When audiences left the U.K. premiere at the Odeon, Leicester Square, London, they were greeted by the sound of screeching and flapping birds from loudspeakers hidden in the trees to scare them further.
Sir Alfred Hitchcock revealed on The Dick Cavett Show (1968) that 3,200 birds were trained for the movie. He said the ravens were the cleverest, and the seagulls were the most vicious.
Tippi Hedren's age was listed as 28 in press releases when the film came out, an unsurprising fabrication considering 33 was especially old for a Hollywood starlet making her acting debut. 1935 would be her commonly reported birth year for the next four decades until Hedren herself put a stop to it by coming out with her real age.
Rod Taylor claims that the seagulls were fed a mixture of wheat and whiskey. It was the only way to get them to stand around so much.
The classic scene in which Tippi Hedren watches birds attacking the townsfolk was filmed in the studio from a phone booth. When Melanie opens the phone-booth door, a bird trainer had trained gulls that were taught to fly at it. Surviving photos of the shooting of the scene were published in the book "Hitchcock at Work" by Bill Krohn.
The schoolhouse in Bodega, California has also been known to be haunted, even back during filming. According to Tippi Hedren, the entire cast was spooked to be there. She also mentioned how she had the feeling while there that "the building was immensely populated, but there was nobody there." When Sir Alfred Hitchcock was told about the schoolhouse being haunted, according to Hedren, he was even more encouraged to film there.
Mitch Zanich, owner of the Tides Restaurant at the time of shooting, told Sir Alfred Hitchcock he could shoot there if the lead male in the movie was named after him, and Hitchcock gave him a speaking part in the movie. Hitchcock agreed: Rod Taylor's character was named Mitch Brenner, and Mitch Zanich was given a speaking part. After Melanie is attacked by a seagull, Mitch Zanich can be heard saying to Mitch Brenner, "What happened, Mitch?"
Several endings were being considered. One that was considered would have shown the Golden Gate Bridge completely covered by birds.
Sir Alfred Hitchcock saw Tippi Hedren in a 1961 commercial aired during the Today (1952) show and put her under contract. In the commercial for a diet drink, she is seen walking down a street and a man whistles at her slim, attractive figure, and she turns her head with an acknowledging smile. In the opening scene of this movie, the same thing happens as she walks toward the bird shop. This was an inside joke by Hitchcock.
Melanie wears the same green suit throughout the movie, so Tippi Hedren was provided with six identical green suits for the shoot.
When the children are running down the street from the schoolhouse, extra footage was shot back on the Universal soundstages to make the scene more terrifying. A few of the children were brought back and put in front of a process screen on a treadmill. They ran in front of the screen on the treadmill with the Bodega Bay footage behind them while a combination of real and fake crows were attacking them. There were three rows of children, and when the treadmill was brought up to speed, it ran very fast. On a couple of occasions, several of the children in the front fell and caused the children in the back to fall as well. It was a very difficult scene to shoot, and took a few days to get it right. The birds used were hand puppets, mechanical, and a couple were trained live birds.
Tippi Hedren's daughter Melanie Griffith was given a present by Sir Alfred Hitchcock during filming: a doll that looked exactly like Hedren, eerily so. The creepiness was compounded by the ornate wooden box it came in, which the young girl took to be a coffin.
A scene in the movie shows a service station where a bird knocks over an attendant filling a car with gas. The gas flows across the street where a man lighting his cigar proceeds to drop the match igniting the gas. The fire follows the gas stream back to the pump and explodes. The service station was located across from "The Tides" restaurant and pier. In reality, this service station did not exist at the time of filming. However, several years later, a service station was built, and is still located at the spot shown in the movie.
The crow that sits on Sir Alfred Hitchcock's shoulder in all of the promotional photos was not in the movie. It was purchased after the movie had wrapped. A studio staff member bought it when he spotted the tamed bird on the shoulder of a twelve-year-old boy walking down the street. The boy was offered around ten dollars, but was hesitant until he discovered why it was needed.
The use of standard bluescreen techniques for doing matte shots of the birds proved to be unacceptable. The rapid movement of the birds, especially their wings, caused excessive blue fringing in the shots. It was determined that the sodium vapor process could be used to do the composites. The only studio in America that was equipped for this process was the Walt Disney studio. Ub Iwerks, who had become the world's leading expert on the sodium vapor process, was assigned to this production.
The schoolhouse in this movie is the Potter Schoolhouse, which served Bodega, California from 1873 to 1961. The building is now a private residence.
This movie featured 370 effects shots. The final shot is a composite of 32 separately filmed elements.
