Tag Archives: 1970s

The “Free For All” Blogathon–“Birds in Film”


When you think of birds in the movies, this image probably comes to mind:

Birds Film
Tippi Hedren in Alfred Hitchock’s “The Birds” (1963). Don’t even get me started on why they chose to run out of the school when the birds started congregating on the jungle gym.  Stay inside! I like to think that the birds attacked the children because they were singing that annoying song.

Alfred Hitchock’s 1963 masterpiece, The Birds, tells the story of Bodega Bay, a small town near San Francisco, California that is dealing with violent and random bird attacks.  Crows are inexplicably attacking people in their homes, in phone booths, outside, anywhere.  The film never explains why the birds are attacking.  Hitchock purposely eschewed the use of music in the film.  The only sounds we hear aside from dialogue and natural sounds from the actions in the film are the sounds of the birds crowing.  Each time the birds appear onscreen, we know that another attack is about to happen.  The film ends with no resolution.  In Bodega Bay, the birds are still out there and are to be feared.

In The Birds, there are two birds featured in the film who are not to be feared–the lovebirds that Rob Taylor wants to purchase from Tippi Hedren (who doesn’t actually work at the bird shop, but is shopping for a cage for her myna bird).  People who own lovebirds typically purchase them in pairs, as a pair of lovebirds will bond for life.  A solitary lovebird who doesn’t have a constant companion will be very sad.  Owners can own just one lovebird, but they should be prepared to spend a lot of time with their bird.  In The Birds, I believe that these lovebirds represent Taylor and Hedren’s characters.

Hedren’s character is a bit of a wild woman who somewhat lives in a gilded cage.  She’s basically a rich socialite with little regard for others.  Due to her behavior and attitude, she’s somewhat trapped by her lifestyle.  The only reason she goes to Bodega Bay initially, is to use the lovebirds as a means to pursue Taylor.  She’s rich and isn’t used to not getting what she wants.  Taylor makes it clear to Hedren in the pet shop that she’s not interested in people of her type.

Lovebirds may represent the antithesis to the other birds in the film.  Birds don’t have to be evil or be killers–they can be sweet, wonderful companions for humans and other birds.  The lovebirds in The Birds demonstrate that maybe humanity and nature can restore harmony soon.

The lovebirds in “The Birds.” I believe these are “rosy-faced lovebirds.”

Aside from the birds in The Birds, there are other ways birds are represented in film:


  1. Iago the Scarlet Macaw parrot in Aladdin, while an evil bird, he is a wiseacre and says what’s on his mind regardless of whether he’s talking to his master, Jafar, or mocking the Sultan.
  2. Kevin in Up is a goofy bird and the comic relief of the film.  Kevin is a made-up tropical bird who helps Carl and Russell make it to Victoria Falls.  Kevin also provides the conflict of the film.  Famed aviator Charles Muntz has been looking for Kevin’s species for years.  Kevin is like many real birds in that when she (yes “she”) feels that someone is a friend, she will be kind and loyal.  However, if she senses someone is a threat, or that person was mean to her, she’ll be hostile and combative.  Also, like real birds, Kevin is very curious and gets into everything.
  3. Hedwig in the Harry Potter series is Harry Potter’s loyal owl.  She is a constant companion for Harry through all of his adventures. She would deliver Harry’s mail, but was also a faithful friend. Hedwig also demonstrated how smart and clever birds can be.
  4. Zazu in The Lion King.  Zazu is a hornbill who is not only Mufasa’s personal assistant and adviser, but he also takes care of Simba after Mufasa’s tragic death.  Zazu’s allegiance is partially out of duty to the kingdom, but I also feel that he feels a sense of loyalty to the deceased Mufasa.  Zazu also doesn’t want to see Scar in charge.
  5. Maleficent’s black crow, who I don’t believe has a name, is as evil as evil gets.  He keeps Maleficent informed on the goings on in the fairies’ cottage and is the first one to inform Maleficent of Princess Aurora’s location when he spies magic coming up through the fairies’ chimney.
Iago from “Aladdin” (1992)


  1. Owl in Winnie the Pooh dispenses advise to Winnie the Pooh and the other residents of the Hundred Acre Woods.
  2. Scuttle in The Little Mermaid, while definitely not smart like Owl, he lives above the sea and regularly watches and interacts with the humans.  Mermaid Ariel, who desperately wants to live out of the sea meets up with Scuttle, often bringing objects from the ocean floor that she has found.  She asks Scuttle as to what the objects are.  While Scuttle is usually wrong (e.g. telling Ariel that a dinner fork is a “dinglehopper” and is used to comb her hair), he is very kind and tries to keep Ariel informed about what’s going on above the sea.
“Owl” from “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh”  (1977)


