Unquestionably one of the world’s most renowned and influential directors of all time, Alfred Hitchcock is famous for his unique directorial style that earned him his ‘Master of Suspense’ title and paved the way for Hitchcock’s pioneering evolution of the thriller genre. One of his most famous films was of course The Birds, a disturbing tale of a pristine city woman who comes undone in a rustic northern California seaside town by an onslaught of seemingly unexplained, arbitrary and chaotic attacks of birds.
With shots framed to maximise the feeling of suspense and claustrophobia in his audience, this film has become one of the most eerie and terrifying in Hitchcock’s repertoire.
To celebrate this classic we’ve decided to delve into the spooky facts and secrets that surround the filming of The Birds.
It was Loosely Based on a Daphne Du Maurier Book
The title of the film and the plot came from the short story called The Birds written in 1952 by Du Maurier.
Hitchcock Was Inspired By a Spooky Incident He Saw in the Paper
In 1961, Hitchcock read a newspaper article about hordes of dead birds washing up onto the streets in the seaside California town of Capitola and a story about flocks of frenzied, dying birds flying into the windows of homes in Monterey Bay.
Leading Lady Tippi Hedren Had Never Acted Before
Hitchcock spotted her in a TV commercial for a diet drink during NBC’s Today show. He would eventually groom her into one of his classic icy blondes, choosing her clothes, hairstyle, and even her lipstick for her role as Melanie Daniels.
Hedren Met With Executives About a ‘Secret Film’ on Friday the 13th
She had several meetings with executives and an agent, with no one willing to divulge the director or film for which she was being considered. She was finally told it was Hitchcock and met with the director for dinner; they didn’t discuss the film, but rather food, travel and wine.
The Film is Full of Suspense But There is no Musical Score
Hitchcock hired his long time musical partner and favourite composer Bernard Herrmann for ‘The Birds,’ but he didn’t write a single piece of music for the film. Instead, Hitchcock wanted him to focus on sounds to make the entire film infinitely creepier by using the chirping and flapping of the birds’ wings just before they attacked.
The Bird Noises Were Made Using Electronic Sound Machines
They were created on the mixtrautonium, an early electronic musical instrument, by Oskar Sala.
The Schoolhouse That Was Used For Filming Was Haunted
Tippi Hedren said the entire cast was spooked to be there, they had a feeling like it was full of people when it was completely empty. When Hitchcock was told about this, he was even more encouraged to film there.
Raw Meat and Fish Were Used to Attract The Birds
The actors often had ground meat or anchovies smeared on their hands and raw meat was hung from the cameras.
Not All of The Feathered Friends Were Real
Hammers with fake bird heads were used to peck through the wooden doors and give the effect of birds breaking through.
The Birds Were Fed a Mixture of Wheat and Whiskey
During filming the crew needed to keep the birds standing and flying for hours, so they were fed this combination to keep them going.
The Birds Were Not Allowed to be Released or Kept as Pets
Ray Berwick was head bird trainer on set and later admitted that the birds were too dangerous to be released after filming had finished as they had been trained to attack.
Live Birds Were Attached to Hedren’s Clothes During Filming
They were attached using long nylon threads so they couldn’t get away. It gave the scene more of a manic feel.
Hedren Really Slaps Doreen Lang who Played Her Hysterical Mother
Hedren was hesitant, having never slapped anyone before, but Lang convinced her to do it.
The Post-Attack Makeup Was Too Horrifying for Hedren
She looked at herself in a mirror and had to go outside to throw up!
The Leading Lady was actually cut in the face by a bird in one of the shots
On the last day of shooting, a bird clawed Hedren’s face just below her eye, and she broke down in tears.
One Scene Took Seven Days To Shoot
The intense scene where Hedren’s character is attacked in the attic was filmed over seven long days, even though it only runs about a minute on screen. Hedren has spoken often about how hard the harrowing scene was to film, Hitchcock insisted on having real trained gulls attack her.
Following This Scene Hedren Was Admitted to Hospital for a Week
She said it was the worst week of her life and took a physical and emotional toll on her well-being.
Hitchcock Was Known For Playing Sick Practical Jokes
Hedren’s daughter Melanie Griffith was given a present by Alfred Hitchcock during the filming, it was an eerily accurate doll of her mother wearing a dress from The Birds and lying in a miniature coffin.
Hitchcock Had A Trick Up His Sleeve For When The Film Was Over
When audiences left the film’s UK premiere at the Odeon in Leicester Square, London, they were greeted by the sound of screeching and flapping birds from loudspeakers hidden in the trees to scare them further.
The Birds Created an Unending Terror for the Audience
The film does not finish with the usual “THE END” title because Alfred Hitchcock didn’t want the horror to end once the film was over.
Something Spooky Happened To Daphne Du Maurier’s Son
In May 2001, Du Maurier’s son reported that he and his wife were being terrorised by seagulls nesting outside their cottage in Cornwall, England.
It Was Voted the Seventh Scariest Film of All Time
In a poll carried out on the British public by Channel 5 and “The Times” in 2006.
The Birds Themed Hotel Room
If you’re a Hitchcock fan, why not book a stay in one of our eight different themed rooms, on a floor that is dedicated to this iconic director.
Sleeping between four and six guests, indulge in the luxury of a bygone era of cinema in our fabulously opulent hotel room dedicated to The Birds.
The Birds room at Arthouse Hotel is dark and decadent, transporting you into the mind of one of the world’s greatest filmmakers with a glorious image from the film, crushed velvet fixtures and luxurious unique features.
Arthouse Hotel is in a perfect location in the heart of Liverpool’s centre and just minutes walk to the vibrant and ever-growing nightlife. There is no better place for group accommodation that the Arthouse Hotel, especially if you love classic movies of the silver screen.