Ten Things to Know About Bye Bye Birdie

BYE BYE BIRDIEEditor’s Note: This article was originally published in July of 2010.

Here are 10 trivia facts about Bye Bye Birdie from 1963, which originally appeared as our Mystery Movie Quiz on our Facebook page. There are hundreds of pieces of behind-the-scenes information about the movie. Please feel free to comment and add more trivia we might have missed.

1. Most of this movie takes place in a small town.

The little town of Sweet Apple, Ohio is where most of the action take place. Kim McAfee (Ann-Margret) was the lucky Sweet Apple teenager chosen to kiss Army-bound singing idol Conrad Birdie (Jesse Pearson) on TV’s The Ed Sullivan Show.

 Bye Bye Birdie 52. One of the female leads was married to a popular actor.

Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis were married from 1951 to 1962. Janet was married four times, and Curtis was her third husband.

3. Part of the plot was inspired by a real life event.

When Elvis Presley was drafted in 1958, the media frenzy surrounding the event was worldwide news and–thanks to enterprizing publicity departments–it stayed news for the duration of his military life.

4. An invention plays a part in the storyline.

Albert Peterson, played by Dick Van Dyke, was a songwriter and an inventor. In the movie, his chemical formula was used to speed up the Russian orchestra to make room for the song he wrote for Conrad Birdie, “One Last Kiss.”

5. The film was nominated for two Oscars.

Johnny Green was nominated for Best Music, Scoring of Music, Adaptation or Treatment; Charles Rice was nominated for Best sound (Columbia SSD). The film was not nominated in any major category, nor did it win.

6. The director of the film was also involved with a successful animation studio.

George Sydney, a very successful director at MGM, is the man credited with the on-screen pairing of dance partners Gene Kelly and Jerry the mouse (of Tom and Jerry fame) in Anchors Aweigh in 1945. This was due to his affiliation with the Hanna/Barbera Studio. He was one of the founders and financiers of Hanna/Barbera and was president of that studio for 10 years. Throughout the film, there is ample evidence of Hanna/Barbera merchandise seen in the background in many sequences.

7. One of the actors played the same role before.

Dick Van Dyke was launched to stardom when he played the role of Albert in the original 1960 Broadway cast, winning him the coveted Tony Award in 1961.

8. A star of West Side Story turned down a role in this film.

Whether she was ever regretful or not isn’t known, but Rita Moreno turned down the role of Rosie and made way for Janet Leigh, who was not known for her musical talent except for an appearance in a 1951 RKO musical,  Two Tickets To Broadway.

9. One of the actors would become best known for his appearances in a TV game show.

Paul Lynde, who had appeared on Broadway, in movies and on TV shows, is best known for occupying the center square on the original The Hollywood Squares, both in the daytime version as well as in primetime. He continued to do so until 1979.

10. A famous sex symbol had the lead role playing a teenager.

BYE BYE BIRDIE 1Ann-Margret, in only her third movie (her first was Pocketful of Miracles in 1961), was experimenting with that “good girl/bad girl” persona as had Rita Hayworth many years before, quickly becoming the dream girl of men and boys alike. The director of Bye Bye Birdie, George Sydney, was very much taken with the young actress. So much so, in fact, he proposed the idea of her now legendary opening and closing sequences to the studio heads at Columbia and when they balked, he paid for the studio time as well as the crew’s additional wages out of his own salary… and as the story goes, a star was born…