Bye Bye Birdie poster. Image courtesy of Columbia Pictures
Bye Bye Birdie (1963)
A small Ohio town goes mad when a rock-star, about to go to war, visits in order to bestow a farewell kiss on a lucky fan.
I saw this version of Bye Bye Birdie for the first time in fifth grade and fell in love with the inhabitants of Sweet Apple, Ohio. The movie is a rollicking good time that looks at the generational conflict – that turned into a chasm as the decade went on – with a dose of apple pie wholesomeness. Rock star Conrad Birdie was modeled on Elvis Presley, and the King was actually offered the role – one of many he ended up turning down.
This was the film that gave us the exquisite Ann-Margret, an actress who so enchanted director George Sidney that he added in musical bookends to give her more screentime; this didn’t particularly endear him to the actors meant to be the real stars, Dick van Dyke and Janet Leigh. Dick van Dyke is utterly adorable as composer/biochemical engineer Albert, a man terrified of his mother at the expense of his lady love (played by a post-Psycho Leigh). With classic songs like “The Telephone Song,” “Put on a Happy Face” and “One Boy,” you’ll be tapping your toes all day. The television version starring Jennifer Lopez this year has A LOT to live up to.