Lone Wolf Sullivan is a writer, songwriter, and studio musician.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

BYE BYE BIRDIE (1963) * * *

In 1958 Conrad Birdie (Jesse Pearson) a rock'n'roll superstar similar to Elvis Presley is drafted into the army. His agent and songwriter Albert F. Peterson (Dick van Dyke) wants one last hit record with lots of publicity before Conrad is sent to the army. He plans to have Conrad sing "One Last Kiss" live on the ED SULLIVAN TV show and give one lucky girl from his fan club a kiss on TV.

The fan chosen at random is Kim McAfee (Ann-Margret) of Sweet Apple, Ohio. Conrad and Albert visit the small town and turn several lives upside down. Kim's father Harry (Paul Lynde) becomes obsessed, her boyfriend Hugo Peabody (Bobby Rydell) becomes jealous, and Conrad tires of show business and teaches the kids how to party, which gets him in trouble with the law. Complications arise when everyone, including Albert's clinging mother Mama Mae Peterson (Maureen Stapleton) and his girlfriend Rosie DeLeon (Janet Leigh) descend on Sweet Apple.

Harry McAfee says: "No matter how many millions I make selling Speed-up, I'll still be the same humble, lovable guy I always was. And if any of those hicks try to push me around, I'll break 'em... The next time I have a daughter, I hope it's a boy!" Randolph McAfee (Bryan Russel) says, "I respect ya, Papa." Harry replies, "I don't want your respect. Who wants respect from a ten-year old?"

Harry: "I know that showbiz type. I never told you this, but one summer I worked with the circus... all those midgets... wild! They're probably livin' in sin."
Doris: "Harry Lionel McAfee!"
Harry: "They've been engaged for six years. Don't tell me they haven't..."
Doris: "We were engaged for five years."
Harry: "He's not as stupid as I was."

Doris McAfee: "You know these adolescents. Kim'll lose face."
Harry McAfee: "And if I don't get him out that's not all she'll..."
(Conrad Birdie opens a can of beer, which sprays on Mr. McAfee)
Harry McAfee: "That's my favorite brand."
Kim McAfee: "Harry, do you have a cigarette? I've run out."
Harry McAfee: "So have I. How about my pipe?"

Rose DeLeon: "Well we could sure use the money. Any day now we'll have another mouth to feed."
Ed Sullivan: "Rosie, you're not even married."
Rose DeLeon: "His mother!"

Mae Peterson: "Now, don't try to pay me back, son. I forgive you. So what if you're an ingrate? So long as you're happy."
Albert Peterson: "I don't wanna be happy."
Mae Peterson: (sings) "Kids! Never once appreciate how I sacrificed. Working, slaving, scrimping, saving pennies... and livin' with your father!"
Albert Peterson: (sings) "Oh one last kiss... there never was such bliss... I love your dentifrice!"
Mae Peterson: "Goodbye, Rosie."
Rose DeLeon: "Goodbye, Mae."
Mae Peterson: "Call me Mrs. Peterson."

BYE BYE BIRDIE is the movie version of the Broadway musical satire first performed in New York City's Martin Beck Theatre on April 14, 1960. Dick van Dyke and Paul Lynde were also in the cast. The film changes the stage version somewhat, most notably by removing the satire. Nonetheless, it is pleasant, inventive, noisy, exuberant, frenetic, but dated and hard to follow. It has little reverence for popular culture, rock'n'roll, or family values.

Ann-Margret's knockout performance made her a star, paving the way for her to co-star with the real Elvis in VIVA LAS VEGAS (1964). Ed Sullivan makes a substantial guest appearance. Some viewers praise the film as classic 1960's camp, while others disapprove of the changes to the original play. It's a little corny, but has great style, lots of laughs, plus good singing, dancing, and choreography.

Others in the cast include: Mary LaRoche (Doris McAfee), Michael Evans (Claude Paisley), Robert Paige (Bob Precht), Gregory Morton (Maestro Borov), Milton Frome (Mr. Maude), Frandk Alberton (Sam), Trudi Ames (Ursula), Cyril Delevanti (Mr. Nebbitt), Gil Lamb (Lanky Shriner), Hazel Shermet (Marge), and many others. Michael Stewart wrote the play and Irving Brecher wrote the screenplay. Charles Strouse wrote the music and Lee Adams wrote the lyrics. George Sidney directed.

Only 11 of the 16 stageplay songs are used in the movie. The songs are: "The Telephone Hour", "Put On a Happy Face", "Kids", "Bye Bye Birdie", "How Lovely To Be a Woman", "One Boy", "Honestly Sincere", "Hymn for a Sunday Evening", "One Last Kiss", "A Lot of Living to Do", "Rosie", and "The Shriner's Ballet".

BYE BYE BIRDIE (1995) is a TV movie adaptation starring Jason Alexander as Albert Peterson, Vanessa Williams as Rose Alvarez, Marc Kudisch as Conrad Birdie, and Chynna Phillips as Kim MacAfee. Performances are good, although this version is not quite as good as the original. It stays close to the stageplay, which is problematic because a movie is not a play. And director Gene Saks often comments on the 1950's and 60's in general, rather than what's in the script. Rosie DeLeon is called Rose Alvarez as in the play, and McAfee is likewise MacAfee. Three mediocre songs are added: "Let's Settle Down", "A Mother Doesn't Matter Anymore", and "A Giant Step".

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