Monday, October 22, 2012
Marx and Birdie
Although it wasn't her first movie, Ann-Margret rocketed to stardom with 1963's "Bye Bye Birdie." First came the Broadway musical, a thinly veiled tale based on the frenzy caused by Elvis Presley's induction into the army. The film version was (and still is) a pleasing batch of mindless cotton candy. Leads Dick Van Dyke and Janet Leigh played second fiddle to Ann-Margret's sexy young teenage character, Kim MacAfee, while Jesse Pearson did a great job of playing Conrad Birdie, the singing and swinging sex symbol who gets drafted.
Here the girls of Sweet Apple Ohio (aka the Universal Studios backlot) moon over Birdie in his gold lamé suit.
The publicity department got extra mileage for the movie by making a big deal about Groucho Marx's daughter, Melinda, being cast as one of Kim's friend.
It was a bit part, but that didn't keep Columbia from putting these photos in all the papers and magazines.
Attempting to make her boyfriend Albert (Dick Van Dyke) jealous, Rosie (Janet Leigh) flirts shamelessly with the Shriners. Although her singing was not so hot, her dancing (what legs!) definitely scorched these poor hayseeds.
The high school shower scene for the musical number "The Telephone Hour" shows that Columbia DID spare every expense on this film. No matter...it just makes it that much more corny and endearing.
For me, the real scene-stealers of the movie are Maureen Stapleton and Paul Lynde. Stapleton played Albert's mother: the living nightmare of every unmarried young man in this country. Meanwhile, Lynde holds his own as Kim's father, the publicity-hungry business owner who does his best to get his fifteen minutes in the spotlight.
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