The other night I was thrilled to note in the TV listings that Bye Bye Birdie was to be shown that night. I eagerly turned on the tube to see one of my favorite films from the 60’s. But instead of the lovely Ann Margaret belting out the opening tune, instead of the wonderful Janet Leigh, Dick Van Dyke, Paul Lynde and Maureen Stapleton in one of the best Broadway hit-to-movie-hit transfers, I was treated to –ugh– a very mediocre remake.
Hello Everybody. Joe Morella, one half of the classic movie guys team, here today. Frank Segers (the other half) is vacationing, and MRS. Norman Maine is in her dressing room wondering when there’ll be yet another remake of A Star in Born.
Why does Hollywood insist on remaking films? Easy answer. They think they’re going to make money.
Sometimes they do. Sometimes the remake is REALLY better than the original. The above mentioned Star is Born and The Maltese Falcon are two examples of that rare phenomenon. But then, of course, Hollywood remakes the remake and screws it up again.
Let’s begin at the beginning. Star is Born started as What Price Hollywood back in 1933. A very revised script surfaced in 1937, and hit with the Janet Gaynor/Frederick March Star in Born. Warners added music and Judy Garland in the 1954 version (the Best). Then they went rock music and added Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson in 1976.
Of course Hollywood is famous for recycling films. Before TV, the studios usually redid a hit film about every seven years. Sometimes the same actor recreated his role. Gable in Red Dust and Mogambo— Grable in Coney Island and Wabash Avenue.
But a remake of a perfectly cast and executed film such as Bye Bye Birdie was a great risk. It was impossible to surpass it and very probable not to even match it. And they didn’t. Why watch what in effect is an adequate summer stock production of the play when the great Broadway hit is available?
The remake, a TV movie, starred Jason Alexander and Vanessa Williams in the roles Janet Leigh and Dick Van Dyke had done. George Wendt was certainly no Paul Lynde. The only “star” in the TV film who came close to duplicating one of the original performances was Tyne Daly who had Maureen Stapleton’s role as Mae, the lead character’s “Jewish” mother.
See the original.
And by all means avoid the 1998 remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 classic Psycho — directed by Gus Van Sant and starring none other than Vince Vaughn in the Tony Perkins-Norman Bates role. What were they thinking when they made this clunker?
By the way, let us know about which “dreadful remakes” adorn your must-avoid list?