Bye, Bye, Birdie

JESS: It’s really that big a deal?
RORY: What do you mean?
JESS: I mean, I know it’s got an ‘I’ve been pinned’ Bye Bye Birdie kind of implication to it, but it was just a bracelet.

Bye Bye Birdie, 1963 musical comedy film directed by George Sidney, based on the award winning 1960 Broadway musical of the same name, with music by Charles Crouse, lyrics by Lee Adams, and book by Michael Stewart.

Set in 1958, the story was inspired by Elvis Presley’s draft into the US army in 1957. Jesse Pearson plays Conrad Birdie, a teen idol based on Elvis, his name a play on Conway Twitty, Presley’s rival at the time.

Conrad Birdie is giving a farewell performance in Columbus, Ohio, to end with his song, “One Last Kiss”. It is arranged for him to kiss a randomly chosen high school girl at the end of the song before going into the army. The teenager chosen is Kim MacAfee (played by Ann-Margret) from the town of Sweet Apple, but Kim’s boyfriend Hugo Peabody (played by Bobby Rydell) isn’t thrilled, as he and Kim have got “pinned” – he’s given her his fraternity pin to wear, indicating a serious commitment between them. When Birdie kisses Kim in a rehearsal, she swoons.

Elvis Presley himself was the first choice for the role of Birdie, but his manager Colonel Tom Parker wouldn’t allow it. The film helped make Ann-Margret such a star that in 1964 she appeared with Elvis himself in Viva Las Vegas.

Jess is saying that Rory and Dean are the small-town teenage sweethearts, and he is the sexy outsider. It seems slightly egotistical, and a bit demeaning to Rory, as if he has randomly chosen her for a meaningless encounter; it strongly suggests Jess doesn’t intend to stick around.

The film ends with Hugo knocking Birdie out before he can kiss Kim on stage, which might be what Jess is expecting from Dean – that he’ll punch Jess before he gets a chance with Rory. In the stage musical, the story continues with Kim going off to hang out with Birdie, and he is arrested for attempted statutory rape. Kim claims to have been intimidated by Birdie, and gladly returns to Hugo.

Quite a few warnings for Rory in this apparently casual reference! Foreshadowing, on multiple levels.

The reference to Birdie being about to go into the army makes me wonder if this reference was originally meant for Tristan, who went off to military school. Jess is much more of a Birdie than Tristan, however.

Mel Brooks

LORELAI: What do you mean, why? The 2000 Year Old Man, Young Frankenstein, Silent Movie – you don’t think Mel has earned the right to have his face on my butt?

Mel Brooks (born Melvin Kaminsky in 1926), actor, comedian, and film-maker, with a career spanning over seven decades. He is known as the creator of broad farces and parodies, considered some of the greatest comedy films ever made, and was one of the most successful film directors of the 1970s. As well as winning an Emmy, a Grammy, and an Oscar, in 2001 he won a Tony Award for The Producers, previously discussed. He has been awarded a Kennedy Center Honor, a Hollywood Walk of Fame star, an AFI Lifetime Achievement Award, a British Film Institute Fellowship, a National Medal of Arts, and a BAFTA Fellowship.

The 2000 Year Old Man is a comedy sketch created by Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks in the 1950s and first publicly performed in the 1960s. Brooks plays a 2000-year-old man, interviewed by Reiner in a series of comedy routines that were turned into a collection of records and also performed on television.

Young Frankenstein, 1974 comedy horror film directed by Mel Brooks, and co-written by he and Gene Wilder, who stars in the title role. It’s a parody of the various classic horror film adaptations of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, Frankenstein, in particular, the 1931 film version. Young Frankenstein was the #3 film of 1974 and received critical acclaim. It is considered one of the funniest comedies ever made, and was later made into a stage musical. Mel Brooks considers it his best, but not his funniest, movie.

Silent Movie, 1976 satirical comedy film co-written, directed, and starring Mel Brooks as a Hollywood director down on his luck. He and his sidekicks, played by Dom DeLuise and Marty Feldman, come up with a plan to make the first silent movie in forty years. The film itself is silent, with intertitles instead of spoken dialogue. The film received positive reviews, and remains highly-regarded.

The Barrymores

CHRISTOPHER: So, quaint evening of theater last night.
LORELAI: Ah yes, the Gilmore family players rival the Barrymores for their sophisticated dramatic productions.

