The Birds: Ten Things to Know About The Movie

Here are 10 trivia facts about Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds from 1963, which originally appeared as our Mystery Movie Quiz on our Facebook page. There are hundreds of pieces of behind-the-scenes information about this movie. Please feel free to comment and add more trivia we might have missed.

1. Most of this film’s setting is in a real-life small town.

The exterior shots for The Birds were filmed in Bodega Bay, California. Not all the filming was done there, as Alfred Hitchcock didn’t really like location shooting, so a good deal of the film was shot at Universal Studios. When Tippi Hedren (bio; videography) is attacked in the rowboat, that scene is in Bodega Harbour and the schoolhouse shown as the Bodega Bay School was really the Potter Schoolhouse in the town of Bodega, about five miles from Bodega Bay. An interesting fact about the gas station in Bodega Bay; it didn’t exist in that spot until it was built years later — but the script called for the gas station to be visible from the windows of the Tides Restaurant… and with a little Hitchcock magic, the gas station is there.

2. A newspaper plays a small role in the plot.

Hedren’s part of Melanie Daniels was that of a heiress to a newspaper dynasty and uses her influence to get information on Mitch Brenner played by Rod Taylor. Mitch however, is dismayed that her often annoying public antics were always treated with impunity due to her powerful dad’s position.

Jessica Tandy from the movie The Birds

Jessica Tandy Best Actress, 1990

3. A main character’s mother in this film is an Oscar winner, but not for this movie.

Jessica Tandy is a multiple nominee and winner of many coveted acting awards, including  a Golden Globe and an Emmy. But the big one for many performers is the Academy Award, where she was nominated twice and won her Oscar for Driving Miss Daisy in 1990. Jessica Tandy currently holds the record as the oldest Oscar winner; she was 81 at the time, eclipsing fellow Hollywood legend George Burns, who won his at 80.

4. Based on a short story that shares little in common with the filmed version.

The original story and the Hitchcock movie are both set in a small  bayside town location, but the characters aren’t the same, nor is the plot. Among other differences, the Daphne Du Maurier tale is centered on a young couple and their children; the Melanie Daniels character was written for the screen. Oddly enough, Du Maurier’s short story “The Birds” was originally supposed to be used on the Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV series. When it became a full-fledged film, the screenplay was written by Evan Hunter after it was turned down by Joseph Stefano, screenwriter on Hitchcock’s Psycho in 1960. Hunter, an accomplished writer, is also known by one of his pen names, Ed McBain.

5. Filmed before the computer age, one scene’s special effects took a full week to shoot.

It took seven days to shoot the scene near the end of the movie when Hedren is savagely attacked in an attic. She said years later that it was “the worst week of my life.” Before the days of computer-generated special effects, the flying birds’ very quick wing motion did not photograph well against a blue screen. It was decided the only way to get the proper results was to use the “sodium vapor process,” found only at the Walt Disney studio…along with famed animator Ub Iwerks, the definitive expert on that process. The effects were created and more than 350 different special effects were employed in the movie. Iwerks’ official title was “special photographic advisor.”

The Birds: Mattel Barbie Doll 2008

Mattel Barbie Doll 2008

6. The female lead’s real-life daughter is also an actress.

Tippi Hedren’s daughter Melanie Griffith is an Oscar-nominated actress, best known for her title role turn in Working Girl. During the filming of  The Birds, Hitchcock gave the young Melanie a gift of a doll sporting the same hairdo and green suit worn by her mother in the movie. Problem was, the gift came in a wooden box that, to a child, resembled a coffin! (To mark the film’s 45th anniversary in 2008, Mattel released the Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds Special Edition Barbie pictured here.) Incidentally, throughout most of  the shooting, the script called for Hedren to wear the same green outfit (designed by Edith Head), and to accommodate the rough treatment they would get, Hitchcock had six identical suits made for her.

7. After its first TV showing, it held the record for the most-watched film on TV.

The Birds was the highest-rated movie shown on TV from when it first played on NBC in January of 1968 until its record was shattered four years later, by Love Story, in October, 1972.

