Bye Bye Birdie is a 1963 musical comedy film from Columbia Pictures. It is a film adaptation of the stage production of the same name. The screenplay was adapted from Michael Stewart's book for the musical by Irving Brecher, with music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Lee Adams.

Directed by George Sidney, the film version starred Dick Van Dyke, reprising his Broadway role as Albert Peterson, along with Maureen Stapleton as Mae Peterson, Janet Leigh as Rosie DeLeon, Paul Lynde reprising his Broadway role as Harry MacAfee, Bobby Rydell as Hugo Peabody, and Ann-Margret as Kim MacAfee.

The story was inspired by the phenomenon of popular singer Elvis Presley being drafted into the United States Army in 1957. Jesse Pearson plays the role of teen idol Conrad Birdie, whose character name is a word play on another pop singer of the era, Conway Twitty. Presley himself was the first choice for the role of Birdie, but his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, rejected the idea as he did not want Presley in any roles that were parodies of himself. Ed Sullivan appears as himself, host of the popular, long-running CBS TV variety show.

The film is credited with making Ann-Margret a superstar during the mid-1960s, leading to her appearing with the real Elvis in Viva Las Vegas (1964). Bye Bye Birdie opens with Ann-Margret singing a title song written especially for the movie. The soundtrack was released by RCA Victor in 1964.

In 2006, the film was ranked number 38 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 50 Best High School Movies.


Bye Bye Birdie (film)

Conrad Birdie (Jesse Pearson), a popular rock and roll star, receives an Army draft notice, devastating his teenage fans across the nation. Albert Peterson (Dick Van Dyke) is an unsuccessful songwriter, the family business, although he has a doctorate in biochemistry. He schemes with his secretary and long-suffering girlfriend Rosie DeLeon (Janet Leigh) to have Birdie sing a song Albert will write, but Birdie's conscription puts a halt to the plan. Rosie, however, convinces Ed Sullivan to have Birdie sing a song Albert will write called "One Last Kiss" on The Ed Sullivan Show, and then kiss a randomly chosen high school girl goodbye before going off to the Army. Once that is a success, Albert will feel free to marry Rosie, despite his widowed, meddlesome mother Mae's (Maureen Stapleton) long history of ensuring nothing will come between her and her beloved son.

Sweet Apple, Ohio, is chosen as the location for Birdie's farewell performance. The random lucky girl chosen is Kim MacAfee (Ann-Margret), who is thrilled. Kim already has a high school sweetheart, Hugo Peabody (Bobby Rydell), who is not so thrilled. The teenagers of Sweet Apple, blissfully unaware of their town's impending fame, are spending the "Telephone Hour" catching up on the latest gossip: Kim and Hugo have just gotten pinned. Kim feels grown up, and declares "How Lovely to be a Woman".

On the day Birdie arrives in town, the teenage girls sing their anthem to him, "We Love You Conrad", but the boys despise him for their girls' love for him ("We Hate You Conrad!"). Sweet Apple becomes a very popular place, but some of the local adults are unhappy with the sudden celebrity, especially after Conrad shows off his hip-thrusting moves while his "Honestly Sincere" causes every female to faint. Under pressure from the town's notable citizens, Mr. McAfee is unwilling to allow his daughter to kiss Conrad on television, but Albert placates him by telling him that their "whole family" will be on Sullivan's TV show ("Hymn for a Sunday Evening"). Albert reveals to Mr. McAfee that he is actually a biochemist who has developed a miracle supplement for domestic animals that will make a hen lay 3 eggs a day; they test it on the family's pet tortoise, which speeds off out the door. McAfee, a fertilizer salesman, sees a great future for himself in partnership with Albert marketing this pill.

Hugo feels threatened by Conrad; Kim reassures him that he is the "One Boy" for her. Rosie, meanwhile, feels like Albert does not appreciate her, so Albert persuades her to "Put on a Happy Face". Albert's mother shows up, distressed to find Albert and Rosie together. Harry (Paul Lynde), Kim's father, is also agitated, not liking the way Conrad is taking over his house. They lament what is wrong with these "Kids" today.

During rehearsal for the broadcast, an impatient Conrad kisses Kim and she faints. Hugo is hurt and ends the relationship. Albert is told that, for unknown reasons, the Russian Ballet has switched to a different dance that needs extra time, therefore eliminating Conrad's song and farewell kiss to Kim. Their plans for the future could be ruined, so Albert goes to the Ballet manager to request to have their performance shortened so that Conrad Birdie could sing his song. The arrogant manager, probably unable to understand the importance of the song's inclusion, refuses to have it shortened, believing that cutting time would mean "artistic sabotage" to such a classic piece of work.

A defeated and dejected Albert decides to drown his sorrows at Maude's Madcap Café and finds his mother there, playing canasta with Mr. Maude, the cafe's owner and a widower himself. Rosie, fed up with Albert and his mother, also goes to the café for "a night to remember". After ordering three drinks (but only gulping down one), Rosie goes into another room where a Shriners convention is taking place. She starts dancing and flirting with the men ("Sultans' Ballet"), but when the scene gets too wild, Albert rescues her from the crazed Shriners.

