Monday, May 2, 2011

Movie Location Expedition-Bodega Bay

Folks who are as old as me, or perhaps younger generation aficionados of Alfred Hitchcock (the "Master of Suspense") movies, may recognize this building as the school that was shown in his 1963 classic movie, The Birds. As you may recall, the movie setting is the bucolic seaside village of Bodega Bay, along the California coast. The movie starts with just a single seagull attacking the female star of the movie. Unfortunately, it is the first of a series of attacks on humans, as the birds, rather than people, become the chief inhabitants of the village.

The building was originally called The Potter School, and it was constructed in 1870. It is not open to the public, and based on the fence around it (as well as the dog who was guarding the property) visitors are not exactly encouraged to stop for a look inside.

Adjacent to the Potter School, is St. Teresa's Church. It is even older than the school, as it was built in 1859, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings. It too, is shown in several scenes from the The Birds movie. Apparently, they are still having unwanted intrusions from non-human species, as a Pest Control worker was there the day I visited, and was going around the grounds of the building administering "deterrents" to such unwanted parishioners. Both of these structures are in the town of Bodega, California, which is a separate little village a few miles inland from Bodega Bay, California.

As you might expect, souvenirs are available to purchase as "proof" of visiting the location. My cousin had a Bodega Bay (The Birds) sweat shirt (middle left photo), and the house we rented had an official "Birds Movie Barbie Doll" in the bookcase, based on the iconic lime green suit the female star of the movie wore throughout the shooting. (That is because she had made the 2 hour drive from San Francisco to Bodega Bay, without the intention of spending the night. However, she was required to stay overnight after being injured in the seagull attack.) The "Birds Barbie Doll" was manufactured to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the acclaimed film. I thought the "Birds Barbie Doll", with her lime green suit, was a great visual aid to remind my Keeling cousins of the fact that the now-familiar green suit, had been designed by a "sprout" from our very own family tree! Famed Hollywood costume designer, Rita Riggs, also had roots in Lead Hill, Arkansas. She speaks of this, as well as the fact that her mother's maiden name was Keeling, in an interview that you can watch at . The first time I ever heard of Rita Riggs, was when the show credits were running for the popular TV sitcom of the 1960's, All In The Family. A week did not go by of watching the show, that my mother did not point out the name "Rita Riggs - Costume Designer" when the show credits scrolled, at the end of each program. Although I was not present at the time, I am told she actually came back to the Lead Hill area for a family reunion several years ago. The bottom photo of the collage shows a picture I took of the DVD cover when I rented the movie shortly before making the trip to Bodega Bay. Although I saw the movie when it came out in the 1960's, I had not seen it again since then, so I wanted a "refresher" course before actually going to the set location. It was definitely suspenseful, especially the parts showing the mangled, dead, and bloody body of a farmer who had been attacked by the birds. One can't help but think of the phrase in Revelation 19:21b, that says "....and all the birds gorged themselves on their (the humans) flesh." The "extras" you get when you watch the DVD tells that, a short time before the script was written, there actually had been some cases reported in the local newspapers of birds attacking humans. It was when watching the "extras" with the DVD that I learned that my distant cousin, Rita Riggs, had been the costume designer for The Birds movie, plus LOTS of other interesting tidbits about how the scenes were filmed, long before the era of digital special effects. If you would like to learn more about the movie, or the area in general, visit for info and links to additional points of interest. SOOooooo, how about a little "bird watching expedition" now???? Miles of smiles!! Tricia

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