I usually celebrate Elvis’ Birthday by watching his movies, but one year I celebrated by watching all 31 of his movies in chronological order for three days only breaking for sleep. Elvis’ movies were how I discovered Elvis, how I fell in love with Elvis. I knew Elvis’ movies before I knew his music. I knew Elvis as a movie star before I knew him as a singer/performer, so I knew Elvis’ movie songs before I knew his ‘real’ songs which may explain why I really love those songs even “Do the Clam.” I used to watch Elvis’ movies with my mom on Sunday afternoons when I was little. I was two months shy of 5 years old when Elvis died, and yes remember that day clearly.
Some of Elvis’ movies are really great, a few are really terrible and the rest are just cheesy, wholesome, fun. But let’s remember the early and mid 1960s were filled with many cheesy, wholesome, beach movies, not just Elvis’. At least in every Elvis movie, you are guaranteed to see Elvis, so even when they’re bad they’re good. I mean no one carries themselves like Elvis does – shoulders back, arms kind of out to the side, ass out and then the strut. Oh that Elvis strut! Then there is that beautiful face with those full Elvis lips and that beautiful, passionate voice. Out of all the pop singers who tried acting, Elvis definitely had the most successful movie career. Although 13 years over half of Elvis’ career was spent making movies, Elvis biographers rarely spend time (other than to make fun of them or just give a synopsis of) writing about his movies. I mean really writing about them such as: Why were Elvis’ movies significant to American culture and to Elvis’ career? and What happened behind the scenes while making those 31 movies? The Elvis movies were a HUGE part of his career, and a HUGE part of my personal Elvis fandom.
My favorite Elvis movie is Girl Happy, followed in order by Wild in the Country (a VERY close second), Jailhouse Rock, Kid Galahad, Loving You, Girls Girls Girls, Roustabout, Blue Hawaii, Paradise Hawaiian Style, Frankie and Johnny and Clambake. Those are the 11 Elvis movies I watch repeatedly – and have put a * before the title in my reviews / descriptions below. Then others like Change of Habit, It Happened at the World’s Fair, King Creole, Viva Las Vegas, GI Blues, Fun in Acapulco, Spinout, Easy Come Easy Go I watch fairly often, but they are not my go-to Elvis movies like those top 11. I rarely watch Follow That Dream, The Trouble with Girls, Speedway, Live a Little Love a Little, Kissin Cousins, Tickle Me, Charro, Love Me Tender and Flaming Star. Those are just ok and I usually have them on while I am doing something else. The remaining movies Harum Scarum, Double Trouble and Stay Away Joe I wouldn’t miss if I never saw them again.
Elvis’ first four movies (before he went into the army) and six others after (Flaming Star, Wild in the Country, Kid Galahad, Roustabout, Charro and Change of Habit) were dramatic roles (with singing) with real story lines. So if you are counting, that is 10 out of his 31 movies, so 1/3 of Elvis’ movies were dramatic roles and not just the cheesy musicals that everyone thinks is all Elvis did. King Creole is always awarded the crown as being Elvis’ best dramatic role, and his acting prowess in Jailhouse Rock and Flaming Star also gets some discussion. But no one ever talks about Wild in the Country or Kid Galahad. Elvis’ acting in both is great, but I believe Wild in the Country is the best he ever did. I don’t know why that movie never gets talked about in any Elvis Movie Discussion, and is never one of his movies shown on tv. Not only is Elvis’ acting great in it, but I believe Wild in the Country as a whole is on the same level as the classic Splendor in the Grass.
Unfortunately, these dramatic roles did not make as much money at the box office as Elvis’ musicals. This was first shown after King Creole‘s soft showing at the box office. To his credit the Colonel still gave Elvis another chance to act in more serious roles (although this was before the success of GI Blues). This chance was given in the contract with 20th Century Fox on October 29, 1958 for one movie at $200,000. for Elvis with an option for another at $250,000. plus a split of the profits after expenses. These two movies would be Flaming Star and Wild in the Country, but they would not make as much money at the box office as the light song-filled musical comedies GI Blues and Blue Hawaii, so after Kid Galahad in 1962 (which was a remake of the 1937 Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart film), Elvis did not play another dramatic role (with the exception of Roustabout in 1964) until two of his last three movies in 1969 Charro and Change of Habit.
I find it interesting that in almost every film, Elvis plays someone just out of the army and / or someone with dead parents and no family. Also, Elvis sings in every film (except in Charro when just the title song is played). He may not play a singer, but Elvis somehow finds himself singing in every movie. It is a shame the fans wanted to see Elvis sing in his movies. I understand it is because it was the only way to see Elvis sing because he wasn’t doing concerts at the time, so I get it. But it is because of the fans wanting Elvis to sing in his movies that Elvis never realized his dream of becoming a serious actor. In 1956, Elvis was very interested in playing James Dean in Robert Altman’s film about his life. Unfortunately, it was changed to a documentary. What a movie that would have been, and possibly would have changed Elvis’ movie career forever. Elvis’ few serious roles (the movies with only two to four songs) did not make money, so he was forced to sing 10 – 12 songs in each of his movies. This formula started with Elvis’ second movie Loving You then really took hold with his 8th movie Blue Hawaii after the less than stellar box office receipts for his more dramatic 6th and 7th movies Flaming Star and Wild in the Country. (Although they did try again with Elvis’ 10th movie Kid Galahad the following year and with his 16th movie Roustabout two years later.) Elvis did not want to sing in his movies. He wanted to act in his movies and save singing for his concerts.
Although Elvis did not want to sing in his movies, the Elvis movie soundtracks made him a lot of money. The soundtracks were like musical advertisements for the movies which led to the movies’ success which led to the success of the soundtrack albums which in turn led to multiple viewings of the movies by Elvis fans. The Blue Hawaii soundtrack album was the most successful album of Elvis’ lifetime, selling 2 million copies it its first year and the second biggest selling album of the 1960s (behind West Side Story) according to Billboard. Other strong selling soundtracks were GI Blues (700,000), Girls! Girls! Girls! (600,000), Roustabout (450,000) and Girl Happy (400,000). Soundtracks such as Fun in Acapulco, Harum Scarum, It Happened at the World’s Fair, Kissin’ Cousins and Spinout all sold around 300,000 copies while Frankie and Johnny sold 250,000, Paradise Hawaiian Style sold 225,000 and Double Trouble and Clambake sold 200,000. The least lucrative (and the last) soundtrack was Speedway, which sold less than 100,000 copies. A soundtrack album was not released for Elvis’ most popular movie Viva Las Vegas, instead just an EP was released and sold 150,000 copies.
In 1956, Producer Hal Wallis saw a young Elvis Presley on Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey’s Stage Show, and called the Colonel to offer Elvis a movie contract. In Elvis Films Faq Paul Simpson writes, “Wallis’ nine movies with Elvis – Loving You, King Creole, GI Blues, Blue Hawaii, Girls! Girls! Girls!, Fun in Acapulco, Roustabout, Paradise Hawaiian Style and Easy Come Easy Go – effectively sum up the narrative of Presley’s movie career. Early promise (Loving You) comes close to being fulfilled (King Creole) before commercial considerations step in (GI Blues, Blue Hawaii, Girls! Girls! Girls!, Fun in Acapulco and Roustabout), becoming so all-important that the star, the audience, and the producer himself lose interest.” After a screen test at Paramount Studio, Elvis thought he was on his way to realizing his dream when he signed his first of many movie contracts on April 25, 1956 for one movie with options for six more at Paramount with an option to make one movie per year at another studio.
I have had all 31 of Elvis’ movies on DVD since the 1990s. I also own the 27 Elvis movies that are available to stream on Amazon (on my fire stick, tablet and phone) – and Loving You is free to everyone on YouTube. For some reason Kid Galahad, Follow That Dream, and Change of Habit are not available to stream online. I had seen all of Elvis’ movies at least once (some as many as a 100 times as I watch many of them quite often), but this was the first time I had seen many of them in 20 or 30 or maybe even 40 years. This was certainly the first time I had ever watched all 31 of Elvis’ movies in chronological order consecutively without watching anything else and only taking breaks for sleep. Since then I have updated this original post and continue to do so each week as I am again re-watching Elvis’ movies in chronological order, but this time once a week. while listening to the soundtracks (which I have all of them on vinyl) and revisiting my many books about Elvis’ movies. I find as I am re-watching these movies again with a more critical eye, I am enjoying the ones I used to not like (or at least appreciating) them more than I did originally – and I also find myself watching all the credits as I used to just fast forward through them. Below is my personal take on each of Elvis’ 31 movies along with behind the scenes stories on the making of the movies and a few stats on production and filming. I find as I am rewatching these movies again with a more critical eye, I am enjoying the ones I used to not like (or at least appreciating) them more than I did originally – and I also find myself watching all the credits as I used to just fastforward through them.
**some of the facts I have gotten from books I have read over the years – hard to reference everything as over the years they have become general knowledge in my head**
***Be forewarned that some of these descriptions reveal plot points and might ruin the ending if you haven’t seen the movies, so read at your own risk***
LOVE ME TENDER 1956
I was never a huge fan of Elvis’ first movie because I don’t like westerns, plus Elvis is only in about half of the movie. It is not a bad movie, just not my thing. It is definitely not in my rotation of 11 Elvis movies I watch all the time. I like all the love story / soap opera stuff, but not all the shoot em up western stuff. It is not one I re-watch all the time. But I was SO excited in New York City the first time I went as an adult to see the Paramount Theater remembering that HUGE Elvis banner for the premiere of Love Me Tender on November 15, 1956. Elvis was SO young with such a southern accent in Love Me Tender – he was just SO beautiful and innocent in it (and his hair was still his natural light brown). Elvis was no James Dean, but for his acting debut with no training he did a great job. Even though Elvis had a contract with Hal Wallis and Paramount, they had no script for him so Elvis was loaned out to 20th Century Fox for his first movie, which he was paid $100,000. This was the first and last time Elvis did not receive top billing. Elvis’ first movie is one of the few Elvis movies that wasn’t really an ‘Elvis’ movie in that it was a movie with a real plot that just happened to have Elvis in it much like two of my favorites Wild in the Country and Kid Galahad, although he was the central character in those two movies. Unlike his later movies, Elvis is not in every scene in this one. In fact, Elvis does not even appear in the movie until 18 minutes into it. Love Me Tender was the biggest release at that time with 575 prints (typical was 200-300), and recouped its costs within three days of release. In its first week, Love Me Tender became the #2 movie right behind James Dean’s final film Giant. Love Me Tender ranked 23rd in movies for 1956, and it was the first Elvis movie to be shown on television in 1963. Love Me Tender filmed for one month from August 20th to September 21st in 1956 on Fox Studios in Hollywood. During most of the filming, Elvis stayed at the Knickerbocker Hotel (1714 Ivar Ave, Hollywood) in Suite 1016 and then moved to the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in mid-September. (**Interesting Fact: Elvis left Memphis for Hollywood on August 16th for his first movie – so many critical events happened to Elvis on or around the date of his death**) Elvis was so excited he learned everyone’s lines in the movie. David Weisbart produced Love Me Tender, and he had also produced Rebel Without A Cause starring one of Elvis’ favorites (and mine) James Dean. Elvis enjoyed talking with Weisbart about Dean and even acted out a scene from Rebel. Weisbart went on to produce three more of Elvis’ movies: Flaming Star, Follow That Dream and Kid Galahad. Love Me Tender (in regards to Elvis’ character) is about The Reno Brothers, which was the original title before Elvis’ song “Love Me Tender” took over the title. Clint Reno (Elvis’ character) marries Cathy (played by Debra Paget who Elvis had a crush on in real life) who was his older brother Vance’s (played by Richard Egan) girlfriend before he went off to war. Vance was presumed dead but shocked the family when he returned from the war very much alive. Cathy is especially shocked as she is clearly still in love with Vance even though she is married to his brother Clint. The irony is when Clint sings “Love Me Tender” in the movie, it is obvious the song is actually for Vance and Cathy not Clint and Cathy. After shooting his brother Vance in jealousy over their shared love Cathy, Clint dies from a returned gunshot. It was leaked to the public that Elvis’ character was going to die at the end of the movie and needless to say Elvis fans were not too happy with this outcome. To avoid bad publicity, Elvis was called back later to shoot an alternate ending where his character lived, but this ending was not used. Instead they compromised with adding Elvis as sort of a ghost singing “Love Me Tender” at the end of Clint’s funeral. This way fans were left with the image of Elvis singing rather than dying. Elvis does not play a singer in Love Me Tender, but he does sing a few songs which really upset Elvis because he was told he would not have to sing in the movie. Elvis breaks into song just five minutes after his initial onscreen appearance. And a bit later on stage at the benefit, Elvis as Clint is literally doing the same thing he was doing in his concerts, complete with the girls in the audience screaming which is odd for the 1860s. Elvis was not allowed to use Scotty, Bill and DJ to back him up in the Love Me Tender, but he made sure they were backing him up in future movies like Loving You and Jailhouse Rock. Elvis recorded three songs for the Love Me Tender ‘soundtrack’ on August 24, 1956 on 20th Century Fox Stage 1. Those songs were “Love Me Tender,” “Poor Boy” and “We’re Gonna Move.” Elvis recorded “Let Me,” the fourth song for the ‘soundtrack,’ September 4th and 5th in that same Stage 1 of 20th Century Fox – he also recorded another version of “Poor Boy” during those sessions. If you notice in the credits, it says all songs “by Elvis Presley and Vera Matson.” You don’t see that in any other of Elvis’ movies because Elvis felt it was dishonest, so he put a stop to it. During the filming of Love Me Tender, Elvis appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show for the first time on September 9, 1956 singing “Love Me Tender” as one of his four songs. “Love Me Tender” was the first single of the time to go Gold before it was even released, the first time advanced sales for a single release had ever surpassed the million mark. It was #1 on the charts for four weeks. Elvis was still singing it 20 years later in concert. Sadly, “Love Me Tender” is not one of my favorite songs, but I did like it as the part of his 1970s concerts where he kisses all the ladies.
**I consulted The Elvis Files Vol 1, Elvis Film FAQS, Reel Elvis, Elvis Films Faq for more information**
* LOVING YOU 1957
This is Elvis’ first movie in color and his only one in color out of the first four he made before going into the army in 1958. Elvis is even more beautiful in color, especially with his newly dyed black hair slicked back and glistening! As my fifth favorite Elvis movie, I watch Loving You frequently. It was a very significant to Elvis’ movie career as well as to Hollywood in general. Elvis’ acting improved significantly in his second movie. Loving You is almost autobiographical with Elvis playing a rags to riches singer (Deke Rivers) and the older generation thinking Deke is vulgar and even threatened to cancel a show as happened in Elvis’ life. Because Deke was misunderstood and was shown as a good guy at the end, Loving You shows that Elvis is also a good guy and has been misunderstood. Even his manager Glenda (played by Lizabeth Scott) was reminiscent of the Colonel with her phony publicity stunts and taking 50% of Deke’s earnings. Loving You gives a glimpse into the impact Elvis had on America and the impact fame had on him. Unlike in Elvis’ first movie, Love Me Tender, Scotty Moore, Bill Black and DJ Fontana were in Loving You as Deke’s band – and Bill even had a couple of lines. This was the first of two movies Dolores Hart (who played Deke’s love interest Susan) costarred with Elvis – the other is King Creole. She was just 17 and a freshman in college at the time. Unlike Love Me Tender, Elvis had top billing in Loving You as he would for rest of his movies. Elvis had his first on screen kiss in his second movie Loving You, there was no kiss in his first movie. Oddly enough his first on screen kiss was with neither one of his character’s love interests, but with an aggressive fan named Daisy, played by Jana Lund. Loving You also showcased Elvis’ first fight scene, which would become part of the Elvis movie formula in the rest of his movies. Wendall Corey, who plays Tex Warner Glenda’s ex-husband and former lead of the show, was also in my favorite Christmas movie Holiday Affair with Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh. Elvis’ parents were prominently shown in the audience at the end of the movie during the television show. It is said Elvis never watched Loving You again after his mother died – although I doubt he ever watched any of this movies after he finished filming. Loving You was based on a short story by Mary Agnes Thompson titled “A Call for Mitch Miller” that appeared in the June 1956 issue of Good Housekeeping. Producer Hal Wallis bought the rights to it because he saw this story of a young Oklahoma singer’s rise to stardom as a perfect movie for Elvis, his first of nine with Elvis. Titles considered for the movies were The Lonesome Cowboy or Something For The Girls or Running Wild (which Ed Sullivan announced on his January 9th show as the title) before deciding on naming it after Leiber and Stoller’s “Loving You.” To make the movie more closely suited for Elvis, Wallis sent Director and Co-Writer Hal Kanter to Memphis on December 12, 1956 just a month before filming was to begin on Loving You to spend time with Elvis to get a sense of who he was. They hung out with Elvis’ parents at their home on Audubon Drive, visited friends and fellow entertainers Jim Ed Brown and his sister Maxine (whom I met and talked with extensively years ago – what a great lady!) in Arkansas on their way to Shreveport to watch Elvis perform on the Louisiana Hayride. Kanter was able to see first-hand the girls excitement for Elvis. He saw twin sisters high-fiving each other to the beat and used that in the movie. On January 10th, Elvis left Memphis by train for Hollywood. He first went to Radio Recorders to record some songs for the soundtrack then to Makeup and Wardrobe at Paramount Legendary Edith Head was Costume Designer on Loving You as well as on eight subsequent Elvis movies. Filming for Loving You lasted two months from January 14th to March 6th, 1957 at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, California. The set was closed during filming to make Elvis comfortable because he did not like being interrupted by reporters. They only left the Paramount lot once for a location shoot for scenes at the Jessup Farm, which according to Delores Hart were some of her and Elvis’ favorites times while working on the movie. During filming, Elvis dated Rita Moreno and Yvonne Lime. The studio received 500 calls and 2000 letters every day Elvis was filming. The Colonel’s secretary would sort the mail, giving some to Elvis to read and respond to with autographs and photos. Elvis arrived at the studio every day at 8am and sometimes wouldn’t leave until 7pm signing autographs and taking photos with the hundreds of fans waiting for him by the gate. Six extra security guards were called in to clear the way for Elvis to leave. During filming, Elvis was almost seriously injured when a light structure crashed to the ground where he had just been standing. Elvis rode around the studio on his bicycle called the “Hound Dog” given to him by Hal Wallis. He visited Sal Mineo (from Rebel Without A Cause), Shirley Booth and Eileen on the set of Hot Spell. In the middle of filming on February 15th, Elvis’ parents Vernon and Gladys left Memphis for a month in Hollywood to visit with their son and subsequently appear in the end of the movie in the audience of the live television show. They were supposed to leave sooner, but Glady was hospitalized for a couple of days “for a check up.” A year and half later, she would be dead. It was interesting to see in every photo, candid and posed, Gladys and Elvis are touching. Loving You set the formula for future Elvis movies. Hal Wallis had Elvis sing ten songs evenly spread out throughout the movie. The Box Office receipts validated this strategy again and again. Loving You also changed the way Hollywood would distribute future films. It was the first movie to have mass theater releases with a saturated booking in 90 neighborhood theaters (rather then one downtown showing) preceded by a media advertising blitz. This new strategy made Loving You one of the top 20 grossing movies of 1957 bringing in $3.7 Million. They opened the movie in July ensuring teenagers off from school could attend in full force. Loving You premiered on July 9, 1957 in Memphis at The Strand Theater breaking every attendance record. Movie goers tore down billboard displays for souvenirs. Elvis did not attend the Memphis premiere, rather he enjoyed a midnight showing with his parents. Loving You opened nation wide on July 30th peaking at number 7 in Variety. Elvis performed seven songs in Loving You. They were, in order of appearance, “Got a Lot a Livin’ to Do,” “(Let’s Have a) Party,” “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear,” “Hot Dog,” “Lonesome Cowboy,” “Mean Woman Blues” and “Loving You.” Of course the songs “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear” (written by Kal Mann and Bernie Lowe) and “Loving You” (written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller) were extremely popular. “Teddy Bear” hit #1 on the Billboard Top 100 chart in July 1957 and stayed there for seven weeks with a total of 24 weeks on the chart while its flip side “Loving You” debuted on the Billboard Top 100 chart in June and remained there for 22 weeks peaking at #28. I actually prefer the more uptempo version of “Loving You” than the traditional ballad version. I have three versions of the Loving You soundtrack on vinyl. I have the original issue 1957 7-inch 45rpm record, but apparently there is another version because mine says Vol 1 and has just three songs on it: “Loving You,” “Party,” “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear” and “True Love,” which isn’t even from Loving You. Although over 60 years old, that old 45 still plays great (and even though I don’t have Vol 2 at least I have the biggest hits on mine “Teddy Bear and “Loving You”). In fact, I have all of Elvis’ first four movie soundtracks on vinyl, original issue 45s. I bought them from Jerry at River Records in Memphis back in 1999 or the early 2000s. (** Side Note** I googled to make sure I had the name and store correct and found out Jerry in his early 80s was murdered in his store in 2016, and his last name was Gibson. His brother Lowell is the founder of Gibson Donuts! I remember Jerry being a sweet man who was really helpful to me in my first days of collecting. He must have been great for me to remember his name and store name after 20 years. I remember his store being just packed with vinyl, and Jerry helped me sort through everything.) Ok back to the other two Loving You records I have. I do have the complete soundtrack on a full length reproduction 12-inch 33 1/3 rpm record. I also have a French production called Loving You The Alternative Album, which is two 10-inch albums – one is a picture disc. These albums plays all different versions of the soundtrack songs including the movie versions and alternative versions, hence the title. Ben Weisman wrote “Got a Lot O’ Livin’ To Do” and then went on to write 56 more songs for Elvis, more than any other songwriter.
