Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Class: Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds

Alfred Hitchcock's Quiche Lorraine
Classic California Caesar Salad
Quick French Bread
Coq au Vin
North Beach Style Zabaione with fresh Berries

Happy Halloween!

Let start right off with an apology... I'm a little upset because since I planned this class, and wrote up and tried all the recipes, I've discovered that Hitchcock's daughter, Pat, wrote a biography of her mother, Alma, and in it included a bunch of recipes! Including one for a roast chicken! ACK!! Well, it's too late, baby. But the good news is that there are a lot of other Hitchcock films to write about, right?

In fact, this is part one of a Hitchcock double-bill. Being that the second-half of it will be a Criterion Collection post, and that they only have two Hitchcock films in their collection, you have a 50/50 chance of guessing.

Class went really well tonight. Another sold out audience. Everyone seemed to enjoy the food. There's nothing like watching an audience watching a movie. You can catch all their faces move in unison at some moments. That makes me smile. Again, I do want to thank the staff at Central Market here in Austin for making this such a painless and effortless experience for me. Also, watching people enjoying food you made for them is hard to beat, as well.

So, consider this - before today's movie, there really were no films about animals turning on humans. No frog attacks. No bee swarms. No giant killer sharks. No mutant ant colonies. Nor mutant rabbits. No spiders, and no snakes. Sure the occasional stray mutant gila monster or mutant praying mantis would appear, but not a coordinated full scale attack. This we owe to Sir Alfred Hitchcock.

The Birds is available for streaming on YouTube and Vudu, and to be purchased/rented/streamed @ Amazon.

Oh yes, and one more thing. Did you know there is an official Barbie doll for The Birds? Yes, there is....


"I hardly think a few birds are going to bring about the end of the world."

Let's begin here. Hitchcock had been developing Marnie into a screenplay as his follow up to Psycho, but it wasn't jelling. Plus, he kept hoping that Grace Kelly would get bored with being an actual princess and return to being his cinematic princess. About that time, he read a news report of a large flock of seagulls who had gotten lost in a fog in Santa Cruz, California, and wound up bashing into street lights and store windows. It reminded him of a Daphne du Maurier story he had purchased the rights for possible use on his television series, Alfred Hitchcock Presents. He had previously adapted du Maurier's stories Rebecca and Jamaica Inn into motion pictures. The story took place in Cornwall, England, and was about a farmer and his family being attacked by homicidal birds. He was drawn to the idea, but wanted some feedback.

Production designer Robert Boyle, whose association with Hitchcock began back to 1942 on Saboteur where he was the associate art director, recalled Hitchcock handing him the du Maurier story, and asking, "'Would you read it and see if, physically, it creates too many problems.' And I read it that night, and I was bowled over by its strength. But I saw it a little differently – I saw it as a mood piece. And I didn't see it as a narrative story. I spent the rest of the night — worked all night on it – and the image that came to me was [Edvard] Munch's Scream. I saw that as a kind of icon for the whole thing."

Elsewhere Boyle added, Munch's The Scream had a "sense of bleakness and madness, in a kind of wilderness, expressing an inner state. It was just what Hitchcock wanted."

How did this iconography translate onto the screen? Here's one example...

For more on the Munch/Hitchcock connection, check out this article at Alfred Hitchcock Geek blog.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

"My agent called one day and said, 'How would you like to do the screenplay for The Birds?' I asked my agent, 'Why me?' I later asked Hitch that same question," said screenwriter Evan Hunter.

Hunter did seem an unusual choice, as he had only a few screenplays to his name then, most notably The Blackboard Jungle. He had written a few teleplays, including one for Alfred Hitchcock Presents. But mostly he was known under his pseudonym Ed McBain as author of the successful 87th Precinct police procedural novels, which were adapted to a television series in 1961-62.

At first it seemed they were both pleased to be working together - it was Hunter who came up with the idea of beginning the film as a comedy. "We were just trying to find a hook - a way to get into the movie.... [W]hile I was walking around, I came up with the notion of a screwball comedy - doing a couple who meet cute and go from there into comedy until it turns to terror. And I told him this after lunch that day, and he said, 'Yeah, that sounds interesting.' So then we tried to find characters who would be mismatched, who would strike sparks and, we hoped, comic sparks," Hunter recalled. "And it seemed to me that a society woman, first of all, in the old screwball comedies of the '40s was your mainstay, that she always was a madcap society woman. And a lawyer is the very notion of solidity and stolidity. So it seemed that a lawyer would be a good type also."