  1. In The Maltese Falcon (1941) John Huston’s directorial debut and the first film noir, stars Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade.  While investigating the murder of his partner, Miles Archer, Bogart gets involved with a cast of characters who not only have something to do with Archer’s death, but who are searching for the elusive Maltese Falcon statue.  This bejeweled statue has traveled the world and is apparently worth tens of thousands of dollars.  When the statue is finally found, it is determined to be a fake.  The criminals are angry and frustrated, but seek to continue looking for it.  While holding the fake statue, a detective asks Bogart, “Heavy? What is it?” Bogart says, “The, uh, stuff that dreams are made of.”  This faux bird represents the lack of loyalty the criminals displayed to one another during their journey.  A bird, when treated with love and kindness, can be a loyal and generous friend.  They’ll be by your side constantly and will give affection. They’ll also give you their dinner if you don’t pay attention, they want to make sure you eat.  The criminals are so shady in this film, that they don’t deserve to succeed at the end.
  2. There is much bird imagery in Psycho.  It is mostly used in the scene between Norman (Anthony Perkins) and Marion (Janet Leigh) in the motel office. The birds in these scenes foreshadow Norman’s psyche and Marion’s eventual fate. Norman has a variety of stuffed birds: everything from the predator hawk to a small songbird.  Norman mentions to Marion Crane (his eventual victim) that one of his hobbies is “stuffing things” i.e. taxidermy.  This foreshadows the fact that he’s been perhaps practicing his taxidermy skills elsewhere, like on his mother’s corpse, for example (granted she is a skeleton, but he’s been preserving her).  The birds are creepy as there are a lot of them. One could argue that the different types of birds are representative of the  characters in the film.  There is an owl and hawk, two predator birds, that are featured prominently on the wall.  Norman’s mother is a predator, her personality has completely consumed Norman’s.  There are also some small songbirds who represent Marion.  These birds would be consumed in no second flat by a predator, just like it doesn’t take long for Marion’s demise at the Bates Motel.  Birds are very fragile, just like Norman Bates’ psyche.  Women are often presented as fragile and delicate, in which a bird could represent Marion.  Norman even tells Marion that she “eats like a bird” as she picks at the bread on her sandwich.  Birds actually eat a lot, a fact which Norman even mentions to Marion.  There is so much going on in this scene that it would probably warrant its own blog entry.
  3. Birds can also represent a variety of other themes: freedom, the feeling of being trapped, evil, arrogance, and mischievousness.
Norman Bates’ office in the Bates Motel in “Psycho” (1960)

Other favorite birds of mine:

  1. Donald Duck.  Look for him in Donald Duck in Mathmagic Land (1959).  Perhaps the only good math-related movie ever made.
  2. Daffy Duck.  His “Duck Amuck” (1953) cartoon is hilarious.
  3. Woodstock from Peanuts.  He doesn’t do much except be Snoopy’s companion, but he has his moments.
  4. Roadrunner.  He says so much by saying so little “beep beep” which roughly translates to “ha ha” when said to Wile E. Coyote after successfully evading yet another trap. Why does Wile E. Coyote want to eat him so much anyway? I doubt he’s got that much meat on him.
  5. Piper from the Pixar short.  This bird is just so cute!
Piper from Piper (2016) Pixar’s short film. Look at his face!

This post was inspired by my bird, Buddy, a yellow-sided green cheek conure:

Buddy the bird, enjoying some mango!

In Memory of Mary Tyler Moore (1936-2017)

Beloved television icon Mary Tyler Moore passed away today at the age of 80.  While I knew that Mary had been in poor health for the last few years and I’m not entirely surprised by her passing, I am still very sad.  I absolutely love Mary Tyler Moore.  Along with I Love LucyThe Mary Tyler Moore Show was my “must see” show during my Nick at Nite years.  I also loved The Dick Van Dyke Show, the show that put Mary on the map, but The Mary Tyler Moore Show will always have a special place in my heart.


While I Love Lucy is my #1 favorite television show of all time, The Mary Tyler Moore Show comes in a close second.  While Lucy Ricardo got the best of her husband Ricky often and for the most part, always got her way, she was still expected to live up to the expectations of women in the 1950s.  Lucy was expected to keep house, take care of children (or in her case, child) and attend to her husband’s needs.  Husband Ricky was the breadwinner.  She took care of all domestic chores.  To Lucy, this life was mundane and she wanted the excitement of show business, something that Ricky experienced on a daily basis.  Ricky didn’t want his wife having a career.  Even when Lucy got her way and made her way onto the stage, she was still expected to return to her domestic duties.  In the only two-three cringe-worthy moments in I Love Lucy, Ricky actually spanks Lucy when she does something he doesn’t like.  Ricky keeps Lucy in her place and she usually always returns to domestic life even though it is apparent that she wants more.