Next day, Rosie comes up with the solution to get back Conrad's spot on The Ed Sullivan Show that evening. She slips one of Albert's pills into the milk of the orchestra's conductor which speeds up the ballet, amusing the audience, offending the Russians and placing Birdie back on the show to sing "One Last Kiss". However, just as Birdie is about to kiss Kim, Hugo runs onstage and knocks him out on the live telecast.

Kim and Hugo reunite. Albert is free to marry now ("Rosie") and his mother agrees, revealing that she is now married to Mr. Maude. All three couples live happily ever after. Kim, now wiser, bids Conrad a fond goodbye in "Bye Bye Birdie (Reprise)".


Bye Bye Birdie (film)
  • Janet Leigh as Rosie DeLeon
  • Dick Van Dyke as Albert Peterson
  • Ann-Margret as Kim MacAfee
  • Maureen Stapleton as Mae Peterson
  • Bobby Rydell as Hugo Peabody
  • Jesse Pearson as Conrad Birdie
  • Ed Sullivan as himself
  • Paul Lynde as Harry MacAfee
  • Mary LaRoche as Doris MacAfee
  • Michael Evans as Claude Paisley
  • Robert Paige as Bob Precht
  • Gregory Morton as Maestro Borov
  • Bryan Russell as Randolph McAfee
  • Milton Frome as Mr. Maude
  • Trudi Ames (uncredited) as Ursula
  • Linda Kaye Henning (uncredited) as Nancy
  • Peter Menefee (uncredited) as Harvey Johnson
  • John Daly (uncredited) as himself
  • Kim Darby (uncredited) as Teenager

Musical numbers

  1. "Bye Bye Birdie" â€" Kim
  2. "The Telephone Hour" - Sweet Apple Kids
  3. "How Lovely to Be a Woman" â€" Kim
  4. "We Love You Conrad" - Kim, Ursula, Hugo, Sweet Apple Kids
  5. "Honestly Sincere" â€" Conrad
  6. "Hymn for a Sunday Evening" â€" Harry, Doris, Kim, Randolph
  7. "One Boy" â€" Kim, Hugo, Rosie
  8. "Put On a Happy Face" â€" Albert, Rosie
  9. "Kids" â€" Harry with Mae, Albert, Randolph
  10. "One Last Kiss (Gym Rehearsal)" â€" Conrad
  11. "A Lot of Livin' to Do" â€" Conrad, Kim, Hugo, Sweet Apple Kids
  12. "Shriner's Ballet" â€" Rosie (non-vocal dance number)
  13. "One Last Kiss" â€" Conrad
  14. "Rosie" â€" Albert, Rosie, Kim, Hugo
  15. "Bye Bye Birdie (Reprise)" â€" Kim

Differences from stage musical

Several significant changes were made in the plot and character relationships in the film from the stage version. The film was rewritten to showcase the talents of rising star Ann-Margret, adding the title song for her and dropping songs by other characters.

The name of the character Rosie Alvarez was changed to Rosie DeLeon. In both versions the character is a positive portrayal of a Latina; however, the song "Spanish Rose", originally performed in the stage musical by Chita Rivera in a comic, exaggerated Hispanic style to irritate Albert's mother, was dropped for this film.

In the film, Albert is not Birdie's agent nor an aspiring English teacher but a talented research chemist. He contributed to Birdie's initial success, and therefore Birdie "owes" him a favor. Albert has not written "One Last Kiss" when Rosie pitches the idea to Sullivan.

The film version of "A Lot Of Livin' To Do" features Pearson, Ann-Margret and Rydell in a colorful song-and-dance number that is staged to suggest that Kim and Hugo are trying to make each other jealous, but there is no suggestion during the number or after it that any under-age drinking or sexual activity is going on.

The songs "Baby, Talk to Me", "What Did I Ever See in Him", and "Normal American Boy" were omitted from the film, as was the "100 Ways to Kill a Man" ballet.

The plot structure is altered so that The Ed Sullivan Show broadcast is at the end of the movie; in the stage musical, it is at the closing of the first act. The film version also ends on a brighter note. Hugo prevents the "last kiss" by running out on stage, knocking Birdie out with a single punch on The Ed Sullivan Show. In doing so, he wins Kim's heart, and the young couple is reunited. There is no suggestion that Conrad got tired of show business, or that he suffered anything other than the embarrassment of being knocked out before an audience of millions of viewers. Albert's mother shows up with a man in tow, informs Albert and Rosie that she has married him, and gives Albert and Rosie her blessing for their long-postponed wedding. Albert and Mr. McAfee agree to become partners selling Albert's chemical formulas. The film then ends with Ann-Margret singing a slightly revised version of the title song: "Bye Bye Birdie, the Army's got you now...."