But by the time filming had begun, Hitchcock began to distrust the material, making changes and improvising - something he almost never did during the filmmaking process. Hunter was disgruntled not only with the changes Hitchcock was making, but about the entire idea.

"The trouble with our story was that nothing in it was real. In real life, birds don't attack people and girls don't buy lovebirds to shlepp 60 miles upstate for a practical joke. Hitch had bought a bizarre novella about plain people attacked by the gentlest of creatures," Hunter wrote. "He had then hired a realistic novelist from New York to change these people into the sort of beautiful, sleek, sophisticated characters Hitch himself enjoyed seeing on the screen, the Cary Grants and Grace Kellys of the world. Even if the script had worked - which it didn't - Tippi Hedren and Rod Taylor were no Grace Kelly or Cary Grant."

He has said he wished Hitchcock had gone with an earlier idea of his, about a schoolteacher (whose character survives as Annie Hayworth) who comes to town and soon the birds attack and she is blamed by the locals as the cause.

For Hitchcock's part, it wasn't much better. "I've always boasted that I never look at a script while shooting. I know the whole film by heart. I've always been afraid of improvising on the set because, although one might have the time to get a new idea, there isn't sufficient time in the studio to examine the value of such an idea. There are too many crew people around," he told director Francois Truffaut. "But I was quite tense and this is unusual for me because as a rule I have a lot of fun during the shooting. When I went home to my wife at night, I was still tense and upset.... Something happened that was altogether new in my experience: I began to study the scenario as we went along, and I saw that there were weaknesses in it. This emotional siege I went through served to bring out an additional creative sense in me.... I began to improvise."

Hitchcock even went so far as to admit: "Hunter wasn't the ideal screenwriter. You look around, you pick a writer - hoping for the best."

And Hunter even apologized publicly for the film, "I'm sorry the picture we made together could not have been a great one." He also told of seeing the film when it first screened in New York and was so embarrassed, he "nearly burst into tears." He summarized it as: "Bad acting and — for Hitchcock — incredibly bad directing."

Author Daphne du Maurier also let it be known she disliked Hitchcock's film.

It's kind of sad to watch this film, which works so well and has fully secured its place as one of the film classics of all time, and know that neither director nor writer were pleased with it. But note that regardless of the experience at the time, Hitchcock and Hunter did work on Marnie together after The Birds. Though they famously got into an argument early on over the troubling rape scene in Marnie, which Hunter refused to write and was fired. This, I believe, has a lot to do with it because all the bad-mouthing and bad feelings seems to have come after their working relationship ended on Marnie.

In actuality, there were only a few changes - some major, some minor. Of the minor changes, for example, Hitchcock reworked the way he shot the scenes after the first bird attack of the Brenner home, and when Mrs. Brenner goes to the farmer's house. He felt the latter needed more justification of why she goes further into the house and eventually finds the dead bodies (she sees broken tea cups on a hook), and the former he decided to stage it from Melanie's point of view where she watches Mrs. Brenner attempt to clean up (broken tea cups on the table) as the Sheriff visits.

The next change was both important and smart - the scene in the Tides restaurant where the various characters discuss why the birds may be attacking. After the picture had already begun shooting and he began to have his doubts about the script, Hitchcock had Hunter write up something lighter to go after the school attack.

"[The scene at the Tides] doesn't necessarily add anything," Hitchcock opined, "but I felt that after the attack of the birds on the children at the birthday party, the small birds coming down the chimney, and the attack of the crows outside the school, we should give the audience a rest before going back to horror. That scene in the restaurant is a breather that allows for a few laughs."

Even Hunter was happy with this - which, in my opinion, is one of the best scenes in the film and was so needed right then in the story. "I love that scene, that was like a one act play. Hitch called and he said I need something more. I don't know how we discovered where we would take them, the central characters, Melanie and Mitch, but once I knew it was a restaurant, The Tides, then I had the whole scene in place and it just wrote itself," he said. "It's really a scene of great confusion because nobody knows what the hell is happening. We made, if you'll forgive the expression, an 'artistic' decision early on that we were never going to explain the bird attacks, never. Otherwise the film would become science fiction and we didn't want to do that."

The next change by Hitchcock involved dropping a scene after the first bird attack at the birthday party and Mrs. Brenner is off at the farmhouse. Mitch is burning the dead birds and then he and Melanie have their first "real" conversation and get emotionally closer to each other. Hitchcock said, "I dropped that scene because I felt that the love interlude slowed down the story." Yet, he added the scene before the bird attack at the party when Melanie and Mitch are on the cliff and Melanie reveals the story about her lost mother.