8. This was the first film to carry a major Hollywood studio’s name change.

Universal Pictures, at one time seen on-screen as “A Universal Picture,” eventually gave way to a name change as “Universal-International.” Then in 1962, the studio reverted back to their original name and was called Universal Pictures again. The Birds was the first film to display the new logo on screen.

9. The director is as well known for his films as for the TV show that bore his name.

Are there any film fans who don’t know of Alfred Hitchcock? Volumes have been written about the master craftsman but it is sufficient to say his films will live forever, as will his TV shows, which gain myriads of new viewers each year thanks to the magic of cable television and pre-recorded media.

The Birds: Suzanne Pleshette

10. One of the supporting characters dies a gruesome death in the film.

The scene where audiences see the lifeless body of Suzanne Pleshette in The Birds is unforgettable — as is her body of work. Playing  Bodega Bay schooleatcher Annie Hayworth, her sweet, warm brunette persona contrasts with Tippi Hedren’s distant, cold and icy blonde character. Along with The Birds, fans also enjoyed her pairing with Troy Donohue in Rome Adventure, but one thing is for sure… many more people knew her best as Emily Hartley on TV’s The Bob Newhart Show.

Pleshette once said, “I don’t sit around and wait for great parts. I’m an actress, and I love being one, and I’ll probably be doing it till I’m 72.” Suzanne almost fulfilled her own prophecy as she died just before her 71st birthday.

Now sit back, relax and enjoy Alfred Hitchcock, ever the showman, in this marvelous trailer for The Birds:

  • S Geworsky

    One of my All-Time favorites within the Alfred Hitchcock works.

  • Hank Zangara

    Another little known fact about The Birds:

    The special effects were done by Ub Iwerks, yes the same Ub Iwerks who animated “Steamboat Willie” and other early B&W Mickey Mouse cartoons. Iwerks and Walt Disney had a falling out and he left the studio for most of the 30’s and 40’s. Walt hired him back in the 50’s to do effects for “20,000 Leagues under the Sea,” and he stayed with Disney for the rest of his career, including inventing the award-winning sodium-matting process used to layer animated characters with live action footage in Mary Poppins.

    When The Birds was in production, Hitch asked Disney if he could use this new seamless technique instead of the old traveling matte method. Disney agreed, and loaned Ub to Hitch for the film. You can learn more about him in the excellent feature-length documentary “The Hand Behind the Mouse: The Ub Iwerks Story,” released as a VHS tape, and is also available as a Bonus Feature in the DVD tin box set “Walt Disney Treasures – Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.”

    Incidentally, Walt and Hitchcock also crossed paths much earlier when Hitch obtained permission to use a clip of the Disney Silly Symphony “Who Killed Cock Robin?” in his 1936 British thriller “Sabotage.”

  • JUanita Curtis

    One of my favourite Hitchcock movies as it stars the very macho Aussie Rod Taylor and Suzanne Pleshette who was among the best actresses of the 60’s. Hitch definitely weaved his movie magic skills here with great special effects for that time.

  • Noel Bjorndahl

    There was always a softness around the edges of my great compatriot Rod Taylor who was frequently cast in roles calling for macho behaviour (although I wouldn’t describe his Mitch Brenner role as particularly macho). The slight dreaminess in his eyes was always a dead giveaway.
    He got kicked in the shins by the great but cantankerous John Ford during the filming of Young Cassidy, I understand, but was very good-natured about it.

  • Noel Bjorndahl

    But I agree that Suzanne Pleshette was one of the best (and loveliest) actresses of the 60s.

  • Bob Campbell

    TCM just ran a 1972 Dick Cavett Show with Hitchcock as his guest. Asked how he decided on the ending, Hitch said basically he had no place else to go — he considered ending it on the Golden Gate Bridge, but had no idea how he would find enough birds. This fascinating interview is available on YouTube.

  • IslandGirl

    I love this movie, I have it in my collection along with many other Alfred Hitchcock movies. It’s one of my favorites and has been since I have been a child. I play it often and watch it whenever it is on TCM! I also enjoy watching movies with Suzanne Pleshette and Rod Taylor, they are two actors I like very much. Miss Hedren just didn’t seem to get the exposure, even though she was a very attractive woman. I also enjoyed her in “Marnie”, another Alfred Hitchcock film.

