Melanie Griffith, the actress who received a macabre gift as a child and lived with 71 lions

Melanie Griffith, the actress who received a macabre gift as a child and lived with 71 lions

Melanie Griffith
The artist who successfully starred in several films, and who many remember for her ex-husbands and their bad surgeries, had a childhood that was as unusual as it was dangerous
If a Hollywood producer wanted to broadcast a program of “crazy situations that happen to artists”, one of the guests could be Joaquin Phoenix narrating how with his brothers he sang religious songs through the Venezuelan streets. I invite any Matt Damon and remember how he ended up falling of Argentina or Drew Barrymore to tell how godfather Steven Spielberg or a Meryl Streep and the reasons why he loves De Niro but not both Dustin Hoffman . The guests could be many, but without a doubt, the one that would take at least three broadcasts and monopolize all the attention would be Melanie Griffith. Few can have a childhood like hers. Hitchcok played a ghoulish prank on him and he grew up on a preserve with 132 big cats.

Until the age of four, Melanie’s life was like that of any New York girl with parents without financial problems. The spoiled daughter of Peter Griffith , who had started out as a child actor and by that time had become one of the biggest publicists in the Big Apple and Nathalie Hedren , a model of hypnotic beauty. The 60s were beginning and Melanie’s world was very similar to what the Mad Men series showed us . A world where luxury and appearances were essential. Breaking that status quo took a lot of courage, something Melanie’s mother had plenty of.

A trainer suggested to Tippi that the best way to get acquainted with a lion was by living with one and they adopted Neil
Locked up in a marriage that didn’t make her happy, she decided to separate. She claimed that she was tired of putting up with a husband, an alcoholic and unfaithful, who also did not tolerate when she earned more than him. With her divorced parents, Melanie began to live a childhood – literally – on two sides. His father stayed in New York and his mother moved to California. One next to the Atlantic, the other next to the Pacific.

Nathalie was a well-known and sought-after model in New York. But in his new city he had to start from scratch. The first thing he did was change his name. Tippi was self-baptized , which means charm. At 32 years old, divorced, with a young daughter and few contacts, she thought it would be difficult to find a job. It was not so.

After seeing her in a commercial, Alfred Hitchcock , summoned her to shoot The Birds in the leading role. Flattered by the proposal but also haunted by its financial instability, Tippi accepted.

At the age of five, Melanie realized that her mother had to leave her babysitting for many hours to go to work. What he did not understand was why many times, locked in his room, he heard her cry. He also did not understand when he returned from filming, covered in scratches and with a wounded eye. It would be many years until she learned of the mistreatment to which the director subjected her. “What my mother suffered at the hands of that memo was terrible,” he would denounce.

Not only his mother was mistreated by the director. For Christmas, that good-natured-looking man whom she called Tito Hitch, called her to his side and with the face of a good grandfather handed her a beautifully wrapped gift. Feliz unwrapped it but gave a cry and ran to take refuge in his mother’s arms. The good old man had turned into a big bad wolf who gave him a doll, an exact replica of his mother, dressed in green like in The Birds but kept in what looked like a miniature coffin.
Enslaved by a five-year contract, Tippi continued to work with the director. If she threatened to resign, he would threateningly ask her what would become of her daughter. He managed to terminate his contract and refused to work with the director he called a “fat pig” again. New projects awaited her.

In 1969, Melanie was a pretty preteen when her mother announced that she would travel to Mozambique to shoot Satan’s Harvest, with her then husband, Noel Marshall . Melanie would await his return at her father’s home in the Virgin Islands.

Upon returning, Melanie listened to her tell how on a break from filming, she went out to tour the area and found an abandoned house but taken over by 30 lions. She told him that she was so moved that she decided to take part in various safaris and visit different African nature reserves.

So far it was the story of a unique experience. But things changed when Tippi told her that, together with her husband, they had become active defenders of animal rights. Melanie thought her mother would open a shelter for abandoned dogs or sick cats. But no. He announced that he would adopt homeless tigers and lions.

This is how, one day when she returned from school, Melanie found in her living room not a cute kitten but a lion. It was Neil, a beautiful 180-kilo animal that, after being used in various advertisements, had been abandoned by its owner.

Teen Melanie Griffith shares a bed with Neil, snuggled under a quilt

Melanie got used to eating, taking a dip in the pool, walking around the house and getting into bed with her unusual pet. What for the family was a simple kitten, for the neighbors it was a danger and a problem. Not only did they distrust his meekness, they were also annoyed by his roar. Under natural conditions, it can be heard at a distance of up to 8 kilometers. But if in the African sheet it serves to communicate with the herd or mark territory, in the city it is also annoying, terrifying.

The lion moved naturally and confidently in Melanie’s house
Faced with pressure from the neighbors, Melanie thought she would have to say goodbye to her pet. It was not so. What he said goodbye to was his home.

With her mother, stepfather, and stepbrothers, John and Jerry Marshall, they left town and moved to a ranch in the Mojave Desert. Tippi and Noel informed their children that Roar, a film in defense of the animals, would be filmed there. They would show that relationships between human lions and tigers were possible. The boys were delighted to accept. An adventure as fascinating as it was dangerous was beginning.

