Bye Bye Birdie (1963)

Fifty-eight years ago today, the film Bye Bye Birdie premiered. This movie is so mid 60s, you will wish you were there.

Title: Bye Bye Birdie
Directed by: George Sidney
Produced by: Fred Kohlmar
Screenplay by: rving Brecher
Based on: Bye Bye Birdie by Michael Stewart
Starring: Janet Leigh, Dick Van Dyke, Ann-Margret, Maureen Stapleton, Bobby Rydell, Paul Lynde, Jesse Pearson, Ed Sullivan
Music by: Johnny Green (score), Charles Strouse (songs), Lee Adams (lyrics)
Cinematography: Joseph Biroc
Edited by: Charles Nelson
Production Company: The Kohlmar-Sidney Company
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures
Release date: April 4, 1963
Running time: 112 minutes
Country: United States
Language: English
Box office: $13.1 million

In 1958, Conrad Birdie (Jesse Pearson), a popular rock and roll star, receives an Army draft notice, devastating his teenage fans across the nation. Albert Peterson (Dick Van Dyke) is an unsuccessful songwriter, and music is the family business, although he has a doctorate in biochemistry. He schemes with his secretary and long-suffering girlfriend Rosie DeLeon (Janet Leigh) to have Conrad sing a song Albert will write. Rosie convinces Ed Sullivan to have Conrad perform Albert’s song “One Last Kiss” on The Ed Sullivan Show, and then kiss a randomly chosen high school girl goodbye before going off to the Army. Once he achieves this success, Albert will feel free to marry Rosie, despite his widowed, meddlesome mother Mae’s (Maureen Stapleton) long history of ensuring nothing will come between her and her beloved son.

Columbus, Ohio, is chosen as the location for Conrad’s farewell performance. The random lucky girl chosen is Kim MacAfee (Ann-Margret), who is thrilled. Kim already has a high school sweetheart, Hugo Peabody (Bobby Rydell), who is not so thrilled. The teenagers of Sweet Apple, blissfully unaware of their town’s impending fame, are spending the “Telephone Hour” catching up on the latest gossip: Kim and Hugo have just gotten pinned (a tradition where a boy gives a girl his fraternity pin, indicating a serious commitment to each other)[4] and Kim feels grown up (“How Lovely to be a Woman”).

When Conrad arrives in town, the teenaged girls sing their anthem, “We Love You Conrad”, but the boys despise him for stealing their girls’ attention (“We Hate You Conrad!”). Sweet Apple becomes a very popular place, but some of the local adults are unhappy with the sudden celebrity, especially after Conrad’s “Honestly Sincere” song coupled with his hip-thrusting moves causes every female, beginning with the mayor’s wife, to faint.

Under pressure from the town’s notable citizens, Kim’s father Harry MacAfee (Paul Lynde) is unwilling to allow his daughter to kiss Conrad on television, until Albert placates him by promising that his “whole family” will be on Sullivan’s TV show (“Hymn for a Sunday Evening”). Albert reveals to Harry that he is actually a biochemist who has developed a miracle supplement for domestic animals that will make a hen lay three eggs a day; they test it on the family’s pet tortoise, which speeds out the door. Harry, a fertilizer salesman, sees a great future for himself in partnership with Albert marketing this pill.

Hugo feels threatened by Conrad, but Kim reassures him that he is the “One Boy” for her. Rosie, meanwhile, feels that Albert does not appreciate her, so Albert persuades her to “Put On A Happy Face”. Albert’s mother Mae shows up, distressed to find Albert and Rosie together; Harry is also agitated about the way Conrad is taking over his house and the changes in Kim’s behavior. Harry and Mae lament what is wrong with these “Kids” today.

During rehearsal for the broadcast, an impatient Conrad kisses Kim (who swoons). Hugo is hurt and Kim and Hugo break up, with all three asserting that they have “A Lot of Livin’ to Do”. Albert is informed the Russian Ballet has switched to a different dance requiring extra time, therefore eliminating Conrad’s song and farewell kiss to Kim. His attempts to convince the Ballet’s manager to shorten its performance fail, and a defeated and dejected Albert decides to drown his sorrows at Maude’s Madcap Café.

To Albert’s surprise, he finds Mae there, playing canasta with Mr. Maude, the cafe’s owner and a widower himself. Rosie, fed up with Albert and his mother, also goes to the café for “a night to remember”. After ordering three drinks (but only gulping down one), Rosie goes into another room where the Shriners convention is taking place. She starts dancing and flirting with the men (“Sultans’ Ballet”), but when the scene gets too wild, Albert rescues her from the crazed Shriners.

Next day, Rosie comes up with the solution to get back Conrad’s spot on The Ed Sullivan Show that evening. She slips one of Albert’s pills into the orchestra conductor’s milk, which speeds up the ballet, amusing the audience, offending the Russians and placing Conrad back on the show to sing “One Last Kiss”. However, just as Conrad is about to kiss Kim, Hugo runs onstage and knocks him out with one punch on the live telecast, which shocks Albert and Rosie.

Kim and Hugo reunite. Albert is free to marry now (“Rosie”) and his mother agrees, revealing her own marriage to Mr. Maude. All three couples live happily ever after. Kim, now wiser, bids Conrad a fond goodbye in “Bye Bye Birdie (Reprise)”.

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