**I consulted Elvis The Movies, The Elvis Files Vol 2, Reel Elvis, Elvis Films Faq, Elvis in Hollywood, Elvis Presley the Hollywood Years for more information**
* JAILHOUSE ROCK 1957
Elvis’ third movie is also my third favorite Elvis movie. As much as I love this movie, I could really start at about 25 minutes into as I don’t really care for all the Elvis in jail scenes, but I do watch it often. Everything about Jailhouse Rock is very 50s (which I loved growing up and still do) and very cool – the clothes, the music, the cars and of course Elvis. He was just so darn sexy and sullen. Angry and kind of a jerk work for Elvis. I mean who doesn’t love a bad boy? Isn’t everyone’s favorite Elvis movie line “That ain’t tactics honey. It’s just the beast in me.” (which is preceded by my second line favorite line “Uh-uh, you ain’t gonna hate me. I ain’t gonna let you hate me.”) That whole scene, where Elvis’ character Vince and Judy’s character Peggy goes to her parents party, is probably my favorite in the movie as it’s just so 1950s! I wanted to be a guest at that party. (Apparently there is a goof in this party scene when Vince and Peggy enter her parents’ house there is a visible “T” taped to the carpet where Elvis is supposed to stand.) Jailhouse Rock is the first movie where the credits said, “starring Elvis Presley.” It went from “introducing Elvis Presley” in Love Me Tender to Elvis having top billing but on the same screen as his two costars listed under him in Loving You to “starring Elvis Presley” in Jailhouse Rock, and it would remain that way for the next 28 films. It is also the first movie that is completely centered and built entirely around Elvis making him entirely responsible for the success of the film for the first time. As in Loving You, Scotty Moore, Bill Black and DJ Fontana again appeared on screen as Elvis’ (Vince’s) band (along with song writer Mike Stoller at the piano). Also seen in the movie were Elvis’ friends George Klein, Lamar Fike and cousin Gene Smith. Jailhouse Rock was originally going to be called The Hard Way. It was written by Guy Trosper based on an idea by Ned Young. Jailhouse Rock was produced by Pando S. Berman and directed by Richard Thorpe, who also directed Fun in Acapulco as well as 200 other films. Casting was done by the head of the studio Benny Thau and the president of the William Morris Agency Abraham Lastfogel. Elvis was paid $250,000 for Jailhouse Rock plus 50% of the profits of the movie. Elvis reported to the MGM lot in Culver City on May 6, 1957 where he was assigned Clark Gable’s former dressing room. During the jail scenes, he did not actually have his hair cut in the style of a crew cut rather he wore a wig after fans wrote in threatening to boycott the movie if Elvis’ hair was cut short without his sideburns. On May 14th, art imitated life (or was it the other way around), when Elvis’ inhaled his tooth-cap when it came loose during the filming of the “Jailhouse Rock” production number and had to be removed from his lung. While filming, Elvis dated costar Anne Neyland (who played Elvis’s female member of his ‘troupe’ Laury Jackson) Gloria Pall, who played the stripper/dancer whose legs we see where Vince meets Everett, really liked Elvis on Jailhouse Rock saying he had a great sense of humor. But did not care much for him a year earlier in Vegas 1956 when she called him a “corny, horny hick” after instead of shaking her hand or kissing her hand, he licked every finger on her hand. Plus she said he was pimply and he wasn’t attracted to him at all (but a year later he was, but she had just gotten married). I liked seeing Dean Jones, who played the DJ, as I was a big fan of the Herbie The Love Bug movies when I was little. Although I’ve always found his character asking Peggy out to “split a herring” a little gross. I mean that doesn’t sound like the most delicious invitation (to split a fish?). During that famous kissing scene on the couch between Jennifer Holden’s character Sherry and Elvis’ character Vince, she adlibbed that great line, “I’m coming all unglued.” Maybe that is why Elvis carried Jennifer to safety when her dressing room caught fire from an electric heater. Playing the real life hero again, Elvis pulled Judy Tyler to safety stopping a glass door from swinging back and hitting her again (after she had already put her had through it). While on the set of Jailhouse Rock, Elvis judged a beauty contest where the winner earned a walk on part in the movie. Elvis chose Linda Williams as the winner and she was credited as “the girl in the bathing suit.” She was the one at the pool party who tells Vince “when you sing it’s really gonesville” after he performs “(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care.” Filming for Jailhouse Rock was completed on June 17th and eight days later Elvis was on a train to get back to his newly acquired Graceland. Two weeks later on July 3, Elvis’ costar Judy Tyler (and her husband) were killed in a car crash. Too distraught, Elvis reportedly never watched Jailhouse Rock – one of his best movies. Jailhouse Rock had its world premiere at Loew’s State Theater in Memphis on October 17, 1957 and was released nationally on November 8th. During its opening week, it reached #3 in Variety, was 14th for 1957 and grossed $4 Million in its initial release. Jailhouse Rock received lukewarm reviews pretty much saying that if you like Elvis (or ‘that sort of thing’) then you’ll love this movie and that Elvis had much improved from Loving You. In 2004, Jailhouse Rock was added to the Library of Congress Film Registry. Like Loving You, this movie was again a little autobiographical, except for the going to jail part, with Elvis’ character Vince Everett quickly becoming famous as a singer and a movie star. Vince’s friends become his entourage-on-the-payroll much like Elvis’ Memphis Mafia. I’ve always wondered if Vince’s line in jail about never hearing a guitar player make money came from Vernon? In Jailhouse Rock, Vince goes to jail for manslaughter and while inside sings on a television show and gains a little bit of fame. When he gets out, he meets Peggy (played by Judy Tyler) who is in the music business. Together they start Vince’s music career, which quickly goes to his head after becoming a movie star. The songs from Jailhouse Rock were always favorites of mine growing up. Today my favorite off the soundtrack is a tie between “Don’t Leave Me Now” and “I Want to Be Free.” I also really enjoy “(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care” (probably because of the pool scene – love when Peggy says “Every time I see you you’re working a neck” when she spies Vince kissing a girl’s neck ). Now I have four versions of the Jailhouse Rock soundtrack on vinyl. I have the original 7-inch 45rpm from 1957 (which for some reason “Treat Me Nice” was left off), a reproduction of the South African 12-inch 33 1/3 rpm release from 1958, the FTD double album of the Jailhouse Rock sessions (which is amazing – SO much Elvis talking and laughing) and the 10-inch double French release Jailhouse Rock The Alternative Album. Four hours one afternoon Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller wrote four of the six songs for Jailhouse Rock: “(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care,” “I Want To Be Free,” “Jailhouse Rock” and “Treat Me Nice.” “Jailhouse Rock” entered the Billboard‘s Top 100 in October 1957 at #15 and was #1 within three weeks where it remained for seven weeks. “Jailhouse Rock” (with “Treat Me Nice” on the flip side) stayed on the charts for 27 weeks – that is over half a year. On April 30, 1957 in Radio Recorders in Hollywood, Elvis recorded “Jailhouse Rock,” “Treat Me Nice” and three versions of “Young and Beautiful” for the soundtrack. It was during this session that one of my favorite photos of Elvis was taken – Elvis playing the drums. I love drums and drummers and have an original copy of this photo! Elvis went back into the studio at Radio Recorders on May 3rd to record different versions of “Treat Me Nice,” “I Want to Be Free,” “(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care” and “Don’t Leave Me Now.” On May 7th and 8th, Elvis was on the MGM Sound Stage to record the vocal overdub for the May 3rd recording “(You’re So Square) Baby, I Don’t Care.” Elvis walked out of his Jailhouse Rock session when his back up band was not allowed to warm up with him singing Gospel like he always did.
**I consulted The Elvis Files Vol 2, Elvis The Movies, Reel Elvis, Elvis Presley in the Movies, Elvis Films Faq, Jailhouse Rock Frame by Frame, Elvis Elvis Elvis The King and His Movies for more information**
KING CREOLE 1958
Elvis’ fourth movie King Creole (the fan favorite and supposedly Elvis’ favorite) is not one of my favorites. I like it fine, but it is not even in my top 10 favorite Elvis movies – it’s probably around my 13th favorite (out of 31). I don’t watch it that often, except when it is on tv. It is definitely not in my rotation of 11 Elvis movies I watch all the time. I honestly find King Creole a little slow, but Elvis does look amazing in it. It is crazy that director Michael Curtiz, who also directed Casablanca, said Elvis was pudgy and asked him to lose about 10-15 pounds before filming – and to lose his sideburns. Every book I have read claims this was Elvis’ best acting and his most dramatic role, and he never matched it again. I disagree. I think Elvis was just as good, if not better, in Wild in the Country (and he was almost as good in Kid Galahad), which was an equally dramatic movie. There are 11 songs in King Creole, which is a lot for such a dramatic movie. Although Elvis did have a few comedic lines. My favorite line in King Creole is when Danny (played by Elvis) says to Ronnie (played by Carolyn Jones), “That’s a pretty piece of material. You ought to have a dress made out of it.” Then he laughs, oh that beautiful, sexy Elvis smile! One thing I just noticed (even though I’ve seen the movie many times) is what the gangster says to Danny in that first bar scene where Danny meets Ronnie – he says to Elvis’ character, “You looking for Trouble?” I had never noticed that before! Elvis received his draft notice on December 19, 1957 after Paramount had already spent $350,000. in preparation for King Creole. As we all know, Elvis did get a sixty-day deferment to finish the movie then was inducted into the army on March 24, 1958 just two weeks after filming was completed. The screenplay for King Creole, which was almost called Danny and Sing You Sinner, was written by Herbert Baker and Mike Gazzo and was loosely based on A Stone for Danny Fisher by Harold Robbins. Among other things, they changed Danny from a boxer to a singer and the location from New York to New Orleans. Russell Harlan was the cinematographer photographing King Creole in a dark, moody lighting to capture the seedy atmosphere of the French Quarter. Elvis plays Danny Fisher who becomes a nightclub singer on Bourbon Street who gets mixed up with the mob – to put it succinctly. Other actors who were considered for the role of Danny were Tony Curtis, Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, Paul Newman and James Dean (who was considered after the first draft of the screenplay was completed in 1955 but died a few months later). The theory is when Elvis was surrounded by a talented cast and crew, his performance and the movie was better (but isn’t that obvious?). One of Danny’s love interests was Ronnie played by Carolyn Jones, who went on to play Morticia in The Addams Family (and who was married to Aaron Spelling during King Creole). Some of the actresses who were considered for the role of Ronnie were Lizabeth Scott (from Loving You), Joanne Woodward (this would have been interesting if Paul Newman would have gotten the role of Danny), Donna Reed (I cannot see her – she’s too innocent), Kim Stanley (I can totally see her in this role), Gena Rowlands, Dorothy Malone, Gwen Verdon (the dancing lady?) and Gloria Grahame. Danny’s nemesis / bad guy gangster Maxie Fields was played by Walter Matthau. Some of the actors considered for the role of Maxie were Lee Marvin, Jason Robards, Edward G. Robinson and Richard Boone. Danny’s other love interest Nellie was played by Delores Hart, who also played Elvis’ love interest in his second movie Loving You. Danny’s sister Mimi was played by Jan Shepard, who was in Paradise Hawaiian Style with Elvis years later. Danny’s father was played by Dean Jagger, who played the general in White Christmas. The gang member Danny befriends, the deaf-mute “Dummy,” was played by Jack Grinnage, who was in Rebel Without A Cause. Danny’s boss and Mimi’s boyfriend Charlie LeGrange was played by Paul Stewart, who played the butler in Citizen Cane. Candy Candido, who played the doorman, was the voice of Popeye in the 1930s. King Creole was filmed at Paramount Studios from January 15 to March 11 of 1958, except when they were on location for five days in New Orleans from March 2nd to March 6th – Elvis’ first on-location movie. There were several locations used in New Orleans for filming. The courtyard and exterior of 1018 Royal Street near Ursuline Street was used for Danny’s house. The exterior of McDonough 15 Elementary school at 721 St. Philip Street near Royal Street was used as Danny’s high school. The courtyard at 726 Saint Peter Street was used as Maxie’s house. There were many scenes filmed in the French Quarter on Bourbon Street near Canal Street, Cabildo Arches, Pirates Alley, Vieux Carre Saloon and St. Louis Cathedral. The scenes on the pier at the end of the movie were filmed on Lake Pontchartrain at an area known as “Little Woods” off Haynes Boulevard, but that shack is no longer there. The opening number “Crawfish” where Elvis is on the porch singing was actually filmed in the studio, not on location in New Orleans. Elvis took the train to New Orleans with his cousin Gene Smith and his friends Alan Fortas, Cliff Geaves and Ken Moore. They stayed on the top floor of the Roosevelt Hotel. Elvis had to take the elevator up in the building next door, cross the roof and use the fire escape to his room to avoid the swarm of fans. But even inside the hotel was a problem. Girls were hiding in closets, in elevator shafts, behind chairs in the lobby, in bathrooms and in other actors’ rooms. There were hundreds, if not more, of screaming fans in the school yard during filming. In the scene on the street when the gang grabs Danny, a male fan ran up to Elvis while they were shooting and asked for his autograph. Elvis wanted to try some of New Orleans’ famous cuisine at the legendary Antoine’s, but they could not guarantee crowd control so Elvis ordered room service for his five nights in New Orleans. There are always scenes that don’t make the final cut. One such scene for King Creole was the hotel scene, when Danny takes Nellie to the hotel for the ‘party.’ In the final version, the two stay in the hallway and never actually go into the room, but that is not how it was originally filmed. The original script had Danny and Nellie inside the hotel room where Nellie partially unzips her dress. Other scenes, like ones with Mimi and Charlie, were deleted just so they could add more songs into the movie. Elvis almost fell off the bar while filming “Trouble.” During the fight scene with Danny and the gang, Elvis really did get cut in the left arm by the knife. During the fight scene between Danny and Maxie, Walter Matthau breaks a chair over Elvis’ head than picked up the broken chair leg and hit Elvis across the back with it and Elvis threw up as it was just after lunch – that was one scene they could not use. Elvis of course asked Jack Grinnage a lot about James Dean and how we was on set. Grinnage wore the same jacket in King Creole that he had worn in Rebel Without a Cause, but it got ruined in the final scene when he and Matthau fell off the pier into the water. Scotty Moore, Bill Black, DJ Fontana again joined Elvis in the movie playing his back up band. In one scene, Scotty is wearing Elvis’ shirt. The Imperials were also in King Creole. Gordon Stoker said in between scene they would sing spirituals with Elvis. Elvis used to give Jan Shepard little trinkets from the Five and Dime set. She said they got real close (like a brother and sister) because it was just the two of them the first week of filming. Elvis was eating lunch with Jan sitting at the table next to Marlon Brando at the commissary, and their chairs were back to back. Jan told Elvis to slightly hit his chair against Marlon’s when he got up, so he could meet him. And that’s exactly what happened. They said hello and shook hands, and Elvis couldn’t have been more excited! On February 22, 1958, Delores Hart threw a Surprise Birthday Party for Jan Shepard and invited everyone including Elvis, never thinking he would attend but he did carrying a huge stuffed Tiger named Danny Boy and movie camera as gifts for Jan. Elvis even played the piano during the party, with Delores on clarinet. Elvis asked Delores out on a date, but she declined saying she wanted to keep their relationship professional and adding it would have created quite the ‘buzz.’ On July 2, 1958, King Creole premiered at Lowe’s State Theater in New York City. It appeared on Variety‘s box-office survey for four weeks peaking at #5. King Creole received the best reviews of Elvis’ first four movies, everyone agreeing (although a bit begrudgingly) that Elvis can in fact act. It was an artistic triumph, but not a commercial success. King Creole made $2.64 million in ticket sales at the end of its nationwide run, which was a disappointment compared to Elvis’ first three movies (Love Me Tender $9.24M, Loving You $8.14M and Jailhouse Rock $8.58M). King Creole really does have a great soundtrack! Of its 11 songs, “Don’t Ask Me Why,” “Young Dreams” and “Trouble” are my my favorites. The others making up the soundtrack are “King Creole,” “As Long as I Have You,” “Hard Headed Woman” (which only the end was included in the movie because they couldn’t get the rights), “Dixieland Rock,” “Lover Doll,” “Crawfish,” “Steadfast, Loyal and True” and “New Orleans.” I have the original 1958 7-inch 45 rpm and the 1962 12-inch 33 1/3 rpm release. The songs were recorded January 15th, 16th and 23rd at Radio Recorders in Hollywood and on February 11th on the Paramount Sound Stage in Hollywood. “Hard Headed Woman” debuted on Billboard‘s Top 100 chart at #15 in June 1958, and a week later made its way to #3. It was the first of Elvis’ songs to receive the Gold Disc Award from the Recording Industry Association of America. “Steadfast, Loyal and True,” written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller (who also wrote “Trouble” and “King Creole”), went on to become the official song of the International Elvis Presley Appreciation Society. Incidentally, Leiber and Stoller never wrote another song for Elvis after King Creole.
