Bye Bye Birdie (1963)
On Wednesday, March 4th, Movies at Mothers returns when we present the perennial musical comedy favorite from 1963, Bye Bye Birdie, Directed by George Sidney and starring Ann-Margret, Dick Van Dyke, Janet Leigh, Paul Lynde and Ed Sullivan.
Pop music sensation Conrad Birdie (Jesse Pearson) has been drafted into the United States Army, and mass hysteria has overcome his (largely female) fan base. It’s particularly bad news for struggling songwriter Albert Peterson (Dick Van Dyke), who’s latest tune, “One Last Kiss”, potentially Birdie’s next big hit, will have to wait until his obligation to Uncle Sam is satisfied. Fortunately, Albert’s devoted fiancée and business partner Rosie DeLeon (Janet Leigh) has concocted a scheme whereby Birdie will perform the tune In Sweet Apple, Ohio while simulcast on the Ed Sullivan Show. At the close of the song, the president of the Sweet Apple Conrad Birdie Fan Club, Kim McAfee (Ann-Margret), will receive from her idol, “one last kiss”. The plan seems perfect, but for possible resistance from Kim’s dad, Harry (Paul Lynde) and her boyfriend, Hugo Peabody (Bobby Rydell).
Perhaps because the Lee Adams and Charles Strouse stage musical, written in 1958, has been performed by countless high school drama clubs, it’s easy to forget how the original piece serves as a send up of both Eisenhower-era American idealism as well as the cynicism behind media-manufactured and packaged pop icons. Sweet Apple, Ohio in turn serves as the flashpoint where Middle America, youth culture, Rock and Roll, media fed mass hysteria and even a small helping of Cold War politics collide.
Conrad Birdie himself is something of an empty vessel into whom everyone pours their hopes and dreams, so it’s not really surprising that when asked to play the character that was clearly modeled from him, Elvis Presley was encouraged by his handlers to pass on the part. So what we lose with Elvis’ absence, we more than make up for with the presence of Ann-Margret who amply embodies the persona of the corn fed all-American (she’s Swedish actually) girl. With her stunning title number, clad in a snug summer dress in front of a solid blue field, she became herself an icon of both bubbling sexuality and wide-eyed innocence in way that doesn’t even seem possible today.
An interesting side-note; Director George Sidney and Ann-Margret would re-team one year following the production of Bye Bye Birdie to make Viva Las Vegas, starring…you guessed it, Elvis Presley. Not only would it prove Elvis’ best film, but in terms of star-power, it was the only one where his female co-star would prove his equal.
The excitement begins at 6:30 when you can enjoy one of the best dinners in town, followed by the screening at 7:00 PM. Hope to see you there!
Mothers is located at 212 SW. Stark.