The daughter of onetime fashion model Tippi Hedren (Marnie) and actor Peter Griffith, Melanie Griffith witnessed her parents' divorce as a toddler. She relocated from Manhattan to Los Angeles in the custody of her mom at the age of four, when Alfred Hitchcock discovered Hedren and offered her a bid for movie stardom. Hedren soon married her second husband, film producer Noel Marshall, and relocated the entire family (including Griffith) to an Acton, California ranch, but at age 15 (c. 1972), Griffith broke out on her own. She started modeling professionally and struck up a live-in relationship with then-22-year-old Don Johnson. Thus commenced a notoriously rocky, complex romance of four years. It temporarily ended when Griffith and Johnson wed and divorced several months later. In the mean time, Griffith kick-started her acting career with promising films including the Arthur Penn-directed detective saga Night Moves (1975) and the Paul Newman mystery The Drowning Pool (1975).
Problems with drugs and drinking followed Griffith and Johnson's divorce. It all came crashing down for the rising star in 1980, when she was hit by a car on Sunset Boulevard and seriously injured, with amnesia that lasted for several days and a fractured arm. Ultimately, she did survive, and launched a comeback in the 1980s, studying acting with the preeminent Stella Adler. Griffith made a distinct impression as porn star Holly Body in Brian DePalma's thriller Body Double (1984), and two years later received a wealth of critical acclaim for her role in Something Wild, a Jonathan Demme comedy. It cast her as a reckless spirit opposite an uptight Jeff Daniels. In many ways, however, 1988 witnessed Griffith's breakthrough; that year, she appeared in Robert Redford's The Milagro Beanfield War and starred in the Mike Nichols comedy Working Girl. For her work in the latter film, as a young career woman trying to conquer the New York business world, Griffith earned an Oscar nomination and no small amount of critical respect. Unfortunately, she then endured a series of less well-received outings, including Brian DePalma's widely panned Tom Wolfe outing The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990), the John Schlesinger mystery Pacific Heights (1990) and director David Seltzer's period meller Shining Through (1992).
While her acting career continued on its highs and lows, Griffith once again wed Johnson in 1989; their second union lasted until 1996. That same year, the actress married Spanish heartthrob Antonio Banderas following a much-publicized romance. She went on to do some of her best work in years in 1997 as the puffy, tragically misguided Mrs. Haze in Adrian Lyne's overlooked adaptation of Lolita. She then signed on to portray drug dealer James Woods's wife in the Larry Clark-directed addiction drama Another Day in Paradise (1998); unfortunately, the film failed to make a significant impact on critics. At about the same time, the actress portrayed a flippant movie star in Woody Allen's Celebrity (1998), and a nutty aspiring actress who totes her dead husband's head around in a hat box in the Antonio Banderas-directed Crazy in Alabama in 1999. Both films received negative-to-mediocre reviews.
Griffith would continue to sign on for roles in the coming years, though subsequent projects were of somewhat lower profile, like the documentaries Light Keeps Me Company (2000) and Searching for Debra Winger (2002), as well as John Waters's outrageous black comedy Cecil B. Demented (2000), the romantic drama Tempo, and the crime thriller Shade.