Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.
USA, 1963. Columbia Pictures Corporation, Kohlmar-Sidney Productions. Screenplay by Irving Brecher, based on the play by Michael Stewart. Cinematography by Joseph F. Biroc. Produced by Fred Kohlmar. Production Design by Paul Groesse. Film Editing by Charles Nelson. Academy Awards 1963. Golden Globe Awards 1963.
Weak adaptation of the hit Broadway musical marks the film debut of Dick Van Dyke, recreating his role from the theatrical version. When Elvis-like superstar Conrad Birdie (Jesse Pearson) is recruited to go off to war and leave millions of screaming female fans stranded without his music, his managers decide to concoct a giant publicity stunt on the Ed Sullivan show to make sure he goes out with a bang: they will randomly select a lovely young American woman for whom to give his “last kiss” to on television. When they pick the lucky little lass (Ann-Margret), it naturally throws her entire life for a loop. Meanwhile, Van Dyke is the struggling composer who has been asked to write Birdie’s last song while trying to survive a desperate fiancée (Janet Leigh) and an overbearing mother (Maureen Stapleton, who was actually the same age as Van Dyke). Whatever was fresh and fun on the Broadway stage fizzles here: the musical numbers feel canned, the characterizations are annoying and even the choreography just seems like rehashed memories of better days.