Roar’s plot was the life of a common family among big cats. As no actor dared to act with real lions and tigers, Tippi proposed to Melanie and Noel their children John and Jerry to be the protagonists. They were promised it would be five weeks of filming but they missed him by just 1790 days. It was five years.

If living with Neil was relatively easy, the situation at the ranch began to get complicated. It is that felines and other rescued animals began to arrive. Melanie had to get used to living with 71 lions, 26 tigers, a tigon (hybrid of a male tiger and a female lioness), 9 black panthers, 10 pumas, 2 jaguars, 4 leopards, 2 elephants, 6 black swans, 4 geese. Canadians, 4 cranes, 7 flamingos and a stork. She got rid of living with a rhinoceros, the only animal they rejected who knows why.

Members of the cast and crew were forced to live with wild animals that, in turn, were not prepared to live with them.
Members of the cast and crew were forced to live with wild animals that, in turn, were not prepared to live with them.
Used to living in her own version of Noah’s Ark, Melanie was not surprised to learn that her mother was spending $ 4,000 a week on pet food or when she bought a freezer with the capacity to store 4,500 kilos of meat. He was hardly fazed to learn that his mother and her partner sold their four houses in the city to pay for Roar’s expenses . When there were no real estate left to sell, Tippi shed the expensive fur coat Hitchcock had given her. Neither of us regretted it.

At the beginning of filming, actors and technical staff had to live with non-domesticated animals and without the advice of specialized caretakers or trainers. The animals roam freely and broke equipment and scenery without anyone being able to prevent it. Conclusion. During filming, no feline was injured, but 70 team members were.

Filming started to turn into hell. Because if a cat scratches you at most it makes you a big scratch, now in the case of a lion the situation is complicated. It was proved by Jan de Bont , the cinematographer when he received 220 stitches on his head after being struck by a lion.

Melanie playing with Neil as if he were a domestic kitten,

Although the boys moved naturally among the animals, the danger was constant. It’s that obviously the animals did what their instincts told them and not the camera director. For one scene, where a lion had to lick Tippi’s face, the only way to do this was by smearing the actress’s face with honey. Melanie looked terrified. Nothing guaranteed that the animal would not pass it without much process from the daughter category to the orphan category.

Melanie saw her mother escape from the lion’s clutches, but one of the elephants did not. Tembo, who weighed five tons, saw Tippi on the ground, lifted her with his trunk, and threw her into the air. Result, a fractured hand and ankle. Although considering the size of Tembo and that of the former model, it can be said that “he got it cheap.”

Her stepfather didn’t have a better time. Interacting with lions, one bit him. They rushed him to the hospital where doctors managed to save his arm. He returned after weeks, a feline bit his legs. Again to the hospital. They stopped him and bit him eight more times. In one of those visits they detected gangrene produced by so many attacks. His children did no better. John’s head was bitten by a lion, wounding him and requiring a 56-stitch suture. Jerry’s thigh was bitten by another lion and he was hospitalized for a month. The Marshalls went to the hospital so many times that doctors joked that they would give a sector their last name.

Melanie in the pool of her house poses carefree with Neil

With so many feline on the loose and so many family members and technicians injured, Melanie feared for her physical integrity. One day he planted “Mother, I don’t want to come out of this with a half face”, but he returned to the set. They instructed her to lie down near a lion and she did so confidently. But the lion reacted badly and attacked her. The scene was terrifying. Tippi tries to rescue her, but the animal still claws on her daughter. The screams of the mother and the teenager are as real as they are shocking. The attack was recorded and was part of the film in this shot that is as real as it is gruesome.

Roar’s scene when Melanie was attacked by one of the felines
Melanie was very hurt. The worst were the wounds on his face. Almost lost an eye. They had to undergo facial reconstruction surgery that, thanks to the professionalism of the doctors, did not destroy her beautiful features. It is said that after the accident he refused to return to filming, however, surprisingly, he did and continued to face all kinds of dangers.

Roar was released on November 30, 1981. Although the film had plenty of claw (quack), it lasted just a week on the billboard and raised only two million dollars of the 11 that were invested.

In 1985, Hedren admitted that “We were stupid beyond all knowledge. We should never have taken those risks. These animals are so fast that if they decide to go after you, only a bullet to the head could stop them. ” In her memoir “Tippi: A Memoir” she rehearsed a self-criticism about how her passion for lions may have affected her daughter. “Many times in the years that followed, I wondered if Melanie felt that she was giving so much attention to the big cats that we had that she did not pay enough attention to her,” he reflected.

“It wasn’t until several years later that I realized how naive and stupid I was. The excitement, wonder, challenge, passion and vision of making our film and sharing my life with these magnificent wild animals took over, and I put logic aside. Although he continued to rescue animals from zoos and circuses, today he is radically against treating wild animals as sweet pets or cute stuffed animals.

Melanie tried to get on with her life. He had three marriages and the same number of divorces. He lived through a time of addiction and lack of control but he recovered. He usually visits his mother who continues to live on her ranch with 13 tigers and some lions. Hitchcock’s former muse once had 60 cats but now only has one pair. As for Melanie, when Stella, the daughter she had with Antonio Banderas , asked for a pet, she did not hesitate. He brought Lady a beautiful, playful, pretty and friendly dog ​​that, although she can pee on the carpet or destroy your stocking, she will never give you such an affectionate as a beastly paw.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *