When audiences left the film's UK premiere at the Odeon, 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 schoolhouse, in Bodega, California, has also been known to be haunted, even back during the filming. According to Tippi Hedren, the entire cast was spooked to be there. She also mentioned how she had the feeling, while there, that "the building was immensely populated... but there was nobody there." When Hitchcock was told about the schoolhouse being haunted, according to Hedren, he was even more encouraged to film there.
Tippi Hedren was required to really slap Doreen Lang, who played the hysterical mother that called Melanie "evil." Hedren was hesitant, having never slapped anyone before, but Lang convinced her to do it.
Tippi Hedren's daughter Melanie Griffith was given a present by Alfred Hitchcock during the filming: a doll that looked exactly like Hedren, eerily so. The creepiness was compounded by the ornate wooden box it came in, which the young girl took to be a coffin.
The crow that sits on Alfred Hitchcock's shoulder in all of the promo photos was not in the movie. It was purchased after the movie had wrapped. A studio staff member bought it when he spotted the tamed bird on the shoulder of a 12-year-old boy walking down the street. The boy was offered about $10 but was hesitant until he discovered why it was needed.
Alfred Hitchcock saw Tippi Hedren in a 1962 commercial aired during the Today (1952) show and put her under contract. In the commercial for a diet drink, she is seen walking down a street and a man whistles at her slim, attractive figure, and she turns her head with an acknowledging smile. In the opening scene of the film, the same thing happens as she walks toward the bird shop. This was an inside joke by Hitchcock.
In one of the first scenes, Tippi Hedren can be seen crossing the street to the pet shop. As she does, she disappears behind a sign for a moment and reappears on the other side. Alfred Hitchcock so hated working on location that he used this moment to seamlessly cut to a studio shot.
A scene in the film shows a service station where a bird knocks over an attendant filling a car with gas. The gas flows across the street where a man lights his cigarette igniting the gas. The fire follows the gas stream to the pump and explodes. The service station was located across from "The Tides" restaurant and pier. In reality this service station did not exist at the time of the filming. However, several years later a service station was built and is still located at the spot shown in the film.
The screenwriter for "The Birds", Evan Hunter, aka Ed McBain, wrote a short book "Me and Hitch" about his successful collaboration with Hitch on "Birds" and his "not so much" experience with Hitchcock on their next movie, "Marnie". The book is no longer in print, but available as an e-book.
Mitch Zanich, owner of the Tides Restaurant at the time of shooting, told Hitchcock he could shoot there if the lead male in the film was named after him, and Hitch gave him a speaking part in the movie. Hitchcock agreed: Rod Taylor's character was named Mitch Brenner, and Mitch Zanich was given a speaking part. After Melanie is attacked by a seagull, Mitch Zanich can be heard saying to Mitch Brenner, "What happened, Mitch?"
The classic scene in which Tippi Hedren watches birds attacking the townsfolk was filmed in the studio from a phone booth. When Melanie opens the phone-booth door, a bird trainer had trained gulls that were taught to fly at it. Surviving photos of the shooting of the scene were published in the book "Hitchcock at Work" by Bill Krohn.
When the film was aired on NBC-TV in the USA on 6 January 1968, it became the highest rated film shown on television up to that time. The record held until Love Story (1970) overtook it on 1 October 1972.
The use of standard blue screen techniques for doing matte shots of the birds proved to be unacceptable. The rapid movement of the birds, especially their wings, caused excessive blue fringing in the shots. It was determined that the sodium vapor process could be used to do the composites. The only studio in America that was equipped for this process was the Walt Disney studio. Ub Iwerks, who had become the world's leading expert on the sodium vapor process, was assigned to this production.
'Alfred Hitchcock' (I) briefly considered 'Cary Grant' for the role of Mitch Brenner, but decided against using the hugely expensive actor because he felt the birds and the Hitchcock name were the big attractions.
(26 May 2012) The actual green suit worn by Tippi Hedren in the movie was showcased at Ireland's "Museum of Style Icons" in Newbridge (Co. Kildare) as part of the permanent collection at the center. In Ireland for the very first time, Hedren made a personal appearance at the event for the special occasion.
In the film, it appears as if the schoolhouse is within the bay town limits. The frightened children are clearly shown running downhill toward the town and the water. In real life, the schoolhouse used for those shots is located five miles southeast and inland of Bodega Bay in the separate township of Bodega, California.
