Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bye Bye Birdie. 1963

Made in 1963 and reeking of the period, this film adaptation of the hit Broadway musical is a mess. Sure some of the music is good and rousing, but the film itself is fat and lazy and just lays there in all its widescreen excess. It weighs a ton. It only comes to life when the wonderful Ann-Margret is singing and dancing and shaking her nice lush head of hair. In fact she shakes her head so much that I was fearful that it would fall off and land at her feet. Although the film uses two major cast members from the original show, Dick Van Dyke & Paul Lynde, the other actors are badly miscast with an especially lousy Janet Leigh in the role that Chita Rivera originated on Broadway. The movie version downplays (makes invisible) the fact that Rosie is a Latino, and we are presented with a bland Leigh in a black wig. Also terrible is the usually fine Maureen Stapleton as Albert's overbearing mother, Paul Lynde as Ann-Margret's fey impossible dad, and a funny looking Bobby Rydell as the jealous boyfriend. And who could believe Jesse Pearson looking fat and unappealing as a rock n roll idol modeled after the great Presley. The scenes with the Russian Ballet & The Ed Sullivan show are dated relics of the cold war and even when the film was new seemed forced and unnecessary, it should have been left out. Loud & vulgar, the film leaves a bad after taste, and the only reason to really see this thing is the great opening and closing titles with a glorious Ann-Margret singing the title song. Poorly directed by George Sidney who was an M.G.M. contract director during the 40’s and 50’s and I will give him credit for directing  one of Garland’s best musicals The Harvey Girls but his resume is littered with many bad and dismal features like Anchors Aweigh, Annie Get Your Gun, Showboat & later the disappointing Pal Joey and the dreadful  Pepe & Half A Sixpence.


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