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.
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, and music is 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 Conrad sing a song Albert will write. Rosie convinces Ed Sullivan to have Conrad perform Albert's song "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 he achieves this 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 Conrad'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 (indicating a serious commitment to each other ). Kim feels grown up, and declares "How Lovely to be a Woman".
On the day Conrad arrives in town, the teenaged 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's "Honestly Sincere" song coupled with his hip-thrusting moves causes every female, beginning with the mayor's wife, to faint. Under pressure from the town's notable citizens, Kim's father Harry MacAfee (Paul Lynde) is unwilling to allow his daughter to kiss Conrad on television, until Albert placates him by promising that his "whole family" will be on Sullivan's TV show ("Hymn for a Sunday Evening"). Albert reveals to Harry 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. Harry, a fertilizer salesman, sees a great future for himself in partnership with Albert marketing this pill.
Hugo feels threatened by Conrad, but 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 Mae shows up, distressed to find Albert and Rosie together; Harry is also agitated about the way Conrad is taking over his house and the changes in Kim's behavior. Harry and Mae lament what is wrong with these "Kids" today.
During rehearsal for the broadcast, an impatient Conrad kisses Kim, Hugo is hurt, and Kim and Hugo break up, with all three asserting that they have "A Lot of Livin' to Do". Albert is told that the Russian Ballet has switched to a different dance that needs extra time, therefore eliminating Conrad's song and farewell kiss to Kim. Albert's attempts to convince the Ballet's manager to shorten its performance fail, and defeated and dejected Albert decides to drown his sorrows at Maude's Madcap Café. He finds his mother Mae 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 Conrad back on the show to sing "One Last Kiss". However, just as Conrad 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" – Kim
- "The Telephone Hour" - Sweet Apple Kids
- "How Lovely to Be a Woman" – Kim
- "We Love You Conrad" - Kim, Ursula, Hugo, Sweet Apple Kids
- "Honestly Sincere" – Conrad
- "Hymn for a Sunday Evening" – Harry, Doris, Kim, Randolph
- "One Boy" – Kim, Hugo, Rosie
- "Put On a Happy Face" – Albert, Rosie
- "Kids" – Harry with Mae, Albert, Randolph
- "One Last Kiss (Gym Rehearsal)" – Conrad
- "A Lot of Livin' to Do" – Conrad, Kim, Hugo, Sweet Apple Kids
- "Shriner's Ballet" – Rosie (non-vocal dance number)
- "One Last Kiss" – Conrad
- "Rosie" – Albert, Rosie, Kim, Hugo
- "Bye Bye Birdie (Reprise)" – Kim
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, who is portrayed in the film as annoying and insensitive, but not racist, 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 staged to show Kim and Hugo trying to make each other jealous, especially Kim.
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 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 ends on a brighter note. Hugo prevents the "last kiss" by running out on stage and knocking Birdie out with a single punch on live television. 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 (Mr. Maude) 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...."
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. Sidney was so smitten with the rising new star, Janet Leigh was "very upset that all the close-ups were going to Ann-Margret."
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 – adaptation or treatment)
Academy Award for Best Sound (Charles Rice)
It was also nominated for two Golden Globes.Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical (Ann-Margret)
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 Peggy Olson 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, Salvatore Romano directs a knock-off parody of the sequence for a commercial for Pepsi's new diet drink, Patio.
"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".
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 "Wild Barts Can't Be Broken", an episode 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 popular television series Friends (Season 1, Episode 18), during a charade-like game Monica draws a pictorial representation of the film Bye Bye Birdie for the remainder of the group to identify; however, nobody can.
The 1995 Oasis album (What's the Story) Morning Glory? derives its title from a line in the film.
Family Guy references two of the show's signature songs: "The Telephone Hour" (in reference to Peter being diagnosed as retarded in the Season 4 episode "Petarded") and "Honestly Sincere" (performed by President Barack Obama in the Season 9 episode "New Kidney in Town").
Sonic Boom (TV series) parodied the song "The Telephone Hour" in the Season 2 episode "Mister Eggman". The parody song consisted of Sonic the Hedgehog and friends spreading the word that Doctor Eggman never truly earned his doctorate. The song also made reference to the fact that it itself was a parody, breaking the fourth wall.
The first scene shown in the opening credits, after Ann-Margret's "Bye Bye Birdie" musical number, is shot in New York 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.
For years most television audiences saw a slightly altered opening credit than what is shown on the DVD releases. Instead of the opening animated "Bye Bye Birdie" title it opened with a solid white title card that zoomed out to fill the screen with the Columbia logo backing.
Dick Van Dyke and Maureen Stapleton are the same age but in this film they play mother and son.