Behind The Scenes Saturday: The Birds

Welcome to the first Behind The Scenes Saturday of Spooky Season 2020! I wanted to start with a Hitchcock classic, The Birds! It’s one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most popular and most controversial films. I hope you enjoy! 

(Trivia provided by IMDb.com)

(Pictures provided by google.com and IMDb.com)

(SPOILER ALERT!!!)

  • When the film premiered in Leicester Square, London, loudspeakers were hidden in the trees and the sounds of screeching and birds flapping their wings were played to frighten audiences leaving the movie. 
  • Rod Taylor (Mitch) once stated that the seagulls were fed wheat and whiskey. Supposedly, it was the only way to get the gulls to stick around. 
  • The film’s director, Alfred Hitchcock said that 3,200 birds were trained and used for the film. He also said the seagulls were the most vicious and the ravens were the most clever. 
  • Back in the day, a woman making her acting debut at 33 years old was considered too old. Because of this, Tippi Hendren’s (Melanie) age was changed to 28 in the film’s press release. She lived with that lie for 40 years after that film until she finally exposed her real age. 
  • When they filmed at the schoolhouse in Bodega, California, that schoolhouse was considered haunted. The entire cast was afraid of the place. Tippi Hendren felt that the building was “immensely populated, but there was nobody there.” When Hitchcock heard that the schoolhouse was haunted, it only encouraged him more to film there.  
  • It looks like Melanie wears the same green suit throughout the film. Tippi Hendren actually had 6 identical green suits to wear for the film. 
  • A bunch of different endings were contemplated. One ending we almost saw would have included Mitch, Melanie, Cathy (Veronica Cartwright), and Lydia (Jessica Tandy) driving to the Golden Gate Bridge to find it completely covered with birds. 
  • Hitchcock first discovered Tippi Hendren in a Sego diet soda commercial. In the commercial, a young boy whistles at her and she turns around and smiles. Hitchcock ended up recreating the moment at the beginning of the film as an inside joke. You can watch the compared scenes below. 
  • The owner of the Tides restaurant, Mitch Zanich, told Hitchcock that he could film in the restaurant on two conditions: if Hitchcock named the main character after him, and if Mitch Zanich could have a speaking role in the film. Hitchcock agreed to both terms. After Melanie is hit by a gull in the beginning, Mitch Zanich is the one who comes out and says “What happened, Mitch?” to Rod Taylor’s Mitch. 
  • The scene where Melanie is attacked by birds took about a week to shoot. In order to keep the birds from flying away, they were tied to Tippi Hendren’s clothes with long pieces of nylon thread. 
  • During filming, Hitchcock gave Tippi Hendren’s daughter, Melanie Griffith, a doll that looked exactly like Hendren. To add to the creep factor, the doll was inside a wooden box that, to Melanie, resembled a wooden coffin. 
  • A bird actually cut Tippi Hendren’s face in one of the shots. 
  • To achieve the shot of the children running out down the street from the birds, a few children were running on treadmills in front of a screen while both real and fake birds attacked them. There were three rows of treadmills, and because they were so fast, some of the children fell and caused the children behind them to fall, too. 
  • Overall, the film had 370 effects shots. 32 separately filmed elements were used for the final scene alone.
  • Hitchcock originally thought of Cary Grant for the lead male role. He decided against it because he didn’t want to hire a big, expensive actor, and he felt the birds and the Hitchcock name would be enough to sell tickets. 
  • To keep track of the rise and fall of bird attacks through the movie, Hitchcock kept a graph in his office.
  • On set, Hitchcock would constantly make puns or double-entendres. One time, Suzanne Pleshette (Annie) asked him if she could add a line. He came back at her with, “You mean, Sweet Adaline?” Suzanne ended up tackling him! She told him, “If you continue this, you are gonna pay the price.” 
  • There was one particular bird names Archine who hated Rod Taylor in particular. Archine would attack Taylor when the cameras were and weren’t rolling. Taylor once stated, “Every morning, if we were on the set together, he’d come over and bite me. I hated him and he hated me.
  • Hitchcock originally considered Sean Connery for the role of Mitch. Although Connery didn’t get it, he WAS cast in another Hitchcock film, Marnie
  • When Tippi Hendren looked at herself in her injury make-up for the first time, she turned to the makeup artist, Howard Smit, said, “Pardon me, Howard,” walked out of the trailer and vomited. 
  • Alfred Hitchcock makes a cameo at the beginning of the film as a man walking out of a pet shop with two dogs. Those dogs were actually owned by Hitchcock and their names were Geoffrey and Stanley. 
  • The scene where Melanie is attacked in the bedroom took around 7 days to shoot. Hendren considered it the worst week of her life. After that scene was filmed, production stopped for a week and Hendren had to go to a hospital. 
  • Because Hendren was in the hospital at the time, the next scene where Mitch carried Melanie down the stairs had to be filmed with Hendren’s stand-in. 
  • The “The End” title was intentionally left out of the film’s ending because Hitchcock wanted to give audiences the impression of never-ending terror. 
  • Before filming Melanie’s attack scene, Tippi Hendren asked Hitchcock why she would go upstairs. His response was, “Because I tell you to.” 
  • For Annie’s death scene, Suzanne Pleshette went to Hitchcock with the idea to have Annie’s ear bloody and hanging off of her head. As part of his sense of humor, he had the prosthetic ear placed on Suzanne but shot her other side so audiences couldn’t even see her ear. 
  • When Mitch and Lydia are escorting Melanie outside, there was no front door. Rod Taylor acted like he was opening the door and light effects helped make the illusion that it was being opened. 

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