The day before they were to film this new scene, Hunter happened to be on location and found out about it when Rod Taylor complained to him about how weak it was. (And, in my opinion, it's the worst scene in the movie, really awful.) Hunter read it, ran to Hitchcock and said to his face that the writing "was totally inept and devoid of any craftsmanship, that no single speech in it logically followed the speech preceding it, that a first-year film student at UCLA could write a better scene." Later, Hunter learned that Hitchcock had written the scene himself. Oops.

The big change - the one that apparently got Hunter all knotted up - was the ending. Tippi Hedren recalled, "Hitchcock didn’t know exactly how to end the film, and quite often he would invite all of us into his office to discuss possible endings. My favorite proposed ending had the car drive from Bodega Bay (where the film takes place) to San Francisco and they see that the Golden Gate Bridge is covered with birds. Than we see the St. Louis Arch covered with birds, than the Statue of Liberty covered with birds. The Arch de Triumph, covered with birds. Red Square in Moscow covered with birds. But, they didn’t end the film that way."

Hunter had written it to end at the Golden Gate Bridge, but instead Hitchcock went with the more enigmatic ending we see in the film (which I personally love and agree with Hitchcock on this point - it works so much better than Hunter's - sorry, Evan).

In the following excerpt from the documentary All About the Birds included in The Birds (Collector's Edition) DVD, Hunter gets to rant about his ending....

When the film was finally released, according to Kyle B. Counts writing in Cinefantastique magazine, "audiences reacted negatively to the ending, which shows the sportscar with Melanie and the Brenners inside driving off in the distance. Originally, there was just a fade to black, with no end title. But audiences, expecting answers to the questions posed by the film, misinterpreted the blank screen as a break in the reel. To avoid confusion come release-time, Bud Hoffman had Technicolor do an overlay clearly announcing that it was, in fact, 'THE END.' As it was too late to add the title to the original negative, the title had to be overlay printed on every existing copy of the film."

Now it's time to move on to discussing the strange case of Tippi Hedren. What began as a Cinderella story for this young, single mother/TV commercial actress, eventually turned into a twisted Noir drama with Hitchcock, literally, cast as "the heavy."

To clear up one mystery, Tippi was born Natalie Hedren, her father, who was Swedish, used to call her "Tupsa" which apparently means "cute/adorable." By the time she started school, it had morphed to Tippi.

Tippi had been modeling in New York for about 11 years. In 1961, her marriage broke up and so she took her 4 year-old daughter named Melanie (Griffith) with her to Los Angeles to start anew. She was spotted by Hitchcock who saw her in a commercial for a then-popular diet drink, Sego. (In the commercial, Tippi was walking down a street and a young boy whistled and she turned and smiled at the tyke. Hitchcock copied that in the opening sequence in The Birds.)

So one day, she got a phone call to meet with an executive at Universal. She did and then was asked to return a few days later. But no one would tell her who the producer/director was they were interviewing her for. Finally, after several meetings one executive said to her: "'I suppose you're a little bit curious as to who this director is.'" They then told her it was Hitchcock and... he wanted to sign her to a seven year contract.

"I was stunned. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry or run up and down the halls or what to do. And he said, 'If you are in agreeance (sic) to this, we will go over to Paramount Studios and meet with him,'" she recalled. "[W]e didn't talk about anything other than - Oh, we talked about food, we talked about travel, we talked about wines. We didn't mention movies at all. Not at all." (Apparently, these are the topics he liked to talk about to everyone - see quote from Veronica Cartwright below in the food section.)

According to one source, Hitchcock was actively pursuing Anne Bancroft to play the lead in The Birds, but she wanted too much money. This was a big problem for him - at the budget he had for the film, he couldn't get a Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, or even an Anne Bancroft - all the money would be needed for the special effects. Therefore, he was forced to compromise and find actors he could afford.

In Hedren, Hitchcock thought he had found another new cool blond to transform into his fantasy girl. He ran her through some screen tests of scenes from some of his previous films, flying in Martin Balsam to play against her, and had Edith Head design clothes for her.