In 1961, 24-year old Mary Tyler Moore was cast in The Dick Van Dyke Show.  She landed the star-making role of Laura Petrie, wife of Rob Petrie (Dick Van Dyke).  This role allowed Moore to showcase her talent for dancing and also her comedic skills. In addition to her excellent chemistry with Van Dyke, the role of Laura Petrie allowed Mary to establish one of her great comic shticks.  Where Lucille Ball’s comedy came from situations she got herself into, much of Mary’s comedy came from being embarrassed.  In the episode “My Blonde-Haired Brunette,” Laura decides that Rob has become uninterested in her.  Knowing that blondes like Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield are currently in vogue, Laura decides to make herself blonde.  She looks horrible as a blonde and Rob tells her over the phone that he loves her brown hair and he’s taking her out to dinner.  Desperate to change her hair before he comes home, she enlists friend Millie to help her.  Unfortunately, Rob arrives home when Laura’s hair is only half dyed.  She comes out with her half and half hair and collapses into a blubbering mess.  Mary Tyler Moore became one of the all-time best criers on television.  Even though Rob encouraged his wife to explore her talents, Laura Petrie ultimately was still a housewife and was expected to take care of son Ritchie and their home.  Laura somewhat bridges the gap between Lucy Ricardo and Mary Richards.


Which brings us to The Mary Tyler Moore Show.  The Dick Van Dyke Show ended in 1966 after a very successful five-year run on television.  Between 1966-1970, Mary was having trouble finding her next project.  She tried movies.  Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967) was successful, but did not lead to any big projects.  In 1969, Mary and Dick reunited for a special called, Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman.  In this variety special, Mary and Dick portray themselves and through a variety of song and dance routines, it shows off the various sides of Mary and Dick’s musical comedy talents.  This special paved the way for Mary to get her own show.  In 1970, The Mary Tyler Moore Show premiered.

In The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Mary portrayed Mary Richards, a newly single 30-year old woman who moves to Minneapolis to start a new life and career after her long-term relationship fizzles out.  Mary moves into a fantastic studio apartment managed by longtime friend, Phyllis Lindstrom (Cloris Leachman).  Soon to be BFF, Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper), lives upstairs.  Applying for a secretarial position at WJM News, Mary lands the job of Associate Producer.  WJM’s news is the lowest rated news program in the city.  Mary’s new co-workers include the brash, but secretly a softie, Lou Grant (Ed Asner), sarcastic and disillusioned writer Murray Slaughter (Gavin McLeod) and the buffoonish, arrogant anchorman, Ted Baxter (Ted Knight).  Later, Sue Ann Nivens (Betty White) who hosts “The Happy Homemaker” program at WJM and Georgette Franklin (Georgia Engel) join the gang.  Georgette ends up becoming Mrs. Ted Baxter.


Mary Richards in many ways is the ideal woman of the 1970s (and maybe even now).  She’s gainfully employed and makes enough money to live independently.  She has many friends and even a close-knit group of co-workers who in many ways serve as a surrogate family for Mary.  While she would like to be married and have children, she isn’t desperate to have them.  She goes on dates and it is even implied that she spends the night with some of them.  She’s on The Pill!  Prior to 1970, were there any female television characters that even had sex, let alone were on The Pill? Mother characters don’t count.  Mary lived her own life according to her own terms.  There were times when Mary was a bit of a pushover and naive, but this is where the Rhoda and Lou characters came in handy–they were able to express their concerns to Mary in hopes that she’d make the right decision.  Throughout the 1970s, Mary Richards approached uncharted territory.  In an early episode, she discovers that the man who had her job before her made $50 more a week than she does.  She confronts Lou and demands to know why; In the fifth season, Mary faces the possibility of jail time for not revealing her news source; In the seventh season, Mary becomes hooked on sleeping pills. These are just a few examples.