Sir Alfred Hitchcock briefly considered Cary Grant for the role of Mitch Brenner, but decided against using the hugely expensive actor, because he felt the birds and the Hitchcock name were the big attractions.
Tippi Hedren donated her script from this movie to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. (Smithsonian Magazine. August 2008, pg. 28)
Although there is no musical score for this movie, composer and Sir Alfred Hitchcock collaborator Bernard Herrmann is credited as a Sound Consultant.
When this movie aired on NBC in the U.S. on January 6, 1968, it became the highest rated movie shown on television up to that point. The record held until Love Story (1970) overtook it on October 1, 1972.
Costume designer Edith Head referred to Tippi's suit's shade of green as "Eau de Nil" (Nile water).
(At around twenty-nine minutes) Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) holds the cotton ball against her wound. The way her hand and forearm are positioned makes the appearance of a bird and the ring on her pinky represents the eye. Tippi Hedren confirms this and said that Sir Alfred Hitchcock wanted to put subtle meanings throughout this movie about the upcoming bird attack.
Sir Alfred Hitchcock kept a graph in his office, charting the rise and fall of the bird attacks in the movie.
Sir Alfred Hitchcock approached Joseph Stefano (screenwriter of Psycho (1960)) to write the script, but he wasn't interested in the story. The final screenplay (from a Daphne Du Maurier short story) was written by Evan Hunter, best known to detective story fans under the pen name Ed McBain.
This movie and the original story by Daphne Du Maurier share no characters, and in fact have only in common the bayside town setting, the birds' bizarre behavior, their inexplicable tendency to launch frenzied attacks then fall dormant, only to attack again later, and of course the title. In Du Maurier's story, the main character discovers that this pattern is directly related to the rise and fall of the tides and uses this to their advantage, as opposed to this movie, which seems to follow the same pattern, but never makes a direct connection. Also, the original story takes place in Britain, and centers around a man protecting his wife and two children at their isolated cottage, as opposed to this movie, which centered on the spirited but troubled city dweller Melanie Daniels, who travelled to the California coast on a whim.
When Lydia discovers Dan Fawcett, on the wall behind her is a drawing of the gas station explosion by Albert Whitlock.
Also attending the London premiere were two flamingos, fifty red cardinals and starlings, and six penguins.
One bird, named Archine, really seemed to dislike Taylor, who played Mitch Brenner. The feathered star went out of his way to attack the actor, even when the cameras weren't rolling. "Every morning, if we were on the set together, he'd come over and bite me," Taylor revealed, "I hated him and he hated me."
In one of the first scenes, Tippi Hedren can be seen crossing the street to the pet shop. As she does, she disappears behind a sign for a moment and reappears on the other side. Sir Alfred Hitchcock so hated working on-location that he used this moment to seamlessly cut to a studio shot.
Screenwriter Evan Hunter, a.k.a. Ed McBain, wrote a short book called "Me and Hitch" about his successful collaboration with Hitchcock on this movie, and his "not so much" experience with Hitchcock on their next movie, Marnie (1964). The book is no longer in print, but available as an e-book.
The famous poster art for the movie where a woman is pictured screaming was not Tippi Hedren, but was Jessica Tandy taken from the scene where the birds come down the chimney.
Some viewers found the age gap between Mitch and Cathy unrealistic for two full-blooded siblings. However, the scenario is totally feasible, since their mother is played by Jessica Tandy who would have been 20 years old when her character gave birth to Rod Taylor and 39 when she had Veronica Cartwright 19 years later. (A 19-year difference is hardly a stretch, since a woman can give birth from her early teens through mid-40s, which means full biological siblings can be as much as 30+ years apart.)
Suzanne Pleshette wanted to play Melanie, but settled for the role of Annie since the opportunity of working with Alfred Hitchcock interested her. The part was originally written as a middle-aged schoolteacher who just lived in the community, but Hitchcock revised the script specifically for Pleshette, making the character much younger and adding backstory and depth. Hitchcock enjoyed her so much that he asked her to play Sean Connery's sister-in-law in his next film Marnie (1964). Pleshette, who thought of herself as a leading lady rather than in supporting roles, quipped, "Is the sister's name 'Marnie'? I don't think so! I don't think that's the lead!"
Sir Alfred Hitchcock said he based the character of the drunken philosopher in the bar, played by Karl Swenson, on his friend Sean O'Casey.
This was the first movie to carry the Universal Pictures name after dropping the Universal-International name.
The song the children are singing at the school as the crows mass outside is known as "Risseldy Rosseldy", an Americanized variation of the Scottish folk song "Wee Cooper O'Fife".
