The Birds is the first film that comes to mind when I hear that Hitchcock is known for abusing the women in his films.
In a film about bird attacks at a time when CGI was not around, there had to be creative ways to make the attacks appear realistic on screen. The bird attacks progress throughout the film, with many scenes featuring birds clawing and biting at the people of Bodega Bay. Some of these birds were real birds, and many were fake birds being thrown around. In one particular scene, Melanie Daniels walks upstairs and opens a door to find that the roof has been broken through by dozens of birds. The birds attack her for quite some time until she falls to the ground and is eventually rescued.
In an interview on the “All About The Birds” feature of the DVD, Tippi Hedren explains that originally there were supposed to be only mechanical birds. On the day they were set to shoot this scene, she was notified that there would be real birds flying at her. Shooting this scene spanned over five days. By the end of filming this scene, Tippi Hedren had to be hospitalized. She had a breakdown on set from filming the scene and was so exhausted that she spent a week under the care of a doctor. In this interview she doesn’t place any blame on Hitchcock.
However, there are conflicting recollections of this scene’s filming.
According to “Hitchcock Style,”
“As Hitchcock grew older, he allowed himself to make advances at his film’s star. She balked and complained. So he shot the scene where the birds attack her. And he replaced the planned mechanical birds… with real birds, ‘forgetting’ to warn Tippi.“
This implies that the bird scene was written intentionally as a punishment for Hedren’s disgust at Hitchcock’s behavior towards her. Of her role in filming this scene, Hedren calls herself “the innocent target created by Hitch.” From this, it sounds as though even Hedren has conflicting views, sometimes placing blame on Hitchcock and other times not.
Dufreigne, Jean-Pierre. Hitchcock Style. New York, NY: Assouline, 2004.
The Birds. Dir. Alfred Hitchcock. Perf. Tippi Hedren and Rod Taylor. Alfred J. Hitchcock Productions, 1963. DVD.