Bye Bye Birdie (film)

According to Ann-Margret, she was cast when director George Sidney saw her dancing while on a date at the Sands Casino on New Year's Eve 1961.


Bye Bye Birdie (film)

Box office performance

Bye Bye Birdie was the 13th highest grossing film of 1963, grossing $13,129,412 domestically, earning $6 million in North American rentals. The film was, rather surprisingly, given a Royal Charity Premiere when released in the UK on 7 November 1963, at the Odeon Marble Arch in the presence of H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh.


The film was nominated for two Academy Awards.

  • Music (Scoring of Music â€" adaptation or treatment)
  • Academy Award for Best Sound (Charles Rice)

In popular culture

Bye Bye Birdie (film)
  • In 1964, the Carefrees made a novelty record with a song called "We Love You Beatles" based on the song "We Love You Conrad" from Bye Bye Birdie. Released on the London International label #10614, the song peaked at #39 on the Billboard Hot 100. At the base of the Plaza Hotel in New York City, where the Beatles were staying for their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, scores of Beatles fans sang the song out so their voices would reach the band in their rooms up above.
  • In an episode of the television series Mad Men (Season 3, Episode 2), the opening sequence of Bye Bye Birdie is shown (twice), and later the ad agency's Peggy Olsen sings the tune to herself in front of a mirror in an attempt to emulate Ann-Margret's appeal as somebody who can "be 25 and act 14". Later, in Episode 4, the ad man Salvatore Romano directs a knock-off parody of the sequence for a commercial for Pepsi's new diet drink, Patio.
  • In the episode "The One with All the Poker" of the TV show Friends, during a game of Pictionary, Monica tries to draw the movie title.
  • "One Last Kiss" was featured on an actual episode of The Ed Sullivan Show from January 1967, featuring Gary Lewis & The Playboys. It was one of Lewis' last performances before going into the U.S. Army, so Sullivan chose a girl from the audience to come up to the stage. Lewis sang "One Last Kiss" to her and received that "one last kiss".
  • The animated TV show Family Guy has made four references to this film. In the episode "Petarded" (Season 4, Episode 6), when Peter is first assessed as having learning difficulties, this news is passed round in "Peter is Slow", a song parodying "The Telephone Hour". The second reference is made when Harry MacAfee makes an appearance in "Peter's Progress" (Season 7, Episode 4). The third reference is made by the title of the episode "We Love You Conrad" (season 7, episode 14). Fourth is the episode "New Kidney in Town" (Season 9, Episode 8) when President Barack Obama, who is visiting Chris and Meg's school, appears in a gold jump suit and performs "Honestly Sincere".
  • In Bye Bye Boyfriend, a Two of a Kind book, the White Oak Academy puts on a school play based on Bye Bye Birdie. Ed Sullivan is mentioned many times, and Mary-Kate wins the part of Kim, even though she auditioned for Rosie. In the book the characters and the soundtrack of the movie as well as some of its songs are mentioned.
  • In the episode "How Munched Is That Birdie in the Window?" of the TV series The Simpsons at Bart's bird's funeral Nelson Muntz, Milhouse Van Houten and other children sing "Put On a Happy Face". Bart thanks them for singing it to cheer him, and then asks about the song's origin. The nerds reply, "It's from Bye Bye Birdie!"
  • In the episode "Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy" of the TV show The Simpsons, Dr. Hibbert is delivering a speech for the opening of the Springfield Center for Geriatric Medicine and is interrupted by the crowd of elderly people who want to see the guest of honor, TV's Matlock. When Matlock comes on stage, a couple of elderly women start singing "We love you Matlock, oh yes we do..." an altered version of the song from Bye Bye Birdie.
  • In the episode "Wild Barts Can't Be Broken" of the TV series The Simpsons, the kids, adults, and seniors of Springfield perform a musical parody of the song "Kids" from Bye Bye Birdie.
  • In the episode "Welcome Wagon" of the TV series Veronica Mars, upon observing lead character Veronica Mars making out with her boyfriend Logan Echolls, Kendall Casablancas remarks "Did he pin the pin on, or was he too shy?" referencing the song "The Telephone Hour".


Bye Bye Birdie (film)
  • The first scene shown in the opening credits, after Ann-Margret "Bye Bye Birdie" musical number, is shot in New York, Avenue of the Americas, in front of Radio City Music Hall, where we can clearly see the two skyscrapers at 1271, the Time-Life Building, and 1285 Avenue of the Americas. After that scene, there is another shot of New York City showing the Guggenheim Museum.


Further reading

  • Monder, Eric (1994). George Sidney:a Bio-Bibliography. Greenwood Press. ISBN 9780313284571. 

External links

  • Bye Bye Birdie at the Internet Movie Database
  • Bye Bye Birdie at the TCM Movie Database
  • Bye Bye Birdie at AllMovie
  • Bye Bye Birdie at Rotten Tomatoes
  • Description of the film

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