Without further ado, my top 10 favorite episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

(This definitely isn’t meant to imply that I am not a fan of the other 158 episodes of the show)


1. Put On a Happy Face (Season 3, Ep. 23)

Mary Richards is having a really bad week.  She’s late to work after her alarm fails to go off; She drips coffee on her new sweater before a meeting; she gets a flat tire; her paper bags fail causing her to drop her groceries all over the floor; she slips on the freshly waxed floor and sprains her ankle after trying to walk to the ladies’ room to fix her “hair bump”; she catches a cold from soaking her sprained foot; her date to the Teddy Awards bails; she ends up going to the award show with a “Robert Redford-type” (aka Ted Baxter); the dry cleaner ruins her dress; her hair dryer breaks; she gets a run in her stocking; it starts raining… This all culminates with Mary showing up at the Teddy Awards in a tacky dress, one wet slipper and one shoe, wearing a yellow rain slicker and haphazard hair.  Her false eyelash falls off.  She of course wins the Teddy Award she was nominated for and ends up a blubbering mess on the podium, only managing to apologize for her appearance.  She gets her award, and Mary is spelled wrong.  Of course it is.

*This is my favorite episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

2. The Dinner Party (Season 4, Ep. 10)

It’s time for another of Mary’s disastrous parties.  For someone who is so pleasant and well-liked by her co-workers and friends, it becomes a running gag in the series that she can’t seem to give a good party to save her life.  Nothing that happens at her parties is ever her fault, it just seems like everyone likes to bring their troubles to her parties.  In this party, Mary has invited Congresswoman Geddes as her guest of honor.  Her table only seats six.  The guests will be: Congresswoman Geddes, Mary, Lou, Rhoda, Murray and Sue Ann (who is cooking the dinner).  Sue Ann cooks exactly six portions of “Veal Prince Orloff.”  Rhoda shows up with a date (Henry Winkler) who has just been fired from Hempels and she feels bad.  Lou ends up taking 3 portions of Veal Prince Orloff and has to return two portions to the platter.  Ted, who was not invited to the dinner party, shows up to dessert.

3. The Lars Affair (Season 4, Ep. 1)

This is the funniest Phyllis episode.  This episode also introduces the Sue Ann Nivens character.  In this episode, Phyllis learns that husband Lars and Sue Ann are having an affair after meeting at Mary’s party.  Phyllis agonizes over the fact that her husband is cheating on her and even bakes a pie in an attempt to compete with Sue Ann.  The episode culminates with a confrontation on the set of “The Happy Homemaker” where Sue Ann refuses to give Lars up even after Phyllis points out all of his faults.  Sue Ann finally relents when Mary gives her an ultimatum, stating that being a homewrecker wouldn’t be a great image for “The Happy Homemaker,” it’s either Lars or her show.

4. Rhoda the Beautiful (Season 3, Ep. 6)

Perpetual dieter Rhoda has finally reached her goal.  Mary, Phyllis and the WJM staff give her praise but Rhoda cannot accept any of the compliments and meets each kind statement with a self-deprecating remark.  She ends up entering her department store’s “Miss Hempel Beauty Pageant.”  After a hilarious scene where Mary and Phyllis help Rhoda find something to wear (and Phyllis sings “10 Cents a Dance” from Love Me or Leave Me), Rhoda leaves for the pageant.  She looks fantastic and wins the contest.  Rhoda is finally able to admit that she looks good.

5. You Try to Be a Nice Guy (Season 5, Ep. 21)

Mary ends up becoming reacquainted with Sherry, a prostitute she met in jail while she was incarcerated for not revealing her news source.  Sherry got out of jail but was arrested again.  She recruits Mary to be a character witness at her court appearance.  Sherry is relying on a good character witness like Mary to keep her out of jail.  Mary agrees but unwittingly becomes responsible for Sherry’s behavior after having to give an oath promising to help Sherry look for legitimate work.  Mary, taking her oath seriously, is determined to find a decent job for Sherry but struggles since Sherry doesn’t have any marketable skills.  Finally, Sherry tells Mary that she wants to be a fashion designer.  Mary encourages her to pursue her dream.  To thank her, Sherry makes Mary a custom gown.  It ends up being a ridiculous, green colored concoction with lots of cutouts across Mary’s stomach and legs.  Only Mary Tyler Moore could wear this dress and not look atrocious, but it is so tacky and so completely not Mary Richards, that she looks ridiculous.  Ted and Georgette happen to show up at the same time Mary is wearing this dress and Ted can’t keep it together.  His reaction is the funniest part of the episode.

