Dick Van Dyke, Paul Lynde & the Original Cast of Bye Bye Birdie Appear on The Ed Sullivan Show (1961)

Think back, if you will to the dawn of the 60’s, or fail­ing that, the third sea­son of Mad Men, when Broad­way musi­cals could still be con­sid­ered legit­i­mate adult enter­tain­ment and Bye Bye Birdie was the hottest tick­et in town.

Six months after the show’s 1960 open­ing, Broadway’s—soon to be television’s—latest star  Dick Van Dyke, appeared on the Ed Sul­li­van show to intro­duce the rest of the coun­try to the musi­cal their high schools and com­mu­ni­ty the­aters would be per­form­ing in per­pe­tu­ity.

The show­case also afford­ed the Amer­i­can view­ing pub­lic their first glimpse of the man who would out­last Sul­li­van as a fix­ture in their liv­ing rooms, Hol­ly­wood’s most out­ra­geous Square, Paul Lyn­de.

Lyn­de had his camp and ate it too in the role of a solid­ly Mid­west­ern father of two who, by virtue of his asso­ci­a­tion with his teenage daugh­ter, finds him­self appear­ing on none oth­er than… The Ed Sul­li­van Show! It’s a tru­ly meta moment. The stu­dio audi­ence seems to enjoy the joke, and Sul­li­van appears pleased too, when he wan­ders on after “Hymn for a Sun­day Evening” as the song is prop­er­ly called. Accord­ing to his biog­ra­phy, Always on Sun­day, his response upon first hear­ing was less enthu­si­as­tic. When the mer­ry Broad­way crowd turned to check Sul­li­van’s response to Lyn­de’s gulp­ing final admis­sion, (“I love you, Ed!”),  Sul­li­van report­ed that he want­ed the floor to open up and swal­low both him and his wife.

Way to get with the joke, Ed!

Lat­er in the episode, there’s some grace­ful Van Dyke foot­work on “Put on a Hap­py Face,” a song that even the most sea­soned the­ater­go­ers tend to for­get orig­i­nat­ed with this show, prob­a­bly because it does noth­ing to advance the plot.

Lyn­de and Van Dyke reprised their roles in the 1962 film, but in a typ­i­cal tale of stage-to-screen heart­break, Susan Wat­son, Lyn­de’s orig­i­nal Birdie daugh­ter, was replaced by 22-year-old bomb­shell, Ann-Mar­gret. (The deli­cious­ly bitchy remark Mau­reen Sta­ple­ton made about her at the wrap par­ty turns out to be apoc­ryphal, or at least intend­ed more kind­ly than it would seem.) See what she brings to “Hymn for a Sun­day Evening” below.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Young Frank Zap­pa Turns the Bicy­cle into a Musi­cal Instru­ment on The Steve Allen Show (1963)

Dig­i­tal Archive of Vin­tage Tele­vi­sion Com­mer­cials

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author and home­school­er, and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.