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Alfred Hitchcock on the Set of ‘The Birds,’ 1963

The legendary director’s film stirred up controversy both in theaters and in the news.

Alfred Hitchcock directs the crew on set of the 1963 horror film "The Birds"

With October starting and Halloween coming up soon, it feels appropriate to look back at the grandfather of horror film, Alfred Hitchcock. Alongside films like “Psycho” and “Vertigo,” “The Birds” follows a California town trying to survive a sudden onslaught of attacks from ravenous birds.

Hitchcock’s career spanned over 50 years, with his first films being silent pictures in the 1920s, and his last films releasing in the 1970s. At a time in which films were more heavily scrutinized for content, Hitchcock was known for pushing the boundaries of filmmaking, and his films were often controversial for their dark, violent, and often sexual subject matter.

The film starred Tippi Hedren and Rod Taylor, and featured Hitchcock himself in a small cameo role, as most of his films did. Like we mentioned above, “The Birds” was very controversial at the time. However, this controversy did not come from the film’s content, as in the case of “Psycho,” but rather Hitchcock’s on-set behavior.

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Similar to another venerated director, Stanley Kubrick, Hitchcock was notorious for his cruelty on set towards his crew and actors. According to Tippi Hedren, Hitchcock consistently made sexual advances towards her on-set, and occasionally got physical with her. After she rejected his advances, she claimed he retaliated by allowing the on-set birds to actually harm her, and choosing to use the real birds in scenes where he had before promised to use puppets.

Hitchcock’s on-set behavior is no secret, and his misdeeds span beyond “The Birds” and into other films he directed. While he inarguably was incredibly talented and very influential, the negative pieces of his legacy are still there, and need to be grappled with. Today’s industry is doing a much better job at holding those in power accountable, as seen by groups such as the #MeToo movement. Nonetheless, it’s still interesting to look back at an important, albeit controversial and messy, moment in horror history.

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