Alfred Hitchcock’s leading ladies had scandals in their personal lives that were worthy of the big screen.
The women who helped make the master of horror one of the greatest filmmakers of all time are the subjects of a new book written by Laurence Leamer, “Hitchcock’s Blondes.” It explores the eight actresses who worked with the British director and what their lives were really like when cameras stopped rolling.
Hitchcock died in 1980 at the age of 80.
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“There’s a lot of sex in this book,” Leamer told Fox News Digital. “And it’s not because… I’m trying to sell books or write about sex. It’s because these women had a lot of sex.”
“I grew up in the ‘60s, and we thought the sexual revolution began with us,” he shared. “There was no necessity for a sexual revolution. These women had a great deal of sex. And I write about it empathetically… If a guy sleeps with a lot of women, he’s a stud. If a woman does it, she’s a whore — that’s the way it’s traditionally seen. Well, I don’t see that in my mind. In my book, I say more power to you.”
According to Leamer, Hitchcock’s favorite blonde was Grace Kelly, the Oscar-winning star who went on to become Princess of Monaco. But despite her “nun-like beauty” and sophisticated demeanor, Kelly had a promiscuous past.
“That’s why I’m writing about her sex life — people can’t believe it,” said Leamer. “And she was everything [Hitchcock] dreamed of in a woman.”
Leamer alleged that Kelly began an affair with 30-year-old Don Richardson, her teacher at New York City’s American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She went on to introduce Richardson to her parents after she was no longer his pupil. Leamer claimed the family disapproved of the relationship because Richardson was Jewish and still legally married to his estranged wife.
As Kelly continued to see Richardson, she took on an even older lover, 40-year-old Claudius Charles Phillipe, banquet manager of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. There was also playboy Prince Aly Khan, who gifted all his conquests bracelets as a “token of his appreciation.” While Richardson had his own lovers, he was incensed to discover the recognizable jewelry. Betrayed, he tossed it into a fish tank and told Kelly he wanted nothing more to do with her.
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“Richardson got dressed and hurried out the door,” Leamer wrote. “He turned for one last sentimental glance. Maybe Grace would be crying or wringing her hands in despair. But it was nothing like that. Still nude, she was reaching down into the water to fish out the bracelet.”
As she skyrocketed to fame, Kelly was seen “falling in and out of love at manic speed,” Leamer claimed. At 23, she allegedly had an affair with her co-star, 51-year-old Clark Gable, after she romanced her previous leading man, Gary Cooper. She nicknamed Gable, her oldest lover, “Baba,” or “Daddy.”
It was also alleged that she had an affair with her “Dial M for Murder” co-star Ray Milland, 47, who, unlike Gable, “had his own teeth,” Leamer wrote. Kelly later had a relationship with designer Oleg Cassini, who was introduced to her by actor Pierre Aumont, her previous lover.
“[The affairs were] her adventure,” Leamer explained. “For a woman of that time, that was the greatest adventure — having an affair. And she just did it. And she loved it and enjoyed it. And she moved on to many affairs.”
But the man Kelly ultimately married was Prince Rainier III of Monaco.
“One of the things I learned which just shocked me is that she didn’t even know him,” Leamer explained. “He came to visit her at her parents’ house in Philadelphia. Imagine her parents are sitting there on Christmas. And in the middle of the evening, they go into the back room and obviously have sex. And three days later, she’s marrying the guy… and giving up her career.”
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According to reports, Kelly and Rainier met in May 1955. They began a private correspondence that was kept secret until Rainier sailed for America and proposed during Christmas of that year, People magazine reported.
The couple tied the knot in 1956 and remained together until Kelly’s death in 1982. The American princess passed away from injuries she sustained in a car crash at age 52.
Like Kelly, Ingrid Bergman had romances with her co-stars, including married actor Gregory Peck.