The Barrymores are a famous family in the acting profession. The patriarch of the family was Herbert Blythe, known professionally as Maurice Barrymore (1849-1905), a British stage actor. His children were Lionel (1878-1954), Ethel (1879-1959), and John Barrymore (1882-1942), who all became famous American actors of stage, screen, and radio. All three were inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame, and Ethel’s six decades on stage earned her the title “The First Lady of American Theatre”.

John Barrymore is the grandfather of actress Drew Barrymore (born 1975). The Drew family after whom she is named are related to Maurice’s wife Georgiana Drew, and they also have strong acting traditions.

[Picture shows Lionel, Ethel, and John Barrymore circa 1930s]

Matthew Broderick, Ferris Bueller, Producers

RORY: Yeah. Oh, and later I pictured you marrying Matthew Broderick, and we lived in New York in this great apartment in the village and we would talk about his Ferris Bueller days.
LORELAI: Just think how easy Producers tickets would be to get.

Matthew Broderick (born 1962), actor who began his career in theatre in the 1980s, winning a Tony Award for his role in Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs. His first starring role in a hit film came in the 1983 WarGames, where he had the lead role as a teenage hacker.

Broderick had the lead role as the charming school truant in the 1986 teen comedy, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off [pictured]. Directed by John Hughes, the film is a joyful love letter to the city of Chicago, and about three teenagers seeking the best “day off” from school ever devised. It was the #10 film of 1986, and praised by critics. It is considered one of the greatest teen movies of all time.

The Producers is a musical with music and lyrics by Mel Brooks, adapted from Brooks’ 1967 film of the same name. It is about two theatrical producers who plan to get rich by fraudulently overselling interests in a Broadway flop. Their scheme becomes complicated when their play is an unexpected success. The Producers opened on Broadway in 2001 and closed in 2007. Lorelai is apparently having trouble getting tickets for the musical. It went on tour in the US in September 2002, arriving at the Bushnell Theatre in Hartford in August 2004, but Matthew Broderick was not in the touring version.

Rory imagines living in New York in the village with her mother and Matthew Broderick. In 1997, Broderick married actress Sarah Jessica Parker. They live in the West Village in New York City, suggesting that it was after this date that Rory fantasised about Matthew Broderick as her stepfather, so around the age of 14-15. (Broderick and Parker actually spend more time at their second home in Ireland).

Rory’s imaginary stepfathers include a man-child who lives in a fantasy world, and an actor famous for playing both a slacker and a scammer. Not very different from her real father, then …


RORY: Sometimes I will add a dramatic pause to prove a point, undercutting my wpm.
PARIS: Let’s not harbor any Pinteresque fantasies here, Rory.

Paris is referring to playwright Harold Pinter (1930-2008), one of the most influential modern British dramatists, with a career spanning more than 50 years. His best known plays include The Birthday Party (1957), The Homecoming (1964), and The Betrayal (1978), each of which he adpated for the screen. He wrote several other screenplays, and directed or acted in radio, stage, television, and film productions of his own and others’ works. He received over 50 awards and honours, including the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2007.

To say that something is “Pinteresque” means that is characteristic of the dialogue in a Harold Pinter play, which (among other things) contains long, brooding pauses. “The Pinter pause” is considered a trademark of his style.

“Duck, Harvey”

[Rory walks over to the window, stretching the phone cord across the diner]

LUKE: Hey, watch it.
LORELAI: Yeah, duck Harvey.

A reference to the 1950 comedy-drama film Harvey, directed by Henry Koster, and based on the 1944 play of the same name by Mary Chase. James Stewart stars as an eccentric man who has a six foot three and a half invisible white rabbit as a best friend, named Harvey. He explains during the film that Harvey is a pooka, a mischievous but benign creature from Celtic mythology.

Harvey was financially successful, and received warm praise from critics for its charm, whimsy, and Stewart’s excellent performance. It was first released on video in 1990.

When Luke calls out in alarm about Rory stretching the phone cord across the diner, Lorelai quips, “Duck, Harvey”, because the diner is empty, and the only person who could be endangered by it must be the invisible Harvey.

“On a clear day you can see all the way to the garbage cans”

RORY: Tempting. Do you know that on a clear day you can see all the way to the garbage cans behind Al’s Pancake World?

