Filmed at Africa USA, a Hollywood animal compound outside of Acton that later became the Shambala big-cat preserve, "Roar" was a family affair and a series of disasters.
The film took 11 years to
make at a cost of $17 million and grossed just $2 million worldwide, mostly on foreign screens.
The movie was the brainchild of Noel Marshall (exec. producer, "The Exorcist") and then-wife Tippi Hedren ("The Birds," "Marnie"). Along with Tippi (seen here at the door,
apparently holding back a tiger with her bare hands) and Noel, the cast included Tippi's only child,
actress Melanie Griffth (visible at upper left), and two of Noel's sons, Jerry Marshall (seen next to Tippi) and John Marshall (legs visible at bottom). Tippi, Noel and Melanie were mauled during the
making of the film.
News photo by Bill Dow, 8x10-inch glossy on Kodak paper, published in an unidentified newspaper Nov. 27, 1977 —
shortly before production was dealt a multi-year setback as a result of major flooding in 1978 that washed away the movie sets and killed three of the lions including the alpha male, Robbie.
(Note: The original cutline of this photo misidentifies Jerry and John
as Tippi's sons.)
Life magazine fashion spread, 1952 | Click to enlarge
A Minnesota girl, Nathalie Kay "Tippi" Hedren was born Jan. 19, 1930, in New Ulm, grew up in Minneapolis and had a successful modeling career (including a Life magazine cover) before director Alfred Hitchcock "discovered" her while watching a TV commercial.
After starring in Hitchcock's "The Birds" (1963) and "Marnie" (1964), Hedren refused to do any more work for Hitchcock, who retaliated by keeping her under contract for two more years — essentially paying her not to work. Hitchcock traded her to Universal in time for her to play the role of Marlon Brando's estranged wife in Charles Chaplin's final film, "A Countess from Hong Kong" (1967).
Two years later she was in Africa for the filming of "Satan's Harvest" (1969) with George Montgomery and "Mister Kingstreet's War" (1971) with John Saxon and Rossano Brazzi. While there, Hedren and then-husband Noel Marshall watched a pride of lions move into a house after a caretaker moved out. It made an impression. Back home, Marshall wrote a script for a film centered around the experience, to be called "Roar."
Production was fraught with problems from the beginning. Hedren attempted to rent Hollywood animals but nobody would rent her 20 or 30 lions because of their natural tendency to fight. So she and daughter Melanie Griffith started rounding up rescues. They brought their first, 7-month-old rescue home to Los Angeles but it couldn't stay there, so Hedren brought it to Ralph Helfer, an animal behaviorist who had a 600-acre training compound for Hollywood animals called Africa U.S.A. on Soledad Canyon Road between Canyon Country and Acton. In 1972, when Helfer bought Marine World out of bankruptcy and established Marine World/Africa U.S.A. in Vallejo (later called Six Flags Discovery Kingdom), he sold his original Africa U.S.A. to Hedren, who gathered more rescues and planted trees and foiliage for large felines, elephants and giraffes.
Daughter Melanie Griffith was mauled during the making of "Roar."
Filming finally started in 1974. During production, members of the cast and crew were mauled, including daughter and co-star Melanie, who was slashed across the face — although Hedren suggests the maulings were horseplay (lion play?) that got out of hand, and the wounds were not life-threatening. Hedren, however, was severely bitten in the back of the head by a lion and gashed in the arm by a leopard. She once remarked that it was amazing nobody got killed on the set. Then came a big flood in 1978 that washed away the movie sets and killed three of the lions including the alpha male, Robbie. The project was set back several years.
Life magazine cover, 5-21-1956
By the time the film was completed and released in Australia in 1981, it had been more than a decade since conception, and five years of actual production at a cost of $17 million.
Hedren and Marshall split in 1982. Hedren kept rescuing big cats; in 1983 she renamed Africa U.S.A. "Shambala" and formed the 501c3 nonprofit Roar Foundation for big cat care and research.
Since that time, Hedren, who lives in a "safari"-style house on the property, has devoted her energies to fighting the private ownership and abuse of exotic animals. Most of Shambala's feline residents — African lions, Siberian and Bengal tigers, leopards, servals, mountain lions, bobcats, a lynx, a Florida panther and a liger (cross between a male lion and a tigress) — were rescues that were born in captivity for use as pets or circus animals or given up by zoos. When Michael Jackson closed down his Neverland Ranch in Los Olivos, his two Bengal tigers, Thriller and Sabu, went to Shambala.
From 1950 to 2013, Hedren has appeared in more than 80 different television series and feature films. In 2012 HBO released a British television film based on her strained relationship with Hitchcock called "The Girl," with Sienna Miller as Hedren and Toby Jones as Hitchcock.
Hedren won a Golden Globe award for "The Birds" (Most Promising Newcomer-Female) and was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Jan. 30, 2003 (Motion Picture). Her star is located at 7060 Hollywood Blvd.
 Most of the information about the making of "Roar" comes from an "SCV Newsmaker of the Week" interview taped March 1, 2005.
 Helfer, of Chicago, had established a 1,500-acre Hollywood animal compound which he called Nature's Haven near Vasquez Rocks in 1955. In 1962 the property was cut in half by the Antelope Valley Freeway and he moved his operation to Soledad Canyon.
 An earlier flood in 1969 had similar effect; Helfer reportedly lost 20 of his 1,500 animals.
Tippi Hedren Biography from Shambala.org:
From Hitchcock and Chaplin to Ed Wood, Jr., and from drama and terror to droll comedy, the career of actress Tippi Hedren has been meteoric, and eclectic.
