London, Divine also befriended drag comedy act Paul O'Grady, with Jay helping O'Grady obtain his first bookings in the U.S.
The next Divine film, Lust in the Dust (1985), reunited him with Tab Hunter and was Divine's first film not directed by John Waters. Set in the Wild West during the nineteenth century, the movie was a sex comedy that starred Divine as Rosie Velez, a promiscuous woman who works as a singer in saloons and competes for the love of Abel Wood (Tab Hunter) against another woman. A parody of the 1946 western Duel in the Sun, the film was a moderate critical success, with Divine receiving praise from a number of reviewers. Divine followed this production with a very different role, that of gay male gangster Hilly Blue in Trouble in Mind (1985). The script was written with Divine in mind. Although not a major character in the film, Divine had been eager to play the part because he wished to perform in more male roles and leave behind the stereotype of simply being a female impersonator. Reviews of the film were mixed, as were the evaluations of Divine's performance.
After finishing his work on Trouble in Mind, Divine again became involved with a John Waters project, the film Hairspray (1988). Set in Baltimore during the 1960s, Hairspray revolved around self-proclaimed "pleasantly plump" teenager Tracy Turnblad as she pursues stardom as a dancer on a local television show and rallies against racial segregation. As he had in Waters's earlier film Female Trouble, Divine took on two roles in the film, one of which was male and the other female. The first of these, Edna Turnblad, was Tracy's loving mother; Divine would later note that with this character he could not be accurately described as a drag queen, proclaiming "What drag queen would allow herself to look like this? I look like half the women from Baltimore." His second character in the film was that of the racist television station owner Arvin Hodgepile. In one interview, Divine admitted that he had hoped to play both the role of mother and daughter in Hairspray, but that the producers had been "a bit leery" and chosen Ricki Lake for the latter role instead. Divine went on to state his opinion on Lake, jokingly telling the interviewer that "She is nineteen and delightful. I hate her." In reality they had become good friends while working together on set. Reviews of the film were predominantly positive, with Divine in particular being singled out for praise; several commentators expressed their opinion that the film marked Divine's breakthrough into mainstream cinema.He subsequently took his mother to the film's premier in the Miami Film Festival before she once more accompanied him to the Baltimore premier, this time also with several of his other relatives. After the screening, a party was held at the Baltimore Museum of Art, where Frances Milstead granted an impromptu interview to the English film critic Jonathan Ross, a friend and fan of Divine's.
Divine's final film role was in the low-budget comedy horror Out of the Dark, produced with the same crew as Lust in the Dust. Appearing in only one scene within the film, he played the character of Detective Langella, a foulmouthed policeman investigating the murders of a killer clown. Out of the Dark would be released the year after Divine's death. Divine was also originally cast as an airplane passenger in the film Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare, but died before the film was in production. Divine had become a well-known celebrity throughout the 1980s, appearing on American television chat shows such as Late Night with David Letterman, Thicke of the Night, and The Merv Griffin Show to promote both his music and his film appearances. Divine-themed merchandise was produced, including greeting cards and The Simple Divine Cut-Out Doll Book. Portraits of Divine were painted by several famous artists, including David Hockney and Andy Warhol, both of whom were known for their works which dealt with popular culture.


Death: 1988

Glenn Milstead's grave at Prospect Hill Park Cemetery, Towson, Maryland
On March 7, 1988, three weeks after Hairspray was released nationwide, Divine was staying at the Regency Plaza Suites Hotel in Los Angeles. He was scheduled to film a guest appearance the following day as Uncle Otto on the Fox network's television series Married... with Children in the second season wrap-up episode. After spending all day at Sunset Gower Studios for rehearsals, Divine had returned to his hotel that evening, where he dined with friends at the hotel restaurant before returning to his room. Shortly before midnight, he died in his sleep, at age 42, of an enlarged heart. His weight at his demise was about 370 pounds (170 kg). Glenn Milstead's health deteriorated due to his obese frame, and he passed away in his sleep from cardiac arrest through sleep apnea. Divine was told by his doctor, that he wasn't to sleep on his back; he did this anyway, ignoring the physician's advice. His body was discovered by Bernard Jay the following morning, who then sat with the body for the next six hours, alongside three of Divine's other friends. They contacted Thomas Noguchi, the Chief Coroner for the County of Los Angeles, who arranged for removal of the body; Divine's friends were able to prevent the press from taking any photographs of the body as it was being carried out of the hotel.
Divine's body was flown back to Maryland and taken to Ruck's Funeral Home in Towson, where an extra-large coffin was obtained for him. The funeral took place at Prospect Hill Cemetery, where a crowd of hundreds had assembled to pay their respects. The ceremony was conducted by the Reverend Higgenbotham, who had baptized Divine into the Christian faith many years before. John Waters gave a speech, and was one of the pallbearers who then carried the coffin to its final resting place, next to the grave of Divine's grandmother. Many flowers were left at the grave, including a wreath sent by actress Whoopi Goldberg, which bore the remark "See what happens when you get good reviews." Following the funeral, a tribute was held at the Baltimore Governor's Mansion. In the ensuing weeks, the Internal Revenue Service confiscated many of Divine's possessions and auctioned them off, as restitution for unpaid taxes.