The headline in the August 18, 1961 edition of the Santa Cruz Sentinel screamed "Seabird Invasion Hits Coastal Homes" and detailed how "millions" of migrating birds crashed into cars and buildings, broke television antennas, streetlights, and actually tried to enter houses. When residents went outdoors at 3 a.m. to investigate, the birds flew at the flashlight beams and drove residents back into their houses. Although Hitchcock had optioned the DuMaurier story in 1955, he began filming this movie shortly after reading about the 1961 attack.
Although it was never shot, another ending was scripted by Evan Hunter and sketched by Harold Michelson. The script and sketches appear as a bonus feature on the DVD.
In May 2001, the son of "The Birds" author Daphne Du Maurier reported that he and his wife were being terrorized by seagulls nesting outside their cottage in Cornwall, England.
Veronica Cartwright (Cathy Brenner) celebrated her thirteenth birthday during filming (April 20, 1962).
Shortly before he died, Japanese director Akira Kurosawa created an unranked, chronological list of the movies he considered the one hundred greatest of all time. (However, because he deliberately limited himself to only one movie per director, it is actually more of a "greatest directors" than a "best films" list.) The single Sir Alfred Hitchcock movie that he chose to include was this movie. In his accompanying commentary, he noted that the sight of so many birds massed together caused him to feel "dread" and wondered how Hitchcock had managed to shoot those scenes.
The final draft of the screenplay describes Melanie Daniels as "mid-twenties" and Annie Hayworth as "thirty-two." Ironically, during filming in 1962, Tippi Hedren was 32 and Suzanne Pleshette was 25.
Though their characters barely interact here, this is the second of three filmed productions starring Rod Taylor and Suzanne Pleshette. A couple of years earlier, they played love interests in the episode Hong Kong: Lesson in Fear (1961) of Taylor's series Hong Kong (1960), and a year later, both acted in the film Fate Is the Hunter (1964).
There is no musical score for this movie except for the bird sounds created on the mixtrautonium, an early electronic musical instrument, by Oskar Sala, Tippi Hedron playing Debusy's Two Arabesques on the piano (at about 35 min), and the children singing Risseldy Rosseldy (a cappella) in the school.
(May 26, 2012) The green suit worn by Tippi Hedren in this movie was showcased at Ireland's "Museum of Style Icons" in Newbridge (Co. Kildare) as part of the permanent collection at the center. In Ireland for the first time, Hedren made a personal appearance at the event for the special occasion.
The first time Tippi Hedren looked at herself in the mirror after the injuries make-up was applied, she reportedly said to the make up artist, Howard Smit, "Pardon me, Howard", walked out of the trailer and threw up.
Daphne Du Maurier's story "The Birds" was originally purchased for use on Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955).
Voted seventh-scariest movie of all time by a poll carried out on the British public by Channel 5 and "The Times" in 2006.
According to Tippi Hedren, she signed a seven year contract with Sir Alfred Hitchcock to work on this movie before she even met him. She thought he meant to feature her in his television show, but he flew in Martin Balsam to do screentests of her in scenes from Rebecca (1940), Notorious (1946), and To Catch a Thief (1955).
Sir Alfred Hitchcock disliked filming on-location, so he filmed as much as possible in the studio on-set.
Alfred Hitchcock would constantly make puns and double-entendres on the set. The last straw came when Suzanne Pleshette asked if she could add a line and he replied, "You mean, Sweet Adeline?" She then reacted by tackling the director, dictating "If you continue this, you are gonna pay the price." According to Suzanne in a 2006 interview with Stephen J. Abramson, "People were SHITTING" when they saw her run him down.
Just before the scene where Lydia leaves for the Fawcett farm, Mitch is shown at a distance raking something by the bay in front of the Brenner home. Though never made evident, he was supposed to be burning the dead bodies of the sparrows that attacked the house the night before.
Last Hitchcock film to be nominated for an Academy Award (special effects; lost to Cleopatra).
In the The Birds II: Land's End (1994), Tippi Hedren did not play her character in this movie of Melanie Daniels, but a character named Helen.
Sir Alfred Hitchcock considered Sir Sean Connery for the role of Mitch Brenner. He cast Connery in Marnie (1964).
Director Sir Alfred Hitchcock and screenwriter Evan Hunter considered Audrey Hepburn for the role of Melanie Daniels.
Sir Alfred Hitchcock's legendary attention to detail was evident during research and preparation for this movie. He had every resident of Bodega Bay photographed for the costume department. The restaurant scenes were filmed inside an exact reconstruction of the real one in the seaside village. The interior of Dan Fawcett's farmhouse was also an exact replica of a nearby farm. Hitchcock also sent a camera crew to the San Francisco landfill to film seagulls diving, perching, and feeding so he would obtain the most realistic results for the bird attacks and build-ups in the movie.
