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'Birds' put Bodega Bay on the map

  • 3/10/2002: D6: Hazel Mitchell, on the set of "The Birds" in Bodega Bay in 1962. A waitress at the old Tides restaurant, she served film director Alfred Hitchcock the same meal each day during the filming - a piece of sole, a lettuce leaf and a few string beans.

Popular movies filmed in Sonoma County have lured moviegoers to the North Coast for decades, to see for themselves the special spot they remember from their favorite film.

The star of them all is Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 horror film "The Birds" with Tippi Hedren. Who doesn't remember the stark white Bodega schoolhouse on the hill, and the birds attacking the children?

"The Tides struck a deal with Hitchcock that the name of Bodega Bay would be in the film. That put Bodega Bay on the map," said Joel Hack, publisher of the Bodega Bay Navigator and a booklet about the movie that is still popular with visitors.

Hundreds of people a week visit Bodega Bay in the summer because of the movie, Hack said.

"People come to Bodega Bay, and they want to know where 'The Birds' was filmed and anything you can give them about it," Hack said.

"People still like to see where the movie was made," said John Condon, owner of California Rivers Tours, which offers winery and garden tours in Sonoma County, including a backroads tour that stretches to Bodega.

Hack said he once told a hotel desk clerk in Rome that he was from Bodega Bay, Calif, and the clerk said, "Oh! 'The Birds.' That's a wonderful place."

Other famous films made in Sonoma County include Hitchcock's 1943 "Shadow of a Doubt," said to be his personal favorite, George Lucas's 1973 "American Grafitti" filmed in Petaluma, "Peggy Sue Got Married" in 1986 and Steve Martin's 2003 remake of "Cheaper by the Dozen."

In spite of the proven allure of movies, Sonoma County has cut back its effort to attract filmmakers, emphasizing TV commercials and catalogs instead, said Ben Stone, coordinator of the county's Economic Development Board.

The county is sending out 700 postcards to people in the film industry urging them to "Film in Sonoma County." But increasingly filmmakers are seeking cheaper labor abroad or financial incentives from host governments, or they simply stay home and use special effects, Stone said,

"The days of the big producers coming here are fading away. They are going overseas or making special effects in Hollywood," Stone said.


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