Hitchcock’s Birds: the true story behind the masterpiece

Birds by Alfred Hitchcock is a classic film. In this film, the master of suspense tries a new genre. He abandons the thriller he taught us to make a horror film using birds, creatures that seem harmless. The film was so successful that it grossed over $11.4 million in the United States. But the question that remains is: is it Birds by Hitchcock is based on a true story?

British film director Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) poses with a seagull and a raven perched on either arm in a promotional film for his film The Birds. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
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Birds by Alfred Hitchcock, a great classic of cinema

With the movie BirdsAlfred Hitchcock returns to assert his status as a master of suspense after his masterpiece Psychosis released in 1960. The film Birds was released in 1963 and features attacking birds. The reason for this attack is not explained at any point in the film. This is also the only instruction that the director gave to his screenwriter Evan Hunter, better known as Ed McBain.

According to Alfred Hitchcock, introducing some sort of reason at one point would take away from the lingering suspense throughout the film. It’s this irrational fear that an attack could happen at any moment that sets the tone. The film starts off on a gentle note, featuring a romantic comedy between the two leads, Teepee Hedren and Rod Taylor. For the director, it gives a little more latitude to the horror that follows, no offense to some.

Hitchcock Birds Mitch and Melanie
Actor Rod Taylor as Mitch Brenner and Tippi Hedren as Melanie Daniels in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 film The Birds. (Photo by John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
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Synopsis of the movie Birds

Melanie (Tippi Hedren) is a refined young woman who falls in love with a young lawyer, Mitch (Rod Taylor), whom she meets in a bird shop. Mitch pretends to take her for an employee and Melanie lends herself the game so she can see the young man again. Mitch orders a pair of lovebirds to give to his sister.

Melanie buys the pair of chicks Mitch wants and brings them back to Bodega Bay. As soon as they arrive in town, the birds behave strangely. A seagull narrowly attacks Melanie until Mitch saves her by dragging her to a restaurant.

Hitchhiking birds summary
A poster for Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 horror film The Birds starring Tippi Hedren. (Photo by Movie Poster Image Art/Getty Images)
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Birds of Hitchcock: a story from a short story

The original story is taken from a short story by Daphne du Maurier titled Birds. This is not the first time Alfred Hitchcock adapted one of his short stories. He had already borrowed Jamaica Tavern AND Rebekah. After reading the short story, Alfred Hitchcock thought of adapting it into his own series Alfred Hitchcock presents, before changing his mind. In his adaptation, Alfred Hitchcock retains only the part where the birds attack the city. To set the tone of horror, the director does not talk about the reason for the attack, unlike the short story.

Bird strike in Santa Cruz, a happy coincidence

When Alfred Hitchcock is preparing his film, he learns that in Santa Cruz, California, a bird attack has actually occurred and made headlines in the local media. In 1961, more precisely on August 18, thousands of birds suddenly flew over the city. These birds dived into the house and bumped into each other everywhere. In the end, eight people claimed to have been bitten by the birds.

This phenomenon created a phobia of birds at the time and gave rise to several theories. The day after the attack, the streets were littered with dead birds and gave off a foul smell. Alfred Hitchcock seized on this tidbit to further support the horror tone of his film. He even mentioned this incident in the script, when two people are discussing a similar attack in a bar.

Alfred Hitchcock and Tippi Hadren
American actress Tippi Hedren with British director and producer Alfred Hitchcock on the set of Hitchcock’s The Birds. (Photo by Universal Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)
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The same phenomenon appeared in 1991, which attracted the attention of scientists. Years later, in 2007, the results of a study led by oceanographer and biologist Sibel Bargu Ates confirmed that the culprit was a microalgae containing a neurotoxin toxic to birds. This neurotoxin can cause vomiting, disorientation and seizures in animals.

Tippi Hedren, the main heroine of the film Birds

Tippi Hedren had no film experience when Alfred Hitchcock noticed her. Against all odds, he relies on her to carry out his project. The latter accepts the seven-year contract offered by the director. It was Alfred Hitchcock himself who took responsibility for his training in dramatic art. It taught her to get into the skin of a character and understand the relationships between each of the stakeholders.

Tippi hedren the birds
Tippi Hedren poses with a fake bird at a ceremony honoring her with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on January 30, 2003. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)
Source: Getty Images

For Tippi Hedren, filming is initially interesting, but gradually turns into a disaster. Alfred Hitchcock is a perfectionist and expects emotions to be real. The young woman had to fight real birds, even if the director told her at first that they would be mechanical birds. In the final scene, a bird nearly takes out Tippi Hedren’s eye. Despite this misfortune, the actress is proud of her performance.

Alfred Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren: a complicated relationship

After their second film collaboration No spring for Marnie, Tippi Hedren decides not to renew the experience with Alfred Hitchcock. Although she has a lot of respect and admiration for the director, Tippi Hedren can no longer stand the latter’s repeated advances.

According to her, Alfred Hitchcock became very possessive and wanted to control her completely. For the actress, this situation is unbearable, she has repeatedly begged her to return the contract, but the latter has categorically refused. These facts are denounced by his granddaughter Dakota Johnson in an interview.

The success of the film Birds by Hitchcock

Critics are unanimous about the film Birds Hitchcock’s. All agree that it is a masterpiece, even if some decry the lack of an explanation of the phenomenon that would seem to end this story. French reviews are positive and qualify Birds as one of Hitchcock’s best films.

American critics are a bit more divided, but they come together to hail Tippi Hedren’s performance. The actress has also received Female Discovery of the Year to Globen Globes 1964 thanks to this movie. The film meanwhile was nominated for Oscar 1964to Edgar Allan Poe Award in 1964 and Satellite Awards 2005.

Source: Legit.ng

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