Thursday, September 6, 2012

THE BIRDS 1963

Like most people my age, the first time I saw The Birds was when it had its broadcast television premiere on NBC back in 1968. Then only 10-years-old, I had never seen an Alfred Hitchcock movie before but he was familiar to me, if not by reputation, then most certainly by that corpulent profile featured so prominently on his weekly anthology series, Alfred Hitchcock Presents. I knew he was a film director but my strongest impression was of his being “The fat Rod Serling,” or “The scary Walt Disney”; a household-name TV host in the vein of Dick Powell and Loretta Young that I associated with suspense programs like The Twilight Zone, One Step Beyond, and Thriller.
Tippi Hedren as Melanie Daniels
(always loved how "naturally" she holds that cotton swab to her head)
Rod Taylor as Mitch Brenner
Jessica Tandy as Lydia Brenner
Suzanne Pleshette as Annie Hayworth
Veronica Cartwright as Cathy Brenner
Sir Alfred
My fondness for what in syndication was called The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (“The Unlocked Window” episode scared the hell out of me then and is still the one I consider the best of the series) combined with the kid-friendly, “Creature Features” accessibility of its title, made The Birds must-see television as far as I was concerned. And indeed, in spite of seeing it on a small black and white set with all those commercial interruptions, my first experience of The Birds was an appropriately terrifying one. Sure, Tippi Hedren’s lacquered San Francisco socialite inspired, no, make that invited, giggles, while Rod Taylor’s lantern-jawed “Let the men handle it!” heroics was a horror film cliché already wearing thin (if I had a dollar for every time a woman is told to go make coffee before, during, and after a disaster…), but for sheer tension and hands-over-my-eyes thrills, I couldn't have asked for a better introduction to the cinema world of Alfred Hitchcock.
A class act in every way, The Birds was the first horror film I ever saw that didn't have the feel of the bargain-basement about it. Beautifully photographed, breathtaking special effects, suspense deftly metered; The Birds is simply a marvelous example of a thriller that understands how much an audience enjoys being taken on a thrill ride. Nowhere near as mean-spirited as some of Hitchcock’s other films (his Frenzy is one of the ugliest, most misanthropic films I've ever seen), I liken the experience of watching The Birds to being a participant in an adult version of the old “peek-a-boo” game one plays with an infant: I may get scared when the film goes “Boo!”, but I delight in the jolt and I sit there in gleeful anticipation of the next one, and the next one, and the next one.
And should Hitchcock’s predilection for fake-looking sets and feeble rear-screen projection mar this stylish enterprise with the cheesy-looking scene or two (I still can’t get over that sequence on the hill overlooking the children’s birthday party - it looks like a set from a high-school production of Brigadoon); or Evan Hunter’s script occasionally defy the normal patterns and rhythms of human speech, The Birds ultimately more than makes up for it in the near-genius technical rendering of the bird attacks and the kind of virtuoso storytelling that’s becoming all-too-rare in films today.

Throughout its evolution from late-career Hitchcock embarrassment to affectionately derisible camp classic, straight on through to its current revisionist acceptance as a masterpiece of suspense and terror, The Birds has never once ceased being a favorite of mine.
Torch-Carryin' Annie has to listen to the Effortlessly Elegant Melanie make inroads with The Man That Got Away
I've not devoted much space on this blog to writing about some of the more popular and well-known films that rank among my favorites (for example: The Godfather, The Wizard of Oz and Citizen Kane). This having to do with a sense that these titles are somewhat oversaturated subjects of cinema analysis and a nagging uncertainty that I have anything new to add to the dialog. On that topic, Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds certainly fills the bill (a little ornithological humor there…heh, heh), what with everybody from François Truffaut to Mattel® to Camille Paglia weighing in on the film over the years; but after a recent glut of cable TV airings and one particularly laugh-filled evening watching the movie with my partner, I’ve decided that The Birds is a movie too near and dear to my heart not to be included in this, my internet film diary.
The plot of The Birds is so well-known it doesn't even require summarizing. The fan and casual viewer is just invited to settle down and enjoy the ride. Possibly distracting oneself with a game of "spot the Hitchcock trademarks." I think all of them are present: the icy blonde, the suggestive banter, the sinister brunette, the precocious child, the female in eyeglasses, the glib discussion of murder, the domineering mother, the victimized female.

