Something for the Birds

The California condor plays a key role in a major Hollywood film released in 1952. No actual birds appear in the movie but the condor’s part is essential nonetheless.

I found a DVD of Something for the Birds (Twentieth Century Fox, 2013) and so will let “screen captures” provide basic information about the film, along with 2 condor caricatures:

01a Something for the Birds

01b Something for the Birds

01c Something for the Birds

While this romantic comedy is not well-regarded as a movie, its principals are. During their careers, actors Neal and Gwenn both won Oscars, as did director Robert Wise.

Here are a few condor-related plot details:

Patricia Neal’s character is a Stanford University ornithologist/professor who visits Washington, D.C. to lobby on behalf of the SPCC, the Society for the Preservation of the California Condor

Neal’s character explains that the condor is “the biggest, rarest, noblest bird in the country” and that she is “trying to save the California condor from extermination”

Other characters dismiss condors as “silly birds” and “homeless vultures”

A fake newspaper created for the film describes Neal’s character as the “Condors’ Joan-of-Arc”:

02 Something for the Birds

One of the more amusing scenes finds Victor Mature’s character surprised by a slide show about the condor:

03 Something for the Birds

Another scene – at the Smithsonian Institution – has Neal and Mature’s characters examining a specimen of the passenger pigeon. There is mention of the Carolina parakeet, heath hen, and great auk – and concern that the California condor also faces extinction.

The New York Times was not impressed with the film. The review in the 15 November 1952 issue dismisses the movie as a “run-of-the-mill offering”. Patricia Neal’s character is described as

a zealot intent on preserving California’s bird life.

The California condor did not even earn a mention by name in the review.

I have not provided more details about the film so as not to spoil it. Despite the opinion of the New York Times, I urge all California condor enthusiasts to find and watch Something for the Birds.