**I consulted Elvis: Frame by Frame, The Elvis Files Vol 2, Elvis The Movies, Reel Elvis, Elvis Presley in the Movies, Elvis Films Faq, Elvis Elvis Elvis The King and His Movies for more information**
GI BLUES 1960
GI Blues was Elvis’ first movie after coming out of the army and his first musical comedy. I like it fine, but it is not one of my favorites, not in my rotation of 11 Elvis movies I watch all the time. I am not sure why it is not one of my favorites, maybe because of that annoying crying baby scene or the “Wooden Heart” puppet scene (I cannot stand that song!) or that I really don’t love Juliet Prowse as Elvis’ leading lady or her two too long solo dance numbers. My favorite scene is probably the first nightclub scene and Elvis’ character Tulsa’s first interaction with a woman. He bites his lower lip while giving his sexy smile and says, “Keep your motor runnin’ honey,” kisses her and then makes this moaning sound. SIGH! I really like the GI Blues soundtrack – so many catchy songs. I can definitely see why it did so well. Besides my original 1960 issue 33 1/3 rpm GI Blues album, I actually have one piece of GI Blues memorabilia. It is one of those photo on wood art that I got free when I bought another one – tacky I know, but I love tacky! After a two year absence from the public while he was in the army, fans were clamoring to see Elvis. Movies would be their only way to see Elvis for the next eight years. And teens were not the only Elvis fans now. His service in the army and the loss of his mother endeared Elvis to a whole new audience of adults. His performance on the Frank Sinatra show just after his release from the army solidified Elvis’ new squeaky clean image making him one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood who appealed to all generations of moviegoers. No longer was Elvis the chip-on-his-shoulder brooding character as in his first four movies, which were musical dramas. In this his first musical comedy GI Blues, Elvis’ character is more mature, more likeable and has a more conservative singing style. As a result, Elvis had a new family-friendly image that was going to pay off in a big way as far as making money (Elvis was paid $200,00. plus $50,000 for expenses for GI Blues) but unfortunately at the same time this would squelch Elvis’ creative juices. GI Blues became the prototype (solidified with the success of Blues Hawaii after the box office failure of the dramatic Flaming Star and Wild in the Country) for other Elvis musical comedies where the beautiful hero wooed beautiful women in beautiful locations while singing enough songs to sell an album, which was really the whole point of making the movies. As the decade progressed, the quality of these “Elvis Travelogues” declined. Originally titled Christmas in Berlin then Cafe Europa, GI Blues was produced by Hal Wallis and directed by Norman Taurog, who went on to direct eight more Elvis movies including Blue Hawaii, Girls Girls Girls, It Happened at the World’s Fair, Tickle Me, Spinout, Double Trouble, Speedway and Live a Little, Love a Little. The screenplay was written by Edmund Beloin and Henry Garson, who were nominated for a Writers Guild Award as Best-Written American Musical for GI Blues. Christmas in Berlin was a story about a GI named Memphis stationed in West Berlin dreaming of opening a night club in Brooklyn and that turned into GI Blues about a GI named Tulsa stationed in Frankfurt dreaming of opening a night club in Oklahoma. It has the age old romantic plot where the hero (Elvis’ character Tulsa) bets his buddies he can win over a frosty beauty (Juliet Prowse’s Lili). Juliet Prowse was not the first choice for Lili, Tulsa’s love interest. German actress Vera Tschechova, who had been dating Elvis, was originally considered for the role. Juliet Prowse was engaged to Frank Sinatra at the time of filming GI Blues, but that didn’t stop her from having an affair with Elvis. (Wouldn’t stop me either btw – just sayin.) Prowse was supposed to return to play Elvis’ love interest in Blue Hawaii, but Hal Wallis did not like her high salary demand or her insistence on her own makeup man and and her own secretary. Prowse did show up years later on the documentary That’s the Way It Is as one of the celebrities attending Elvis’ Vegas performance. James Douglas, who played Tulsa’s buddy Rick (the father of the baby) also played Grant Coleman on my favorite As the World Turns. Jeremy Slate, who played Turk who makes the bet with Tulsa, also played Elvis’ nemesis in Girls Girls Girls – he’s the blonde one. Bobby Darin, Gary Crosby (Bing’s son and who also years later costars with Elvis in my favorite Girl Happy), Joey Bishop (part of Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack), Darryl Hickman (of Dobie Gillis fame), Johnny Carson and Jackie Cooper were among those considered for the role of Cookie which ultimately went to Robert Ivers. Elvis was so taken with one of the extras, Miss Austria 1957 Hannerl Melcher, that he invited her and her roommate to spend Christmas with him and his family at Graceland. All of Elvis’ scenes in GI Blues were filmed on the Paramount lot in Hollywood, but background filming actually started in Germany in August 1959 weeks before Elvis was released from the army. During that time, Hal Wallis met with Elvis. During the three weeks in Germany, Wallis oversaw the background filming in Frankfurt, Wiesbaden and Idstein on the Rhine River. Fellow Mississippian Tom Creel served as Elvis’ stand-in for the long shots. The army provided tanks from Elvis’ (and Tulsa’s) Third Armored Division. Just six weeks after being release from the Army Elvis, along with cousin Gene Smith and friends Joe Esposito, Lamar Fike, Sonny West and Charlie Hodge, left for Hollywood by train on April 18, 1960. They arrived April 20th for preproduction of GI Blues, which included Elvis getting an army haircut. Elvis and his entourage stayed at the Beverly Wiltshire Hotel. Filming for GI Blues took place from April 29 to June 25, 1960. During the shower scene, wooded blocks were used in place of soap during the long shots. Scotty Moore and DJ Fontana can once again be seen playing with the band backing up Elvis’ character in the first nightclub scene. During this time in Hollywood, Elvis saw many great acts including Sammy Davis Jr and one of my favorites Bobby Darin. Elvis attended Dean Martin’s birthday party on the Paramount lot. During the course of filming, many dignitaries including two Scandinavian Princesses, visited Elvis on the set. The Paramount Commissary was transformed into the Cafe Europa for the industry preview of GI Blues complete with a German orchestra, beer and brown bread. Famed gossip columnist Hedda Hopper said, “she had never seen Elvis … but thought he was fantastic and so was the movie.” There was a sneak preview of GI Blues at the Majestic Theater in Dallas on August 18, 1960. On October 23, 1960, a month before its release, Paramount allowed military camp theaters to begin showing GI Blues as a thank you for their cooperation in the making of the movie. On November 4, 1960, GI Blues opened in New York at the Victoria Theater. As a benefit for the Hemophilia Foundation, a special showing of GI Blues was held at the Fox Wilshire Theater on November 15, 1960 with Ronald Reagan, Cesar Romera and Juliet Prowse in attendance. GI Blues opened nationally on November 23, 1960 ranking #2 on Variety‘s chart and by the end of the year ranked #14 on Variety‘s list of top-grossing movies of 1960 earning $4.3 million, the 6th highest grossing US film of 1960. GI Blues was the reason why Elvis could not film Fun in Acapulco in Mexico a few years later. A riot broke out at a screening of GI Blues in Mexico City destroying the Americas Theatre and as a result the Mexican government banned all Elvis movies. My favorites off the GI Blues soundtrack are “Pocketful of Rainbows,” “Doin the Best I Can,” “What’s She Really Like,” and “Frankfurt Special” is REALLY catchy. Besides my original 1960 issue 33 1/3 rpm GI Blues album, I also have the FTD release of Cafe Europa GI Blues Vol 2, the double album of the GI Blues sessions. With Scotty Moore, DJ Fontana, the Jordanaires (among others), Elvis recorded the soundtrack at RCA Studios in Hollywood on April 27, 28 and May 6, 1960. The soundtrack reached #1 on Billboard pop chart, remaining on the chart for 111 weeks and earned a Grammy nomination for Best Soundtrack Album. Included is a different version of “Blue Suede Shoes,” which in the movie is played on the jukebox selected by a patron who “wants to hear the original” rather than the live music by Tulsa and his band. A very clever in-joke. The other songs rounding out the soundtrack are “GI Blues,” “Tonight is So Right for Love,” “Didya Ever,” “Shoppin’ Around” (I just love Elvis’ sexy subtle little laugh at the end), “Big Boots,” and my absolute least favorite Elvis song of all time “Wooden Heart” (and I’m German!). Leiber and Stoller presented two songs, “Dog Face” and “Tulsa’s Blues,” for the soundtrack, which were rejected by Colonel Parker most likely because he saw them as a threat to his control over Elvis as they ‘stirred up funny ideas in Elvis.’
**I consulted Elvis: The Elvis Files Vol 3, Elvis The Movies, Reel Elvis, Elvis Presley in the Movies, Elvis Films Faq, Elvis Elvis Elvis The King and His Movies for more information**
FLAMING STAR 1960
Flaming Star is thought of as one of Elvis’ best performances, and it might be, but it is not one of my favorites. It is definitely not in my rotation of 11 Elvis movies I watch all the time. In fact, I rarely watch it and maybe have only watched it a handful of times – and most of those are from my recent revisiting of Elvis’ movies. I am sure it is a fine movie, it is just not my thing as I do not like Westerns. But I do like Andy Warhol’s painting he based Elvis’ character Pacer on, which I saw when I visited the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh years ago. I think Flaming Star is the only Elvis movie where his character does not have a true love interest. His character’s main relationship is with his mother rather than a girlfriend – he doesn’t even have a girlfriend in this movie. Flaming Star deals with Elvis’ character Pacer’s issues with being born from a Native American mother and a white father. This is one of two Elvis movies (along with Love Me Tender) where Elvis’ character dies at the end – but this time it is off camera. Charro is the only Elvis movie that has less songs, although the Colonel and Fox wanted to squeeze ten songs into Flaming Star. Unfortunately because of its serious nature and lack of songs, Flaming Star did not do well at the box office. A major mistake was made when it was falsely advertised as “Elvis singing the song his fans will love most – “Flaming Star” – and 3 others!” Maybe if they would have correctly advertised the movie warning the audience it was going to be a dramatic role for Elvis with no songs, Flaming Star would have done better and maybe Elvis could have went on to make more dramatic movies like he wanted. Opening only one month after Elvis’ previous movie GI Blues, the serious almost songless Flaming Star competed with the fun song-filled GI Blues for Elvis’ audience. The light, song-filled GI Blues was a big hit reaching #2 and 14th of box office ratings for the year while the serious barely two-song Flaming Star struggled only reaching #12 and was way down the list of the year’s top grossers. The 11 songs in GI Blues led to the movies’ success which led to the success of its soundtrack album which in turn led to multiple viewings of the movie by Elvis fans. This showed Colonel Parker what Elvis movies would be successful, and unfortunately it was not the dramatic ones like Flaming Star. Flaming Star was based on Clair Huffaker’s 1958 novel originally titled The Brothers of Broken Lance. In April of 1958, Fox bought the rights to this unfinished novel. On May 27, 1958 it was announced Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra would play the Burton brothers. The title was changed to The Brothers of Flaming Arrow and filming was to begin June 16, 1958. Negotiations with Brando and Sinatra broke down and the title was again changed to Flaming Lance. Filming was delayed for two years while the novel was being adapted for the movie (by Huffaker and Nunnally Johnson) and the script shifted the focus to one brother. It was then announced on June 12, 1960 Elvis Presley would play the lead role of Pacer Burton, which was a different conception of the character than had been offered to Brando. In August of 1960, the title was again changed to Flaming Heart then to Black Heart then to Black Star and finally to Flaming Star on September 2, 1960. David Weisbert, who also produced Rebel Without a Cause and Elvis’ first movie Love Me Tender, produced Flaming Star. Weisbert also went on to produce two more Elvis movies Follow That Dream and Kid Galahad. Weisbert brought in Don Siegel to direct Flaming Star, which was the only movie of Elvis’ he ever directed as he found Elvis too difficult to get through to when he was not alone, and he was hardly ever alone. He thought Elvis was talented and a great guy, but always surrounded by his friends made it difficult to reach him and help him. Barbara Eden, who played Pacer’s brother’s girlfriend Roslyn, initially turned down the role because she was still filming Swingin’ Along. The role of Roslyn then went to British actress Barbara Steele, but she was fired because her British accent was too strong. By this time, Barbara Eden was available and took over the role as Roslyn. Legendary actress Delores Del Rio played Pacer’s mother Neddy. Flaming Star was her first appearance in an American movie in 18 years. Elvis reported on August 1, 1960 for pre-production work beginning with two weeks of riding lessons to increase his skills. He was thrown once, but was not hurt. On August 4, 1960, Elvis was fitted for brown contact lenses for his role as half Native American, half white. It was later decided not to use the brown contact lenses and let his natural baby blues shine. Filming on Flaming Star began on August 16 and finished on October 4, 1960. Interior scenes were shot on Stage 14 at Twentieth Century Fox Studio in Hollywood while exteriors were filmed on location on three ranches in the San Fernando Valley, including the 8,000-acre Conejo Movie Ranch near Thousand Oaks. A stuntman was hired as a double for Elvis in the fight scenes, but as it turned out he was not needed as Elvis did a great job. In fact, Elvis was actually faster and a better fighter than that stuntman, who was a black belt in karate. Too bad they didn’t hire a stuntman for Elvis’ friend Red West who broke his arm while filming a fight scene with Elvis. Elvis was so apprehensive for Pacer’s serious scene after his mother dies that he bribed Siegel into postponing shooting of the scene by promising him the use of his new Rolls Royce for every day the scene was postponed. Elvis also had trouble with his final scene as his horse kept rearing. Finally the horse trainer had to massage Elvis’ horse’s leg to keep him calm. Although this was not supposed to be the final scene. In the original draft, Flaming Star was supposed to end with Clint (Pacer’s brother) burning down his family’s ranch in grief after his brother Pacer rides away to die. On August 25, 1960, Elvis was photographed by Don Cranes for Life magazine at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. The Colonel commissioned Cranes to take some photos for future record sleeves such as “Are You Lonesome Tonight” and His Hand in Mine. On September 9, 1960, Elvis leased the house at 525 Perugia Way in Bel Air after he and his entourage including Red West, Joe Esposito, Gene Smith and Marty Lacker were thrown out of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. On September 27, 1960, Vernon and his friends the Nichols visited Elvis on set. It was Mr. and Mrs. Nichols who had accompanied Vernon and Gladys to the set of Loving You three and half years prior. Elvis fan Gary Pepper also visited Elvis on set during this time. There were two advanced screenings of Flaming Star on November 23th and 25th. The November 23rd screening at Loyola Theatre in Westchester, California showed the version with just two songs: “Flaming Star” and “A Cane and a High Starched Collar.” The November 25th screening at the Academy Theatre in Inglewood, California showed the version with four songs with the additional “Britches” and “Summer Kisses, Winter Tears.” The audience preferred the two-song version and that was the Flaming Star that was released and premiered in Los Angeles on December 20th then opened nationwide the following day on December 21, 1960. It was #12 on the National Box Office Survey its first week and earning just $900 in its first nine days. Because of its bi-racial family, Flaming Star was banned in South Africa where there were strict laws of racial separation. It was for this same reason that in the US Flaming Star reached a wider audience than previous Elvis movies. Women of all ages had always been gaga for Elvis’ movies, but Flaming Star was a guy’s movie, so now the entire family had something to enjoy. Oklahoma Creek entertainer Chief Wah-Nee-Ota inducted Elvis into the Los Angeles Indian Tribal Council in recognition of his “constructive portrayal of a man of Indian blood.” Elvis received a ceremonial headdress, which he proudly took back to Graceland. Elvis had recorded the song “Black Star” before the title of the movie was finally changed to Flaming Star, so on October 7, 1960 after filming was complete Elvis went back to Radio Recorders to re-record the title song “Flaming Star.” Only two songs were actually in the movie. The title song “Flaming Star” was played behind the opening credits. “A Cane and A High Starched Collar ” was the only song we see Elvis sing and it was performed within minutes of the opening credits by Elvis’ character as a family sing-a-long. “Summer Kisses, Winter Tears” and “Britches” were cut from the film after audiences reactions in advanced screening of the movie called for it. Before it was cut, “Summer Kisses, Winter Tears” was sung by Elvis’ character Pacer to a group of Native Americans sitting around a campfire smoking a peace pipe. It is no wonder the test audience laughed during this scene having it cut from the movie. Years later in 1992, “Summer Kisses, Winter Tears” was released in the Wim Wenders’ film Until the End of the World. Flaming Star is one of the few movies I don’t have the original vinyl soundtrack. The EP Elvis By Request contained “Flaming Star” and “Summer Kisses, Winter Tears” on side one and “Are You Lonesome Tonight” and “It’s Now or Never” on side two. It sold 1 million copies. The song “Flaming Star” stayed on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart for seven weeks, peaking at #14. I do have the re-release Elvis Sings Flaming Star on vinyl from 1969.