  • David Byrne

    I grew up and live about 5 miles from Bodega Bay, so this film has always haunted me. During the filming a friend of mine saw the filming going on and stepped into a phone booth to alert his sister that some stars were filming. The phone booth was a prop and one of the crew members had to tell him that the phone did’nt work, he would have to use the one at the Tides Motel! when we finally saw the finished film, the phone booth played a prominent part in one of the scenes!

  • Speedy

    Rod Taylor was a macho leading man of this era. Susanne Pleshette the down-on-her-luck school marm with a on-going crush on Rod Taylor. Tippi Hedren, the rich witch from the big city. The little girl was just annoying.

  • Rick Hils

    Did no one mention this? This film was done with No Music Underscore. None. Music underscore can build up, high light, and create subtle richness to broaden a film’s impact. But this film’s eerie effect stands out better without any music or,
    thank God, vapid “soundtrack” songs.

  • Ellen Badders

    Tippi Hedren’s actress daughter Melanie Griffith was named for Tippi’s character in this film, Melanie Daniels.

  • J Farnham Scott

    When THE BIRDS played my favorite theater, the Rivoli, in Toledo, Ohio, where I frequently spent my Saturdays as a youth, as the movie was ending and the audience starting to file out, I’d rush up to the outer lobby and throw popcorn around. The surrounding pigeons would descend to feed and it threw a nice frisson into the emerging audience, giving them one last shiver. I think Hitch would have applauded the idea.

    • jan matthews

      do you know anyone that has seen birds 2

      • Louis Martinez

        I guess I’m the only who has seen “The Birds 2:Land’s End” with Brad Johnson, Chelsea Field and Jan Rubes.

        • Jay

          Louis – I also saw this movie 20 years ago in 1994 when it was shown on a cable station . Believe me, you are not the only one. I found it to be very suspenseful and well made.

      • Jay

        Hi Jan – Yes, I did see birds 2 – It was called – Lands End. I saw this made for tv movie on a cable station around 1994, I thought it was a very well done movie.

  • Rolland T

    I remember how disappointed I was with this Hitchcock movie. Growing up with Rear Window, The Man Who Knew to Much, North By Northwest,ETC. There was as many amusing parts as scary. I was at my base theater and many laughed at the gas pump part. The birds chasing the the school kids look like cartoons. Overall it was over rated by far.

  • Joseph Imhoff

    I was so glad when in the mid 80’s when many of the Hitchcock pictures were released after the ‘rights’ issues were settled and I saw them on the big screne in a theater. I had only vague memories of some, probably from television. “The Trouble With Harry”, not Potter, was completely new. Let’s get some of the TV shows out, “Lamb for the Slaughter” or both versions of “The Open Window”!

  • J. R. PENFIELD

    I CAN REMEMBER VISITING BODEGA BAY WHEN I WENT TO SAN FRANCISCO TO SE MY OLDEST DAUGHTER ANNE AFTER THE EARTHQUAKE HIT THAT CITY. WE DROVE UP THE COAST AND WENT INTO THE CAFE WHERE THEY HAD PHOTOS OF THE MOVIE TAKEN AT THAT TIME. WE HAD A GREAT TIME AND STAYED FOR A N EXCELLENT SEAFOOD DINNER AND THEN DROVE BACK TO HER PLACE IN SAN RAFAEL. IREALLY ENJOYED THE FILM. THANKS FOR THE TREAT.

  • Gloee Valens

    I went to Catholic Elementary school in the San Fernando Valley with one of the running kids in the movie. I loved this movie when it first came out & then when I watched it again in the 90’s I just thought that Alfred Hitchcock was so far ahead of his time to forsee that nature would run amok against humans if we kept abusing it. I still think though that the love story in this movie is so unresolved & also the relationship between Jessica Tandy & Tippi Hedren never really came to a full explanation, but I still liked this movie a lot & have probably seen it 20 times. Notorious is my fav Hitchcock film but this is about 2nd…

  • Andrew

    Remember Veronica Cartwright who played Cathy Brenner? She went on to play Lambert in the
    1979 Sci-fi classic “Alien”.

