Alfred Hitchcock was the master of suspense and 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of one of his most chilling masterpieces, “The Birds” released in 1963. This classic thriller of alienation and horror was adapted for the screen from a short story written by Daphne du Maurier. The story was first published in 1952 in a collection of short stories titled “The Apple Tree” and republished under the name “The Birds and Other Stories” in 1963 to coincide with the film’s release.
The story begins innocently enough when wealthy, spoiled socialite Melanie Daniels played by Tippi Hedren has a chance meeting with handsome attorney Mitch Brenner, played by Rod Taylor in a pet shop where he’s looking to buy some lovebirds for his sister. After he leaves the shop, Melanie buys the birds and tracks him down at his mother’s home in Bodega Bay. The love triangle between Melanie, Mitch and schoolteacher Annie Hayworth, played by Suzanne Pleshette is quickly eclipsed when the birds in the area start acting curiouser and curiouser.
At first, it’s just a single sea gull swooping down and pecking at Melanie’s head but chaos ensues when hundreds of birds converge on a children’s party attacking at will. There is never an explanation as to why the birds started attacking people, but once the onslaught begins, the birds are relentless.
This was the third story of Daphne du Maurier that Hitchcock turned into a movie. The first was her 1936 novel “Jamaica Inn” which he directed in 1939. The second was her 1938 novel “Rebecca” which he turned into a movie in 1940. The Hitchcock’s film “Rebecca” based upon her novel made her one of the best-known authors in the world and all her subsequent novels became bestsellers.
Dame Daphne du Maurier was born in 1907, the grand-daughter of the artist and writer George du Maurier, daughter of Gerald who was the most famous Actor Manager of his day. She began writing short stories in 1928, and in 1931 her first novel, ‘The Loving Spirit’ was published. Her most famous novels were, “Jamaica Inn”, “Frenchman’s Creek” and “Rebecca”. Each novel was inspired by her love of Cornwall, where she lived and wrote. Before her death in 1989 Daphne du Maurier wrote 15 novels, two plays and several short stories and pieces of non-fiction.
“The Birds” remains one of Hitchcock’s most memorable thrillers and the most frightening “creature features” of all time. This reporter still gets a little shiver up her spine whenever she see a large grouping of birds.