Originally, a scene took place between Melanie and Mitch after Lydia Brenner left for the Fawcett farm. This scene was shot, but ultimately cut from the movie. All that survived are the script pages and some production photographs. The script pages and photographs appear as a bonus feature on the DVD.
While the studio spent an estimated $200,000 on creating mechanical birds for the film, the majority of the birds seen on screen are real.
In this movie, it appears as if the schoolhouse is within the bay town limits. The frightened children are clearly shown running downhill toward the town and the water. In real life, the schoolhouse used for those shots is located five miles southeast, and inland of Bodega Bay in the separate town of Bodega, California. However, since this is a fictional story, its geography doesn't have to match reality.
Tippi Hedren's character plays "Deux Arabesques" by Claude Debussy (1888) while at the Brenner house for dinner.
This was not the first dramatization of Daphne Du Maurier's short story. It was previously adapted for radio at least twice, once starring Herbert Marshall, and again in 1954. Furthermore, it was adapted by writer James P. Cavanagh for a half-hour episode of the television series Danger (1950). Cavanaugh also wrote at least five episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955), including two directed by Sir Alfred Hitchcock, and was the first writer to adapt Robert Bloch's novel of "Psycho" for Hitchcock's production. However, his script was jettisoned in favor of the Joseph Stefano adaptation.
In 2007, another adaptation of the book with Naomi Watts starring and Martin Campbell directing was announced, but never materialized.
Doodles Weaver was the uncle of Sigourney Weaver, who worked with Veronica Cartwright in Alien (1979), and with Tippi Hedren's daughter, Melanie Griffith, in Working Girl (1988). Griffith was in The Star Maker (1981) with Suzanne Pleshette.
Tippi Hedren found out that she won the title role in Marnie (1964) while filming the scene on a hilltop with Rod Taylor.
Dinard , France, hosts a British Film Festival, with a Golden Hitchcock as the prize. There is also a statue of Sir Alfred Hitchcock (standing on what appears to be a very large egg, and with birds on each shoulder) near the beach in Dinard. The statue is moved down to the beach for the festival.
The audio special effects included the use of spring and plate reverb units, as well as an Echoplex - an endless loop tape recorder with a fixed record head and a playback head that slides on a rail. This arrangement of record and playback heads creates an echo that can be time-adjusted. By turning up the record volume you can create an echo that repeats endlessly. Typically this would only be used for limited lengths of time because the hiss from the magnetic tape would build up to the point of creating a whirling wind-like sound. In order to create the density of bird sounds without amplifying the wind effect, they used a separate recorder and many takes from the Echoplex, layering the result while adding other types of bird sounds to produce the final result. There are a few moments at the end of an attack that the bird sounds drop in pitch and speed. This is created by sliding the playback head away from the record head. In some rock recordings in the 1970s this was used for UFO sounds.
Two versions of the scene where Melanie brings Lydia tea in bed were filmed. For the first, Alfred Hitchcock instructed Tippi Hedren to play it in a very bitchy manner. This didn't sit well with Jessica Tandy when they watched it in the screening room, so the set was reassembled and they re-shot the scene with Hedren acting in a more compassionate way.
One of the girls at Cathy's birthday party who walks and stands by the door was played by Suzanne Cupito. She later changed to her stage name, Morgan Brittany. Dallas (1978) fans may remember her as Pamela Ewing's evil half-sister, Katherine Wentworth.
Since this movie never had an original score, Fenton band and orchestra teacher Andrew David Perkins composed an arrangement of music to be played during a showing of this movie.
Sir Alfred Hitchcock originally wanted Farley Granger for the role of Mitch Brenner, but he was unavailable because of theatrical commitments.
Included amongst the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the four hundred movies nominated for the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
The song Annie's pupils are singing in the school house, while Melanie watches the birds gathering their ranks in the playground, waiting to ambush them, is "Risseldy Rosseldy" . It's an old Mother Goose nonsense rhyme song that kids have been singing for decades. Hitchcock uses this music to build suspense, because, in part, he makes the decision early on not to use any conventional symphonic background music in the score; because he wants to establish an aura of brutal unvarnished realism for the murder scenes; the attack scenes; and all the disasters that go on. Without conventional music he has to use devices like the school children singing to build suspense. The lyrics of this traditional nursery rhyme/hymn go like this: "I married my wife In the month of June, Risseldy, rosseldy, Mow, mow, mow, I carried her off In a silver spoon, Risseldy, Rosseldy, Hey bambassity, Nickety, nackety, Retrical quality, Willowby, wallowby, Mow, mow, mow."
