A rock singer travels to a small Ohio town to make his "farewell" television performance and kiss his biggest fan before he is drafted.A rock singer travels to a small Ohio town to make his "farewell" television performance and kiss his biggest fan before he is drafted.A rock singer travels to a small Ohio town to make his "farewell" television performance and kiss his biggest fan before he is drafted.
"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.
- Nov 16, 2004