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When One Hollywood Couple Decided To Adopt a Pet Lion At Home

Tippi Hedren, perhaps most famous for her role in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, is an actress of formidable gifts. But her role as an animal-rights activist and conservationist might well be Hedren's most lasting legacy. For decades, her Roar Foundation and the animal sanctuary, Shambala Preserve, in California have advocated for big (and not so big) cats—from lions and leopards to bobcats and servals—and she's been honored with a host of humanitarian and conservation awards through the decades.

In 1971, LIFE photographer Michael Rougier spent time with Hedren; her teenage daughter, Melanie Griffith, her then-husband, the agent and movie producer, Noel Marshall; and others at their home in California. Also in attendance: Neil, a 400-pound mature lion, who occasionally slept in the same bed as Griffith and, as these pictures attest, had the run of the house, from the kitchen to the living room to the swimming pool.

Decades and several attacks later -- one lion clawed daughter Melanie Griffith in the face during the production of the 1981 film Roar and required that Griffith undergo surgery -- Hedren admitted that having a lion live in her home alongside her children was "stupid beyond belief." 

the incredible adoption story of a pet lion
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A proud father meets his cubs at the Oregon Zoo's Predators of the Serengeti Habitat.