If that's not to your liking, you can ponder non-pertinent, yet nagging elements like: that scary portrait of Mitch's father (he doesn't look like a man who "had the knack" of entering into a kid's world); the huge discrepancy between the ages of Mitch and his sister, Cathy (the wonderful Veronica Cartwright, stealing scenes even then!); why those two little moppets being traumatized at the diner aren't in school, and for that matter,  why Annie's class is the only one held in that big old schoolhouse.

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS FILM:
We’ve all seen it. A woman walks by a man; man makes a comment (usually vulgar) about her attractiveness. Said woman ignores both comment and commenter only to find herself the object of a stream of hurled invectives from the man, all blatantly contradicting his earlier “compliments.” Standard operational procedure in the sex wars: man places woman on fetishized pedestal only so he can knock her off of it. In many ways The Birds plays out like the world’s most expensive ugly-guy revenge on beautiful women (a mantle taken up several decades later by Joe Eszterhas with the craptastic Showgirls). There are times when it feels as if Hitchcock devised the entire multi-million production for the sole purpose of mussing Tippi Hedren’s meticulously sculpted coiffure.
Haters Gonna Hate
When it comes to disapproving glares from strangers,
Melanie Daniels doesn't have any fucks to give
 Not since an excitable James Stewart ran obsessively roughshod over Kim Novak’s shopping spree in Vertigo can I recall a movie preoccupying itself so all-consumingly with a woman’s appearance. The first hour or so of The Birds is a virtual valentine to all things Tippi. Hitchcock records her in loving closeup, ogling long shot, and to the adoring exclusion of all else that’s going on. And when she’s not being subjected to the camera obscura equivalent of a wolf-whistle, The Birds makes sure it captures every leering, appraising gaze she draws from the males in the cast.
But the glamorization of leading ladies is nothing new. What makes The Birds the perverse and ultimately camp-prone curiosity it is, is how gleefully the film approaches the dismantling of all that it has so carefully set up. Hedren’s Melanie Daniels is involved in each of the film’s recorded bird attacks and seriously gets the worst of it in the by-now-classic finale, but the movie doesn't ask that we relate to her character so much as hope that each successive attack will knock a bit of the starch out of her.
By the end, when the self-assured, independent, and superciliously smug Melanie Daniels from the early scenes has been reduced to a cowering, needy, child/woman, I have the nagging feeling that the film (aka Hitchcock) views this as some kind of triumph; as if her breakdown has made her more human. While there’s no arguing that Melanie was a bit of a pill before, was it really necessary to strip her of all of her spirit to make her into a sympathetic character?

PERFORMANCES:
It sounds very ungallant of me to say so, but a great deal of the enjoyment I’ve derived from The Birds over the years has been at Ms.Tippi Hedren’s expense. Of course to be fair, it must be said that it’s difficult to tell if I'm responding to Hedren herself or the made-to-look-ridiculous-on-purpose character of Melanie Daniels. 
Venus in Furs
Melanie Daniels' high-style glamour is made to look absurd when contrasted
with the more practical environment of Bodega Bay
I've always been fascinated by Tippi Hedren's hands in this film. Her tapering long fingers and ostentatiously elegant gestures involving a pencil, cigarette, or telephone cord make for some of the most unintentionally sensuous footage Hitchcock has ever shot.
In either event, it's nice to report that the years have been kind to both Hedren and The Birds. Looking at the film today, one is made aware of how difficult a role it must have been, and I find myself admiring Hedren's performance more and more. She is limited, to be sure, but in several scenes (such as Melanie's first encounter with the suspicious Annie Hayworth) Hedren displays a marvelous subtlety. If you don't believe me, try watching the French dubbed DVD of The Birds (if you're like me you already know most of the dialog, anyway). You'd be surprised how significantly Hedren's performance improves when her thin American voice (her greatest drawback) is replaced by a sonorous Gallic one.

THE STUFF OF FANTASY:
After all these years, the scene of the bird attack at the Tides Cafe is as powerful as the first time I saw it. It is one brilliant, breathtaking piece of filmmaking! I tell you, no amount of expensive CGI wizardry is ever going to take the place of simple creativity and knowing how to use the visual medium of film to tell a story. I hate bandying the word "genius" about, but Hitchcock hit it out of the ballpark with this sequence. For me, it beats the shower scene in Psycho.