**I consulted Elvis: The Elvis Files Vol 3, Elvis The Movies, Reel Elvis, Elvis Presley in the Movies, Elvis Films Faq, Elvis Elvis Elvis The King and His Movies, Elvis Presley The Hollywood Years, Elvis in Hollywood for more information**
* WILD IN THE COUNTRY 1961
This is the 60th Anniversary of Wild in the Country, Elvis’ first movie of 1961, and I think it is his best movie. It is my second favorite Elvis movie, and it’s only second because my favorite movie (Girl Happy) has a sentimental / nostalgia factor. (For the same reason Grease will never be topped as my favorite movie.) I can’t stress this enough – if you haven’t seen or don’t remember Wild in the Country, go see it now! You can buy it on dvd or stream in on Amazon. This movie never gets talked about or shown. I am flabbergasted why Wild in the Country is never considered in ‘The Best Elvis Movie’ discussion! Wild in the Country is the most dramatic a role that Elvis ever played with an even more dramatic story line. It is the quintessential late 1950s early 1960s soap opera movie – up there with my favorites Imitation of Life, Mildred Pierce, Splendor in the Grass, A Place in the Sun and East of Eden. James Dean would have been proud – this was totally a James Dean type of role. In fact, this was the last troubled James Dean-type character Elvis would play. Being that Glenn was young and at odds with his father and on the wrong side of the law makes it Elvis’ last true teen movie. Elvis plays a writer, not a singer, but does sing a few songs that were added in to please the fans per the Colonel’s suggestion. Like with Flaming Star, Wild in the Country is advertised incorrectly as a musical, rather than the drama that it is. The movie poster shows Elvis holding a guitar and says “Elvis sings of love to Hope Lange, Tuesday Weld, Millie Perkins.” Wild in the Country was based on the book The Lost Country. Elvis plays 20 year old Glenn Tyler who almost kills his brother (played by Red West) in a fight. His punishment is to live with his uncle and cousin (played by Tuesday Weld) and see a psychiatrist (played by Hope Lange). Even though Glenn has a girlfriend (played by Millie Perkins), he manages to have a fling with his cousin (Tuesday Weld) who is in love with him while at the same time Glenn is falling in love with his 30-something year old psychiatrist (Hope Lange) who used to be in a relationship with the father of Glenn’s nemesis (played by Gary Lockwood) and who is on the parole board responsible for Glenn’s punishment. *SPOILER ALERT* Glenn’s psychiatrist brings out the writer in him and tries to get him into college, the town finds out about the forbidden affair between Glenn and his older psychiatrist and Glenn finds himself on trial for murdering his nemesis – the son of the man who used to date the woman he loves. Oh and Joan Crawford’s daughter, Christina, author of Mommie Dearest, has a small part. Wild in the Country was a movie Elvis actually liked as it was a far more literary script than most, although he was not too thrilled with the added songs. It was a movie with quite a different formula from the rest with three love interests and just four songs. Elvis’ character Glenn has three different paths to choose from as a young man of 20 year old. His three love interests all represent a different path. Glenn can play it safe with his childhood sweetheart Betty Lee or take a risk with Nory (his temptress cousin who has a baby) or go a completely different way with the 30-something Irene who opened the door to a life beyond the crappy jobs in a small town full of narrow minded people. This is a rare time when Elvis’ character chooses the older love interest. (In Loving You and King Creole, he went with the younger.) I like everything about this movie, especially the literary theme. All the books! I love that Glenn carries books in his suitcase, much like Elvis did later on. And I love the college library scene when Glen is so excited to be surrounded by all the books. There is nothing about Wild in the Country I would change, not even the songs. They do not bother me at all. There are two scenes I especially like. The hotel scene with Glenn and Irene is SO hot! As is the scene with Glenn and Nory slow dancing at the fair on her birthday. There are two lines I especially like. I love the line by Nory to Glenn on the stairs, “It needs a man to go to hell with, because that’s what I want – hours and hours of heaven that slides right down to hell, and we don’t care when it is.” Another great line is by Glen talking to Irene, “It’s like I’m always walking around with a cupful of anger, trying not to spill it.” It was a still from Wild in the Country that was used for my Elvis READ poster that I adore. Wild in the Country was directed by Philip Dunne, who was better known as an award winning screenplay writer. Later on he became a speechwriter for JFK. The movie was adapted from J.R. Salamanca’s 1958 novel The Lost Country, which received rave reviews. In 1961, an abridged version came out with the title Wild in the Country after the movie was released. The title Wild in the Country was taken from a Walt Witman poem “Leaves of Grass” that 20th Century Fox producer Jerry Wald had always wanted to use for a movie. Wald had also produced Peyton Place with Hope Lange and Return to Peyton Place with Tuesday Weld. as well as Mildred Pierce and The Long Hot Summer. Clifford Odets, who was one of the greatest playwrights of the 1930s specializing in socially conscious dramas, wrote the screenplay for Wild in the Country. The character of Glenn Tyler was loosely based on Thomas Wolfe. Odets had written over 300 pages and was fired two weeks before filming began, so Director Philip Dunne had to finish the screenplay while filming and directing the movie. Hope Lange also wrote some of the screenplay, rewriting her own dialogue. Dunne gave her his writer’s guild card. Dunne completely rewrote the ending because in Odet’s version Elvis’ character Glenn commited suicide. The original title was Lonely Man, which was one of the songs that was cut after the title was changed to Wild in the Country. The movie Wild in the Country is quite different from the book The Lost Country. In the book, Glenn’s character is called Jim and he is an only child. The book starts when Jim is an infant. It takes place in Charlottesville, VA. Betty Lee is still Jim’s childhood sweetheart, but her parents are friends with Jim’s parents and she is a blonde (she’s a brunette in the movie). Nory is still Jim’s cousin, but she is a brunette (she’s a blonde in the movie). In the book, Jim is an artist not a writer and Irene is a teacher, not a psychiatrist. The book has no trial scenes. (I update more as I finish the book.) Wild in the Country has a great cast especially the female leads. Millie Perkins, whom I love, played Elvis’ character Glenn’s childhood sweetheart Betty Lee. During filming, she broke her wrist slapping Elvis (well Glenn actually) in a scene. Millie also played Elvis’ mother Gladys in the 1990 tv series Elvis. I was fortunate to meet Millie during Elvis Week 2018. At a meet and greet, she signed my copy of the original abridged 1961 book Wild in the Country. Then later that evening I saw her at dinner and asked for a photo with her, and she couldn’t have been sweeter. Another favorite of mine is Hope Lange who played Elvis’ Glenn’s older psychiatrist love interest Irene Sperry. Hope was only 13 months older than Elvis, but was playing a 30-something year old to Glen’s 20 year old. The part of Irene Sperry was supposed to be played by Simone Signoret, who was actually middle aged, but she wanted too much money. Lange also starred in Peyton Place, one of my favorites, and in television’s The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, which I used to watch when I was little. Elvis liked Hope so much that he actually stocked his bar with vodka for her, where he usually never had alcohol in the house. Tuesday Weld, whom Elvis had previously dated, played Elvis’ Glenn’s cousin Nory who was in love with him. Tuesday was only 17 at the time of filming and besides having already dated the 25 year old Elvis, she also had already dated 45 year old John Ireland, who played Phil Macy (Irene’s love other love interest and Cliff’s father). Tuesday was also filming Return to Peyton Place at the same time she was filming Wild in the Country. She brought her white German Shepherd dog with her on set, which was against studio regulations. In 1988 in Heartbreak Hotel set in 1972, Tuesday played an Elvis fan whose son kidnaps Elvis. Gary Lockwood who played Elvis’ Glenn’s nemesis Cliff Macy and also would play Elvis’ sidekick in It Happened at the World’s Fair. Lockwood also had a role in Splendor in the Grass, another one of my favorites. Christina Crawford played Cliff’s date Monica George. Christina is the adopted daughter of Joan Crawford and the author of Mommie Dearest. During filming, Elvis threw her out of the house pulling by her hair when she shot of her mouth or slapped a cigar out of Elvis’ mouth after her boyfriend lit it for Elvis. Rafer Johnson played Phil Macy’s assistant. He was a gold medal Olympic decathlon in the 1960 games in Rome. He was drafted in 1959 by the NFL to Los Angeles Rams. In 1968 Johnson, along with Rosy Grier, apprehended Sirhan Sirhan after he shot Bobby Kennedy, as they were a part of his campaign detail. Elvis’ friend Red West had bit parts in many of Elvis’ movies, but had his first speaking part in Wild in the Country as Glenn’s brother Hank. He was in the opening scene fighting with Glenn and then at the end of the movie he propositions Irene outside of the court house. Ironically, his hair is dark in this movie, not red. Rosy, a 4 year old Irish Setter, played Irene Sperry’s dog Rosy. It was her film debut. She was owned and trained by Rudd Weatherwax, who was also the dog trainer in Lassie Come Home and Old Yeller, these are not some of my favorites as they made me cry hysterically when I was little and haven’t watched them since. On November 6, 1960, Elvis along with his friends Alan Fortas, Red West, Charlie Hodge and Joe Esposito flew to LA for preproduction on Wild in the Country. While on location, they all stayed at the Casa Bellvue-al Hotel. Exterior scenes were filmed in and around Napa Valley, California including Calistoga and at the University of California at Los Angeles where 75 students were hired as extras. Filming began on November 11th at the Victorian Ink House in St. Helena, California. While in Napa, side trips were made to San Francisco on Saturday nights staying at the Mark Hopkins Hotel and watching football on Sundays then driving back Sunday nights. Interior shots were done on the 20th Century Fox lot in Santa Monica, California. Elvis and guys stayed at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel during this time. During filming, Elvis dated Nancy Sharp, a wardrobe girl he met on Flaming Star. He was also still involved with Anita Wood back in Memphis and Priscilla in Germany. Elvis also socialized a lot with Tuesday Weld and Hope Lange, which was rare for him as he did not usually socialize with Hollywood folks. On November 26th, Elvis and the guys took a weekend trip to Las Vegas. During filming, Elvis had a huge boil on his butt. Even after it was lanced, it was still very painful for Elvis to sit. Elvis received a platinum watch from RCA to commemorate his having sold 75 million records. It was during filming of Wild in the Country that Colonel saw an article about the failed attempts to raise money for the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. He and Elvis decided to do a benefit concert in Hawaii in March, while they were there making his next movie Blue Hawaii. During filming, the studio threw Elvis a 26th birthday party on set giving him a plaque that read “Happy Birthday King Karate.” Attendees included the Colonel, Pat Boone, Juliet Prowse and Hope Lange. After, Elvis sat a table for hours in the motel and signed autographs and took photos for all the local kids who hounded him during filming. Filming ended in mid January 1961, but Elvis was called back in February to reshoot the ending. The first ending that was shot (*SPOILER ALERT*) had Irene Sperry commit suicide, but the test audience did not like this. The second ending that was shot (and kept) has Irene survive her suicide attempt. She wakes in Glenn’s arms and then escorts him to the train station to leave for college as Nory watches through the window. In many books I have read, it says the movie ended with Glenn on the train opening a letter Irene gave him saying his first story had been published. I have never seen this ending. In my version of Wild in the Country, Irene sees Glenn to the train station, he gets on the train then we see him walking up the steps at the college. Wild in the Country premiered in Memphis June 15, 1961 and opened nationally on June 22, 1961. Elvis did not attend the premiere. This is the only Elvis movie that did not make money. It was budgeted at $2,975,000. and grossed $2.5 million. This was really Elvis’ last opportunity to be a dramatic actor and tackle a credible script. Director Philip Dunne said, “audiences who might have liked Clifford Odet’s drama wouldn’t buy Elvis and his songs, and Elvis fans were disappointed in a Presley picture which departed so radically from his usual song-and-sex comedy formula.” This was Elvis’ second straight dramatic role, after Flaming Star, but that wasn’t released until Christmas, so no one knew how audiences would respond. Wild in the Country did get one great review from Britain’s New Musical Express, David Cardwell writes “Wild in the Country is Elvis’ best so far! There is only one way to describe Presley’s performance – superb! Yet this was obviously Elvis’ best film and he will be known from now on in my books as Elvis Presley, singer and film star.” And Strasberg who taught James Dean and Marlon Brando told friends after watching Wild in the Country that Elvis was a great talent going to waste and that he was a method actor (using his grief of his own mother’s death in the scene Glenn is talking to Irene about his dead mother). It was released to DVD by Fox Home Video with a running time of 114 minutes. The Colonel wanted six songs in the movie, but only four made it in. 20th Century Fox bigwig Spyrous Skouras saw the movie had no songs and insisted four songs be written for the movie. Elvis recorded the songs for Wild in the Country at Radio Recorders in Hollywood on November 7 and 8, 1960. None of the four songs in the movie was released as a single. The title song “Wild in the Country,” written by Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore and George Weiss, plays over the credits in the beginning of the movie and at the end. The single was on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart for five weeks peaking at #26, but it reached #4 in the UK. It was the B side to “I Feel So Bad.” I have both the original 45 and the anniversary red vinyl 45. “In My Way,” written by Ben Weisman and Fred Wise, was sung to Nory by Glen on the stairs – and Elvis accompanies himself on guitar. “I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell,” written by Ben Weisman, was sung to Betty Lee in the car by Glen who uses the radio as accompaniment. Elvis recorded two versions, a high key and a low key. “Huskey Dusky Day” is a duet by Glen and Irene in the car on the way back from the the college. It was unreleased for years in the 1990s. “Lonely Man” and “Forget Me Never,” also written by Ben Weisman and Fred Wise, were recorded, but not included in the movie. A snippet of Elvis performing “Lonely Man” can be seen in the film’s original coming attractions trailer, and it is on the flip side of “Surrender.” That single went to #32 on the charts. Ben Weisman wrote more than 50 songs for Elvis.
