Bird (film)

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Directed by Clint Eastwood
Produced by Clint Eastwood
Written by Joel Oliansky
Music by Lennie Niehaus
Cinematography Jack N. Green
Edited by Joel Cox
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date
September 30, 1988
Running time
155 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $9-$14.4 million[2][3]
Box office $2.2 million[4]

Bird is a 1988 American biographical film, produced and directed by Clint Eastwood of a screenplay written by Joel Oliansky. The film is a tribute to the life and music of jazz saxophonist Charlie "Bird" Parker. It is constructed as a montage of scenes from Parker's life, from his childhood in Kansas City, through his early death at the age of 34.

The film moves back and forth through Parker's history, blending moments to find some truth to his life. Much of the movie revolves around his only grounding relationships with wife Chan Parker, Bebop pioneer trumpet player and band leader Dizzy Gillespie, and his influence (both musically and into the world of heroin addiction) on trumpet player Red Rodney.



In the 1970s, Parker's friend and colleague Teddy Edwards shared his reminiscences of the saxophonist to Oliansky, who had wanted to make a biopic about Charlie Parker starring actor Richard Pryor.[5] The property was originally owned by Columbia Pictures, which traded the rights to Warner Bros. at Eastwood's instigation, in exchange for the rights to what would become Columbia's 1990 Kevin Costner vehicle, Revenge.[3] There was a delay of a few years while the trade was completed, and by then Pryor had lost interest. The film was eventually shot in 52 days for $14.4 million, not counting Eastwood's fee,[6] although in interviews Eastwood sometimes said the film only cost $9 million to make.[2][3] Locations used for filming include the Sacramento Valley, Los Angeles, and Pasadena, California as well as New York City.[2]


Clint Eastwood with actors Michael Zelniker and Forest Whitaker, and then-partner Sondra Locke, promoting the film at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival.

Bird received positive reviews from critics, scoring a 78% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Forest Whitaker's performance as Parker earned him critical acclaim and several awards, including the Best Actor award at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival[7] and a Golden Globe nomination. In addition, the film also won the prestigious Grand Prix of the Belgian Film Critics Association and the Academy Award for Best Sound (Les Fresholtz, Dick Alexander, Vern Poore, Willie Burton).[8] The film has however been criticized for its use of composite characters, its absence of any depiction of Charlie Parker's first three wives (all of whom, unlike Chan, were African-American), and for the way it over-emphasizes his friendship and working relationship with Red Rodney (white) at the expense of Miles Davis (who is only mentioned in passing). Another common criticism of the film is that it overstates Parker's level of fame (for instance, the imaginary front-page news headline about his suicide attempt).


Initially, when Columbia owned the project, the studio executives wanted to hire musicians to re-record all of Parker's music, largely because most of the original recordings were in mono, and considered of insufficient sound quality to accompany a feature film. Eastwood had some recordings of Parker made by Parker's wife, Chan, from which he had a sound engineer electronically isolate Parker's solos. Contemporary musicians such as Ray Brown, Walter Davis, Jr., Ron Carter, Barry Harris, and Red Rodney were then hired to record backing tracks on modern sound equipment. Dizzy Gillespie was on tour at the time of recording, so trumpet player Jon Faddis was hired to record his parts.[3]


  1. ^ "Bird", Australian Classification.
  2. ^ a b c Hughes, p.139
  3. ^ a b c d Pavlović, Milan (Fall 1988). "Kein Popcorn-Film (Not a Popcorn Film)". steadycam (10): 18–20. 
  4. ^ "Bird", Box Office Mojo.
  5. ^ Interview with Teddy Edwards on ArtistInterviews
  6. ^ Biskind, Peter (April 1993). "Any Which Way He Can". Premiere. New York City: Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S.: 52–60. 
  7. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Bird". Archived from the original on 2011-07-28. Retrieved 2009-07-25. 
  8. ^ "The 61st Academy Awards (1989) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-10-16. 


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