My night reliving Hitchcock’s “The Birds” with Tippi Hedren at what will always be Grauman’s Chinese Theatre
I saw The Birds, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Tippi Hedren, when I was a kid – I think I was about 7 and it was on television.
I barely remember a thing about the movie but I did remember the bird attacks. They clearly left a scar because not long after I saw the movie, my uncle took us to the beach and when I saw seagulls flying above, I instinctively covered my head and dove into the sand.
The family probably thought I was insane. Not insane, just scared and it was all because of The Birds. Obviously not a movie for kids!
But that was a long time ago and now that I’m an adult, I figured it was time to watch The Birds again.
So on Thursday night, I headed into Hollywood for a special 50th anniversary screening of the film at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre which has changed its name to TLC Chinese Theatre (more on this maddening name change later in the post).
I had never before seen the film on the giant screen and, thanks to the annual TCM film festival, I’ve learned that until you’ve seen a classic film on the big screen, you really haven’t seen it.
I was seated across the aisle from Oscar winner George Chakiris who has got to be the youngest looking 78 year old man on planet Earth. Also said hello to the lovely Erin Murphy who we all know as Tabitha from the Bewitched series.
Before the movie began, the still beautiful Miss Hedren and her co-star Veronica Cartwright treated the audience to a wonderful Q&A and the most dramatic part was when Tippi talked about how Hitchcock became obsessed with her (she also starred in his film Marnie) and she had to break free.
The director prevented her from working in other films because she was under personal contract to him. But, Hedren said, ‘He might have ruined my career, but he didn’t ruin my life.’
I thought about that when I watched the film and felt so badly for Tippi because the truth is, she is sensational in the film and should not have been kept off the screen by anybody. I loved her character’s utter confidence as she makes a trip, on a lark, to Bodega Bay to surprise a really handsome guy (Rod Taylor) she met at a bird shop in San Francisco. And she was so beautiful and graceful in every move she made.
What a cast! You have the oh-so handsome Taylor, the great Jessica Tandy, the one and only Suzanne Pleshette and Miss Cartwright who is terrific in the film.
As for the bird attack scenes, I can see why I got so scared as a kid! I wiggled in my seat a bit and said kind of out loud as Tippi went upstairs: “Don’t open the door!”
In between the Q&A and the screening, I dashed over to the lobby to say hello to Miss Hedren who I have met several times in the past. I’m friends with her publicist Harlan Boll and he, of course, had orchestrated another wonderful event.
Okay, my thoughts on the name change of Grauman’s Chinese Theater. I’m going to do my best to ignore it! I understand that Chinese television manufacturer TCL has paid $5 million for the naming rights and is going to do all kinds of improvements to this landmark. But I think it’s a public relations misfire for a theater that is such a big part of Hollywood history. It’s disrespectful to the venue and to the public. It was Mann’s Chinese Theatre for awhile (the adjoining multiplex is still Mann’s Chinese 6) but that never really flew and neither will this change.
Just my opinion.