A possible allusion to the 1970 comedy-drama musical film, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, directed by Vincente Minnelli, and based on the 1965 stage production of the same name, with lyrics by Alan Jay Sherman and music by Burton Lane. It stars Barbra Streisand, a favourite of Lorelai’s, as a woman who undergoes hypnotherapy to give up smoking, but in the process discovers she is the reincarnation of a seductive Regency lady.

The film received mixed reviews, but its reputation has endured over time.

Lillian Hellman, The Children’s Hour, and Julia

RORY: You said you wanted to read The Children’s Hour.
RORY: The other night when we were watching Julia, and Jane Fonda was playing Lillian Hellman.

The Children’s Hour, 1934 play by Lillian Hellman. It is set in a girl’s boarding school run by two women, and when an angry student runs away, she tells her grandmother the women are having a lesbian affair to avoid being sent back. This false accusation destroys the women’s careers, relationships, and lives.

The play is based on an incident which occurred in Scotland in the 19th century, which Hellman read about in a 1930 true crime anthology called Bad Companions by William Roughead. The Children’s Hour was a financial and critical success, and was adapted into a film called These Three in 1936, then again under its original title in 1961; both versions were directed by William Wyler.

Julia, 1977 period drama film [pictured] directed by Fred Zinnemann, based on a chapter in 1973 Lillian Hellman’s controversial book Pentimento: A Book of Portraits. It is about Hellman’s alleged friendship with a woman named Julia, who fought against the Nazis prior to World War II. Jane Fonda plays Lillian Hellman, and Vanessa Redgrave is in the role of Julia. An image of the real Lillian Hellman is shown at the end.

Julia performed well at the box office and received generally positive reviews. However, it was felt, with good reason, that the supposedly true story must have been, at best, heavily fictionalised. At the time of her death, Lillian Hellman was still in the process of suing the writer Mary McCarthy for libel after she cast strong doubt on the story’s veracity.

In 1983, New York psychiatrist Muriel Gardiner claimed that she was the person the “Julia” character was based on. Lillian Hellman had never met Gardiner, but had heard about her through a mutual friend, so they couldn’t possibly have had the relationship or adventures together that Hellman had written about. This does seem the most likely explanation, however.

Muriel Gardiner wrote about her anti-Fascist activities in Vienna of the 1930s in a 1983 book, Code Name Mary: Memoirs of an American Woman in the Austrian Underground.

The Fountainhead

RORY: Really? Try it. The Fountainhead is classic.
JESS: Yeah, but Ayn Rand is a political nut.
RORY: Yeah, but nobody could write a forty page monologue the way that she could.

The Fountainhead, 1943 novel by Russian-American author Ayn Rand, and her first literary success. The novel is about a ruggedly individualistic architect named Howard Roark, who battles against conventional standards and refuses to compromise his ideals. Rand said that Roark was the embodiment of her ideal man, and the novel reflects her views that the individual is more valuable than the collective.

Twelve publishers rejected the manuscript before Bobbs-Merrill took a chance on it, and contemporary reviews were mixed. However, it gained a following by word of mouth, and eventually became a bestseller. It has had a lasting influence, especially among architects, business people, conservatives, and libertarians. It was adapted into film in 1949, and turned into a stage play in 2014.

We here learn that Rory attempted to read The Fountainhead when she was ten, without success, but tried again when she was fifteen and liked it. Jess is taken aback by her recommending a text beloved of right-wing libertarians and “political nuts”, but Rory says she enjoys it as a piece of literature. The Fountainhead is absolutely full of characters having lengthy monologues where they clearly explain their philosophies, plans, and ideals.

The character of Howard Roark (allegedly based on architect Frank Lloyd-Wright) is a brooding man of few words, rather like Jess. Could Rory be recommending the book to Jess for that reason, to let him know that she likes a book where the protagonist is like Jess? A literary flirtation, like Jess annotating her copy of Howl?

Jess’ later career has a few things in common with Roark – neither of them graduate because they can’t be fettered by a conventional curriculum, both believe themselves to be misunderstood, both would prefer to take any paying job rather than compromise their creative integrity, and both become successful in their chosen fields.

More eye-raising is the character of Dominique, Roark’s love interest, and said to be his perfect match. Their first sexual encounter is so rough that Dominique describes it as a “rape”, and yet comes back for more, again and again. It’s a risque (or even plain risky) thing for a teenage girl to recommend to a boy she likes, and if this is a flirtation-by-literature, Rory seems to have suggested that Jess make things physical, even without her explicit consent.