**I consulted Elvis: The Elvis Files Vol 3, Elvis The Movies, The Films of Elvis Presley, Reel Elvis, Elvis Presley in the Movies, Elvis Films Faq, Elvis Elvis Elvis The King and His Movies, Elvis Presley The Hollywood Years, Elvis in Hollywood, Elvis Presley from Memphis to Hollywood, The Elvis Film Encyclopedia, The Elvis Movies, Elvis Presley in Hollywood Celluloid Sell-Out for more information**
* BLUE HAWAII 1961
This is the 60th Anniversary of Blue Hawaii, and also the theme for Elvis Week 2021. It is my 8th favorite movie, one of the eleven Elvis movies I watch all the time. Yes it is a cheesy beach movie with too many songs and Elvis just randomly starts singing them out of nowhere (the first of Elvis’ movies to do this), but it is a very entertaining feel-good movie. I think Blue Hawaii is what started the beach movie crazy in the 1960s, or was at least paved the way. Unfortunately, it was also the movie that doomed Elvis’ acting career to making light musical comedies instead of the more dramatic roles which he craved. Blue Hawaii was the first of Elvis’ Hawaiian trilogy (along with Girls!, Girls! Girls! and Paradise Hawaiian Style) he would make in Hawaii as Elvis came to love Hawaii. It is a gorgeous movie to watch with all those vibrant colors, just seems more alive than other movies. Hawaii had just become the 50th state in 1959, and Blue Hawaii sort of doubled as advertisement. It wasn’t just set in Hawaii, but really displayed the Hawaiian culture. Before Elvis started filming Blue Hawaii, he did a benefit concert to raise money for the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor – this would be his last live performance for seven years. As much as a I love Elvis, I feel that Angela Lansbury steals this movie. She is so hysterically funny playing Elvis’ Chadwick’s ditzy mother, even though Angela was only 10 years older than Elvis at the time. Unfortunately, Angela did not feel the same and has been quoted as saying Blue Hawaii was the low point of her career. A fan favorite, Blue Hawaii was Elvis’ most successful movie and album. Like with GI Blues, the movie led to the sales of the soundtrack album, which led back to the sale of movie tickets. Blue Hawaii contained 14 songs, more than any other Elvis movie. Elvis plays Chad (short for Chadwick) Gates, who just returns to his wealthy family after two years in the army. (sound familiar?) His parents want Chad to work in the family pineapple business, but Chad has other plans a tour guide with the help of his girlfriend Maile. The Colonel suggested Hawaii as a location for an Elvis movie back in 1958 while Elvis was still in the army in Germany because of the popularity of Hawaiian music. Blue Hawaii was the third Elvis movie produced by Hal Wallis, who for the first time worried about Elvis’ appearance urging the Colonel to get Elvis to lose weight and tone up and get a tan. This was the second Elvis movie directed by Norman Taurog. It was, however, the first one written by former newspaperman Allan Weiss. Blue Hawaii originated from a story written by Allan Weiss called Beach Boy, then it was titled Hawaiian Beach Boy before it became Blue Hawaii. Weiss who went on to write screenplays for five other Elvis movies: Girls! Girls! Girls!, Paradise Hawaiian Style, Roustabout, Fun in Acapulco and Easy Come Easy Go. Weiss had originally written Elvis’ character as an arrogant loner, and a little contemptuous. There was a note saying Chad should discover that Jack (his father’s boss) was really his father. Wallis replied that this was not East of Eden and he wanted “a nice, entertaining musical comedy without any overtures.” Hal Kanter, who wrote Loving You, was called in to rewrite Weiss’ screenplay and made Chad personable. “Blue Hawaii” the song originally came from Bing Crosby’s 1937 movie Waikiki Wedding. Bing plays a PR man hired by a pineapple company to escort the Pineapple Queen contest winner around the islands of Hawaii. So was Elvis’ Blue Hawaii really based on Weiss’ Beach Boy story or was it based on Bing Crosby’s movie Waikiki Wedding? Filming for Blue Hawaii began on March 27, 1961 on the islands of Oahu and Kauai in Hawaii. Some locations used on Oahu included Waikiki Beach, the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor, the Honolulu International Airport, the jail at Honolulu’s Police Department, the Punchbowl, Ala Moana Park Hanauma Bay, Tanta-lus and the Waiola Tea Room. Locations on Kauai included the Kauai Airport, Anahola, Lydgate Park, Wailu River and the Coco Palms Resort Hotel. The famous wedding scene was shot on Kauai at the Coco Palms Resort Hotel, which had been in operation since 1953 closed in 1992 after Hurricane Iniki. As Coco Palms was located on the ancestral home of Kauai’s last reigning queen, the ‘Call to the Feast’ scene had taken place there every year at 7:30pm for 40 years until the hurricane hit. While filming, Elvis took golf lessons from pro Gary Player. Filming was always difficult because of the throngs of fans trying to get to Elvis. Extra security guards were around all the time. Besides difficulty with filming, Elvis could not go out and visit the tourist sites like he wanted. But the fans left him a nice message in the sand that he could see from his hotel suite “We love you Elvis!” But Elvis was able to go to the hotel bar and have singalongs with choreographer Charles O’Curran’s wife singer Patti Page. Patti appeared as an extra in a canoe in one of the beach scenes. Blue Hawaii was O’Currans’ last Elvis movie. Rain caused delay in filming one day, then the weather broke so they had limited time to get this shot of Elvis coming out of the water. The Colonel yelled cut (which is unheard of) because Elvis was wearing his own watch, and the contract stated that Elvis was not to provide any of his own wardrobe, so if they wanted to use that shot they would have to pay him an extra $25,000. Elvis removed his watch and the scene was redone. Filming in Hawaii was finished by April 17, 1961. Then the cast and crew went back to Hollywood, California and continued filming on Paramount Studios until May 23, 1961. Alan Fortas wrote they had the most fun making Blue Hawaii. Besides Shelley Fabares, Joan Blackman is probably my favorite Elvis costar. Besides playing Elvis’ Chad’s girlfriend Maile in Blue Hawaii, she also played Elvis’ girlfriend in my 4th favorite Elvis movie Kid Galahad. Joan and Elvis dated in real life. They first met a few years before Blue Hawaii at Paramount Studios while Elvis was doing Loving You and their romance was on and off for about a year until left Elvis for Germany. Joan says they met while she was eating lunch, Elvis saw her and just said, “Hey you!” Joan is a singer and dancer, but according to her the Colonel and Hal Wallis did not allow her to sing in Blue Hawaii because they didn’t want her taking away from Elvis, which is strange considering how much Ann Margret sang a few years later in Viva Las Vegas. She sang in the movie, but if you notice Joan is not heard on the soundtrack at all (as the soundtrack was recorded in Hollywood before filming on the movie began). Joan said Elvis liked her singing a lot when they would sing together off set. During filming at the hotel, Joan said somehow four girls jumped into the elevator with her at the last minute and pinned her to the wall hysterically saying, “Oh, you’ve kissed him, you’ve touched him!” Joan said she likes Kid Galahad, but has more feelings for Blue Hawaii. Her favorite moment from Blue Hawaii is when Elvis is singing “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” his hand slowing reaching across that chair taking her hand. Joan said she is reminded of their connection every time she hears that song. Plus Joan saw Elvis in Vegas years later, so it was the last song he sang and that was the last time she ever saw him. Joan Blackman married Joby Baker who costarred with Elvis as Wilbur in my favorite Elvis movie Girl Happy. While having a romantic relationship with Joan Blackman and still dating Anita Wood (who visited on the set in Hollywood), Elvis also dated Pam Austin during the filming of Blue Hawaii. Pam played Sandy, one of the girls Chad was showing around Hawaii, and she would go on to play Selena opposite Elvis in Kissin’ Cousins. Elvis was a very busy boy while filming. After their nightly dinner with Hal Wallis each night, the young actresses working on Blue Hawaii would go up to Elvis’ suite and stay until 3am. This ended when Wallis enforced a 10pm curfew on them after they were showing up on set with bags under their eyes. I have never read that Darlene Thompkins had anything romantic with Elvis, but I did see quite a cozy photo of the two of them (but I think that’s just how Elvis was. Darlene Thompkins, who I was lucky enough to meet at Elvis Week 2009 (or 2010), played Patsy one of the girls Chad was showing around Hawaii. Darlene also played Ms. Stevers with Elvis in Fun in Acapulco as well a stunt double for Cheryl Ladd in Charlie’s Angels. On loan from Fox to Paramount, Juliet Prowse (who played opposite Elvis in GI Blues) was set to play Elvis’ girlfriend again in Blue Hawaii (Joan Blackman’s part of Maile), but 11 days before filming was to begin in Hawaii she refused to report for work until her demands were met. She wanted her own makeup man from Fox to do her makeup, she wanted her secretary’s traveling expenses paid for and she wanted her contract changed concerning her billing. (I have also read that her relationship with Frank Sinatra had something to do with her not reporting for work on another Elvis movie.) Hal Wallis denied Prowse’s demands and replaced her with Joan Blackman. Juliet Prowse was then put on suspension at Fox Studios. Flora K. Hayes, who played Maile’s grandmother, was a former Hawaii Territorial Representative to the U.S. Congress. Howard McNear, who played Mr. Chapman the boss at the tourist agency, also famously played Floyd the barber on The Andy Griffith Show, one of my favorites. McNear also played in two other Elvis movies. He played bank vice president in Elvis’ next movie Follow That Dream and Dr. John Stevers in Fun in Acapulco. Guy Lee played Ping Pong, another favorite of mine from Blue Hawaii. He also played Chen with Elvis in Girls! Girls! Girls!. Roland Winters, who played Elvis’ Chad’s father, also played a judge in Elvis’ next movie Follow That Dream. Steve Brodie played Tucker Garvey, the troublemaker who gets into a fight with Chad at the bar. Brodie also got into a fight with Elvis’ character a few years later in Roustabout (outside the dunking booth). Richard Reeves, who played the harmonica in the jail scene, also had roles in four other Elvis movies. He was Officer Wilkins in my favorite Elvis movie Girl Happy, he was a man on the street in Frankie and Johnny, he was a bartender in Tickle Me and a Bedouin in Harum Scarum. Blue Hawaii opened nationally on November 22, 1961. (On that same date two years later, President Kennedy would be assassinated.) It reached #2 on Variety’s weekly list of top-grossing movies ranking #18 for 1961 with a gross of $2 million. Blue Hawaii also ranked in 1962 at #14. It’s total gross through 1962 was $4.7 million. It was fourth in Golden Laurels for Top Musical in 1962 and Hal Kanter was nominated for a WGA Award (Screen) for Best Written American Musical in 1962. In 1974, Blue Hawaii was rereleased together with GI Blues, furthering rumors that it was sort of a sequel. In 2001, Blue Hawaii was used by the City of Honolulu to open every weekend movie festival show on a big screen on Waikiki Beach. Did Blue Hawaii start the beach movie craze of the 1960s? Joan Blackman says yes and no other beach movies come close to Blue Hawaii. But the first beach movie was actually two years before Blue Hawaii. It was Gidget in 1959 spawning two sequels, the first was in 1961 titled Gidget Goes Hawaiian (coincidence?). In 1963, Beach Party was released starring Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon. They would star in many more. Whether Blue Hawaii started the beach movie craze or just paved the way for them, it definitely set the formula of musical comedies for the rest of Elvis’ movies. The success of Blue Hawaii sealed Elvis’ fate as far as his movie career. Since his two previous dramatic movies Flaming Star and Wild in the Country (which neither had soundtracks) were not financially successful, the Colonel used the great financial success of Blue Hawaii (movie and soundtrack album) and the success of GI Blues (move and soundtrack album) to convince Elvis his fans preferred him in musical comedies, which sadly they did. Elvis had just signed a five year contract with Hal Wallis just before filming Blue Hawaii, so he was stuck doing whatever they wanted. Elvis was already committed to his next two movies Follow That Dream and Kid Galahad (these two also had no soundtracks), so there was nothing they could do about those but after that it was travelogue after travelogue. I have the original 1961 release 33 1/3 rpm Blue Hawaii soundtrack album that spent 79 weeks on Billboard’s pop album chart, with 20 of those weeks at #1 (setting a record not broken until 1977’s Rumors by Fleetwood Mac). I think my favorite song from the soundtrack is “Moonlight Swim” and “Beach Boy Blues.” (As a whole, I actually prefer the soundtrack to Girls! Girls! Girls!.) Elvis recorded all the songs in three nights in Hollywood on March 21, 22 and 23 before filming started. The songs were Blue Hawaii, Almost Always True, Aloha Oe, No More, Can’t Help Falling in Love, Rock-A-Hula-Baby, Moonlight Swim, Ku-u-i-po, Ito Eats, Slicin’ Sand, Hawaiian Sunset, Beach Boy Blues, Island of Love, Hawaiian Wedding Song. “La Paloma,” “Playing with Fire” and “Steppin’ Out of Line,” were all cut from the movie. “Steppin’ Out of Line” was supposed to be sung in the bar before the fight when Chad tells Ellie there’s “no use steppin’ out of line.” It appeared later on Elvis’ Pot Luck album. The single “Rock-A-Hula Baby” sold over a million copies and reached #23. “Can’t Help Falling in Love” remained on the charts for 14 weeks peaking at #2. The soundtrack LP sold 500,000 copies in the first three months of its release and $2 million in its first year. It was listed by Billboard as the second biggest selling album of the 1960s behind West Side Story. The Blue Hawaii soundtrack was Elvis’ most successful album of his career, not just movie soundtracks but the most successful of any of his albums. It was nominated for a Grammy in 1962 for Best Soundtrack. Elvis arrived in Honolulu on March 25, 1961 to perform a benefit concert at Block Arena to raise money for the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. Elvis played to 5000 people who contributed $52,000. to the cause. Elvis wore his famous gold lame jacket and sang 19 songs. Two days after the benefit concert, Elvis began filming Blue Hawaii.
**I consulted Elvis: The Elvis Files Vol 3, Elvis The Movies, The Films of Elvis Presley, Reel Elvis, Elvis Presley in the Movies, Elvis Films Faq, Elvis Elvis Elvis The King and His Movies, Elvis Presley The Hollywood Years, Elvis in Hollywood, Elvis Presley from Memphis to Hollywood, The Elvis Film Encyclopedia, The Elvis Movies, Elvis Presley in Hollywood Celluloid Sell-Out, Essential Elvis Interviews, Elvis in Hawaii for more information**
FOLLOW THAT DREAM 1962
I was never a huge fan of Elvis’ first movie of 1962, but after watching Follow That Dream again recently I like it better. It is still not on my rotation of 11 Elvis movies I watch all the time, but I can appreciate it now. Even though I prefer the comedy of Blue Hawaii to the dumb, slapstick comedy of Follow That Dream. In the same way, I prefer Elvis’ ‘cool’ characters in his other movies to his country bumpkin Forest Gump like character in Follow That Dream, but he does a great job playing it and he is really funny. The bank scene is especially funny, and I literally laugh out loud when I watch it. (Did you notice Joe Esposito as a bank teller and Red West as a security guard?) Follow That Dream is a sweet, funny, albeit goofy, movie that I will watch more often now (as I have probably only watched it a handful of times). I have always liked the song “Follow That Dream,” as it is VERY catchy, and of course “Angel,” which could have been a single off one of Elvis’ ‘regular’ albums. This first of two movies for United Artists, Follow That Dream was originally supposed to be directed by George Marshall. Gordon Douglas ended up directing the movie and was the only person to have directed both Elvis and Frank Sinatra. Douglas invited Elvis out for dinner during filming, but the Colonel put a stop to it. Follow That Dream was another Elvis movie produced by David Weisbert. It was based on the 1957 novel Pioneer, Go Home by Richard Powell. (I have this book, but haven’t read it yet.) Powell’s novel was published in an abridged form in Reader’s Digest. Richard Powell was not happy when he heard Elvis would be playing Toby, but changed his mind after he saw the movie remarking that Elvis “captured the character perfectly” and “he did a very good job.” The title for the movie could not be Pioneer, Go Home because composers of the title song could not come up with a word that rhymed with Pioneer. The movie’s title was then changed to What a Wonderful Life just before the start of location shooting. Other titles considered were It’s a Beautiful Life and Here Come the Kwimpers. Charles Lederer, who was a part of Dorothy Parker’s Algonquin Round Table, wrote the screenplay. It wasn’t intended for Elvis until United Artists’ Walter Mirisch stepped in saying it was “an ideal vehicle for Elvis.” Unlike Wild in the Country, Follow that Dream actually closely followed the book it was based on. The theme of the movie is very anti-government, a “good-natured satire of libertarianism.” When they run out of gas on a new government highway not yet open to the public, the Kwimper family homestead on the beach claiming squatter’s rights on an unoccupied stretch of the highway opening their own fishing business. Gamblers move in next to them and mayhem ensues. Elvis of course plays Toby Kwimper the son recently home from the army, out on disability. A rarity in his movies, Elvis is not the focal point of each scene but rather a part of an ensemble. Although both Tuesday Weld and Connie Stevens were considered for the role, Anne Helm played Holly Jones the family’s teen babysitter who moved in with the Kwimper family after her parents died and is in love with Toby. (Maybe life imitating art again as teenage Priscilla came to live with Elvis and his family at Graceland?) Elvis and Anne dated during filming. Anne says she was not a fan of Elvis prior to filming and did not meet him until they were on location in Florida. She said Elvis brought flowers to her cabin on her first day and they went for a drive and immediately hit it off. Anne said she “really fell for Elvis,” but she got tired of dating Elvis AND the guys. Joe Esposito tells a different story. He says their romance ended when Anne showed up on Elvis’ doorstep full of sleeping pills claiming she was pregnant. This proved to be false when her stomach was pumped at the hospital. Another source says their romance ended when Anne brought down a piano top on Elvis’ fingers after he said something to upset her. Who knows what actually happened, but I did find it interesting that Anne said Elvis’ relationship with the Colonel seemed warmer than with his father. In fact, she was shocked to learn Vernon was Elvis’ father after watching their reserved exchanges. Joanna Moore played Alisha Claypoole, the state welfare supervisor who puts the moves on Elvis’ character Toby. According to Joe Esposito, Elvis and Joanna had a brief affair while filming in Florida. Joanna would become the wife of Ryan O’Neal and the mother of Griffin and Tatum O’Neal. She also played Peg the nurse on The Andy Griffith Show. Another actor who would go on to star in The Andy Griffith Show as Floyd the barber was Howard McNear, who played the Banker in Follow That Dream as well as star in two other Elvis movies Blue Hawaii and Fun in Acapulco. Arthur O’Connell played Elvis’ Toby’s father in Follow That Dream and would play his father again in Kissin Cousins. Roland Winters played the judge in Follow That Dream and Elvis’ character’s father in Blue Hawaii. Location shooting for Follow That Dream began on July 6, 1961 and filming began on July 11 continuing through August 28, 1961. Locations shots took place in Florida in Crystal River, Ocala, Yankeetown, Bird Creek, Inverness and Tampa (the Colonel’s old stomping grounds). The studio had to actually build a beach and hauled palm trees into Crystal River. It was VERY hot in Florida in the summer. With temperatures over 100 degrees, Elvis had to change his shirt 22 times in one day. Interiors were shot in the courthouse in Inverness and a bank in Ocala. Many sources claim Follow That Dream was Elvis’ first movie (and one of the few) that was shot entirely on location, but other sources says some interiors were filmed at United Artists Studio in Culver City, California. Elvis rode the bus to Florida while his friend Alan Fortas drove Elvis’ Cadillac limousine. Elvis’ friend Lamar Fike pulled Elvis’ new 21 foot Coronado from the back of the white Chrysler station wagon, which he parked in the sand causing it to sink up to its axles. Filming was delayed while it was removed. Elvis and his friends stayed at the Port Paradise Hotel, situated on a little lagoon out in Crystal Bay which opened up to the Gulf of Mexico. Each room had a little kitchen where Joe Esposito and Alan Fortas would cook Elvis breakfast each morning. In fact, they would purposely argue loudly while making breakfast as a way to wake up Elvis. Gambling was illegal in 1961 Florida, so they had difficulties obtaining two dice tables and other gambling equipment until one day a member of the Chamber of Commerce and a couple of anonymous gamblers showed up and saved the day. On a day off from filming, Elvis visited Weeki Wachee State Park, north of Tampa, on July 30, 1961. At the time, it was one of the nation’s most popular tourist stops. Elvis visited these Natural Springs to watch the Mermaids perform in the Underwater Theater, which they did eight shows a day to a million people a year. Weeki Wachee is one of America’s smallest towns, but there were over 3000 people there on the day Elvis was there. Accompanying Elvis were the Memphis Mafia, costar Anne Helm, his father Vernon and his wife Dee. Vernon and Dee and her boys Billy, Ricky and David had been visiting Elvis on location in Florida. It was during this time, Dee told Elvis she was pregnant, but several months later she said had a miscarriage. The late great Tom Petty lived near where they were filming Follow That Dream. He was 11 years old at the time. Petty visited his uncle on set and got a chance to to meet Elvis. Petty said, Elvis “stepped out radiant as an angel.” Petty was so taken with Elvis’ charisma and kindness, he traded his slingshot for a bunch of Elvis records. It was those records that inspired Tom Petty to become a musician as well as a lifelong Elvis fan. Elvis gave a two-hour autograph party in Crystal River, which of course the Colonel had the town pay $10,000. Follow That Dream premiered in Ocala, Florida on April 11, 1962 and opened nationally on May 23, 1962. It peaked at #5 on Variety‘s Box Office Survey, but disappeared after just two weeks. It made $2.8 million and ranked 30th for 1962. Compared to the great success of Blue Hawaii, it was clear the ticket buying audience preferred Elvis in light hearted romantic comedies with lots of songs. Even though Elvis made $650,000. plus half of the profits, he supposedly hated Follow That Dream because he thought he looked fat. The soundtrack was recorded at RCA Studios in Nashville on July 2, 1961 right before filming on Follow That Dream began. Elvis recorded six songs (and around 38 takes) in just three hours between 7pm and 10pm. Those songs were “Angel,” “Follow That Dream,” “What a Wonderful Life,” “I’m Not the Marrying Kind,” “A Whistling Tune” and “Sound Advice. The bit of “On Top of Old Smokey” was recorded on set and was too short to be released by RCA. “A Whistling Tune” was dropped from Follow That Dream and was rerecorded and used in Elvis’ next movie Kid Galahad. Even though it appeared in the movie, Elvis asked that “Sound Advice” be left off the soundtrack EP because he did not like it. It showed up later on Elvis’ 1965 album Elvis for Everyone. Ben Wesiman, who wrote “Follow That Dream,” said it was one of his favorite songs because of its “upbeat message.” It is also said to be one of Bruce Springsteen’s favorite songs, which he has played many times in concert. “Follow That Dream” reached #15 on the charts. I have the original 45 rpm Follow That Dream EP soundtrack from 1962, and it still plays great!
