Musical Monday: Bye Bye Birdie

Posted on September 10, 2007

Yes, it’s Bye Bye Birdie! The musical extravaganza that…sucks.

Seriously, bitches. You better love us for sitting through this THREE TIMES in order to write this post. Let’s get started, shall we?

It’s 1963! Kennedy’s in the White House! Kruschev’s in the Kremlin! Sullivan’s on CBS! And lameass Elvis Presley stand-in Conrad Birdie has been drafted into the Army! Teenage girls from coast to coast lapse into hysterics…

…and storm the Capitol. Black people in the deep south roll their eyes and fight off the fire hoses and attack dogs. Cut to…

New York! And Janet Leigh in one of Chita Rivera’s ratty old wigs! She looks completely insane. If she’d checked into the Bates Motel looking like that, Norman would’ve ran off screaming for his mommy.

Janet – one of the whitest women to ever live – plays Rose DeLeon. She storms Ed Sullivan’s office with a brilliant idea. We’re not told why they don’t have security escort her out. Anyway, her plan is to have Birdie make his final appearance before shipping out on Ed’s show, where he’ll sing a new song called “One Last Kiss” and kiss one lucky girl from his nationwide fan club. Ed says it’s the stupidest idea he ever heard.

Just kidding. Of course he thinks it’s brilliant.

Janet heads down to the national headquarters of the Conrad Birdie fan club, where serious women in pink smocks (and one lonely gay man) stuff envelopes. She randomly picks the lucky girl, Kim MacAfee of Sweet Apple, Ohio.

Kim (Ann-Margret, of course) is currently on the phone with BFF Ursula. Kim always makes a point to hang out with the ugliest girls in town in order to make herself look better. Anyway, she’s all atwitter because Hugo pinned her – which would mean something totally different if a teenager in 2007 said it. This leads to switchboard overload:

Actually, the only decent number in the whole film, even if it does grate on the ears a bit. For some reason, they all melt in a nuclear holocaust at the end, though.

Back in New York, we meet Janet’s boyfriend, Albert (Dick Van Dyke). He’s a former chemist who went into songwriting but hasn’t actually sold a song in 6 years. She’s been waiting for years to make something of himself so he’ll propose to her. She fills him in on her plan to have Birdie sing his soon-to-be-brilliant composition on Ed Sullivan, thereby ensuring that it’ll become a huge hit. This is all told to us in some of the clunkiest expositional dialogue you’ll ever hear in your life.

Albert’s overbearing mother shows up. She’s been doing everything she can think of to keep the two lovebirds apart. She and Janet hate each other of course.

Back in Sweet Apple, Ann sings about sex. No matter what song Ann-Marget sings, it’s about sex.

Later we meet Ann’s Stepford mother and flamingly gay father (Paul Lynde, of course) while she gets the news that she’s going to lose her virginity on live television.

The next morning, the town’s local chapters of N.O.W. and the Radical Fairies get into a huge fistfight. The feminists win of course.

Ann’s new steady, Hugo (Bobby Rydell) – even though she is COMPLETELY out of his league – begs her not to let another man kiss her on live TV. She promises him that she’s only doing it for the good of the country and that it means nothing. Moron that he is, he believes her.

Birdie shows up looking 100% heterosexual to the citizens of Sweet Apple.

Except one, of course.

Naturally, he sings for the crowd and naturally, they go wild.

Then they all die in a poison gas attack.

Actually they all faint. We understand why the women would, but why exactly would every man in town faint at the sight of a couple hip swivels and pelvic thrusts?

Paul is appalled and embarrassed that he fainted and overcompensates by yelling a lot.

Then Dick uses their son’s chemistry kit as a meth lab and doses the family turtle.

Nope. Not making a word of that up.

Bobby and Ann sing. Honestly, every 5 minutes or so the nature of their relationship went from love to hate or vice versa, so it’s hard to keep track. Judging by their faces, this was a love moment.

Janet is pissed that two teenagers seem to have a better relationship than she and Dick. To cheer her up, he acts like a total jackass while large ghostly heads float around behind him.

Then he dances with her id while she pouts.

Again, not making one word up:


Mama shows up and sticks her head in the oven when she hears that Dick and Janet are back on again. For all the faults of this movie, Maureen Stapleton was pretty damn funny in the role.

While they all try to talk Mama out of suicide, Ann shows off her new hair color to her furious father, who had his heart set on that color for himself.

They sing.

The next day, Birdie kisses Ann in rehearsals, she orgasms in front of everyone and she and Bobby break up (again).

The Sullivan producer informs Dick that the Birdie segment can only be 30 seconds long because the previous act, The Moscow Ballet, went with a longer number. There’ll be no hit song and no kiss.

We’re supposed to believe that Ed Sullivan would choose the Moscow Ballet over “Elvis?”

That night: TEENAGE ORGY!

Later, Janet completely loses it and sexes up an entire Shriner’s chapter in one of Chita’s old dresses.

For some reason, this works in getting them back together. Janet has a brilliant plan (again) to get the Moscow Ballet to shorten their number:

Dose the conductor with some of Dick’s homemade meth! And it works!

Once again, not making a word of it up. They drugged a conductor and the film played it for laughs. But what the hell, it’s 1963 and he’s Russian.

Anyway, the number’s back on and when Birdie leans in for his kiss…

…skinny little Bobby Rydell swings in and knocks him out with one punch. No kiss for Ann, no hit song for Dick, major embarrassment for Ed Sullivan. Sad ending, right?

Silly poodle! This is a MUSICAL. Even though in the real world everyone in this story would hate each other by now…

…Mama reveals that she suddenly got married…

…Dick and Janet fall back in love and he proposes because he’s gonna make millions off his new “diet” pill formula…

…and Ann and Bobby show off their teeth. Everyone’s happy – except Conrad Birdie, who’s stationed in Germany and the laughingstock of the Army because some kid who can’t weigh more than a buck ten knocked him out with one punch in front of millions of people. He eventually ate himself to death and died on the toilet. The end.

[Screencaps: tomandlorenzo.com]

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001629470857 Coralie Legister

    Amazing.

  • AnotherG

    Disappointed I haven’t read these old recaps until now. Because, damn, they’re brilliant. I remembered the turtle, of course. But Ann Margaret did crazy-face better than anyone, up until I’m thinking Glen Close. c.f. The mother role in “Tommy,” where she attempts to bring Roger Daltrey to his senses via a Willow-Smith-style hair whipping. Points for effort, but if Tina Turner’s Acid Queen can’t make you see, well, Tommy, you’ll just have to go through that mirror.