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B. Reeves Eason
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Conrad Birdie is the biggest rock & roll star of the 60's ever to be drafted. Aspiring chemist and song writer Albert is convinced he can make his fortune and marry his girlfriend Rosie if he gets Conrad on the Ed Sullivan show to kiss a high school girl goodbye. Albert's mother will do anything to break him up with Rosie. Kim and Hugo, the high school steadies, live in Sweet Apple, Ohio where most of the action takes place. Written by
Lisa Grable <email@example.com>
The "Telephone" segment was almost cut from the stage play because no one could figure out how to stage it. Finally choreographer Gower Champion suggested building a box-like shelf unit with oddly shaped sections where the actors could occupy while performing. As each actor sang their part the light in their section would be turned on then off as the next actor sang. See more »
The turtle that zooms off a table and out a door is clearly a prop mounted on top of a dolly several inches thick that holds the turtle above the table and floor. The prop must have wheels as it slides so smoothly across the floor. See more »
I am usually in the corner of those who complain about how Hollywood generally altered many classic Broadway stage musicals into something radically different when they were made into movies. Most of the time, the changes were ridiculous and weakened the property dramatically.
"Bye Bye Birdie" though, is the rare exception where the changes made to get it to the big screen were absolutely necessary. And nothing demonstrates this more than the fact that the faithful 1995 TV version is a lumbering, slow-moving mess that manages to demonstrate perfectly how what plays great on the stage does not always translate effectively to the film medium.
By contrast, the 1963 film version decided to make itself a bright, colorful film extravaganza that played to the strengths of the film medium. And the results in my opinion, worked wonderfully.
To a stage fan like "citybuilder" who rips the changes from the play, he needs to stop and think of how the structure of the stage version, which has the Sullivan show moment and the punching of Conrad as an Act I finale, would never have worked on film. It simply makes more cinematic sense to move that to the end. And the whole big deal over Rose's ethnicity, which was really done to showcase the talent of Broadway lead Chita Rivera, would have been a distraction as well because spotlighting Albert's mother as a racist would have gone against the whole tone of the movie (and truth be told "Spanish Rose" is not that great a song). Likewise, it's better to have Albert sing "Put On A Happy Face" to Rose rather than a nameless Conrad Birdie fan we never see again.
Dick Van Dyke and Paul Lynde offer the right amount of gravitas from the Broadway cast, Janet Leigh in her black wig gets to show off her dancing talent which she seldom got a chance to do (her singing is admittedly a bit thin, but she gets by), and of course Ann-Margret totally elevates the role of Kim McAfee into a star vehicle, and who can blame them for doing this? Her rendition of the title song written for the film is enough to leave one gasping for air, yet she still manages to be convincing as the wide-eyed teenager just the same.
Ultimately, stage fans can be satisfied that they got the version they prefer done on film (though it should be noted that the 95 version is not a pure rendition of the 1960 stage script, but rather the 1991 touring revival), but movie fans got the better end of things with this version in 1963. It will never be among the great movie musicals, but it is two solid hours of colorful early 60s fun.
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