**I consulted Elvis: The Elvis Files Vol 3, Elvis The Movies, The Films of Elvis Presley, Reel Elvis, Elvis Presley in the Movies, Elvis Films Faq, Elvis Elvis Elvis The King and His Movies, Elvis Presley The Hollywood Years, Elvis in Hollywood, Elvis Presley from Memphis to Hollywood, The Elvis Film Encyclopedia, The Elvis Movies, Elvis Presley in Hollywood Celluloid Sell-Out, Essential Elvis Interviews, Elvis in Hawaii for more information**
* KID GALAHAD 1962
Kid Galahad is my fourth favorite Elvis Movie and one I watch often as it is one of my favorite 11 Elvis Movies I watch all the time. I would watch it even more, but it is the only one of my favorites that is not available to stream online, so I have to actually put the dvd in to watch it. (Only three of Elvis’ movies Kid Galahad, Follow That Dream and Change of Habit are not available to stream online.) Kid Galahad does not get much publicity, is barely discussed and is rarely shown even though it is good movie with a real plot and a good cast that mixes drama, comedy and music well. I think Kid Galahad is one of Elvis’ best movies. It should be considered up there with King Creole, Wild in the Country and Jailhouse Rock. Like Wild in the Country, it is a movie I would watch even if Elvis was not in it – but then again I love 1960s dramas. Kid Galahad does not rely on Elvis in every scene. Kid Galahad is the last of Elvis’ movies before the travelogues. It is also the last Elvis movie for six years that was based on a book until Live a Little, Love a Little 18 movies later. Kid Galahad is the first of Elvis’ movies without a title song. The screenplay for Kid Galahad was written by William Fay. It was based on the novel of the same name by Frances Wallace in 1936. (I have the book but have yet to read it.) A year later, in 1937, the movie Kid Galahad was released starring Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson and Wayne Morris who played a bellhop who unintentionally became a boxer who fell in love with his promoter’s sister. When this movie aired on television, it was renamed Battling Bellhop so as not to confuse it with Elvis’ 1962 Kid Galahad. In 1941, Humphrey Bogart remade Kid Galahad with a circus setting and called it The Wagons Roll at Night. It also starred Eddie Albert and Sylvia Sidney. Elvis originally wanted Michael Cortiz to direct as he directed the original Kid Galahad in 1937 (as well as King Creole), but instead Phil Karson was the director. Theirs became a good relationship. Karson was SO excited when Elvis adlibbed the line “about that $5?” The scene was supposed to end after Elvis said, “Do I still get my $5?,” but they kept rolling and then Elvis added the “about that $5,” which cracked me up. Kid Galahad was the fourth and final Elvis movie produced by Davie Weisbart. He had previously produced Love Me Tender, Flaming Star and Follow That Dream. In Kid Galahad, Elvis plays Walter who is just out of the army (shocker!) and returns to his birthplace Cream Valley, New York looking for work. His parents had died years earlier and he was raised in Kentucky. He ends up boxing for Willy. To prepare for his role, Elvis sparred, punched bags, went on a diet and lost 12 pounds. Gig Young played Walter’s boss and boxing promoter Willy who is in debt to the mob from gambling. In real life, Gig was drunk a lot of the time and did not treat his young, pretty wife Elizabeth Montgomery (of Bewitched fame) well. Years later, Gig shot and killed his fifth wife Kim Schmidt and then shot and killed himself. As in Blue Hawaii, Joan Blackman again plays Elvis’ love interest in Kid Galahad. She plays Willy’s sister Rose with whom Walter falls in love. Even though I like Joan’s character better in Blue Hawaii, I think she had more romantic chemistry with Elvis in Kid Galahad. I have always wanted to know why Joan cracks up laughing while Elvis is singing “I Got Lucky” to her at the picnic, but nothing I have read mentions it. After re-watching that scene closely over and over, I think I may have figured it out. Right before Joan cracks up, you see Elvis sort of cross his eyes – it is at the very end of the song. Lola Albright played Dolly, Willy’s girlfriend. In the original movie, Bette Davis played that roll and falls in love with the young fighter. Too bad they didn’t keep that in Elvis’s Kid Galahad because he and Lola had great chemistry in those first scenes. Charles Bronson played Lew, Walter’s trainer. Ed Asner made his movie debut in Kid Galahad as the Assistant District Attorney and then appeared as a policeman in Elvis’ last movie Change of Habit. Michael Dante played Walter’s boxer friend Joey. While rehearsing, Elvis accidentally punched Michael in the face and couldn’t apologize enough. Elvis invited Michael to one of his weekend trips to Palm Springs with him and the guys. Elvis rented the top floor at Howard Manor. I met Michael at Elvis Week 2018 when he signed his memoir for me. He was very friendly. Robert Emhardt, who played Maynard the cook, also played the banker in Elvis’ last movie Change of Habit. Ned Glass, who played Max Lieberman owner of the place where Dolly used to sing, also played the hotel desk clerk in Elvis’ King Creole. Orlando de la Fuente, who played Sugarboy Romero, was an undefeated 18-year-old welterweight boxer. Jimmy Lennon, who announced two fights in Kid Galahad, was an actual fight announcer at the Olympic Auditorium in LA. World Champion Junior Welterweight Boxer Mushy Callahan coached Elvis in the boxing scenes. Twenty-four years earlier, Callahan had also trained Wayne Morris in the original 1937 Kid Galahad movie. Callahan said Elvis was a quick learner and with enough time he could make him “a contender.” Other real life boxers were also hired to help train Elvis and also had parts in the movie. They all said Elvis was quick with his hands, but slow on his feet standing with a wide stance due to Karate background. Elvis’ part was rewritten to fit his particular skill set. Filming for Kid Galahad took place between October 23 and December 20, 1961 in Idyllwild, California and at United Artists Studios. The movie takes place during the summer in the Catskills in New York, but filming in November and December in the higher elevation (about 6300 feet above sea level) California mountains felt more like winter especially when it snowed. Idyllwild is a resort town in the San Jacinto Mountains about 100 miles east of Los Angeles between the Redlands and Palm Springs. Locations used in Idyllwild included Eleanor Park (where Elvis sang “A Whistling Tune” and where a restaurant now sits), the Idyllwild Garage (used as Prohosko’s Garage), Route 74 in Garner Valley south of Lake Hemet (background for the opening credits and when Elvis sings “Riding the Rainbow” in the Model T with Lew and Willy), the Fern Valley Market (where Gig Young buys his groceries), the Sportland (used as Garfield’s – Cream Valley Games, where the policeman bets on the fight), the Idyllwild Post Office in Eleanor Park (used as the Chapel where Walter and Rose meet with the priest), and Hidden Lodge where the training camp, outdoor boxing ring, and barn were constructed. A couple interior scenes were filmed inside Hidden Lodge, but the kitchen set was recreated in the large dining room hall at Buckhorn Camp. Elvis rented a house on Fern Valley Road for the four week shoot in Idyllwild, California. Three high school girls tried to get into Elvis’ bedroom, one succeeded. Most of the cast and crew stayed at the Idyllwild Inn, which had rooms, a restaurant and cabins. It can be seen in the background when Elvis is singing “A Whistling Tune” and doubled as Lieberman’s where Dolly used to work. Other cast and crew stayed at the Bluebird Hill Lodge, Fern Valley Motel and Singingwood Motel, which also had cabins. Movies were shown nightly at the Idyllwild Inn for everyone to enjoy. Unfortunately due to the inclement weather, it was difficult to get the movies up to Idyllwild so they would show the same ones over and over. They saw Gilda, The Horse Soldiers and Some Like It Hot over and over again. After filming, many of the cast and crew, including Elvis, would go to restaurants and bars in Pine Cove and Mountain Center (about four miles down towards Lake Hemet). They would frequent the Squirrel’s Nest (which has since burned down), The Golden Horn Inn and Taylor’s Lodge. Elvis would also eat hamburgers at a coffee shop in town called the Koffee Kup. Everyone involved with Kid Galahad all say the same great things about Elvis, that he was shy and charming and polite and professional and friendly. I have actually heard this about Elvis on every movie he made, but it is nice to hear it from the crew and extras as well as the stars. Elvis played football with the guys and sing and entertain everyone and just sit around talk. In addition to hanging out with the adults, Elvis also talked and played with the kids throwing the football around. Fifty elementary school children from Idyllwild were hired as extras and can be seen in the bleachers during the outdoor boxing scenes. They were each paid $24. for their one day’s work. Elvis was always trying to better himself and his performance constantly asking the real life boxers on set to help him improve. Some of the fights scenes in the movie were actually real as they would get a few punches in outside of the choreography. Elvis Monthly editor Albert Hand and his wife Phyllis met Elvis in Idyllwild during filming. They gave Elvis three leather bound books. One contained the names and addresses of the magazines’ readers thanking him, one contained all the nice things the fans had written about Elvis and the third book contained all of Elvis’ activities during his career to date. Elvis told him that he suggested to the Studio that they should have switched the filming schedule and filmed Follow That Dream in the winter and Kid Galahad in the summer. Seems they should have listened to Elvis as on November 20th, they had to go back to the studio where the entire interior of the Idyllwild Inn, including the front porch (where they sang “This is Living”) was recreated on a stage at United Artists Studio. The 4th of July picnic when Elvis sings “I Got Lucky” was supposed to be filmed at Fulmor Lake in Idyllwild, but because they had to relocate due to the snow it was filmed at Franklin Canyon Park north of Beverly Hills. This is the same area used at the beginning of The Andy Griffith Show. During filming, Elvis was dating Connie Stevens, but according to Alan Fortas she broke up with him when Joe picked her up instead of Elvis himself and they were not alone for their date, rather surrounded by all the guys. (Seems that was the same reason Anne Helm of Follow That Dream broke up with him.) By the time of Kid Galahad, Elvis had rented 1059 Bellagio Road in Bel Air, but was only there a few months as Elvis didn’t really like it and moved back to the Perugia Way house after the owner enlarged it. He stayed there until 1965. Kid Galahad was Scatter’s first trip to Hollywood as Elvis had just gotten him. Once Kid Galahad was finished on December 20th, Elvis immediately flew to Las Vegas. For the first time, Elvis did not spend Christmas home at Graceland. Some speculate it was because he did not want to be home with his dad and Vernon’s new wife Dee as they were living at Graceland until they could move into their house on December 28th. Elvis sang six songs in Kid Galahad. They were were “King of the Whole Wide World,” “This is Living,” “Riding the Rainbow,” “Home is Where the Heart Is,” “I Got Lucky” and “A Whistling Tune.” “Love is for Lovers” was cut from the movie. “A Whistling Tune” was recorded for Elvis’ previous movie Follow That Dream, but was not used. The soundtrack, which was recorded at Radio Recorders in Hollywood in October 1961, was released as an EP on September 17, 1962. I have that original 45 rpm record. This is the first Elvis movie that does not have a title song. There is no “Kid Galahad” song. Instead, Elvis sings “King of the Whole Wide World” during the opening credits. It was not released by RCA as a single, but remained on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart for seven weeks peaking at #30. Although this dramatic movie may have worked better without the fan-demanded Elvis songs, “Home is Where the Heart Is” actually does work because it is not solely focused on Elvis’ singing. He is puttering around with his car and flipping through a book and then it shows Dolly longingly looking at Rose and Walter, which helps sets the romantic mood. Now Elvis singing “Riding the Rainbow” to two of his guy friends while driving to a boxing match is a little more farfetched, although many people do sing while they are driving. Kid Galahad was released August 29, 1962 and grossed even less than Flaming Star on its release. It reached #9 on Variety‘s list of top-grossing films for that week and was ranked #37 for the year grossing $1.7 million. Kid Galahad was the last of Elvis’ movies for the next six years with a dramatic edge and a solid plot. It did not reach the success of the silly, musical comedies like GI Blues, Blues Hawaii or his next movie Girls! Girls! Girls!. So after Kid Galahad for the next 15 films (the ‘travelogues’), Elvis would pretty much play that same goofy wisecracking playboy he originated in GI Blues – but some of those movies I really like.
**I consulted Elvis: The Elvis Files Vol 3, Elvis The Movies, The Films of Elvis Presley, Reel Elvis, Elvis Presley in the Movies, Elvis Films Faq, Elvis Elvis Elvis The King and His Movies, Elvis Presley The Hollywood Years, Elvis in Hollywood, Elvis Presley from Memphis to Hollywood, The Elvis Film Encyclopedia, The Elvis Movies, Elvis Presley in Hollywood Celluloid Sell-Out, Essential Elvis Interviews, Elvis Frame by Frame, From Hollywood to Michael Dante Way for more information**
* GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS 1962
Elvis’ last movie of 1962 is my sixth favorite Elvis movie and one of the eleven Elvis movies I watch all the time. In fact even though it’s only my sixth favorite, Girls! Girls! Girls! seems to be my go to Elvis movie as it is just pure fun. One of the reasons it is so easy to watch is because Elvis is particularly HOT in this movie. Yes he is always hot, but something about Elvis in this movie is even more mesmerizing than usual. I LOVE that fisherman’s hat Elvis wears and his rolled up sleeves. Also, Elvis’ hair is really glistening and dyed jet black. Another reason I love Girls! Girls! Girls! is Elvis’ performance of “Return to Sender.” It is not my favorite song by any means, but it is probably my favorite movie performance. Again, Elvis just looks magnificent in his all balck and the way he moves (thank you Jackie Wilson) – just pure fun! Girls! Girls! Girls! is also the movie where we get to see ‘little elvis.’ (Sorry if this is too vulgar, but I can’t help it.) During the dance scene “The Walls Have Ears,” Elvis is doing the Flamenco with costar Laurel Goodwin and gets quite excited. Elvis did not wear underwear in those days, so ‘little elvis’ just came poking out and quite obvious for everyone to see including Elvis who according to Joe Esposito noticed it in the dailies. The title Girls! Girls! Girls! is very misleading and could be a more appropriate title for some of Elvis’ other movies. This movie is really more about boats and fishing than girls, but I guess it is not very good publicity to call a movie Boats! Boats! Boats!. There are barely two girls in Girls! Girls! Girls! as love interests where in Elvis’ movies Wild in the Country and Spinout there were three love interests in each. Girls! Girls! Girls! was Elvis’ second movie filmed in Hawaii, but it is never mentioned in the movie that they are in Hawaii. It was years before I realized they were supposed to be in Hawaii. In all of my readings, no one seems to know why they never mentioned they are in Hawaii. Girls! Girls! Girls! was the only Elvis movie (not concert documentary, but actual movie) to be nominated for a Golden Globe award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. While the Elvis movie formula took shape in GI Blues and Blue Hawaii, it was solidified in Girls! Girls! Girls! and set the tone for the rest of Elvis’ movies (until the last few). Pre Production of Girls! Girls! Girls! began on February 26, 1962 at Paramount Studios in Hollywood. Hal Wallis was again the producer and Norman Taurog again the director. The combination of Wallis, Taurog and Presley was responsible for Elvis’ biggest grossing movies Blue Hawaii and GI Blues. Girls! Girls! Girls! was another script based on a story by Allan Weis (he and Edward Anhalt wrote the screenplay). Titles that were considered were A Girl in Every Port, Welcome Aboard, Paradise Island, Island of Love, Sleepy Lagoon, Paradis Cove, Sailing Along, Girls Ahoy, Flamingo, Ride the Gulf Wind, Jambalaya and Gumbo Ya-Ya as originally the movie was going to be filmed and set New Orleans, which may explain the shrimping boat as that is not a Hawaiian thing. (Key West, Florida was also considered as a possible location.) Hal Wallis was no longer interested in portraying Elvis as a serious rebel actor as in some of his previous movies, rather he was going to promote Elvis as an entertainer (especially after the hugely successful Blue Hawaii). So in Girls! Girls! Girls! (as would be the case in his next several movies), Elvis plays the carefree bachelor who is a singer. His character, Ross Carpenter, works as a charter boat pilot / fisherman and moonlights as a nightclub singer to buy a sailboat that used to belong to his father. Stella Stevens played Robin Gantner, a nightclub singer who used to date Ross and is still in love with him. Stella’s character ‘sang’ three songs in the movie “Never Let Me Go,” The Nearness of You,” and “Baby, Baby, Baby.” She does perform them on set, but they are actually sung by Gilda Maiken while Stella lip-synched. (Another source says they are sung by Marni Nixon who sang for Natalie Wood in West Side Story and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady.) Stella Stevens was Playboy‘s Playmate of the Year for January 1960. Her son, Andrew Stevens, married Kate Jackson (of Charlie’s Angels fame). Although they had similar backgrounds as Stella was also born in Mississippi and lived in Memphis for a time while she went to Memphis State College, she and Elvis did not get along. In fact, she has said that Elvis was drunk when he performed “Return to Sender” and that Elvis always had a large glass of rum in hand. This is obviously ridiculous as we all know Elvis rarely drank and detested drunks. Stella must have not gotten along well with anyone as costar Laurel Goodwin said her nickname was ‘Queen Stella’ because she put on so many airs. At first, Stella was excited to be in an Elvis movie when she thought she was his leading lady, but then refused to take the roll when she found out her character is dumped by Elvis’s character for another girl leaving her with little screen time. Stella begrudgingly took the part only after she was threatened with suspension by Paramount. Laurel Goodwin played Laurel Dodge, Ross’ love interest. She doesn’t tell Ross that she is wealthy and buys the sailboat for him. (There is speculation this part would have went to Delores Hart had she not left Hollywood to become a nun.) This was Laurel’s first movie. She said there was nothing romantic between her and Elvis, but they were good friends often socializing off set. She even went out with him alone, without the Memphis Mafia, to dinner in Hilo. I saw Laurel at Elvis Week 2017, the 40th Anniversary. She did not stay for a meet and greet, but we got to hear her speak at Conversations on Elvis. At Elvis Week the following year in 2018, we got to hear Ginny Tiu speak and play the piano. She and her real-life sister Elizabeth played sisters Mai Ling and Tai Ling, the little girls with whom Elvis sings. And their real-life sister Vicky would costar with Elvis in his next movie It Happened at the World’s Fair. Jeremy Slate played Wesley Johnson, Ross’ nemesis. He also played Elvis’ rival in GI Blues. Guy Lee, who played Chen, also played Ping Pong in Elvis’ Blue Hawaii. Robert Strauss played Sam, who owned the Pirate’s Den where Ross and Robin sing and where Ross first meets Laurel. Strauss also played Blackie in Elvis’ Frankie and Johnny (another one of my go-to’s, but I can’t explain why). Frank Atienza, who played Ito in Elvis’ Blue Hawaii, played an uncredited role in Girls! Girls! Girls!. Elvis’ friends Red West and Alan Fortas can be seen in the movie. Red plays the bongos on the tuna boat, and Alan catches a tuna from Ross. For Ross’ Pirate’s Den band, Elvis’ session drummer Hal Blaine plays the drums and Elvis’ stand-in Lance LeGault plays the bass. Ken Becker, who played a drunk and Laurel’s date in the Pirate’s Den, had previously appeared in Loving You (the famous fight scene in the restaurant) and GI Blues and would go on to make his final appearance in an Elvis movie in Roustabout. Elvis arrived in Honolulu, Hawaii on April 7, 1962. Elvis wanted to travel by ship, but there was a strike so he had to fly. Elvis was greeted by over 8,000 fans and lost his watch, his tie clip and a diamond ring to these thousands of overzealous fans. The next day a fan called Elvis at the Hawaiian Village Hotel on Oahu to say she had his ring and she would return it – she left it for him at the front desk. Filming began on April 9, 1962. Locations used in and around Kauai and Honolulu were the Bumble Bee Tuna plant near Waikiki Beach and the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor. Stunt doubles for Elvis and Laurel were thankfully used in the scene that always makes me hold my breath. It is the scene toward the end of the movie when Ross and Laurel jump from the sailboat to the speedboat and then the speedboat cuts right in front of the sailboat and the two almost collide. I assume that was not on purpose, and nothing I have read has commented on it except to say that stunt doubles were used. Location shooting was finished on April 26th and everyone returned to Hollywood where filming resumed on May 1st on Stage 5 at Paramount Studios. Although Elvis was not allowed to break boards as Karate practice during filming for fear he would get hurt, he did manage to play football. On weekends Elvis and his friends would play football at De Neve Park along with actors Gary Crosby, Ty Hardin, Bob Conrad, Max Bear Jr, Ricky Nelson and Pat Boone. English singer Billy Fury visited the set and said his proudest moment was meeting Elvis and presenting him with gold and silver discs for his UK sales. After spending the day with Elvis, Billy returned with a song from the movie “Because of Love,” which later became a hit for him. Filming finished on June 8, 1962. After previewed, Hal Wallis edited out five minutes of the movie including two songs. Girls! Girls! Girls! premiered in Honolulu on October 31, 1962 and opened nationally on November 21st. It peaked at #6 on the Variety National Box Office Survey. Even though it only came out weeks before the end of the year, Girls! Girls! Girls! grossed $2.6 million by year’s end and was #31 for the year on the list of 50 Top Grossing Films of 1962. Elvis was voted the Top Box Office Draw by the movie industry, having three of the top grossing movies of 1962: Blue Hawaii at #14 (even though it was released in 1961), Kid Galahad at #37 and Girls! Girls! Girls! at #31. He had become one of the highest-paid Hollywood stars and came in second as Best Actor of the Year at the Exhibitor Laurel Awards in 1963, losing to Rock Hudson. In 1977 according to TV Guide, Girls! Girls! Girls! was the tenth most-shown movie on television. Maybe that’s why I like it so much, because it was shown so much on tv when I was little. Before filming began in Hawaii, Elvis began three days of recording the soundtrack at Radio Recorders in Hollywood on March 26, 1962. Four of the songs Elvis recorded “Mama,” “Plantation Rock,” “I Don’t Want To” and “Where Do You Come From?” were cut from the movie. The Amigos’ version of “Mama” was used in the movie instead of Elvis’ and a snippet of “I Don’t Want To” was seen in the trailer. The title song “Girls! Girls! Girls!” was written by Leiber and Stoller, but not for Elvis. They wrote it for The Coasters in 1960. The title song is used during the opening credits as well as the end of the movie with different lyrics. It is the version at the opening credits that is on the soundtrack album. “Earth Boy” is a different version on the soundtrack album than what is in the movie as the Tiu sisters are not featured on the album. “Return to Sender,” which was written by Otis Blackwell and Winfield Scott, peaked at #2 for five weeks and remained on the charts for 14 weeks. The soundtrack as a whole peaked at #3 and earned a gold record selling over one million dollars and over 600,000 copies. To put it in perspective how popular this soundtrack was, Elvis’ hugely successful critically acclaimed 1969 album From Elvis in Memphis sold 100,000 less copies than the Girls! Girls! Girls! soundtrack. I have the original issue 33 1/3 1962 Girls! Girls! Girls! soundtrack album and it still plays great, and I like it better than the Blue Hawaii soundtrack. The Elvis Movie Formula was now set. With no strong supporting cast in Girls! Girls! Girls!, Elvis was expected to carry the movie. This is how it was going to be for the rest of Elvis’ movies, until the last few. His movies were from this point on star vehicles centered around Elvis, which meant the target audience were Elvis fans rather than a wider audience of some of his previous movies. The musical numbers took precedence over character development and storylines. Because Elvis made so much money per movie, there wasn’t any leftover for anyone or anything else. Star vehicles were not unusual for the time and Elvis was a singer, so he made musicals. Like John Wayne made westerns Doris Day made romantic comedies. According to Alan Fortas, Elvis considered Girls! Girls! Girls! the beginning of the end of his career as a serious actor. Elvis said, “The problem is they keep trying to make GI Blues and Blue Hawaii over and over again, and all they do is move the scenery around a little.” Elvis would go on to play the “irresistible loner looking for love” in his next several movies.