  • Al K

    As I recall, the car in the scene at the end is an early 50’s British Aston Martin DB2 roadster. This was a very rare car in the pre-James Bond era, and there were only a handful in the U.S. I often wondered why they chose this car and where they got it.

    • Bruce Reber

      The car was a 1955 Aston Martin DB2,and it was featured prominently all through the movie. The car was probably chosen to offer a contrast between the American cars of that era – massive and ornate full-size behemoths, and plain looking compacts. Import cars were just beginning to catch on in the U.S. in the early 60’s, and there weren’t that many of them on the road, with the possible exception of the VW beetle. As the 60’s progressed, in an effort to win back the car buyers who’d migrated to imports there appeared a number of sporty American compacts, such as the Ford Mustang, Plymouth Barracuda, Chevy Camaro and the ill-fated Studebaker Avanti.

  • Gary

    This is the best suspence movie ever……

  • Raif Damico

    I love all Hitchock movies although The Birds took some time for me to move it up on my list oh his movies.I liked Tippi Hedren and was disappointed she and Hitch didn’t get along and made only 2 movies.

  • Pat McFadden

    Great comments, although actually Tippi’s daughter Melanie came first and was the inspiration for the character’s name. I LOVE that phony phone booth story!

  • http://www.facebook.com/whatever41 Cynthia LaRochelle

    Was married in 1963 and went on long road trip (2000 exhausting miles) stopped to see Niagra Falls, lots of seagulls. Really freaked me out after seeing that movie……

  • bogart10

    I LIVED ALONG THE RUSSIAN RIVER IN THE EARLY 80’S AND VISITED BODEGA BAY SEVERAL TIMES….THE SCHOOL HOUSE IS STILL THERE BUT THERE IS QUITE A DISTANCE BETWEEN THE SCHOOL AND THE GAS STATION LOCAL…..

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  • chris mattson

    I MISS THE GREAT ALFRED HITCHCOCK. I TRULY ENJOY THE BIRDS, NORTH BY NORTHWEST, THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH(STEWART/ DAY VERSION) AND ALL THE REST NOT TO MENTION ALL THE LOOKING FOR HITCHCOCK CAMEOS

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  • Bill

    I watched The Birds being filmed at Bodega Bay, CA..I was really impressed with Susanne Pleshette as an actress and also the way that she interacted with the crowd. What a pretty lady she is……

  • dan

    I really like the lack of screaming from the female characters. That redirects the tension to the situation itself, rather than diluting it. It’s like the lack of music in the movie. I think they were pretty great ideas from the master.

  • Phil Czak

    being a big Hitchcock fan and owner of most of his movies i had the chance to visit bodega Bay and the town of bodega on my last visit to see my son. He lives in Sonoma about a hour away. Great fun to actually see the area and how through movie magic Hitchcock made you think the school was next to the bay and across the bay there was a house where there is no house.

  • Bruce Reber

    From the first time I watched it on TV when I was almost 10 years old, to the many times I’ve watched the DVD from my Alfred Hitchcock box set, “The Birds” edges out “Psycho” (but only slightly) as Mr. H’s scariest movie. Each time I see a large flock of birds (either on the ground or in the sky), I recall the many horrific attack scenes from “The Birds”, and sometimes I wonder if the birds I’m seeing will in reality suddenly do likewise to me.

  • frank

    How gruesome the reality of Hitchcock’s sarcasm in his ‘Ten Thing….’ The reality of that gruesomeness lies beneath the terror of his movie. And if the movie hasn’t already, then this clip should give us pause about our relations to the life forms with which we share the planet.

  • jbourne5181

    I’m a big Hitchcock fan and to me this movie would’nt be my favorite by any stretch. although it was very intense at times, as most of his movies are, I like North By Northwest the best followed by The Man Who Knew to Much. so I put the Birds at #3