A singer goes to a small town for a performance before he is drafted
|Release Date||:||April 4, 1963|
|Genres||:||Drama, Comedy, Music|
|Production Company||:||Columbia Pictures Corporation, Kohlmar-Sidney Productions|
|Production Countries||:||United States of America|
|Writers||:||Irving Brecher, Michael Stewart|
|Casts||:||Janet Leigh, Dick Van Dyke, Ann-Margret, Maureen Stapleton, Bobby Rydell, Jesse Pearson, Paul Lynde, Mary LaRoche, Michael Evans, Robert Paige, Gregory Morton, Ed Sullivan, Trudi Ames, Bryan Russell, Milton Frome, Frank Sully, Frank Albertson, Lee Aaker|
|Plot Keywords||:||small town, ohio, musical, song, singer, secretary, rock and roll star|
Although George Sidney directed some classic MGM musicals, his adaptation of the Tony-winning Broadway hit, "Bye Bye Birdie" for Columbia is not often mentioned. The oversight is unfair, because "Birdie" is a lively, tuneful, and often inventive film musical. Where "Grease" strove to create nostalgia by invoking the 1950's and 60's, "Birdie" was filmed in 1963 and is the real thing. Although the music is generally more Broadway than late-50's rock, the film includes a genuine 1950's teen heartthrob in Bobby Rydell, and an authentic icon of the period in Ed Sullivan. Both Rydell and Sullivan were still popular when the film was made and, unlike the bygone stars in "Grease," were not dragged from the attic for walk-ons.
Conrad Birdie, a thinly disguised Elvis, has been drafted. Aspiring songwriter, Dick Van Dyke, and his secretary, Janet Leigh in an awful black wig, concoct a plan to have Birdie bestow a goodbye kiss on one lucky girl and sing a song to be written by Van Dyke. All of this to take place on the "Ed Sullivan Show." Ann -Margret from Sweetwater, Ohio, is the lucky girl.
Although Ann-Margret is a bit hot to be the steady of Bobby Rydell, she is dynamite on the dance floor and smolders during her numbers. Obviously, the director and producer fell in love with her, and she upstages everyone, including two members of the original Broadway cast, Van Dyke and Paul Lynde. However, Lynde does hold his own as Ann-Margret's father, and he has an amusing musical number in "Kids." Also funny is Maureen Stapleton, who stomps around in sensible shoes and a fur coat as Van Dyke's mother. To Leigh's frustration, Stapleton does everything to keep her "baby" from falling into marriage and out of her control.
"Bye Bye Birdie" has a number of good songs, some lively choreography, and clever effects that distinguish it from the more traditional musicals like "Show Boat" that Sidney directed for MGM. Although Van Dyke has the central role, he is not a standout. Perhaps the part of Albert Peterson was meant to be a bland foil for the two women in his life, who spar for control. Although Leigh is miscast as Rosie DeLeon, a Latina part that belongs to Chita Rivera, she does well despite the wig. However, Ann-Margret opens the film, closes the film, and, in between, sizzles and dazzles in a star-making role.