An Ode to Suzanne Pleshette, Tippi Hedron, and Daphne du Maurier

When I heard that Suzanne Pleshette died January 19, 2008, and that she was getting a star on the Hollywood walk of fame, it really got me thinking about The Birds, and her character Annie Hayworth. Tippi Hedren and Pleshette really could make the most out of a pregnant pause. Words would just hang in the air, and Pleshette just oozed sexuality. What blonde bombshell Hedron lacked in acting ability, she made up for in pluck and style. These two ladies sizzled on the screen, and for a classic like The Birds from 1963 to still hold the attention of a “modern” film going man, is a real testament to the film, the actresses, and the period. Where has the sensuality and subtlety gone in modern film? Maybe we don't give smoking enough credit. It is hard to pause for dramatic effect if there is nothing to occupy the speaker, no smoke hanging in the air, or ice in the low balls... but I digress. Suzanne Pleshette, you embodied an era.

Also worth pointing out in the film is that Alfred Hitchcock is also breaking some molds of his own. He used an unknown model to star in the film, and many of the roles of women in the film are not stereotypical. Well, maybe stereotypical with a twist: Melanie Daniels, self-aware socialite; Annie Hayworth, independent school teacher. But remember, the most knowledgeable person in Bodega Bay? Why the scholarly professor, Mrs. Bundy. Possibly a scene that puts a fine point on how Hollywood is trying to grow, is where Hedron is running an outboard motor boat in a full length fur, skirt-suit, handbag, and heels—but she can drive a boat! Don’t get me wrong, Hitchcock did not shake the world with the roles of his female characters, but you could see Hollywood struggling to break free of the mold.

Maybe it is because the original author of The Birds, Daphne du Maurier, was a fem-fatale herself. She wrote this science fiction story in 1952, probably while smoking her cigarette at the typewriter. One reviewer wrote that her fiction could be classified as escapist. I think today it would be called Speculative Fiction. Not many female authors in the 1950s were considered "escapist" writers.