“I think Hitchcock was in love with Ingrid Bergman,” said Leamer. “And here’s this handsome young Gregory. I interviewed Gregory Peck years ago, and we talked about [the affair]. He was circumspect. He didn’t want to go into the details, but he basically admitted that he had an affair with her.”
“And that’s the way she motivated herself,” Leamer continued. “She would sleep with her co-stars. She slept with Gary Cooper. And Gary Cooper thought she was so much in love with him. As soon as [their] film was over, the affair was over. Same with Gregory Peck. [He] said that he was a little bit younger and more of a novice as an actor, as a star. And Gregory Peck said that Ingrid Bergman was so helpful to him in so many ways.”
In 1949, Bergman fell in love with Italian director Roberto Rossellini. She had a child with him before she could obtain a divorce from her husband. Her films were boycotted, and she was condemned on the floor of the U.S. Senate, The New York Times reported. She survived the blistering scandal, but the marriage didn’t. She and Rossellini called it quits in 1957.
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Kim Novak caught Hitchcock’s eye, but she had her sights set on a Rat Pack member. In his book, Leamer explored the star’s forbidden romance with Sammy Davis, Jr. Columbia Pictures boss Harry Cohn, one of Hollywood’s most feared people, was enraged by the interracial relationship after a gossip columnist wrote about it on Jan. 1, 1958. He was determined to end it.
“Cohn was beyond livid,” Leamer wrote. “He had his mob friends tell Davis that if he did not end his relationship with Novak, he would lose his one good eye. Davis had two good ears, and he listened. On Jan. 10, 1958, the entertainer married a Black chorus girl, Loray White, whom he did not even know. They separated seven weeks later…. [Cohn] died a few weeks later.”
As for Novak, she was in love with married director Richard Quine. But a union was not meant to be. Following a battle with depression, he died in 1989 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at age 68.
As for Hitchcock, he attempted to have his way on set.
“He was in some ways a troubled man,” Leamer explained. “He was a dark spirit. He admitted that he was impotent for most of his life. That doesn’t mean you’re not interested in sex. You may be even more interested in it looking at it from a distance. So for these women, he was a voyeur, basically looking at their lives. And he wanted to put them through hell in his films. He was putting them through hell, and the audience sat there and, for whatever reason, they liked watching this.”
For 1963’s “The Birds,” Leamer said Hitchcock relished torturing Tippi Hedren. She allegedly spent five days filming with live birds attached to her body as others were thrown at her.
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“They had spent a fortune on the mechanical birds, but they looked like mechanical birds,” Leamer explained. “They felt the only way they could do it was with live birds…. He filmed her in one scene where she opens this attic door and hundreds of birds fly out. He also tied live birds to her arms using plastic. They came very close to poking out her eyes.”
It wouldn’t be until 2016 when the actress, now 93, alleged that Hitchcock sexually assaulted her. In her memoir, Hedren suspected that Hitchcock used the live birds as a means to punish her. She also alleged that Hitchcock threatened to ruin her career.
When it came to Novak, Hitchcock startled his muse by using a plucked chicken that he hung upside down in her dressing room. To this day, the now 90-year-old has no idea what the gruesome surprise meant.
But Leamer has a theory.
“He wanted to control her,” he said.
In 1960’s “Psycho,” Janet Leigh refused to go nude for the iconic shower scene. Playboy model Marli Renfro stripped down as her body double after winning the director over with her “beautifully pedicured” feet. Years later, Leigh claimed she refused to take showers and only preferred baths after filming her brutal on-screen death.
“The thing about Hitchcock is that he did everything over and over again,” Leamer explained. “You would take one look at it and say, ‘This is perfect, let’s move on.’ But not Hitchcock — he went on for days and days filming that one scene. And Janet was a consummate professional. She knew what was asked of her and she gave it.”
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Today, Leamer hopes readers will see Hitchcock’s blondes in a new light.
“I don’t think they’re appreciated for the great artists they were,” he said. “They’re immortal. [And] they’re immortal because of Hitchcock. And they’re immortal because of the magnificent performances they gave Hitchcock.”