THE STUFF OF DREAMS: 
If in this post I sound guilty of succumbing to the kind of revisionism that spins vintage cinema straw into nostalgia-laced gold, it's only because I've been around long enough to have taken note of what I perceive to be a certain downward trajectory in films. In the independent/foreign-film influenced days of my youth, it was generally assumed that movies like The Birds were on their way out, and it was fashionable to mock their solid, old-school (read: Establishment) professionalism. 
In this shot from the start of The Birds, the traffic signal clearly says WALK, but to the right of the screen can be seen a strong-armed "extras wrangler" preventing a clearly befuddled little old lady from crossing the street and spoiling Hitchcock's solo shot of the leggy Ms. Hedren. I told you I've seen this film a lot.
Jump ahead to present day. We now have an industry run by lawyers and populated with techno-geeks churning out obscenely expensive comic book movies and CGI video games disguised as films for a subliterate demographic that bullies the boxoffice through their twitter accounts. 

All of a sudden old-fashioned things like story, character, pacing and maturity seem positively revolutionary. I've always liked The Birds but I never considered it a classic. I think that opinion has changed. I don't think there's a director working today who can pull off what Hitchcock does in this flawed masterpiece, I really don't. It's a movie both smart and silly that never once falls prey to what is near-standard in horror films today: stupidity. The Birds is not Alfred Hitchcock's best film by a long-shot, but its obvious skill, artistry, and simple entertainment value makes much of what pass for motion pictures today look like chicken feed.

* I can't possibly write about all the things I would like to about The Birds, so here are a couple to links to blogs that feature great articles on the topic of Hitchcock's minor masterpiece:

A couple of terrific essays on Hedren and "The Birds" can be found HERE at the site of fellow blogger, Poseidon's Underworld.

Mike's Movie Projector looks at the renewed interest in "The Birds" HERE

Copyright © Ken Anderson

22 comments:

  1. Fascinating comments there, I too can watch The Birds endlessly. I love the banter between Mitch and Melanie, how she dials the telephone with her pencil, that first shot on the street in San Francisco which follows her and then by that very neat edit as we pass the newsagent kiosk we are on the set for the pet shop .... "back in your gilded cage Melanie Daniels". and yes the fetishing of Tippi with the green suit, bag, gloves, accessories, coiffed hair etc. It really doesn't need a remake - how could they improve it? (even if George Clooney and Naomi Watts names are bandied about...).
    The DVD has fascinating extras too of Tippi's commercials that attracted Hitch initially, and her screen tests - he employed Martin Balsam to play scenes with her. Also included is a deleted scene of Melanie in her nightdress talking to Mitch that morning when Lydia drives to see the neighbour.
    Hitchcock really began attacking women around this time: Leigh in Psycho, Tippi is attacked by the birds as is Annie (fatally) and Lydia gets the stuffing knocked out of her too ... then of coourse there is Marnie's rape - and those salacious murders in Frenzy ...
    But Vertigo is now the number one film of all time, replacing Citizen Kane, in the "Sight and Sound" poll they do every 10 years and Hitch is revered all over again.
    The forthcoming BBC film "The Girl" with Sienna Miller playing Tippi will apparantly show the revered director as a sex pest. Tippi at 82 looks marvellous and has been here in London recently for a screening of the new film, and also at an outdoor screening of The Birds. I could watch it again right now ...

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    1. Hi Michael
      Yes that bird shop sequence has a lot of great dialog and interplay between Melanie and Mitch. In fact, I like all of their scenes together. Even the ones that most people feel bog the film down.
      I too really do love all the extras on the DVD as well(great that you have what sounds like the same release in the UK)though I suspect a Blu-Ray is either already out or in the offing.
      As you point out, Hitchcock is suddenly very "hot" again what with the "Vertigo" rating and dueling TV and theatrical films about him coming out (a remake of "The Birds" excites me less...lousy track record with remakes lately). I've liked the clips I've seen of "The Girl" and it's been eye opening hearing Hedren speak with more candor about her time with Hitchcock.
      You sound like me: finding many isolated things within "The Birds" that makes it so watchable despite it not being the most perfect film ever made. Thanks for your comments, Michael!

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  2. Excellent post Ken! Sadly as much as I appreciate how iconic The Birds is, how wonderful the directorial touches and tricks to scare are, how gripping those moments are, how beautiful it all looks...a good deal of the film still leaves me a little cold. I just wish I liked it more really, but then I could say that about a lot of Hitch.
    Seconding what Michael has already posted I'm really looking forward to 'The Girl' here on BBC2 with Sienna Miller and Toby Jones. Indeed, far more than I am looking forward to Anthony Hopkins tackle the same material for Hollywood.
    Love the little touches here, like spot the extra!