A few days later, she was invited to have dinner at Chasens with the Hitchcocks, and Lou Wasserman. When dinner was done, she recalled, "Hitch placed a very, very beautifully wrapped package in front of me from Gumps in San Francisco and I opened it and it was a very beautiful pin of seed pearls and gold of three birds in flight. He said, 'We want you to play Melanie Daniels in The Birds.' Well, I was so stunned. I just all welled up, got tears in my eyes, and I looked over at Alma and she had tears in her eyes and Lou Wasserman had one tear in his and Alfred Hitchcock sat looking very pompous and thrilled with himself."

And so production began on the film, and production also began on Hitchcock's design to make her his dream babe, to be blunt about it. Because she was all new to filmmaking, he had her sit in on meetings, and invited her to contribute ideas. But at the same time, he spent weeks with her choosing hair color, clothes, makeup, and jewelry for her to wear.

As Hitchcock himself said, "Well, she has nothing to unlearn." In an interview, the director reportedly exclaimed: "Get a look at that girl - she's going to be good. I gave her the lead role, a big part. Svengali Hitch rides again!"

But, you know, "Svengali" isn't exactly a good role model to choose. The word, Wikipedia offers "has come to be used as a common noun referring to a person who, with evil intent, controls another person by persuasion or deceit." Hitchcock became obsessed with her... in a bad way.

"Hitch was becoming very domineering and covetous of Tippi," actor Rod Taylor remembered, "and it was very difficult for her.... She was like a precious piece of jewelry he owned, and little by little, no one was permitted to come physically close to her during the production.... As he became more and more possessive, he wouldn't let me or anyone else ride in the studio cars with her, which we often shared.... He was putting a wall around her...."

"I don't know whether he did this with other actresses," Hedren said. "I have no idea, but there certainly was an obsession there and it's difficult to be the object of someone's obsession if you're not interested in being that object."

"I was stalked," she admitted. "First, he wanted to know which friends I was seeing during my own private time away from work - and where I was going. He never thought anyone was good enough for me; he simply disapproved of everyone in my life. Then I realized sometimes I was being followed to events, to restaurants or social occasions.... and some of his staff and studio executives were receiving reports...."

All this for sure must have added to the "tension" Hitchcock spoke of to Truffaut about feeling while making the film, I quoted above.

"It became very difficult," she said. "It is hard to be your own woman and have your own life and your own ideals. I think if someone's going to be a Svengali they have to choose a much younger woman who doesn't have her mind set and doesn't know what she wants out of life or who she is."

The situation continued to get worse. But she was under contract to him. And she had a daughter to take care of. But he continued to pursue her even as they began shooting Marnie. Sending her gifts, constantly trying to spend time with her after work, and she was freaking out.

"He told me," she confided, "that he had a fantasy - that he and I were standing in his living room, and the rays of the moon were coming in and enveloping us.... He was so sure that I was in love with him."

Finally, as filming neared end on Marnie, she blew up on him apparently and that was the end of it. He told her he wouldn't ever let her work in movies again; that he'd ruin her. He kept her out of work for two years - though she was getting paid because of her contract. Finally, he let her go. But, as Hedren said of her career, "by then all the momentum had gone."

Pretty messed up. Remember also he was 63 years old at the time, Hedren just past half his age. All I can say, I guess, is that he was certainly a genius but also a very troubled man. But - not to excuse him of his actions - Hitchcock was able to, for the most part, release his demons on film to our benefit. As I noted in my post on North by Northwest, there are bookshelves of books attempting to analyze and understand the man's psyche.

Even Hedren still feels indebted to him. "I probably learned in three years what it would have taken me 15 years to learn otherwise," said Hedren. "I learned so much from Hitchcock. He's an absolutely fascinating person. He has a mind like an IBM computer. He can pull from his past any number of things he has learned and apply it to a particular scene or character. He's a very psychological director. He works on you like putty."

And yet, there's so much more to talk about The Birds, but I'm already running the meter on overtime. Feel free to explore some of the links (here and below) and read about the special effects, the music, and more.

But I don't want to end on a sour note. So I'll let Hitchcock give his two cents on what The Birds is all about....

"Generally speaking," Hitchcock said, "I believe that people are too complacent. People like Melanie Daniels tend to behave without any kind of responsibility, and to ignore the more serious aspects of life. Such people are unaware that catastrophe surrounds us all. But I believe that when catastrophe does come, when people rise to the occasion, they are all right. Melanie shows that people can be strong when they face up to the situation, like the people in London during the wartime air raids. The birds basically symbolized the more serious aspects of life."

I lied. We'll let Evan Hunter have the last word....

"This was utter rot, a supreme showman's con," Hunter said. "While we were shaping the screenplay, there was no talk at all of symbolism." And adding elsewhere, "We were trying to scare the hell out of people. Period."


