Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Retro Matinee Double Feature: Bye Bye Birdie and How to Marry a Millionaire

On my couch at the end of the year watching some pretty horrible films (like Land of the Lost, sorry Will Ferrell!) I decided I was going to become acquainted with more classic films I haven't seen far too many of.

Retro Matinee Double Feature or Feature Showing will be a regular installment, as I look to our rich American cinematic history. I hope you'll enjoy it! They don't all have to be Gone with the Wind or Wizard of Oz-level classics. For now, I'll be looking at the 1970s and backward, or more current films on classic figures.

Bye Bye Birdie mocked the very hysteria of the teen idol, about the mass hysteria caused when a Birdie is drafted and Ann-Margret wins a contest to give him a farewell kiss on Ed Sullivan. Yes, I watched it because I saw it on Mad Men.

Consider this from Wikipidia,

"The teen idol is primarily a phenomenon of 20th century mass communication. Its first manifestation (often referred to as matinee idol) may have been Rudolph Valentino, whose good looks and winning way with women featured heavily in such silent films as The Sheik. Valentino was so popular with young women, many of them went into mass hysteria after he died at the age of 31 in 1926. Judy Garland's pin-ups adorned many a high school male's locker after her sudden rise to fame. But it was probably Frank Sinatra, whose early career is often linked to his appeal to bobby soxers, who is generally regarded as being the first true 'teen idol'."

Who were your teen idols? I fully admit to once bringing a picture of Tiffany to a hair dresser for a body wave (it was the 80s, don't judge me!) In 1989, I was planning on being Mrs. Jonathan Knight of New Kids on the Block fame (you know, You've Got the Right Stuff, I'll Be Loving You Forever, Hanging Tough!) I wasted hard earned Shop-Rite bagging money on Bop and Tiger Beat, asked for t-shirts and button sets for my birthday and Christmas (I think I even had a velour jacket, eesh!) and had their photos even on my ceiling (at 35 years of age, my Dad will still not let me forget that!) But it's also a testament to the consumerism now attached to teen idols.

If you watch Mad Men, you'll also know there was a show where all the women were in hysterics over the death of Marilyn Monroe. Even though Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall had equal billing and screen time in How to Marry A Millionaire, Marilyn made the cover.

While there's always another teen act in the making, I don't know if we have any real icons today like Marilyn. Can you think of any? I scratch my head at the people who are famous today. Kim Kardashian? For what? As Dancing with Stars came on after Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution one night, I asked my sister, "Where are the stars?" Not sarcastically - I meant it. Stars? It seems no talent at all is required today.

What do you think? Will we ever see another Marilyn again? Do you have any favorite films from her? I favor Some Like it Hot and The Seven Year Itch, and want to see Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.


  1. I call it "Dancing with the Has Beens and Never Weres" because I am a jerk like that.

    Me thinks celebrity culture has morphed so much into skank culture (yeah, I said it), that we really don't have the same kind of idols anymore. Also, kids' attention spans are so brief these days, I don't think they can hold attention on one person long enough for them to reach genuine idol status.

    I was in love with the guys from Duran Duran and wanted to be Stockard Channing. :)

  2. I think your title is more fitting! Good point about the attention spans.

    I saw in the news yesterday "Maci" and "Bentley" are rising in baby name popularity because of an MTV reality show about young teen mothers. Is this where America is getting its inspiration?

    I'd rather be home watching my movie idols Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler. I really have to go back in time! Act, sing, dance: read (have actual talent).

    One contributor to a fundraising drive for my favorite radio show The Big Broadcast (1920s and 30s music) said, "This is music for the ages. I want my children's children to be listening to it." I can't imagine much of our culture today, from music to clothes, would be considered "for the ages."

  3. I, too, was a huge NKOTB fan. Except my crush was on Donnie- the "bad boy". For me, a slight obsession with NKOTB was the healthy option. Rather than chasing after real-life bad boys, my hormones could be channeled in a fairly harmless direction. That's my justification!

    I have to admit, Dancing with the Not Stars, is a guilty pleasure of mine. I have no real justification for that! I know, you've lost all respect for me now. ; )

  4. No I think you’re right! It is a healthy way to channel hormones. I heard they were on Dancing With the Stars. My sister (my chaperone to their concerts, much to her dismay!) did not give them a glowing review.

    Ha-ha, never! I have no problem with the show. In fact, I think promoting dancing is great since I dance myself (although not ballroom). It's just when I think "star" I think Johnny Depp (he's idol worthy to me)!

  5. Love your new feature column on the blog site Catherine. Celebration of youth in the teen idol is interesting, but I didn't have a teen idol myself. I do remember being absorbed by images and the dances live at SPAC in Saratoga of Mikhail Baryshnikov, but mostly I admired people who were already long gone. It doesn't diminish their appeal, as we see with the popularity of thier images and the great old movies. I look forward to your next post, thanks for sharing this.