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    1. Hi Mark
      Perhaps when you get to be my age your opinion about "The Birds" will change. I say that because all though my 20s and 30s i really considered it one of his worst films and strictly fodder for camp humor viewing (even went to a theatrical staging of it that was played for laughs). Then somewhere around the time they started releasing all of these terrible CGI disaster films (Armageddon, Independence Day, Poseidon) everything I thought was cheesy about "The Birds" began to look better. Who knew?
      However, something tells me that won't happen with Hitchcock's "Topaz"...just the worst.
      That BBC2 movie does look very interesting, I must say. Kind of funny how the public has developed a fetish for a director known for inserting his own fetishes in each of his films. Thanks for saying Hi, Mark!


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  3. "We now have an industry run by lawyers and populated with techno-geeks churning out obscenely expensive comic book movies and CGI video games disguised as films for a sub-literate demographic that bullies the boxoffice through their twitter accounts." AMEN.


    "The Birds" is not my favorite Hitchcock and for years my take on it was that it was solid entertainment but not a classic. These days I see it as Hitch's last classic, and you make a great case as to why.

    So now Toby Jones and Anthony Hopkins will be attempting Hitchcock at the same time? A very fine actor, Jones went pretty much unnoticed when he and Philip Seymour Hoffman tackled Capote at the same time a few years ago.

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    1. Hi Eve!
      I love that you jogged my memory about Toby Jones having portrayed Capote in the same year as Philip Seymour Hoffman some time back! Now he's set to suck from the same biographical lemon as Anthony Hopkins with Hitchcock...poor guy can't get a break. At least his TV version will come out first and not suffer from comparisons as the Capote film did.

      I'm not really fond of revisionist thinking when it comes to movies, but, almost as a surprise to me, "The Birds" has come to look so much better the older I get. As one contemporary filmmaker after another falls flat on their faces trying to get even a passably decent thriller to work, I've come to respect Hitchcock's handling of "The Birds." As you say, it really IS his last classic!
      Thanks very much for commenting, and all us "Bird-brains" are happy you've come over to our side, even if it was with a little reluctance!

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  4. God, I enjoyed reading this! When you asked if you could link my page to your own Birds post I thought, "What Birds post?" because I knew I'd read all of your essays. So I was delighted to come here now and see this. I love how we both chose the same quasi-menacing shot of Suzanne by the mailbox to put in our posts. As always, I find out more about a film - even one of my own very favorites - by coming here. Your insights are so right on... And the old biddy trying to totter out into Hitch's frame (which was surely storyboarded to death and did NOT include her!) cracks me up!!!!!! Bravo!

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    1. Hi Poseidon
      I'm glad you enjoyed this post, but I honestly got more laughs out of yours. So funny how we both focus on similar things (like that great shot of Pleshette at the mailbox), but you also call witty attention to things I like that I wanted to put into my post (your dislike of kids in movies mirrors my own, so there is a weird comic element to having them be the target of bird attacks twice). I also love your taking note of Hedren's hairstyle being " a testament to the wonders of Aqua Net."
      "The Birds" is a strange film in that you can have a lot of fun at its expense, yet still respect it in the morning.
      And yes, if that poor old lady wasn't in the storyboard, out she must go! Thanks so much, Poseidon!

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  5. Thanks again for linking to mine. Your analysis has more depth and covers everything I feel about The Birds and the fetishing of Melanie. I am now looking forward to re-discovering Marnie again, that too after being rather dismissed initially - all those obvious backdrops - is also now a very rich complex film.

    I was totally stunned by seeing Psycho again too after a disance of maybe 20 years. You think you know a film inside out and are then transfixed all over again, I had forgot that how marvellous that soundtrack by Herrman is, its not all screaming violins! and Leigh is such a commanding presence here. Hitch just told her what he wanted from her and let her devise the character herself, and they dressed her in ordindary clothes a secretary would wear.

    Its marvellous too see how fetishised Eva Marie Saint is when Hitch turns her into the sleek Eve Kendall, again one could watch her scenes, like on the train, endlessly - and its all wrapped up in the last minute as she dangles from Mount Rushmore wearing of course her white gloves!

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    1. Hi Mike,
      Thanks very much. I don't know that my analysis has more depth so much as it's windier, but we do seem to enjoy similar things about "The Birds." I hope you write about "Marnie" on your blog. They've been playing it a lot on cable TV here.
      "Psycho" certainly still stands up, and for me, Janet Leigh's performance is the best of her career. She makes a bigger impression with me than Anthony Perkins.
      And indeed, if anyone has any doubts as to what a"Hitchcock blonde" is, his transformation of the heretofore, rather down-to-earth Eva Marie Saint is proof positive. She's never looked the same before or since! Absolutely gorgeous in a kind of scary "Stepford Wives" way (he makes her look so much like Kelly and Hedren it's almost mechanical). I have to see that film again, I had no idea she was wearing gloves in that final scene! White ones yet!