"Even the most extraordinary events in our story have a basis in fact," Hitchcock said.

"Birds have attacked and do attack, all the time," he explained elsewhere. "As a matter of fact, one of the incidents we have in the film was based on an actual incident which occurred at La Jolla, California, on April 30, 1960. A thousand swifts came down a chimney in to the living room of some people. These are birds that nest in masonry rather than in trees, in roofs and chimneys and so forth. And the people were completely swamped with them for half an hour.

"Another incident occurred in the very place we were working, in Bodega Bay, in northern San Francisco, where a farmer reported to the San Francisco Chronicle that he was losing a lot of lambs due to crows diving and pecking at their eyes and then killing them. So there are precedents for all these things. That's what makes it more or less accurate, in terms of facts rather than science fiction."

I don't know if the media got all foamy at the mouth before Hitchcock's The Birds, but since then, any time a bird tries to protect its nest, reporters are on the scene ready to report on the end of the world, and everyone specifically refers to Hitchcock's film. Take this tale from 2005 in Houston, Texas: "This is a very Hitchcock kind of story. Very Tippi Hedren."

And it continues, such as this story from Everett, Washington earlier this year - "Right Out of Hitchcock: Birds Attack Cops," and this story from Berlin, Germany in 2010: "It was like a Hitchcock horror film," one bystander told the paper. All of which are stories of birds simply protecting their nests, not actively attacking humans for some mysterious reason.

And in August this year, in West Virginia, the media twittered their feathers over this tale of birds migrating with fears that: "Residents say it's like a scene from a Hitchcock movie."

C'mon, people. These birds are just migrating, not "attacking." Here in Austin, we get a bird invasion twice a year - heading north, and heading south - and you just know not to park your car under a tree or you'll have to clean it in the morning.

Perhaps Hitchcock was on to something. It's like they're all wishing we'd be attacked. Maybe they want to be punished for some reason? I don't know. Maybe people secretly dream of the apocalypse as they always seem so anxious to anoint a bunch of birds crapping on them as harbingers of the end of the world.

For my part, I'm voting for the still unexplained rash of birds dropping from sky. Though I hesitate to mention that in The Birds they don't drop from the sky dead they dive bomb attack, because I'm sure I'd be shouted down by the doomsday wishers.

I'll let Mr. Hitchcock have the final word for real this time.

"All you can say about The Birds is nature can be awful rough on you. If you play around with it. Look what uranium has done. Man dug that out of the ground. The Birds expresses nature and what it can do, and the dangers of nature, because there is no doubt if the birds did decide, you know, with the millions that there are, to go for everybody's eyes, then we'd have HG Wells' Kingdom of the Blind on our hands."


Actress Veronica Cartwright, who played little Cathy, recalled a food-related conversation she had with Hitchcock while they were filming The Birds. "He found out that I was born in Bristol, England. He goes, 'Oh, yes. That's where the best wine cellars are.' So he proceeded to tell me the best wines to buy and what the best wine cellar was and distributor and all of this. And he told me how to cook a steak. And he says, 'You have to pull it out before it is fully cooked because it will continue to cook.' These things, of course, I've applied in later years, but at the time, I was 11 or 12, so I had no idea. I thought, 'What odd conversation.' But he was very nice to me."

According to screenwriter Evan Hunter, Hitchcock "invariably ordered a minute steak" every day while they were working on the screenplay. And he and his wife were reguarly invited over to the Hitchcocks' Bel-Air home for dinner: "'Dinner in the kitchen with Alma and Hitch' was considered a singular honor... 'Just the four of us,' [Hitchcock] said. 'Around the kitchen table..'" Can you imagine how entertaining that must have been? Just to have him regale you with his stories. But what about the food?

Hitchcock once said, "Most people think a gourmet is a food lover who tucks in his napkin and starts eating fine food. I'm a theoretical gourmet. I'm really more interested in the acquisition of hard-to-find foods than in eating them. We have oysters flown in from England each September and we savor Pauillac. That's milk-fed lamb that's never fed on grass. We roast it lightly to keep it moist and tender."

I decided not to go too exotic, but instead opted for my "fowl play" concept. I figure a movie as dark as this, needs a menu with some humor to it. I guess that's sort of "theoretical," and perhaps Mr. Hitchcock, who was known for his dark sense of humor, would approve.