After a few weeks of filming The Birds with Rod Taylor, director Alfred Hitchcock told Associated Press reporter Bob Thomas, "Tippi Hedren is really remarkable. She's already reaching the lows and highs of terror". The former New York fashion model was making her debut as an actress in a starring role in The Birds, and such high praise from the enigmatic master of cinema shock and suspense was rare indeed. "Like a dormant volcano we know one day is going to erupt," Hitchcock described her. "Get a look at that girl, she's going to be good. I gave her the leading part in The Birds. It is a big part. I think Svengali Hitch rides again."
In a cover article about The Birds in LOOK magazine (Dec. 4, 1962), Hitchcock continued to rave, "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."
Look magazine cover, 12-4-1962
Although the critics were perplexed by the "end-less ending" of The Birds, the movie, which premiered at The Cannes Film Festival, was a sensation earning over $11,000,000 in the first few months, and is now a classic. Saturday Review's Arthur Knight wrote, "Hitchcock's newest 'find', Tippi Hedren is a decidedly lovely blonde." Her performance in the film earned her a Golden Globe award.
Camille Paglia, Professor of Humanities at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and author of several acclaimed books about women in film, and The Birds (BFI Publishing, 1998), a critical analysis of the film, wrote, "It's so unfair that Tippi Hedren has never had the credit she deserves for the two films she did with Hitchcock. I think the reason critics did not take her seriously is because she is too fashionable and therefore not 'serious.' The interplay between Hedren and [Suzanne] Pleshette in The Birds tells me more about women than any number of articles on feminist theory. Hitchcock captures the subtleties of females warring with each other; all those nuances of knives and guns conducted in looks and body language. He sculpts the human body in space. And I love the way Hedren handles cigarettes and a martini glass with such remarkable sophistication. It is gesturalism raised to the level of choreography."
The Countess From Hong Kong with Marlon Brando and Sophia Loren, directed by Chaplin, in what was to be the "Little Tramp's" final film.
The three films, back to back, were an auspicious start for the Minnesota girl of Scandinavian parentage. Between over twenty films and numerous television appearances, she's been involved in a wide variety of humanitarian and environmental causes, almost overshadowing her screen work.
Tippi Hedren on SCVTV's "Newsmaker of the Week" program, taped 3-1-2005
As volunteer International Relief Coordinator for "FOOD FOR THE HUNGRY", she traveled worldwide to set up relief programs following earthquakes, hurricanes, famine and war. She aided "boat people" in the South China Sea from a "FOOD FOR THE HUNGRY" rescue ship. Lobbying efforts on behalf of Asian refugees have taken her before Congress and have earned her numerous awards including the "Humanitarian Award" presented to her by the B'hai Faith. She has been honored by the USO for entertaining troops in Vietnam and by the CELEBRITY OUTREACH FOUNDATION for her charitable work.
She began her long love affair with wild animals in 1969 while doing a film, Satan's Harvest, in Africa. She "met" a mellow lion, and much of her life since then has been devoted to the big cats.
Deeply involved with international conservation groups to save wildlife, and an outspoken voice against cruelty to animals, both wild and domestic, she's a board member of "The Wildlife Safari", founded by her friend, Frank Hart, in Winston, Oregon. She also served on the board of "The Elsa Wild Animal Appeal" founded by her friend, the late Joy Adamson. And currently, she is on the Board of Directors of Earth Communications Office (ECO), and President of the newly-formed "American Sanctuary Association." Her other charity work includes serving on The Board of Directors of The Women's Council of KCET (Channel 28), The Minnesota Film Council, The American Heart Association, The March of Dimes, Multiple Sclerosis, International Orphans, Inc., and several AIDS causes. She has been honored with "The Helen Woodward Animal Center's Annual Humane Award" (1995), the prestigious Founder's Award from the American Society or the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (1996) and the "Lion and Lamb Award" from Wildhaven (1997) for her work on behalf of animal rights and conservation.
Perhaps Tippi Hedren's most unique endeavor is being "den mother" and close friend to sixty-odd big cats — lion, tiger, leopard, cougar, and serval at The Roar Foundation's Shambala Preserve near Acton, California.
Michael Jackson's Bengal tigers, Thriller and Sabu
The high desert animal preserve is home to the felines and pachyderms and was first established as an African-type set for the motion picture, Roar, which Tippi co-produced and starred in with her daughter, film actress Melanie Griffith. After the five year filming was completed, it became the current, non-profit center for big cat care and research.
In keeping with her outlook on the environment and conservation, many of Shambala's residents are cast-offs from private owners, zoos and circuses. "They're living out their lives in safety and comfort." The Preserve is open to the public on a reservation basis. Tippi is founder and President of The Roar Foundation and resides at Shambala in a cottage surrounded by big cat compounds. "I awaken to their roars." The story of Tippi's life and the animals "dearest to her heart" was told in Simon & Schuster's The Cats of Shambala (1985).
Several documentaries have been produced about the Shambala Preserve including, Lions: Kings of the Serengeti by the Richard Diercks Co, Inc. which won the Telly Award in 1995 for outstanding video documentary; and Life With Big Cats (1998), produced for Animal Planet, which won the Genesis Award for best documentary in 1999.
Tippi continues to work frequently in motion pictures, theatre, episodic and cable television, and her contributions to world cinema have been honored with Life Achievement awards in France at The Beauvais Film Festival Cinemalia 1994, and in Spain by The Fundacion Municipal De Cine in 1995. In 1999, Tippi was honored as "Woman of Vision" by Women of Film and Video in Washington, D.C., and received the Presidential Medal for her work in film from Hofstra University. And in 2000, Tippi was honored as "Best Actress in a Comedy Short" in the film "Mulligans!" at the Method Fest, Independent Film Festival, and in 2002, Tippi won "best Actress" for the short film "Tea With Grandma" from the New York International Independent Film Festival.
Tippi was presented with an Honorary MFA degree in Acting for film from the New York Film Academy in January, 2012.