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  6. "...Frenzy is one of the ugliest, most misanthropic films I've ever seen."

    Actually, I saw "Frenzy" earlier this year at the cinema--I enjoyed it immensely! The acting really was quite superb, and it kept me engaged right until the final scene, plus I love the fact that it's all very English. It far exceeded my expectations. However, I do realise that a lot of people are extremely uncomfortable in watching it. It's certainly from the "not for everybody" school of cinema.

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    1. Hi Mark
      Yeah, I think a lot of folks would be divided on this. I'm glad you saw it and enjoyed it, though. It's certainly worthwhile viewing to appreciate the full trajectory of Hitchcock's career.
      Personally, it just left me feeling kind of sad for the kind of man who could create such a thing. So much bile and vitriol directed at women and humankind that I perceived between the lines...made it one of the more disturbing evenings at the theater I can recall.

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  7. The Birds is not my favorite Hitchcock, but I enjoyed your take on it and how it's changed for you over the years. And your point about Hitch's hostility towards Melanie/Tippi is telling, beginning right from the pet shop opening, with Rod Taylor humiliating her--and not for any personal reason either. The plot seems to set up Melanie deliberately to be knocked down, face ground into the dirt (it's what I also don't like about The Philadelphia Story). And Hitch humiliated Hedren in real life, according to the Donald Spoto biography (it continued right on through Marnie). But Hitch could at least tell a literate horror story, and put the focus on characters, not on gross-out special effects. No doubt any remake will focus on the gore, which is NOT the point of the story. They really don't make 'em like they used to!

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    1. I like the use of the word "hostility" because in all honesty, that's the feeling I get from Hitch's treatment of Melanie/Hedren (I love your reference to "The Philadelphia Story", a film beloved by many that is very-mean-spirited towards the female character).
      All that has come out over the years about Hitchcock's bizarre relationship with Hedren seems acted out in this and "Marnie." Now that Hedren feels comfortable in being more explicit about the forms the abuse took, I really don't doubt her.
      If you've ever seen "The Birds" screened in a theater, it's very true that a lot of the laughs are at Melanie's expense. "The Birds" is entertaining to me while at the same time intriguing in revealing a lot about Hitchcock I'm not sure was intentional. The title of the Molly Haskell book, "From Reverence to Rape" could be an encapsulation of Hitchcok's relationship with women in his films.
      Oh, and as for the remake, I'd lay odds that they won't spend as much time on character or relationships, and as you say, focus on the gore. Thanks for commenting and always offering food for thought, GOM!

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  8. I love this post, Ken.
    I saw "The Birds" in its original theatrical run and remember vividly how upset everyone was by what was then a revolutionary ambiguous ending. The fact that there was absolutely no musical scoring also stirred a lot of talk.
    I was only 11 when I saw the picture and a lot of it went over my head, but that was true of so many movies in the pre-ratings era when kids could see films that weren't specifically intended for them.
    Me and my friends just walked to our neighborhood movie houses and saw whatever was playing.
    I am still amazed by the fact that my pre-teen moviegoing included my first encounters with "The Manchurian Candidate," "Lawrence of Arabia" and many more movies from that early 1960s era. I'm so glad that I grew up in a period when kids weren't confined to Disney cartoons and insipid "family" comedies.
    In "The Birds" Hitchcock paved the way for audiences accepting endings like the one in "Blow Up" and other late 1960s flicks (both art-house and mainstream). It was an end-of-the-world movie disguised as a glossy, beautifully made horror story.
    Thanks for triggering some wonderful memories!

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    1. Why thanks, Joe!
      I like your recounting of the days when young people were able to see films that were perhaps a bit "adult" for them. Like you, a great many of the most influential films I've ever seen were ones I saw as a preteen. You were lucky to have seen so many classics.

      I can't speak much for family movies shown at the theaters, but if the programming of so called "family" TV channels is any indication of what's out there, the word "insipid" doesn't even cover it.

      I tend to forget that the ending of "The Birds" was so out of line for films of the time. I honestly can't imagine how frightening it all must have seemed to you as an 11-year-old seeing it on the big screen. it must have been amazing! I'm going to be seeing the remastered screening of "The Birds" this Wednesday, I can't wait to see how that Tides cafe attack looks on the big screen.

