Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Ann-Margret belts out title tune in Bye Bye Birdie
BYE BYE BIRDIE (1963). Director: George Sidney.

When Elvis-type rock singer Conrad Birdie (Jesse Pearson) is drafted, a plan is developed whereupon he will kiss a lucky girl, Kim (Ann-Margret), goodbye on the Ed Sullivan show. Songwriter Albert Peterson (Dick Van Dyke), whose song Birdie will sing, hopes this will lead to lasting success as a composer, while his secretary, Rosie (Janet Leigh), hopes it will lead to their marriage. Kim's father (Paul Lynde) hopes that his daughter's Sullivan appearance will lead to more business, while her boyfriend, (Bobby Rydell), just wants to belt Conrad in the nose. Albert's mother (Maureen Stapleton) seems only to want to take pot shots at Rosie ... and so on. But will a substitute ballet selection mean that Birdie and Kim will have to be bounced from the show, dashing everyone's hopes? Based on the Broadway stage musical, this adaptation is good-natured and pleasant but overall not that memorable. Ann-Margret at 22 seems way too sophisticated for a small town high school girl, and is in fact borderline grotesque at times. Maureen Stapleton, who doesn't seem to know how to kvetch, gives one of her rare bad performances. Van Dyke, Leigh, Sullivan [playing himself] and Rydell come off the best, with Lynde not far behind. Pearson isn't bad as the ersatz Elvis, but he's generally a bit too much, overdoing everything -- less would have been a lot more. Some of the songs make an impression: "Ed Sullivan;" "Put on a Happy Face" (which has become a standard); "Kids:' and the whole splashy production number "Got a Lot of Livin' to Do." The finale has the principles sabotaging a sequence from a Tchaikovsky ballet just so Conrad can sing Albert's forgettable number "One Last Kiss." Oy vey!

Verdict: Pleasant but not much more. **1/2.


Neil A Russell said...

You ever have one of those moments where you feel like someone has gone back in time and made a change and you're the only one that is affected by it?

I'm having one now!

I would have sworn and bet lots of money that Conrad Birdie was played by Dick Shawn (Marshal Bing Bell from "Evil Roy Slade" as the most obscure credit I can give him).

I even went to the IMDB to confirm what was stored in my apparently sieve-like memory thinking I was going to bust you out on a movie credit!

Well the joke's on me it seems.

I think I'll make a drink and peer out the window in abject paranoia for a while.

William said...

Yes, I've had one of those moments. More than once, I'm afraid. I actually seemed to remember that Conrad Birdie was played by Harve Presnell, so don't feel bad!

What's even scarier is when you're sure you've positively absolutely never seen a movie, and it turns out you have. For years I was sure I'd never seen Hud with Paul Newman until I came across notes I'd made on it when I saw it. Completely forgot about it for some reason, and it's not a bad picture.

On the other hand, sometimes our memories get it just right, for instance when we recall a scene from a movie or TV show we saw in childhood, and when we see it again literally decades later, it turns out we remembered it exactly. Well, maybe not exactly, but close, LOL.

I could use a drink myself.

Best, Bill

Unknown said...

Sharing your paranoia, I too have a memory of Dick Shawn playing this role in some version of Bye Bye Birdie that I saw. Cannot find any reference to it online.

William said...

Ha, maybe he was in a version on Broadway or on the road or in London or something ... ? If Dick Shawn were still alive we could ask him, but unfortunately, he died in 1987.

Anyway, thanks for your comment.