Classic film reviews: Bye, Bye Birdie

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Brenda Fellman

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Bye, Bye Birdie – The Plot

Bye, Bye Birdie is a musical released in 1963. When super-star Birdie is drafted into the army to fight in Vietnam, there is an outcry from the nation’s teenage girls. Rosie, assistant and fiancée to Albert, a struggling song writer, decides to capitalise on this situation by convincing the Ed Sullivan show to air Birdie’s goodbye performance. Albert would make commission from the event by writing the song One Last Kiss, and Birdie would kiss a fan at the end, a girl to symbolise all of his female fans. The fan chosen for this role is Kim McAfee from a small town called Sweet Apple, Ohio. Kim’s boyfriend, Hugo, is not happy about this. Hijinks and hilarity ensue when these two worlds collide.

Bye, Bye Birdie - Classic Film Reviews

This musical is so much fun and very entertaining to watch. The cast is amazing and you find yourself loving every bit of the film. Dick Van Dyke is fantastic in his first big screen role, as he reprises his role as Albert from the Broadway production.   Jesse Pearson is a thinly-veiled parody of Elvis, and is hilarious as an over-the-top big-headed star living it up right before he heads off to basic training. Janet Leigh demonstrates her impressive dance skills throughout the entire film. Ann-Margret pulls off a stellar performance portraying a character that must deal with navigating her first real relationship and the earth-shattering excitement of meeting and kissing her celebrity crush. The rest of the cast pull together to make this an all-around fantastic film.

There are two interesting cameo appearances in the film: Ed Sullivan, host of the Ed Sullivan Show, appeared as himself, and at the start of the film, seasoned radio and TV newsman John Daly came on to announce Birdies conscription into the army. John Daly was the man who announced the attack on Pearl Harbor and the death of President Franklin D Roosevelt.

The songs are catchy and fun, and each one helps move the story along. Despite being shot on a blue screen, in the first song, Bye, Bye Birdie, Ann-Margret is able to show the reactions of every teenage girl reacting to the news that Birdie been drafted. All the songs are memorable and you will find yourself humming the songs for days to come.

This is an all-around good film and a great musical, and you should defiantly give it a watch. While there have been remakes of it since 1968, some of which are closer to the original Broadway musical, I still find myself returning to this version. The movie is an over-the-top spectacle that you will enjoy from start to finish.

Bye, Bye Birdie Cast

Dick Van Dyke – Albert F. Peterson

Janet Leigh – Rosie DeLeon

Jesse Pearson – Conrad Birdie

Ann-Margret – Kim McAfee

Bobby Rydell – Hugo Peabody

Paul Lynde – Harry McAfee

Mary LaRoche – Doris McAfee

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