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  9. You might be interested in our article on computational analysis of the Bodega Bay sequence from The Birds: http://www.asis.org/Bulletin/Jun-09/JunJul09_Anderson_OConnor.html

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    1. For anyone interested in a computer breakdown of the visual language of the sequence where Melanie crosses the bay with the lovebirds, check this out. It's fascinating!
      However, after you read it, come back and explain it to me!

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  10. Cripes! What a lovely writer you are. Came across this by accident - hope I can find it again to return. The Birds was never a favourite movie of mine - I remember going to the cinema on it's release to see it and being disappointed. Subsequent TV screenings have never changed my mind. But your write-up is superb - and I'd forgotten many of those actors in supporting roles (was that REALLY Jessica Tandy?)
    Best wishes,
    Alex

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    1. Hi Alex
      Wow! What a nice compliment! Twofold, in fact. For if you could take the time to read some anonymous guy's opinion (that would be me) of a film you're not particularly fond of, I take that as the highest possible praise. Thank you.
      I tend to get a kick out of dissenting voices on films deemed "classics" by the populous.
      I remember back when very few people regarded "The Birds" as nothing more than a sign that Hitchcock was losing his touch. Now that it's hailed as one of his best, it's nice to hear the occasional person saying they never cared for it even after giving it several chances.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and making my day, Alex. Hope you stumble on this blog again!

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  11. Hi Ken,

    I don't think Hitchcock ever saw this as one of her masterworks. His stated purpose when asked was to scare the hell out of people which the film has the ability to do. I've never been ambivalent about it, I thought it was a fun, suspenseful movie the first time I watched it and still feel the same.

    I remember an incident , it was about 15 years ago now maybe even longer; time does move quickly, when I was working in a Blockbuster in DC. For some reason there were isolated bird attacks on pedestrians in the city, it was a brief period nobody was seriously hurt and they stopped quickly, no one was ever able to figure out why it happened. The movie of course became our number one requested title instantly and I can't tell you how many copies of The Birds we sold, we were ordering 50 copies at a time and selling them in a day for about two weeks.

    Anyway as much as I do enjoy Tippi and the strong jawed and rugged Rod Taylor for me as it is with many films I really find the supporting characters much more fascinating.

    In this one my two favorites are Jessica Tandy and her gravity defying hair. Her almost silent scene at the Fawcett farm in particular is a standout. My second and absolute favorite is the great Suzanne Pleshette. With her ashcan voice and tough demeanor, you just know there was no misbehavior in Miss Hayworth's class!, she steamrolls everybody else in her scenes right out of her way. I've heard that she had wanted to play the lead, as much as I love her she would have been as completely wrong for it as she was so right for Annie.

    About the part of Melanie I've read the list of other actresses Hitchcock considered there's only one that I could imagine in the part besides Tippi and that's Yvette Mimieux. Although she had a more fragile quality that Tippi and a less haughty demeanor I can still see her working well in the role. The others he considered were: Anne Bancroft, same problem as Suzanne, Sandra Dee, I just can't envision her in the role, too much of the coquette, Carol Lynley, Ugh! the mind reels what that marginal talent would have done to the movie and Pamela Tiffin, very pretty but too vague a screen personality to register in the part.

    I see you have a fondness for Veronica Cartwright which I share but in this she doesn't do much for me. Of the minor characters the ones who I can't get enough of are Doreen Lang as that crazy eyed mother in the diner-the woman consumes scenery with every word. Then there's Ethel Griffies as Mrs. Bundy, bird expert extraordinaire or so she thinks, she is so perfectly cast and of late I've found out the woman worked forever and was in over a hundred films & TV shows starting in 1917. My other fav and one of my best loved of all supporting actresses is Ruth McDevitt as the saleslady in the bird shop. With her chipped teacup of a voice and dithery manner she always perked up any movie I've ever seen her in.

    Lastly, I couldn't agree more about Topaz, it's by far his worst film. The only one that comes close is The Paradine Case for boredom inducement but at least that one has Gregory Peck to look at.

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    1. That's a great story about the DC bird attack! I don't think there is a person alive whose mind doesn't go to this film whenever they see large flocks of birds.
      And yes, "The Birds" boasts a great many terrific character actors. My favorite is the bird shop lady. Such a memorable little bit. Thanks for sharing with us so many of your favorite film moments and performances!

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