**I consulted Elvis: The Elvis Files Vol 3, Elvis The Movies, The Films of Elvis Presley, Reel Elvis, Elvis Presley in the Movies, Elvis Films Faq, Elvis Elvis Elvis The King and His Movies, Elvis Presley The Hollywood Years, Elvis in Hollywood, Elvis Presley from Memphis to Hollywood, The Elvis Film Encyclopedia, The Elvis Movies, Elvis Presley in Hollywood Celluloid Sell-Out, Elvis in Hawaii for more information**
IT HAPPENED AT THE WORLD’S FAIR 1963
Elvis’ first movie of 1963 used to be in my top Elvis movies I would watch all the time, but has since been replaced by Roustabout. I do still like It Happened at the World’s Fair a lot though, but it is not one of my go-to’s. This was only the fourth movie filmed in Seattle. I thought about Elvis when I visited Seattle in 2011 and rode the monorail wondering if Elvis stood in the same place I was waiting to board (and when I went up in space needle in 2001 during my first visit). Those structures created for that world’s fair in 1962, still in use today, are part of an area now called Seattle Center. Technically the name of the Seattle World’s Fair was Seattle Century 21 Exposition, which is why the name of trailer park where Elvis’ character stayed in the movie was called Century 21 Estates. It Happened at the World’s Fair was Elvis’ third movie directed by Norman Taurog. It was produced by Ted Richmond, and the screenplay was written by Si Rose and Seaman Jacobs (although originally it was supposed to be written by William Fay). Before becoming It Happened at the World’s Fair, earlier working titles were Mister Will You Marry Me, Take Me Out to the Fair and Take Me To The Fair. On August 28, 1962, Elvis reported for pre-production work at MGM Studios. His dressing room once belonged to Clark Gable. Elvis had to postpone his soundtrack session after only recording three songs because he had a cold. On August 31st, Elvis had his wardrobe fittings with ‘Tailor to the Stars’ Sy Devore, who had to be very careful with Elvis’ pants as he did not wear underwear during this time (as we learned in Girls! Girls! Girls!). Elvis was much more adult looking in this his 12th movie, wearing a suit most of the time. His wardrobe of 10 suits, 2 cashmere coats, 4 sports coats, 15 pairs of slacks, 30 shirts and 55 ties cost $9,300. While Elvis was working in Hollywood, he would often drop into Devore’s store near Sunset Boulevard on Vine Street and order as many as 15 suits at a time, all size regular 42. Elvis plays a pilot named Mike Edwards in It Happened at the World’s Fair, but sings ten songs randomly throughout the movie. Elvis’ love interest was Joan O’Brien, who played Diane Warren the nurse who Elvis’ character Mike pursues. She went on to play a nurse in several other movies. Joan eventually gave up acting for a career with Hilton Hotels. Elvis’ other love interest in the movie, although just briefly in the beginning, was Yvonne Craig, who played Dorothy Johnson. Yvonne had WAY more chemistry with Elvis than Joan did, and maybe that is because Elvis and Yvonne were dating at the time. Yvonne would go on to play one of Elvis’ love interests in Kissin’ Cousins and then go on to play Batgirl in TV’s Batman series. Vicky Tiu, Elvis’ real leading lady of It Happened at the World’s Fair played Sue-Lin, the little girl Elvis’ character Mike escorts around the fair and takes care of while her uncle is missing. I always loved her and thought she was so cute and made the movie. Her sisters Ginny and Elizabeth were the cute little girls in Elvis’ previous movie Girls! Girls! Girls!. Originally Ginny was supposed to play Sue-Lin in It Happened at the World’s Fair, but she was already booked to play piano at the While House for President Kennedy so her sister Vicky stepped in for her. This was Vicky’s first and only movie, and she is my favorite of the three Tiu sisters. Eventually Vicky moved to Hawaii and became its First Lady from 1994 to 2002 while her husband was governor. Kurt Russell played the kid who Elvis’ character asked to kick him in the shin so he would have an excuse to visit Nurse Diane. In the movie, Elvis’ character gives Kurt’s character a quarter to kick him. In real life, Kurt was hesitant to kick Elvis, so Elvis gave him $5 to kick him. Kurt was 11 years old, and Elvis was 27 during It Happened at the World’s Fair. Years later in 1979, Kurt would play Elvis in a movie called Elvis. Kurt was then 27 years old, the same age Elvis had been in when he worked with him in It Happened at the World’s Fair. Kurt says although he had a lot of research about Elvis available to him, “it was really my memory of who he was, having worked with him for a couple of weeks. His demeanor and style was what I drew from.” Kurt briefly married his Elvis costar Season Hubley, who played Priscilla in the movie. In 2001′ 3000 Miles to Graceland, Kurt’s character is disguised at Elvis when a boys runs up to him and kicks him in the shin. Gary Lockwood played Danny Burke, Mike’s friend and partner who is the reason why they are in debt, lose their plane and go looking for work in Seattle. In 1961, Gary also played Elvis’ nemesis in Wild in the Country, which was his second movie. Gary was part of the gang who played football with Elvis at De Neve Park while Elvis was in town making movies. I got a chance to see Gary Lockwood at Elvis Week in 2007 during the Conversations on Elvis panel. Here is what I wrote about that experience,
“Gary Lockwood took the stage. I was SO excited to see Gary because he was in my second favorite (and rarely talked about) Elvis movie Wild in the Country and costarred with Elvis in It Happened at the World’s Fair. My excitement quickly waned. Gary was SO full of himself, a complete jerk I thought. He never said anything bad about Elvis, but he was bragging about all the women he had been with like Tuesday Weld and Joan Crawford’s daughter Christina. He even said Tuesday Weld looked at him and looked at Elvis and picked him – I seriously doubt it. It was the tone he used and the smirk on his face when he talked about these women. Gary was name dropping and almost competing with Tom Brown saying I was friends with Jim Morrison, and I was real good friends with Ricky Nelson too – again it was his tone. Then Gary said William Shatner was an ass and had a really mean look on his face. After this, I was quite ok that I was going home and missing the screenings of Girls Girls Girls and It Happened at the World’s Fair and Q n A and Meet and Greet with Laurel Goodwin and Gary Lockwood the next day.”
On September 4, 1962, Elvis (wearing that same hot hat he wore in Girls! Girls! Girls!) arrived in Seattle. He and his friends stayed on the 14th floor of the New Washington hotel where they would get bored because they couldn’t leave so they would play tricks on room service like removing all the furniture for the bellboy then replacing it all when the manager showed up. Filming on It Happened at the World’s Fair began on September 5th at the monorail terminal, which is still in operation today as is the Space Needle where Elvis also filmed. The World’s Fair exhibits seen in the movie were as follows: Skyride, Dream Car Exhibit, Bell Telephone Exhibit, Floating City of Tomorrow, Theme Building, Science Exhibit and the Filipino Building. The coliseum that housed the World of Tomorrow exhibit where Elvis filmed is now the Key Arena, and the Federal Science Building where Elvis filmed is now the Pacific Science Center. During filming, there were hundreds of local police as well as six Pinkerton plainclothes detectives to protect and escort Elvis through the crowds. Ten million people visited the Seattle World’s Fair between April 21 and October 21, 1962. Elvis filmed there for just ten of those days. Along with dating Yvonne Craig, it was also reported that Elvis was dating Seattle local girl Sue Wouters during filming. The Colonel turned down an offer for Elvis to sing at the Fair for $250,000. Elvis presented two Tennessee hams to Washington Governor Albert Rosellini on behalf of Tennessee Governor Buford Ellington. That was not Elvis and Joan in the final scene leading the marching band through the fair – they were stand ins. Filming in Seattle finished on September 13, 1962 and resumed on the MGM lot in Hollywood on September 17th. Elvis was interviewed on set by Lloyd Shearer where he discussed his love of reading and studying philosophy. Elvis finished filming on November 9, 1962 and went to Las Vegas to vacation before returning to Memphis for the holidays. The It Happened at the World’s Fair soundtrack was recorded at Radio Recorders Studios in Hollywood in September of 1962. The ten songs in the movie and on the soundtrack album were “Beyond the Bend,” “Relax,” “Take Me To The Fair,” “They Remind Me Too Much Of You,” “One Broken Heart For Sale,” “I’m Falling In Love Tonight,” “Cotton Candy Land,” “A World Of Our Own,” “How Would You Like To Be” and “Happy Ending.” Of all of those, only “One Broken Heart For Sale” (written by Otis Blackwell and Winfield Scott) was released as a single with “They Remind Me Too Much Of You” on the b side. It remained on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart for nine weeks peaking at #11. In the movie, Elvis sings an extra verse to this song. “Happy Ending,” the movies’ closing number was written overnight by Ben Weisman who was called because he was the only songwriter living in Los Angeles at the time – and he had just moved there. The It Happened at the World’s Fair soundtrack sold around 300,000 copies. The RCA LP remained on Billboard‘s Top LPs chart for 26 weeks peaking at #4 while the stereo version of the LP remained on the Stereo LPs chart for 17 weeks peaking at #15. I have the original 1963 33 1/3 album. It Happened at the World’s Fair premiered in Los Angeles on April 3, 1963 and opened nationally on April 10th. It was ranked as #55 for the year on Variety’s list of movies grossing $2.25 million for the year. It Happened at the World’s Fair was Elvis’ second film for MGM, the other was Jailhouse Rock.
**I consulted Elvis: The Elvis Files Vol 3, Elvis The Movies, The Films of Elvis Presley, Reel Elvis, Elvis Presley in the Movies, Elvis Films Faq, Elvis Elvis Elvis The King and His Movies, Elvis Presley The Hollywood Years, Elvis in Hollywood, Elvis Presley from Memphis to Hollywood, The Elvis Film Encyclopedia, The Elvis Movies, Elvis Presley in Hollywood Celluloid Sell-Out, for more information**
FUN IN ACAPULCO 1963
Fun in Acapulco was Elvis’ 13th movie, there were 13 songs on the soundtrack and there are 13 letters in the movie’s title. It is actually a good movie, so I am not sure why I don’t watch it more often as it is not in my rotation of 11 Elvis movies I watch all the time. I do really enjoy Elvis’ performance of “Bossa Nova Baby.” It is on the same lines as the performance of “Return to Sender” in Girls! Girls! Girls!. Much like the opening scene when Elvis is wearing that gorgeous fisherman’s hat! Fun in Acapulco has a real James Dean connection, and I am a HUGE James Dean fan! Both of Elvis’ love interests in the movie knew James Dean. Ursula Andress dated James Dean and Elsa Cardenas costarred in James Dean’s final film Giant. Production of Fun in Acapulco began on January 21, 1963. There were several locations photographed in Acapulco using a double as a stand in for Elvis, but Elvis filmed all of his scenes at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, California. Elvis’ movies were banned in Mexico after a showing of GI Blues caused a riot, so he could not film in Mexico. The doubles that were used for the Mexico shots were pretty bad, as no one walks like Elvis. Elvis had to act against green screens and moving backgrounds that were previously filmed like the scene on the bicycle with Raoul and in the car with Delores. Elvis wanted to do his own stunts in Fun in Acapulco. That was really Elvis in the opening scene swinging on the trapeze, but they filmed it on the last day of production after all of Elvis’ scenes were already filmed. Luckily, the stunt occurred without incident. However, that was not Elvis diving off the 136-foot cliff. But it was Elvis who was carried on the shoulders of onlookers after his victorious dive. They had to reshoot that scene many times because Elvis was moving around too much because apparently his crotch was being grabbed by one of the guys carrying him. The grabber was then dismissed. Elvis was very uncomfortable in his outfit while filming “Marguerita.” He did not enjoy the untucked, short sleeved shirt saying it was something he would never wear in real life. But he had to wear it because of his double had worn it in the previously filmed shot. But for the most part, Elvis did like his Latin inspired outfits so much so he asked if he could keep his flamenco outfit (the navy blue and red cummerbund) and two black silk shirts. It was during the filming that Elvis met with Priscilla’s father to talk about her moving to Memphis and that the guys started being referred to as the Memphis Mafia. It was also during this time Marty Lacker’s brother in law Bernie Granadier designed the Meditation Garden, which Fortas writes was “the true pleasure of his life.” Elvis finished filming his scenes on March 22, 1963 and returned home to Memphis to await Priscilla’s arrival at Graceland. Fun in Acapulco was written by Allan Weiss. He also wrote screenplays for five other Elvis movies: Blue Hawaii, Girls! Girls! Girls!, Roustabout, Paradise Hawaiian Style and Easy Come Easy Go. The only screenplay Weiss retained sole credit for was Fun in Acapulco. It was originally going to be called Vacation in Acapulco. The idea, inspired by a travel magazine story about Acapulco cliff divers, first came about during the filming of Girls! Girls! Girls!. Elvis was either going to play a boat captain or an entertainer who befriends a native boy who becomes a mini Colonel Parker. In Fun in Acapulco, Elvis plays Mike Windgren, a former circus performer who tries to overcome his fear of heights from a high wire family accident from years ago by diving off a cliff. He is a lifeguard by day and a singer by night while involved with two women and has an eight year old manager. Ursula Andress played Marguerita Dauphin, the hotel social director who is interested in Mike. I always thought is was surprising how Elvis spoke badly of Ursula’s looks. I would have thought he was attracted to her just for the fact that she dated James Dean, but maybe Elvis had outgrown his James Dean fascination by then. Although Alan Fortas wrote that Elvis was intrigued by his costar Ursula Andress because she had dated James Dean. But Elvis did not date her because she was too broad shouldered for him – definitely not petite like he liked. Although James Dean was smaller than Elvis and he dated Ursula. Even though Ursula was a sex symbol as the first Bond Girl in Dr. No, she wasn’t allowed to be too sexy for Elvis’ young audience in Fun in Acapulco. Ursula complained, “They wouldn’t let me wear a real bikini and put a ruffled thing on me. They even stuck on a hair ribbon, stupidly thinking this would please the innocent little girls in Elvis’ audiences.” Elsa Cardenas played Dolores Gomez, the female Bullfighter champion who is interested in Mike. She also played Juana Benedict, Dennis Hopper’s character’s wife, in James Dean’s last movie Giant. Larry Domasin played Raoul Almeido, Mike’s 8 year old manager and all around sidekick, who like Colonel Parker asks for 50% of his earnings and is a junior Colonel Parker with all of his wheeling and dealings. Alejandro Rey played Morena, a lifeguard and Mike’s nemesis. Teri Hope (September 1958 Playboy Playmate of the Month) played Janie Harkins and also played in Roustabout. Howard McNear (known for Floyd the Barber on The Andy Griffith Show) played Dr. John Stevers and also played in Follow That Dream and Blue Hawaii. Many actors and actresses under contract to Paramount had small roles in Fun in Acapulco as well as in other Elvis movies. Mike De Anda was also in Girl Happy. Robert De Anda, Stella Garcia and David Renard were also in Change of Habit. Charles Evans was also in King Creole. Terri Garr was also in Roustabout, Viva Las Vegas and Kissin Cousins. John Indrisano was also in It Happened at the World’s Fair. Linda Rand was also in Roustabout and Girls! Girls! Girls!. Linda Rivera was also in Loving You. Mary Treen was also in Girls! Girls! Girls! and Paradise Hawaiian Style. Fun in Acapulco was directed by Richard Thorpe, who also directed Elvis’ Jailhouse Rock. It was produced by Hal Wallis, who produced eight other Elvis movies: Loving You, King Creole, GI Blues, Blue Hawaii, Girls! Girls! Girls!, Roustabout, Paradise Hawaiian Style and Easy Come Easy Go. The executive producer was Joseph Hazen, who was also executive producer on Elvis’ Roustabout, Paradise Hawaiian Style and Easy Come Easy Go. Paul Nathan was the associate producer who also worked on Elvis’ movies King Creole, GI Blues, Blue Hawaii, Girls! Girls! Girls, Roustabout, Paradise Hawaiian Style and Easy Come Easy Go. Daniel L. Fapp was the cinematographer for Fun in Acapulco and also worked with Elvis on Spinout and Double Trouble. He won the Academy Award for West Side Story. Edith Head was the costume designer for Fun in Acapulco as well as Elvis’ movies Loving You, King Creole, GI Blues, Blue Hawaii, Girls! Girls! Girls!, Roustabout, Paradise Hawaiian Style and Easy Come Easy Go. (The same movies Hal Wallis produced.) She won eight Academy Awards, including two of my favorites A Place in the Sun and All About Eve. Fun in Acapulco opened nationally on November 27, 1963, just five days after the assassination of President Kennedy. It only stayed on Variety‘s national box office chars for three weeks peaking at #5. It was #33 for the year grossing over $1.5 million for the last six weeks of 1963 making it the highest-grossing movie musical of the year. Special souvenir passports were created to promote the movie. The Beatles went to see Fun in Acapulco at a drive-in theater on February 18, 1964 in Miami during their first US tour. James L. Neidbaur wrote in The Elvis Movies, “It is unfortunate that as Elvis became a better and more experienced actor, his films became more formulaic. The fact that he was relying on the soundtracks to these movies as his record releases made the necessity of doing musicals even greater.” The Fun in Acapulco soundtrack recording began on January 21, 1963 at Radio Recorders Studios for two marathon sessions. Elvis tried to inject a Spanish feel to his vocals accompanied by the Amigos. Elvis sang “Guadalajara” completely in Spanish. It was written by Pepe Guizar and was a hit by Xavier Cugat in 1944, although Elvis took his arrangement from Nat King Cole’s cover. The single “Bossa Nova Baby,” which was originally written by Leiber and Stoller for Tippy and the Clovers in 1962, remained on the charts for 10 weeks peaking at #8. It’s flip side was “Witchcraft” was not included in the movie. The movie included 11 songs, but the soundtrack included 13 songs with “Love Me Tonight” and “Slowly But Surely” as bonus tracks. “Slowly But Surely” was used in the movie Tickle Me. The soundtrack for Fun in Acapulco stayed on the charts for 24 weeks peaking at #3 and selling around 300,000 copies. I have the original 1963 issue 33 1/3 rpm album.
