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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Bye Bye Birdie (1963)

When popular rock 'n roll star Conrad Birdie (Jesse Pearson) is drafted into the Army, the longtime girlfriend (Janet Leigh) of an unsuccessful songwriter (Dick Van Dyke, recreating his stage role) arranges to have the rock star to sing one of her boyfriend's songs on the Ed Sullivan (who plays himself) Show. A typical teen age girl (Ann-Margret) is selected to represent Birdie's fan to receive a kiss from him on the show. But everything soon snowballs into a potential disaster. Based on the 1960 hit Broadway musical, no one who saw the 1963 film when it opened will ever forget the image of that pouting sex kitten in the yellow dress rushing toward the camera on a treadmill as she gyrated to the title song. We all knew we were seeing a star being born before our very eyes. The film itself is a delightful good natured musical satire with hummable songs by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams, wonderful dances by Onna White (OLIVER!) and an ingratiating cast. Leigh is lovely though miscast, even with a black wig she doesn't come across believably as a Latina and her role has been downscaled from the Broadway show in order to build up Ann-Margret's part. Her Shriner's dance remains a highlight, however. Directed by George Sidney. With Maureen Stapleton, Paul Lynde, Bobby Rydell, Mary LaRoche and Frank Albertson.

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