Style Icon: Annie Hayworth

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Last year I was lucky enough to go to an open air screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s film ‘The Birds’. It was a magical night, with the sun setting behind us and the film projected onto the side of a castle. But aside from the memory of the experience, I also came away that evening with a new style obsession.

‘The Birds’ was released in 1963, and for those who haven’t seen it, the main character is a spoiled socialite and notorious practical joker called Melanie Daniels, who one day goes shopping in a San Francisco pet store when she meets the hunky Mitch Brenner. Mitch is looking to buy a pair of love birds for his young sister’s birthday; he recognizes Melanie but pretends to mistake her for an assistant. She decides to simultaneously get her own back and flirt with him by buying the birds and following him to the quiet coastal town of Bodega Bay, where Mitch spends his weekends. As the weekend progresses, strange occurrences related to Bodega Bay’s bird population become increasingly more frequent and sinister. I’ll leave it there in case you get round to watching it yourself.

Melanie Daniels, played by starlet and former model Tippi Hedren, is clearly meant to be the style icon of the piece, but I would argue that  the secondary female character, Annie Hayworth, makes a more compelling pitch for the title. Annie Hayworth, played by Suzanne Pleshette, is the lovely local school teacher who was drawn from the city to Bodega Bay in an attempt to remain close to Mitch after their relationship faltered, despite having accepted that nothing more than friendship would ever materialise. Her self-induced melancholy translated into sultry stares into the middle distance and her tragic tale delivered in Pleshette’s naturally husky voice are the stuff true fictional icons are made of.

Annie Hayworth is perhaps surprisingly accepting of Brenner’s new love interest Melanie Daniels, and with a sense resignation even offers a kind of guarded friendship towards the flashy blonde. Like yin and yang, the scenes in which they both appear are like watching night and day in the same room. Pleshette’s warm, earthy character is a perfect contrast to the icy blonde beauty Melanie Daniels. To quote the ever insightful Gertie, ‘Gentlemen may prefer blondes, but I’ve always loved the drama of dark hair’, so perhaps I’m naturally drawn to a brooding brunette over an untouchable porcelain ice-queen such as Melanie. Also, having since read a little about the actress Suzanne Pleshette (yes, I was that effected by the film!) by all accounts she was a vivacious and fun loving individual with a love of sharing dirty jokes whilst on-set, so perhaps the appeal of Annie Hayworth has now fused in my mind with my vision of the zesty Pleshette. Anyway, how can you make the distinction between when a character ends and the actor begins!

Stylistically, the silhouettes of Hayworth’s outfits are similar to the more fashionable Daniels’, but Hayworth’s garments also reflect the colder climate of Bodega Bay as well as her profession.  Muted, moody and earthy tones seem to have been the costumier’s palette for the character, but I would argue they fail to subdue Annie’s restrained sexiness. I don’t know what Mitch Brenner was thinking!

Zoe Edwards   —  

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Comments 9

M thelazymilliner.blogspot.com

I only know of the fun-loving Suzanne from the Bob Newhart show. I may have to watch this movie now!

lsaspacey lifeisexamined.blogspot.com

Excellent observations! In fact, you just made me realize that Hitchcock set up the same situation in two other of his films. Though these character’s were definitely NOT the same as Annie in looks and sexuality, he did play dark-haired Thelma Ritter (Stella) against Grace Kelly (Lisa) in Rear Window and dirty blond Barbara Bel Geddes (Midge and Dallas’ Miss Ellie!) against Kim Novak (Judy/Madeleine) in Vertigo. The cool blond versus the stand-up, straight-talking earthy girl.

Zoe sozowhatdoyouknow.blogspot.com

ooooh, thanks so much for that observation! Really interesting. In fact, I hope yu don’t mind but I quoted you on my own blog (all acredited and linked, naturally):
http://sozowhatdoyouknow.blogspot.com/2010/05/annie-hayworth-vs-suzanne-pleshette.html

Thanks again!

Kathryn

I haven’t seen the movie since I was a kid, but I remember it over stuff I watched on cable last week – very memorable. I have to agree with you, I always thought that the Annie Hayworth character was better match for the male lead.

ruby slippers rubyslippersvintage.blogspot.com

how fun, i love open air screenings!! this is such a great movie, i have it to thank for my bird phobia lol. great fashion inspiration!!

Yellie

“The Birds” is one of my all time favorites. Whenever I drive through Bodega Bay, I wander a bit in the tiny area where the film was made. It’s quite serene, magical and I can see why that location was chosen for the film. A perfect foil for the actors too. Suzanne Pleshette is such a beauty! Thank you for recapturing the nuances of this amazing film.

lsaspacey lifeisexamined.blogspot.com

Zoe, as I read your blog separately, I was pleasantly surprised to see my name there today. No problem at all!

I just remembered another one actually, Dianne Baker (Lil) vs. Tippi Hendren (Marnie) in Hitchcock’s Marnie. I can’t believe I forgot that one! She is definately more in line with Suzanne (Annie) than the others were. In fact, her character had a similar relationship (past lovers) with the male lead too.

Denise

I, too, find the character of Annie Hayworth very interesting. As I live at an elevation of 8600′ in the Colorado Rockies, my wardrobe tends towards sweaters & lots of fleece! Would love to invite Annie over for a cup of tea and a chat.

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