Drag persona and performance

Divine: "How much did you pay to get in tonight?"
Audience: "Ten dollars."
Divine: "Well now, that's eight dollars to see the show – and two dollars to fuck me right after. All line up outside the dressing room and I'll be here till Christmas!"
An example of Divine's banter with his audience[124]
After developing a name for himself as a female impersonator known for "trashy" behavior in his early John Waters films, Divine capitalized on this image by appearing at his musical performances in his drag persona. In this role, he was described by his manager Bernard Jay, as displaying "Trash. Filth. Obscenity. In bucket-loads".  Divine described his stage performances as "just good, dirty fun, and if you find it offensive, honey, don't join in." As a part of his performance, he constantly swore at the audience, often using his signature line of "fuck you very much", and at times got audience members to come onstage, where he would fondle their buttocks, groins, and breasts. Divine and his stage act proved particularly popular among gay audiences, and he appeared at some of the world's biggest gay clubs, such as Central London's Heaven. According to Divine's manager Bernard Jay, this was not because Divine himself was gay, but because the gay community "openly and proudly identified with the determination of the female character Divine".
Divine became increasingly known for outlandish stunts onstage, each time trying to outdo what he had done before. At one performance in London's Hippodrome coinciding with American Independence Day, Divine rose up from the floor on a hydraulic lift, draped in the American flag, and declared: "I'm here representing Freedom, Liberty, Family Values, and the fucking American Way of Life." When he performed at the London Gay Pride parade, he sang on the roof of a hired pleasure boat that floated down the Thames past Jubilee Gardens. At a performance Divine gave at the Hippodrome in the last year of his life, he appeared onstage riding an infant elephant which had been hired for the occasion. Divine was nevertheless not happy with being known primarily for his drag act, and told an interviewer that "my favorite part of drag is getting out of it. Drag is my work clothes. I only put it on when someone pays me to", a view he echoed to his friends.


Personal life

During his childhood and adolescence, Divine was called "Glenn" by his friends and family; during his adult career, he used the "Divine" as his personal name, telling one interviewer that both "Divine" and "Glenn Milstead" were "both just names. Glenn is the name I was brought up with, Divine is the name I've been using for the past 23 years. I guess it's always Glenn and it's always Divine. Do you mean the character Divine or the person Divine? You see, it gets very complicated. There's the Divine you're talking to now and there's the character Divine, which is just something I do to make a living. She doesn't really exist at all." At one point he had the name "Divine" officially recognized, as it appeared on his passport, and in keeping with his personal use of the name, his close friends nicknamed him "Divy".
Divine considered himself to be male, and was not transgender or transsexual. He was gay, and during the 1980s had an extended relationship with a married man named Lee, who accompanied him almost everywhere that he went. They later separated, and Divine went on to have a brief affair with gay porn star Leo Ford, something that was widely reported upon in the gay press According to his manager Bernard Jay, Divine regularly engaged in sexual activities with young men that he would meet while on tour, sometimes becoming infatuated with them; in one case, he met a young man in Israel whom he wanted to bring back to the United States, something his manager prevented him from doing. This image of promiscuity was disputed by his friend Anne Cersosimo, who claimed that Divine never exhibited such behavior when on tour. Divine initially avoided informing the media about his sexuality, even when questioned by interviewers, and would sometimes hint that he was bisexual, but in the latter part of the 1980s changed this attitude and began being open about his homosexuality. Nonetheless, he avoided discussing gay rights, partially at the advice of his manager, realizing that it would have had a negative effect on his career.
Divine's mother, Frances Milstead, remarked that while Divine "was blessed with many talents and abilities, he could be very moody and demanding." She noted that while he was "incredibly kind and generous", he always wanted to get things done the way that he wanted, and would "tune you out if you displeased him." She noted that in most interviews, he came across as "a very shy and private person". Divine's Dutch friends gave him two bulldogs in the early 1980s, on which he doted, naming them Beatrix and Claus after Queen Beatrix and her husband Prince Claus of the Netherlands. On numerous occasions he would have his photograph taken with them and sometimes use these images for record covers and posters.Divine suffered from problems with obesity from childhood, caused by his love of food, and in later life his hunger was increased by his daily use of marijuana, an addiction that he publicly admitted to. According to Bernard Jay, in Divine's final years, when his disco career was coming to an end and he was struggling to find acting jobs, he felt suicidal and threatened to kill himself on several occasions.


