The idea for this famous story came to du Maurier one day when she was walking across to Menabilly Barton farm from the house. She saw a farmer busily ploughing a field whilst above him the seagulls were diving and wheeling. She developed an idea about the birds becoming hostile and attacking him. In her story, the birds become hostile after a harsh winter with little food -- first the seagulls, then birds of prey, and finally even small birds -- all turn against mankind. The nightmarish vision appealed to Hitchcock who turned it into the celebrated film.
While in a San Francisco pet shop, wealthy Melanie Daniels becomes attracted to Mitch Brenner, a young lawyer who is trying unsuccessfully to find a pair of lovebirds for his little sister Cathy. Acting on a sudden impulse, Melanie buys two of the birds and decides to deliver them to Mitch's home on an island in Bodega Bay. After secretly leaving the birds in the Brenner house, she is returning to the mainland by motor boat when a seagull swoops down on her, gashes her forehead, and then flies away. Mitch meets her at the mainland pier and brings her back to his home. The next day a group of birds attack Cathy and her friends during a birthday party. That evening hundreds of finches fly down a chimney and terrorize Melanie and the Brenners. Panic in the small town mounts as birds murder a chicken farmer by pecking him to death, create a flash fire at a gas station, and swarm over the local children as they leave school. Following the death of schoolteacher Annie Hayworth, most of the townspeople leave their homes and head for San Francisco. Mitch boards up all entrances to his home and awaits the onslaught. The birds dive against the house, tearing at shingles and gnawing at doors, but they are unable to get inside. When Melanie goes to the attic, however, she is attacked by a roomful of crows who have made a hole in the roof. Mitch manages to rescue her but realizes the house is no longer safe. With the coming of morning, the birds are momentarily quiet. Taking advantage of the silence, he puts Melanie and his family into his car and leaves for San Francisco as thousands of birds watch their departure.
Release dates: March 28, 1963
Running time: 119 minutes
Tippi Hedren as Melanie Daniels
Rod Taylor as Mitch Brenner
Jessica Tandy as Lydia Brenner
Suzanne Pleshette as Annie Hayworth
Veronica Cartwright as Cathy Brenner
Ethel Griffies as Mrs. Bundy
Charles McGraw as Sebastian Sholes
Ruth McDevitt as Mrs. MacGruder
Malcolm Atterbury as Deputy Al Malone
Elizabeth Wilson as Helen Carter
Lonny Chapman as Deke Carter
Alfred Hitchcock makes his signature cameo as a man walking dogs out of the pet shop at the beginning of the film. They were two of his own Sealyham terriers, Geoffrey and Stanley.
I haven't had the opportunity to read the novella yet but Alfred Hitchcock's film The Birds has always been one of my favorites. I think it's the idea that the winged creatures we see flying around everyday can become such a murderous menace and with no warning. Then you throw in Hitchcock's own brand of humor into the mix and you have a suspense classic.
If Daphne du Maurier had written only Rebecca, she would still be one of the great shapers of popular culture and the modern imagination. Few writers have created more magical and mysterious places than Jamaica Inn and Manderley, buildings invested with a rich character that gives them a memorable life of their own.
In many ways the life of Daphne du Maurier resembles that of a fairy tale. Born into a family with a rich artistic and historical background, the daughter of a famous actor-manager, she was indulged as a child and grew up enjoying enormous freedom from financial and parental restraint. She spent her youth sailing boats, travelling on the Continent with friends, and writing stories. A prestigious publishing house accepted her first novel when she was in her early twenties, and its publication brought her not only fame but the attentions of a handsome soldier, Major (later Lieutenant-General Sir) Frederick Browning, who married her.
Her subsequent novels became bestsellers, earning her enormous wealth and fame. While Alfred Hitchcock's film based upon her novel proceeded to make her one of the best-known authors in the world, she enjoyed the life of a fairy princess in a mansion in Cornwall called Menabilly, which served as the model for Manderley in Rebecca.
Daphne du Maurier was obsessed with the past. She intensively researched the lives of Francis and Anthony Bacon, the history of Cornwall, the Regency period, and nineteenth-century France and England, Above all, however, she was obsessed with her own family history, which she chronicled in Gerald: a Portrait, a biography of her father; The du Mauriers, a study of her family which focused on her grandfather, George du Maurier, the novelist and illustrator for Punch; The Glassblowers, a novel based upon the lives of her du Maurier ancestors; and Growing Pains, an autobiography that ignores nearly 50 years of her life in favour of the joyful and more romantic period of her youth. Daphne du Maurier can best be understood in terms of her remarkable and paradoxical family, the ghosts which haunted her life and fiction.
While contemporary writers were dealing critically with such subjects as the war, alienation, religion, poverty, Marxism, psychology and art, and experimenting with new techniques such as the stream of consciousness, du Maurier produced 'old-fashioned' novels with straightforward narratives that appealed to a popular audience's love or fantasy, adventure, sexuality and mystery. At an early age, she recognised that her readership was comprised principally of women, and she cultivated their loyal following through several decades by embodying their desires and dreams in her novels and short stories.
In some of her novels, however, she went beyond the technique of the formulaic romance to achieve a powerful psychological realism reflecting her intense feelings about her father, and to a lesser degree, her mother. This vision, which underlies Julius, Rebecca and The Parasites, is that of an author overwhelmed by the memory of her father's commanding presence. In Julius and The Parasites, for example, she introduces the image or a domineering but deadly father and the daring subject of incest.
In Rebecca, on the other hand, du Maurier fuses psychological realism with a sophisticated version of the Cinderella story. The nameless heroine has been saved from a life of drudgery by marrying a handsome, wealthy aristocrat, but unlike the Prince in Cinderella, Maxim de Winter is old enough to be the narrator's father. The narrator thus must do battle with The Other Woman - the dead Rebecca and her witch-like surrogate, Mrs Danvers - to win the love of her husband and father-figure.