Suzanne Pleshette was offered a role in Marnie, but she turned it down, saying she was sick of playing the sidekick. (She was offered the part of Sean Connery's sister).
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
Before the release of the movie, Tippi Hedren was featured on the cover of Look magazine with the caption "Hitchcock's new Grace Kelly."
According to her autobiography, Jill Ireland auditioned for the role of Melanie Daniels.
Tippi Hedren and Suzanne Pleshette were real-life smokers at the time. Hedren quit about five years after making this film, while Pleshette didn't quit for another 35.
In the film Hitchcock uses the colors pale green and reddish orange many times to match the colors of the "love birds" that Tippi Hedren delivers to "Mitch" Rod Taylor. First, Hedren's dress and lipstick. Then the shutters on the schoolhouse behind Suzanne Pleshette in her red sweater, also, the green color of Mitch's truck parked in front of the barn, also the sign on the "Tides Restaurant", and lastly, Tippi's green dress while she is making tea, as Rod Taylor steps up behind her, and as she turns and kisses him, a reddish, orange vase appears on the sink behind them. Of course at that moment, "they" become "lovebirds"... Years later, American actor/screenwriter Beau Dare, who once had a chance meeting with Tippi Hedren in Hollywood, also used this theme from the film, in one of his film scripts, (2018), as a tribute to Hitch.
In Northern Monterey Bay in Northern California in 1961, the region found itself inundated with crazed birds. They flew into buildings, seemed disoriented, and the ground was littered with their carcasses. Alfred Hitchcock heard of this "attack" when he was developing this movie, and incorporated much of this incident in his film. The same region experienced the same problem in 1991. Turns out that single celled algae will occasionally become toxic. It works its way up the food chain to the fish that the sea birds eat. None of the other animals are bothered by this toxin, but it has a devastating effect on birds. It causes disorientation, seizures and even death. The dead birds in 1961 weren't tested, but a lab had a sample of a small organism that fed on algae from 1961, so that specimen was tested. It was rife with the toxin.
During the birthday party attack, in order ensure that the gulls could pop the balloons, pins were placed inside the birds' mouths and their beaks were taped closed. One of the gulls, with its mouth still taped, flew away, and the trainers spent hours looking for it because it would've died if it couldn't open its mouth. Their efforts paid off, and they found the bird.
Suzanne Pleshette and Veronica Cartwright later appeared in episodes of Will & Grace (1998), as Karen's mother and Jack's mother, respectively.
An overhead shot of Tippi Hedren trapped in the phone booth outside the restaurant in Bodega Bay echoes a similar overhead shot of Janet Leigh's shower scene in Psycho 3 years earlier.
The cast has some spooky astrological coincidences. Tippi Hedren was born on January 19 and Suzanne Pleshette died on January 19. Suzanne's father Gene Pleshette was born on January 7 and Rod Taylor died on January 7. Gene died on September 11 and Jessica Tandy died on September 11.
Included among the American Film Institute's 2001 list of the Top 100 Most Heart-Pounding American Movies.
The character of Melanie had spent the previous summer in Rome. Ironically, during the aforementioned summer (1961), Suzanne Pleshette filmed Rome Adventure (1962), which was playing in theaters when The Birds was filmed in spring 1962.
Voted one of the scariest movies of all time, Veronica Cartwright appeared as the mother in the prologue of Scary Movie 2 (2001), which saw her spoofing another movie considered the scariest movie of all time, The Exorcist (1973).
Most of the birds in the huge long shots, were fake. The birds on the swing set in the schoolhouse ambush scene for example were, according to Veronica Cartwright in a recent interview, paper or cloth or dolls, with one or two real ones scattered in there to fool you.
Much of the production team and scriptwriters, were interested in making a sequel, however the studio was totally against it, it was not until 1994 when The Birds II: Land's End was released.
Doreen Lang plays a panicked woman in the diner scene who hysterically, and mistakenly, blames Tippi Hedren's character for the bird attacks on the Bodega Bay community. Years earlier, Lang appeared in another Hitchcock film, The Wrong Man, playing a high-strung secretary who mistakenly blames Henry Fonda's character for her earlier victimization by a robber who resembles him.
The city park where Mitch first sees Melanie going to the pet shop was shot in San Franciscos Union Square, the same park where Scottie takes his lonely walk at dawn after rejecting Midge's portrait of herself in Hitchcock's "Vertigo".