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January 22, 2019

20 Amazing Publicity Photographs of Tippi Hedren for 1963 Horror Classic “The Birds”

The Birds (1963) was directed and produced by Alfred Hitchcock and based on a story by Daphne du Maurier. It starred Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren, Jessica Tandy and Suzanne Pleshette.

It is one of the most disturbing sequences in cinematic history: a woman tiptoes through a house until – in three staccato shots – she discovers the bloody corpse of its occupant on the bedroom floor, his eye sockets two black holes dripping with gore.

The scene is just one of several grisly moments in Alfred Hitchcock’s peerless horror flick, The Birds, made three years after his scorching success with Psycho.

It was Hedren’s screen debut. Hitchcock became her drama coach, and gave her an education in film-making as she attended many of the production meetings such as script, music or photography conferences. Hedren said, “I probably learned in three years what it would have taken me 15 years to learn otherwise.” Hedren portrayed her role of Melanie Daniels as Hitchcock requested. She said, “He gives his actors very little leeway. He'll listen, but he has a very definite plan in mind as to how he wants his characters to act. With me, it was understandable, because I was not an actress of stature. I welcomed his guidance.”

During the six months of principal photography, Hedren’s schedule was tight, as she was only given one afternoon off a week. At first, she found the shooting “wonderful”. Hitchcock told a reporter, after a few weeks of filming, that she was remarkable, and said, “She’s already reaching the lows and highs of terror.” Nonetheless, Hedren recalled the week she did the final bird attack scene in a second-floor bedroom as the worst of her life.

Before filming it, she asked Hitchcock about her character’s motivations to go upstairs, and his response was, “Because I tell you to.” She was then assured that the crew would use mechanical birds. Instead, Hedren endured five solid days of prop men, protected by thick leather gloves, flinging dozens of live gulls, ravens and crows at her (their beaks clamped shut with elastic bands). In a state of exhaustion, when one of the birds gouged her cheek and narrowly missed her eye, Hedren sat down on the set and began crying. A physician ordered a week’s rest. Hitchcock protested, according to Hedren, saying there was nobody but her to film. The doctor’s reply was, “Are you trying to kill her?” She said the week also appeared to be an ordeal for the director.

Universal’s executives, who did not back Hitchcock’s decision to hire Hedren in the first place, were impressed with her performance and Wasserman described it as “remarkable”. While promoting The Birds, Hitchcock was full of praise for his new protégée, and compared her to Grace Kelly.

The film was screened out of competition in May at a prestigious invitational showing at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival. Hedren received the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year, tied with Elke Sommer and Ursula Andress. Her role as Melanie Daniels was named by Premiere magazine as one of the greatest movie characters of all time.



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