Legacy and influence

The New York Times said of Milstead's 1980s films: "Those who could get past the unremitting weirdness of Divine's performance discovered that the actor/actress had genuine talent, including a natural sense of comic timing and an uncanny gift for slapstick." In a letter to the newspaper, Paul Thornquist described him as "one of the few truly radical and essential artists of the century... [who] was an audacious symbol of man's quest for liberty and freedom." People magazine described him as "the Goddess of Gross, the Punk Elephant, the Big Bad Mama of the Midnight Movies... [and] a Miss Piggy for the blissfully depraved." Following his death, fans of Divine visited Prospect Hill Cemetery to pay their respects. In what has become a tradition, fans have been known to leave makeup, food, and graffiti on his grave in memoriam; Waters claims that some fans have sexual intercourse on his grave, which he believes Divine would love.
Divine has left an influence on a number of musicians. During the mid-1980s, the androgynous performer Sylvester decorated the powder room of his San Francisco home with Divine memorabilia. Antony Hegarty of the band Antony and the Johnsons wrote a song about Divine which was included in the group's self-titled debut album, released in 1998. The song, titled "Divine," was an ode to the actor, who was one of Antony's lifelong heroes. His admiration is expressed in the lines: "He was my self-determined guru" and "I turn to think of you/Who walked the way with so much pain/Who holds the mirror up to fools."In 2008, Irish electronic singer Róisín Murphy paid homage to Divine in the music video for her song "Movie Star" by reenacting the attack by Lobstora from Multiple Maniacs.
Divine was the inspiration for the design of Ursula the Sea-Witch, the villain in the 1989 Disney animated film The Little Mermaid. Due to Divine's portrayal of Edna Turnblad in the original comedy-film version of Hairspray, later musical adaptations of Hairspray have commonly placed male actors in the role of Edna, including Harvey Fierstein and others in the 2002 Broadway musical, and John Travolta in the 2007 musical film. A 12-foot (4 m) tall statue in the likeness of Divine by Andrew Logan can be seen on permanent display at The American Visionary Art Museum in Divine's hometown of Baltimore. I Am Divine, a feature documentary on the life of Divine, was premiered at the 2013 South by Southwest film festival, and had its Baltimore premiere within Maryland Film Festival. It is produced and directed by Jeffrey Schwarz of the Los Angeles-based production company Automat Pictures.


Publications

Divine's manager and friend Bernard Jay wrote a book titled Not Simply Divine!, published in 1992 by Virgin Books. Admitting that he was "immensely proud" of Divine and the cause which he "strived for", Jay noted in the book's introduction that he wrote the work because he felt that Divine deserved a "memorial" that would act as a "record for posterity". He insisted that Not Simply Divine! was "not the bitter revenge of an unappreciated manager, eager now to get his share of his praise", but that equally it was not "a gushing homage" designed to paint Divine as "both saintly and legendary." He expressed his hope that the book shines light on the "shades of grey" between the man and his female persona, portraying a "warts and all" picture. The book was criticized by Divine's mother, Frances Milstead, who accused Jay of writing a "mean-spirited" work that provided an incorrect image of her son. Not Simply Divine! was also criticised by Divine's friend Greg Gorman, who remarked that, "there was so much hostility and so much meanspiritedness in the way Divine was portrayed in the book, that it was just 180 degrees from who he was."
Frances Milstead subsequently cowrote her own book about Divine, entitled My Son Divine, with Kevin Heffernan and Steve Yeagar, which was published by Alyson Books in 2001. His mother's continued relationship with the gay community was later documented in a film Frances: A Mother Divine (2010), directed by Tim Dunn and Michael O'Quinn. Postcards From Divine, a book made of over 50 postcards Divine sent to his parents while traveling the world between 1977 and 1987, was released by the Divine estate on November 5, 2011. Postcards From Divine also includes quotes and stories from his friends and colleagues, including Waters, Mink Stole, Mary Vivian Pearce, Channing Wilroy, Susan Lowe, Jean Hill, Tab Hunter, Lainie Kazan, Alan J. Wendl, Ruth Brown, Deborah Harry, Jerry Stiller, Ricki Lake, Silvio Gigante and others.