The Birds is coming, ran the advertising blurb and the rest as they say is history.
Alfred Hitchcock told Evan Hunter as he invited he and his then wife to dinner with the director and his own wife, Alma. The purpose of the dinner was to discuss the progress on the script of The Birds, which Hunter was writing for Hitchcock.
Hunter’s memory of the dinner, as told in his autobiography, was that the Hitchcock’s were wonderful easy going people, though Hitch did get grumpy with the writer’s wife, Anita when she turned a bottle of wine to the side, risking its sediment tainting the wine.
“Hitch had bought a bizarre novella about plain people attacked by the gentlest of creatures,” Hunter said, “And hired a realistic novelist from New York City to write the screenplay.”
Director and writer clashed several times during the production of the screenplay, though Hunter, while initially feeling that the screenplay never really worked, later came to appreciate the movie which is now regarded as a classic.
It wasn’t only Hunter who clashed with Hitchcock and the actress Tippi Hedren felt he was a monster.
Indeed Hitch later sent a gift to Hedren’s daughter Melanie (the actress Melanie Griffith) – a doll dressed in the same green suit her mother wore in The Birds. The doll also had the same elaborate hairstyle her mother sported in the movie. There was no way to mistake whom the doll represented. The problem was the box the doll came in was a coffin.
“He was a motherfucker,’ the adult Melanie Griffith told a friend. ‘And you can quote me on that.”
“Hiitchcock was more concerned about how the bird were treated than me,” Hedren said. “I was just there to be pecked.”
Indeed conflict with the actress and the director became even worse on the later film, Marnie. The writer Evan Hunter also fell out with Hitch on Marnie and he was fired from the production.
At the start, filming The Birds was “wonderful”. Hedren says she “became quite fond of the birds. One was so nice Hitch couldn’t put him in the movie because he wasn’t aggressive. He’d come hopping up the steps of my dressing room, play with my make-up and sit on my shoulder.”
Hitch had already told her, with some relish, about tying up Madeleine Carroll (the original Hitchcock blonde, star of The 39 Steps and Secret Agent) to a post and leaving her there all afternoon.
Indeed it is a well known Hitchcock quote that, 'actors are like cattle.' But all the same he made some mighty fine movies....