Bye Bye Birdie (1963)

bye bye birdie poster 1963 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Nice, fun musical for everyone

Overly sweet and shiny

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Bye Bye Birdie

Studio:  The Kohlmar-Sidney Company

Genre(s):  Musical/Comedy/Romance/Family

Release Date(s):  April 4, 1963

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

bye bye birdie opening kim macafee ann margret

Come to Sweet Apple for a nice send off, Birdie!

Conrad Birdie (Jesse Pearson) is headed to war, but for Kim MacAfee (Ann-Margret), it could be the biggest opportunity she’s ever had.  Conrad is singing a goodbye song on the Ed Sullivan Show, and Kim has been selected to kiss him on-air as a symbolic gesture of all the girls that he’s leaving behind.  Albert Peterson (Dick Van Dyke) sees the opportunity to get his song sung by Birdie, marry his longtime girlfriend Rosie DeLeon (Janet Leigh), and satisfy his demanding mother (Maureen Stapleton).  The stunt however isn’t going over well with Kim’s father (Paul Lynde), her mother Doris (Mary LaRoche), or May’s new boyfriend Hugo (Bobby Rydell).  When Conrad comes to Sweet Apple, Ohio, anything could happen!

Directed by George Sidney, Bye Bye Birdie adapts the 1960 Broadway musical (originally called Let’s Go Steady).  The movie altered plot aspects but was well received and had a strong box office pull.  The movie was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Music and Best Sound.

bye bye birdie maureen stapleton dick van dyke janet leigh

I’m going to be a problem, lady!

Bye Bye Birdie is one of those musicals that is put on by high schools all over.  The songs aren’t very complex, they’re catchy, and the story is very family friendly.  Our school (and hundreds of other schools) put on Bye Bye Birdie…and the movie adaptation is still a fun little adaptation.

The story for Bye Bye Birdie takes its origins from when Elvis was drafted by the army.  The story is rather topical for the time with the draft, the Russians, and of course Ed Sullivan, but there is something charming in its simplicity and the early ’60s setting.  The events are rather “madcapped” and “wacky”, but the cheese factor doesn’t override the movie.

The movie was largely seen as a vehicle for Ann-Margret who was up-and-coming at the time.  Her sweet-perfect nature works in the movie.  The pushing of Ann-Margret was allegedly upsetting to Dick Van Dyke (who had performed in his role on Broadway) and Janet Leigh (who found Ann-Margret getting all the close-ups).  Paul Lynde reprised his role (though it is weird to see Paul Lynde as a family man) and Maureen Stapleton does steal scenes as the nightmare potential mother-in-law.  Jesse Pearson is bland as Conrad, but he’s kind of meant to be since his character isn’t supposed to be that deep.

bye bye birdie ending ann margret jesse pearson

Conrad…this isn’t going to go great for you

The movie looks rather good.  The movie is rather set based and also features back lots, but it has a bright popping nature to it.  The opening and ending sequences with Ann-Margret singing directly to the camera also seem to work but are a bit of an oddity since the breaking of the wall isn’t part of the rest of the musical.

Bye Bye Birdie is a harmless, fun musical that can be enjoyed by a large audience.  The musical continues to truck with revivals and remakes.  The film was remade for TV in 1995 for ABC and NBC selected Bye Bye Birdie as their 2017 live musical with Jennifer Lopez taking on Janet Leigh’s role.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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