Elvis Presley: Inspiration For 'Bye Bye Birdie'

by Ellen Ann / 2467 days ago / Comments

Elvis Presley is the King of Rock and Roll.  He is a legend in his own time and beyond.  He starred in quite a few movies.  The girls loved him; the parents hated him.  The boys were not too fond of him either because the girls swooned over him.

Then, in 1958, Elvis was drafted into the Army.  Unbelievably this became the premise for a hit Broadway musical in 1960, followed by a hit musical movie.  Bye Bye Birdie won five Tony Awards on Broadway and two Academy Awards for the film version.

The story goes like this:  Legendary Rock and Roll singer, Conrad Birdie, is drafted into the Army which puts his record company into a bit of a spin.  Albert Peterson, the president of the company takes the advice of his secretary, Rosie.  By the way, he is in love with Rosie and she with him.  Neither will admit it though.  Rosie’s idea is to have a contest in which one lucky girl in America wins a “goodbye kiss” from Conrad Birdie on a live appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.

The winner of the kiss, Kim MacAfee of Sweet Apple, Ohio is so excited to represent all of Birdie’s fans.  Her boyfriend, Hugo, on the other hand, does not like it one bit. Hugo is sure that Kim is falling in love with Birdie. 

The story follows Kim and her family and friends as they get ready to welcome Birdie to town.  In the meantime, Peterson writes the song “One Last Kiss” for Birdie to sing to Kim on the Ed Sullivan show.  This becomes Peterson’s claim to fame.  We also see how Rosie and Albert’s relationship gets closer during this time.  They have come to Sweet Apple for the show, along with Peterson’s mother who does not want her son to ever marry.

Both the show and the movie have a terrific cast.  Albert Peterson is played by Dick Van Dyke in both venues.  Paul Lynde, who stars as Kim’s hilarious father, was also in the show and movie.  Conrad Birdie was played by Jesse Pearson in both.  In the movie, Ann-Margaret was fantastic as Kim.  Jean Stapleton played Albert’s never-letting-go mom. Hugo was played by rock and roll singer Bobby Rydell.  Janet Leigh is Rosie. Ed Sullivan made a cameo appearance as himself.

The soundtrack for the play and film is, I think, ingenious.   The songs tell stories of their own.  Lynde sings “Kids, What’s the Matter with Kids Today” and five decades later, parents can still relate.  Ann-Margaret sings the title song and “One Boy” in a sweet, yet sexy style.

Birdie is definitely reminiscent of Elvis.  He has the same quiet sexy charisma and charm.  He has the Elvis moves, although not as exaggerated.  Originally, Elvis Presley was asked to star as Conrad Birdie in the film.  His manager, Colonel Tom Parker, did not think it was a good idea for Elvis to star in a movie that was basically parodying him.

So how does it all end?  Does Kim get her kiss or does she swoon?  I recommend you rent the movie and watch for yourself.  I think you will agree that it is a wonderful representation of how teenagers, and their parents, reacted to the phenomenon that was Elvis Presley.  The music fun also.  I think I am going to check Netflix right now.   If they have it, I am going to watch it tonight. ~Ellen Ann


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About Ellen Ann

Ellen Ann Journalist

I grew up in Philadelphia which is rich in the culture of music and arts. I played the cello for 3 years in elementary school and for a short time I was a part of the Philadelphia Children's Orchestra. I believe every home should have a piano whether anyone plays it or not. Someone will almost always try to learn and there is always a friend or relative who will just sit down and play. I enjoy most music, live theater, and live comedy. Music brings back memories, soothes the soul, changes my mood and outlook. Sometimes all it takes is a favorite song to make the day beautiful! I now live in the Phoenix, AZ area where I am a not-so-boring accountant. I try to make time to travel, explore the area where I live, the music and arts in the southwest, and just, in general, learn who I really am and who I want to be.