Coq au Vin is yet another of these recipes whose history is a mystery. Though it didn't appear in a cookbook until the 20th century, the idea of making a chicken stew with wine, especially in France, couldn't have taken that many centuries to figure out. Its preparation, its flavor, its style all suggests something that goes back hundreds of years.

According to Wikipedia: "Various legends trace coq au vin to ancient Gaul and Julius Caesar, but the recipe was not documented until the early 20th century. It is generally accepted that it existed as a rustic dish long before that.." But it was in the 20th century when the dish became popular and a staple in French restaurants around the world.

There are actually two legends - which are both highly dubious - as to the dish's creation. One features Napoleon and the other Julius Caesar. The Caesar version has him being presented with a rooster as a gift by the Gauls (which would have been an insult to him and the Gauls' private joke), his chef cooked it in wine, and surprise on the Gauls, Julius liked it. The Napoleon version has him stopping at an inn and the chef there improvised, Napoleon was pleased and thus the dish was born. Whatever.

True, it is called "coq" (French for rooster) though most recipes have chickens or capons (a castrated rooster), not a "fully-cocked" rooster. The theory is that back in the day, when a rooster was "retired," it was old and so would be tough eating. But, if you cook it in a nice slow braise, it'll be edible. And farmers weren't necessarily finicky back in the 17th century about tenderness. Protein was protein.

The dish also has variations where its cooked with white wine, but traditionally a sturdy red is preferred.

To give this dish an extra link to the movie, I recommend a nice Napa or Sonoma wine. Whenever I'm in the Bay Area, I typically take a nice trip up to the wine country and collect a few bottles to ship home. I also like to stop in Bodega Bay and visit the old schoolhouse which is still there. The original Tides Restaurant has since been replaced, and the fishing industry there is dead, but for fans of this movie (such as I), it's a nice place to stop and imagine what it must have been like when they made the film there. You can even stay at their hotel across the street from the restaurant. Supposedly, descendants of the birds used in the film can still be spotted flying around.

As always, cook, watch, eat, & enjoy....

Coq au Vin
Click for Printer-Friendly Version

Serves 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces pancetta or bacon, diced
12 chicken thighs, bone-in, with skin (or 6 breasts) (3-4 pounds)
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper
1/2 pound carrots, cut 1" thick
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup cognac or brandy
1 1/2 cups dry red wine, like a Burgundy or Zinfandel
1 cup chicken stock
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 sprigs fresh parsley
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, separated in half
1 1/2 teaspoons flour
1/2 pound frozen pearl onions, defrosted
1/2 pound crimini or white button mushrooms, stems trimmed, sliced
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat over to 350 degrees.

Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven and add pancetta/bacon and cook at low-medium heat until nicely browned. Remove with slotted spoon and reserve.

Pat chicken dry, then in a plastic bag add flour, salt & pepper. Raise heat. Add chicken a few pieces at a time to coat, then brown in batches, about 5 minutes. Reserve.

Lower heat again to low-medium. Now add carrots and onion. Season with a little salt and pepper. Cook for about 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. About 5 minutes in, add garlic.

Now return the chicken and bacon, and any collected juice. Add the cognac AND VERY Carefully allow the cognac to ignite to burn away the alcohol (optional). Now add the chicken stock, wine, thyme, bay leaf, and parsley. Bring to a simmer, then remove from stove. Cover and put in oven for 30-40 minutes.

Knead flour and half the butter, then add to mixture and stir. (This is called a Beurre Manie.)

In a sauté pan, heat butter and sauté mushrooms. About halfway done, add pearl onions. Salt and pepper, to taste. Then add to the pot. Bring to simmer again and cook for about 10 more minutes. Adjust seasonings and serve.

The Birds - The Screenplay (PDF)
Hitchcock Wiki: The Birds (an incredible wealth of articles, interviews, and information)
Alfred Hitchcock Geek blog
Hitchcock's Fierce Birds, Life Magazine, Feb 1, 1963
Writing for Hitchcock, An Interview with Evan Hunter (Ed McBain) @ MysteryNet

The Birds (Collector's Edition) DVD/BluRay/Stream/Download
Alfred Hitchcock: Interviews (Conversations with Filmmakers), edited by Sidney Gottlieb
Hitchcock on Hitchcock: Selected Writings and Interviews, edited by Sidney Gottlieb
Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies, by Donald Spoto
Hitchcock (Revised Edition), by Francois Truffaut and Helen G. Scott
Alma Hitchcock: The Woman Behind The Man, by Patricia Hitchcock O'Donnell & Laurent Bouzereau
The Birds Barbie Doll

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