6. The Last Show (Season 7, Ep. 24)

All good things must come to an end and The Mary Tyler Moore Show unfortunately reached that point in 1977. I personally think they could have continued a couple more years, but it’s good that the show ended before the episodes started diminishing in quality.  In what is perhaps one of the best (if not the best) series finales of all time, the WJM crew (with the exception of Ted) learn that they are going to be fired.  Though they’re trying to repress their emotions, they finally let it all out after the end of their last newscast.  It’s hard to watch this scene without getting at least a little teary-eyed. Lou and Mary emotionally give speeches to everyone.  This culminates with the group sobbing in a large group hug.  Ted (or maybe Lou?) says he needs Kleenex and they move in one big glob toward the Kleenex box.  To lighten the mood, they sing “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary,” and leave the room.  Mary is left to turn off the lights. Thus ending The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

7. Sue Ann’s Sister (Season 7, Ep. 3)

Sue Ann’s sister Lila is in town.  Sue Ann is deeply jealous of Lila as it seems that every time Sue Ann gets something, Lila comes around and steals it from her.  Upon arrival, Lila and Lou immediately become chummy, which infuriates Sue Ann.  Lila then announces that she is interviewing for a “Happy Homemaker” type show on a rival network. This latest news is just too much for Sue Ann and she retreats to her bedroom.  The scene in Sue Ann’s bedroom is the funniest part of the entire episode.  Her bedroom is frilly gaudy.  She sleeps in a round bed, which we learn also vibrates.  She’s also got Tchaikovsky’s “Love Theme” from “Romeo and Juliet” queued up to play whenever I imagine she’s got something hot and heavy going on.  The best scene is when Ted walks in, looks up, and straightens his hat and tie–telling the audience about Sue Ann’s mirrored ceiling.

8. I Was a Single for WJM (Season 4, Ep. 24)

Inspired by the popularity of a local singles bar, WJM News decides to do a feature on the singles scene in Minneapolis.  The crew spends time at the bar each evening looking to find an “angle” for their story.  By Friday, Mary has become acquainted with many of the regulars and hopes to use them in WJM’s story.  When the singles become aware of the plan for cameras to enter their hangout and interview them, they become camera shy and leave in droves.  By the time the news starts, the bar is empty and Mary and co. are forced to improvise.

9. Edie Gets Married (Season 6, Ep. 1)

In this very emotional episode, Lou finds out that ex-wife Edie is planning on remarrying.  While he knows there isn’t a chance of them getting back together, Lou is still having trouble admitting that that aspect of his life (he & Edie) is over.  In a goodwill gesture, Edie invites Lou to her wedding.  Lou doesn’t know if he wants to attend, but ultimately does.  With Mary as his date, Lou very graciously and stoically watches his ex-wife tie the knot with someone else.  Originally Mary was supposed to provide moral support, but by the end of the ceremony, she’s a blubbery mess.  Lou then wishes Edie the best of luck in her marriage and Mary loses it completely.  Lou ends up taking her to the bar to console her.

10. The Square-Shaped Room (Season 2, Ep. 13)

Lou wants to surprise wife Edie with a makeover of their living room.  He plans to hire an old “designer” friend who currently decorates bus stations.  Mary suggests Rhoda, whose vocation is window decorator.  Lou hires Rhoda.  Rhoda agonizes over the right details for the room and finally settles for an all white motif with modern design.  The bookshelves appear to be made of white PVC piping.  There’s lots of white, shag, PVC and glass and a big number “5” on the wall.  This room is not Lou’s style at all and Rhoda has to return the room to its original state–however, there’s one change that Lou and Edie liked–the white walls.

The great thing about The Mary Tyler Moore Show, was that despite the show being named after its star, it was truly an ensemble show.  While Mary was in every episode, not every episode centered around Mary.  Every character had their own story lines and chances in the spotlight.  This is one of the few shows where the main characters were fleshed out.  We knew each character’s backstory, frustrations, successes, etc.  What I also loved about this show is how effortlessly they blended drama with comedy.  Lou had many very emotional moments (especially when dealing with Edie) and the show was able to easily add levity to a situation without undermining the scene.

In the famous “Chuckles Bites the Dust” episode, Chuckles the Clown dies.  Not funny stuff.  Chuckles was dressed as a peanut and a rogue elephant tried to shell him.  His death is absurd and tragic.  Lou, Murray and Sue Ann get all the jokes out of the way in the first half of the episode.  Mary is mortified at her co-workers’ lack of sensitivity.  At the funeral, the co-workers are able to provide the somberness required for the occasion.  Mary, on the other hand, finally realizes the absurdity of the situation and can’t stop laughing during the pastor’s eulogy.  However, laughing at a funeral would be a very un-Mary Richards like thing to do–her laughter quickly turns to loud sobs.  It is a testament to Mary Tyler Moore’s talent that she was able to switch from laughter to crying so quickly and realistically.

Goodbye Mary.  You had spunk!