Originally, a scene took place between Melanie and Mitch after Lydia Brenner left for the Fawcett farm. This scene was shot but ultimately cut from the film. All that survive are the script pages and some production photographs. The script pages and photographs appear as a bonus feature on the DVD version the movie.
Tippi Hedren's age was listed as 28 in press releases when the film came out, an unsurprising fabrication considering 33 was more than relatively old for a Hollywood starlet making her acting debut. 1935 would be her commonly reported birth year for the next four decades until Hedren herself put a stop to it by coming out with her real age.
Diners, France, hosts a British Film Festival, with a Golden Hitchcock as the prize. There is also a statue of Alfred Hitchcock (standing on what appears to be a very large egg, and with birds on each shoulder) near the beach in Dinard. The statue is moved down to the beach for the actual festival.
Suzanne Pleshette wanted to play Melanie, but settled for the role of Annie because the opportunity of working with Alfred Hitchcock interested her. The part was originally written as a middle-aged schoolteacher who just lived in the community, but Hitchcock revised the script specifically for Pleshette, making the character much younger and adding backstory and depth. Hitchcock enjoyed working with her so much that he asked her to play Sean Connery's sister-in-law in his next film Marnie (1964). Pleshette, who thought of herself as a leading lady rather than in supporting roles, quipped "Is the sister's name Marnie? I don't think so! I don't think that's the lead!".
One of the little girls at Cathy's birthday party who walks and stands by the door was played by Suzanne Cupito. She later changed to her stage name, Morgan Brittany. Dallas (1978) fans may remember her as Pamela Ewing's evil half-sister, Katherine Wentworth.
At 25:25 Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) holds the cotton ball against her wound. The way her hand and forearm are positioned makes the appearance of a bird and the ring on her pinky represents the eye. Tippi Hedren confirms this and said that Alfred Hitchcok wanted to put subtle meanings throughout the film about the upcoming bird attack.
Voted one of the scariest movies of all time, Veronica Cartwright would appear as the mother in the prologue Scary Movie 2 (2001) which saw her spoofing another film considered the scariest film of all time: The Exorcist (1973).
Some viewers found the age gap between Mitch and Cathy unrealistic for two full-blooded siblings, especially considering it wasn't even addressed in the script. In fact, the scenario is totally feasible, since their mother is played by Jessica Tandy who would have been 20 years old when her character gave birth to Rod Taylor and 39 when she had Veronica Cartwright nineteen years later.
The climactic scene, in which Tippi Hedren's character is attacked in the bedroom, took seven days to shoot. Hedren said, "[It was] the worst week of my life." The physical and emotional tolls of filming this scene were so strong on her that production was shut down for a week afterward.
When the children are running down the street from the schoolhouse, extra footage was shot back on the Universal sound stages to make the scene more terrifying. A few of the children were brought back and put in front of a process screen on a treadmill. They would run in front of the screen on the treadmill with the Bodega Bay footage behind them while a combination of real and fake crows were attacking them. There were three rows of children and when the treadmill was brought up to speed it ran very fast. On a couple of occasions during the shoot, a number of the children in the front fell and caused the children in back to fall as well. It was a very difficult scene to shoot and took a number of days to get it right. The birds used were hand puppets, mechanical and a couple were trained live birds.
Near the end of the film, when Mitch carries Melanie down the stairs, it is actually Tippi Hedren's stand-in being carried by Rod Taylor. Hedren was in the hospital recovering from exhaustion after a week of shooting the scene where Melanie is trapped in the upstairs room with the birds.
For the scene in which Annie is killed, Suzanne Pleshette who played her told Alfred Hitchcock it would look good if her ear was all bloody and hanging off, so he sent her to the prop department. When it came to shooting the scene, Hitchcock had Annie facing the other way, so the viewer never sees the ear, which Pleshette recalled "was part of his delicious sense of humor."
Hitchcock's film and the original story by Daphne Du Maurier share no characters and in fact have only in common the bay-side town setting, the bird's bizarre behavior, their inexplicable tendency to launch frenzied attacks, fall dormant only to attack again later, and the title. In Du Maurier's story the main character discovers that this pattern is directly related to the rise and fall of the tides and uses this to their advantage, as opposed to the film which seems to follow the same pattern but never makes a direct connection. Also the original story takes place in Britain and centers around a man protecting his wife and two children at their isolated cottage home, as opposed to the film which centers on the spirited but troubled city dweller Melanie Daniels who travels to the California coast on a whim.