**I consulted Elvis: The Elvis Files Vol 3, Elvis The Movies, The Films of Elvis Presley, Reel Elvis, Elvis Presley in the Movies, Elvis Films Faq, Elvis Elvis Elvis The King and His Movies, Elvis Presley The Hollywood Years, Elvis in Hollywood, Elvis Presley from Memphis to Hollywood, The Elvis Film Encyclopedia, The Elvis Movies, Elvis Presley in Hollywood Celluloid Sell-Out, for more information**
KISSIN COUSINS 1964
Kissin’ Cousins was Elvis’ 14th released movie, but it was his 15th movie made. Elvis’ 15th released movie was Viva Las Vegas, which was made before Kissin’ Cousins, but Kissin’ Cousins was released before Viva Las Vegas. (Although they were released in order in the UK.) Kissin’ Cousins is known as one of Elvis’ worst movies. I have only watched it about five times in my life, but after viewing it this time, I actually enjoyed Kissin’ Cousins. Yes it is dumb and cheesy, but like Cynthia Pepper writes “it’s not art, but it is entertaining.” To me, Kissin’ Cousins is bad like Tickle Me and Speedway, but not terrible like Harum Scarum and Double Trouble. (I have always thought Kissin’ Cousins should have been called Double Trouble.) An Elvis movie is like pizza, even when it’s bad it’s good. Kissin’ Cousins was a watershed movie in Elvis’ movie career in that it signaled a change in how Elvis’ movies were made when the Colonel learned he could make a lot of money with a quickly filmed, low budgeted movie as Kissin’ Cousins was one of Elvis’ most profitable movies. This just goes to show you just because something makes money does not means it is good, which is what I have been saying about music for years! Kissin’ Cousins had a low budget of $800,000., compared with Blue Hawaii‘s $4 million. The Colonel was upset that Viva Las Vegas had gone way over budget, so he needed to do a cheap quick movie. Sam Katzman, ‘King of the Quickies,’ was chosen as the Prodcuer as he was known for churning out low budget movies on short schedules. He also produced Elvis’ Harum Scarum and 230 other movies. Filming for Kissin’ Cousins was completed in 18 days in late October and early November of 1964 in Big Bear and at MGM Studios. Elvis and the crew stayed at Cedar Lake Lodge while filming on location in Big Bear in the San Bernadino Mountains of California. Gene Nelson directed Kissin’ Cousins and also wrote its screenplay with Gerald Drayson Adams. Nelson also directed Elvis’ Harum Scarum, which with Kissin’ Cousins are two of Elvis’ most ridiculed movies. Elvis, who doesn’t appear until four minutes into the movie, plays dual roles as cousins Josh Morgan, a dark-haired army officer, and Jodie Tatum, a blond mountain man. Elvis was fitted for a blond wig, which he hated. Josh is sent to the Smokey Mountains to get his cousins to let the army use their land as a missile site. Elvis really plays up the country bumpkin Jody versus the distinguished Josh. In fact, Kissin’ Cousins really over-stereotyped the depiction of country people reinforcing all the prejudices against poor white southerners. At the time, rural ‘hillbilly’ themed shows were very popular. The Beverly Hillbillies premiered just months after Follow That Dream, and Green Acres premiered months after Kissin’ Cousins (and then there was Hee Haw in 1969). Lance LeGault, who can also be seen in Elvis’ ’68 Comeback Special and was the voice of the narrator of the Graceland audio tour, was Elvis’ stand in. He played whichever one of the cousins Elvis was not playing in the scene. Obviously, we are never supposed to see Lance’s face as he was supposed to be Elvis’ twin, but there were a few times in the movie where you can clearly see Lance’s face. The most obvious times were during the last number “Kissin’ Cousins.” Lance also played Colonel Roderick Decker on tv’s The A-Team. Glenda Farrell, who plays Ma Tatum, fell off the porch during the scene where she was carrying a big plate of corn on the cob and had to wear a back brace for the remainder of filming. While driving down the mountain from Big Bear Lake, Elvis’ brakes went out in the mobile home he was driving but eventually he was able to get the vehicle to safely stop. While filming back at MGM Studio, Priscilla came to visit Elvis for the first time. Her visit was cut short when Ann-Margret was quoted in the newspapers as being in love with Elvis. Colonel sent Priscilla back to Memphis fearing the press would then dig into Elvis and Priscilla’s relationship. Kissin’ Cousins opened nationwide March 6, 1964. It reached #11 on the Variety National Box Office Survey and was ranked #26 for the year. It made $2.8 million, making it one of Elvis’ most profitable movies because its budget was only $800,000. Kissin’ Cousins was nominated as the Best Written American Musical of the year for 1965 from the Writer’s Guild of America. Yvonne Craig plays Azalea Tatum, who is Jodie’s cousin and Elvis’ character Josh’s love interest. Yvonne was also in It Happened at the World’s Fair as a love interest of Elvis’ character Mike in the beginning of the movie. Yvonne and Elvis previously dated in real life. She said it was not a great love affair, “it was just kind of hanging out.” Yvonne also played Gidget in the movie of the same name and Batgirl in the tv show Batman. Elvis also previously dated Pam Austin who plays Selena who is Azalea’s sister and Jodie’s cousin and also initially vied for Josh’s attention. I thought it was strange that Pam was billed above both Yvonne and Cynthia Pepper, yet you didn’t see much of her the second half of the movie. Pam had also played in Blue Hawaii. Maureen Reagan, the daughter of Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman, played one of the Kittyhawks who were a crazed group of women on the prowl for men aggressively attacking them. Beverly Powers played another one of the Kittyhawks – the one with the big cleavage. She also played in Elvis’ Viva Las Vegas and Speedway. Joan Staley played Jonesy and also played Marge in Elvis’ Roustabout. Arthur O’Connell plays Pappy, head of the Tatum clan. He also played Elvis’ character’s father in Follow That Dream. Tommy Farrell plays Sgt. Bailey who is involved with Selena. He also played in my favorite Elvis movie Girl Happy. Tommy is Glenda Farrell’s son. Jack Albertson plays Captain Robert Salbo and also played Lou in Elvis’ Roustabout. Kent McCord has an uncredited role in Kissin’ Cousins and small roles in Elvis’ Viva Las Vegas and Roustabout. He had a personal friendship with Elvis, and they played football together on weekends with other actors when in Hollywood. Terri Gar was also in Elvis’ Fun in Acapulco, Viva Las Vegas, Roustabout, Girl Happy and Clambake. Sailor Vincent was also in Elvis’ Roustabout. Elvis’ friends Joe Esposito, Richard Davis, Red West and Alan Fortas all had bit parts as soldiers, and Joe even had a few lines. Cynthia Pepper plays Corporal Midge Riley who falls in love with Elvis’ character Jodie. Cynthia also starred in tv’s My Three Sons and Margie. I have met Cynthia Pepper many times as she is very active in the Elvis world and often attends events at Graceland. During Elvis Week 2018, I finally had her sign her book for me. She is such a great lady! Cynthia got the part for Kissin’ Cousins because she fit the costume. Cynthia was SO excited to be in an Elvis movie that she was going to fit that costume no matter what. There was no audition and after the fitting, she reported on set three days later learning the script on the way to Big Bear. Elvis had recommended Cynthia for the part after seeing her on tv. She found flowers from him in her room when she arrived. A few minutes later Elvis stopped by to introduce himself. She, like everyone else I have ever read about, said he was even more beautiful in person than on screen. Cynthia writes kissing Elvis was wonderful and his lips were “very soft, as if someone had combined silk and velvet into one fabric then turned it into his lips.” Cynthia went on to say she purposely messed up her kissing scenes, so she and Elvis could keep kissing over and over. Like everyone has said, Cynthia also says that Elvis knew everyone’s lines and was great to work with as he stayed for others’ close-ups so they would not have to act alone. Elvis nicknamed Cynthia ‘Speckled Pup,’ and the writer/director put that into the script having Jodie call Midge ‘Speckled Pup.’ During the scene where Midge flips Jodie over her shoulder, Elvis played one of his practical jokes by pretending to be unconscious after one of Cynthia’s flips. She was very nervous when she, as Midge, had to drive the jeep and stop it just three feet away from Elvis, as Jodie laying on the ground. They had to shoot that scene three times. During filming, Elvis helped Cynthia look for this lost kitten that she had been feeding. She kept that kitten and gave it a nice, long life. Cynthia’s favorite song from the movie was of course the one Elvis (as Jodie) sang to her, “Tender Feelings.” Although it was her favorite, it was difficult for Cynthia because she was instructed to walk away from Elvis when obviously all she wanted to do was walk toward him. It was during this scene where Elvis confided in Cynthia that maybe he “should be back home driving a truck” instead of making these movies. She reassured Elvis that his fans love him and his movies. Then Elvis asked her if anyone would remember him “when it all ends.” Cynthia and Elvis kept in touch through the years, and he asked her to come see him in Vegas but she never made it. Elvis died about 18 days before Cynthia’s birthday, which was about the same number of days they spent together making Kissin Cousins. Elvis began recording the soundtrack songs at RCA’s Studio B in Nashville on September 29, 1963, but he had a cold and could not sing so only the instrumental tracks were laid down. Elvis finally recorded the vocals on October 10, 1963 back at the MGM sound stage. There are two totally different versions of the title song “Kissin’ Cousins.” I definitely like the version that is actually performed in the movie rather than the version that is played over the credits. The version during the credits (No.2) was written by Bill Giant, Bernie Baum and Florence Kaye. The second version, the closing number in the movie, was written by Fred Wise and Randy Starr. It was released as a single with “It Hurts Me” on the flip side. It stayed on the charts for nine weeks peaking at #12. Both versions are included on the soundtrack. “Anyone (Could Fall in Love with You)” is on the soundtrack album, but it was taken out of the movie. Kissin Cousins soundtrack album was on Billboard‘s Top LP chart for 30 weeks, peaking at #6 selling around $300,000 copies. I like the bonus songs (“Echoes of Love” and “Long Lonely Highway”) on the soundtrack more than the songs that were actually in the movie, except I do really love “Once is Enough!” I have the original 1964 release 33 1/3 album. Elvis had received the songs on September 16, 1963 that the musical director Fred Karger had chosen. He was not only the composer, arranger and musical director of Kissin’ Cousins, Harum Scarum, Frankie and Johnny, but he was also had been the vocal coach for Columbia Pictures where he coached Marilyn Monroe. Karger was also married to Jane Wyman during the making of the movie, which coincidently Maureen Regan, Jane’ daughter, had a small part in.
**I consulted Elvis: The Elvis Files Vol 3, Elvis The Movies, The Films of Elvis Presley, Reel Elvis, Elvis Presley in the Movies, Elvis Films Faq, Elvis Elvis Elvis The King and His Movies, Elvis Presley The Hollywood Years, Elvis in Hollywood, Elvis Presley from Memphis to Hollywood, The Elvis Film Encyclopedia, The Elvis Movies, Elvis Presley in Hollywood Celluloid Sell-Out, Pigtails, Presley & Pepper for more information**
VIVA LAS VEGAS 1964
Everyone loves Viva Las Vegas, and it is one I watch sort of frequently but it is not in my rotation of 11 Elvis movies I watch all the time. I think, like the Colonel, there was too much Ann-Margret in it. Not only did she sing with Elvis on more than one song, she had two SOLOS (remember when she was making those sandwiches?). I do like the soundtrack though. Elvis plays a race car driver who sings in a contest to win money to get his engine for his car for the big race. Viva Las Vegas was filmed from July 15th to September 11, 1963. For two weeks during filming Elvis stayed in the Presidential suite at the Sahara Hotel. Viva Las Vegas opened nationwide June 17, 1964, and it went on to become Elvis’ highest grossing movie ever.
* ROUSTABOUT 1964
It has just been in the past couple years that Roustabout has become one of my favorite Elvis movies. Until recently I hadn’t really watched it that much, but then both the Sundance channel and HDNetMovies was playing it several times a week, and I would keep watching it over and over. Now Roustabout is my 7th favorite Elvis movie and is included in the rotation of 11 Elvis movies I watch all the time. I also really enjoy the soundtrack, it’s fantastic! I have both the original 1964 release and the FTD sessions double LP, which is great to hear all the different takes and versions and of course Elvis talking. Even though the movies contains 11 songs, it is a rare dramatic role in the midst of all Elvis’ cheesy musicals and really his last good script until the last of his movies. Elvis’ role is one that takes him back to his bad boy, chip on his shoulder character of his early movies. I’m pretty sure Elvis’ bad boy character combined with a great soundtrack is why Roustabout has become one of my favorites. The screenplay was ultimately written by Allan Weis and Anthony Lawrence. Allan Weis was also the screenwriter for Elvis’ Blue Hawaii, Girls! Girls! Girls!, Fun in Acapulco, Paradise Hawaiian Style and Easy Come Easy Go. He had originally written Roustabout as Elvis’ character Charlie drummed out of the army for running under fire. Since he’s broke, Charlie begs Maggie to hire him as a Roustabout and falls in love with her daughter Cathy, the carnival clown. Joe, the carnival foreman, is also interested in Cathy and he and Charlie fight for her. Anthony Lawrence was brought in to rewrite some of Weis’ parts that Wallis didn’t like. Roustabout ended up as Elvis playing Charlie Rogers, a singing drifter with no family and a chip on his shoulder who ended up working at a carnival and falling in love with Cathy, who was Joe the foreman’s daughter and saving the carnival for Maggie. This was a far cry from Weis’ original screenplay. When he was first asked if he wanted to write a screenplay for Elvis, Lawrence didn’t even know who Elvis was. He did a lot of research to make the movie more authentic and came up with those booth names like ‘mugg joint’ and ‘dirty show’ etc. The writers put in the script where the songs go then according to the content the songwriters would write the songs. While he was working, Lawrence’s office was right down the hall from the Colonel. He asked the Colonel if he could have an Elvis poster for his kids, and the Colonel said, “Sure, a dollar and a half.” Anthony Lawrence also worked on scripts for Elvis’ Paradise Hawaiian Style and Easy Come Easy Go as well as the 1979 movie Elvis starring Kurt Russell. Paul Nathan contacted the Beatles manager Brian Summerville to ask if the Beatles would be interested in working with Elvis in Roustabout. The thought was Elvis and the Beatles would perform the closing number together. Unfortunately, the Beatles had an exclusive three movie deal with United Artists, so they could not be in Roustabout. (I can only imagine what that movie would have been like!) The Colonel was actually a consultant on Roustabout as it was about a carnival, something he knew a lot about. In fact, the sword swallower / fire eater Lester Miller was auditioned and hired by the Colonel. Elvis wanted to try the fire eating, but when he lit one of the torches the fire startled him and he dropped it and yelled. Luckily he was not hurt. Miller said Elvis was one of the nicest, down to earth people. Preproduction work on Roustabout began on February 28, 1964 with long shots of Elvis’ double, Howard Curtis, riding his motorcycle on the road crashing through a fence and long shots of doubles for Barbara Stanwyck, Leif Erickson and Joan Freeman riding in their jeep. The first day of rehearsal was cancelled because they had to re-dye Elvis’ hair after it turned green from swimming, some sort of reaction between the chlorine and his hair dye. Barbara Stanwyck, who I think is the biggest movie star of all of Elvis’ costars, plays Maggie Morgan the carnival owner. She said she wanted to do a movie with Elvis because she wanted to be exposed to the younger generation who didn’t know her. She had never seen an Elvis movie, but had worked with Hal Wallis many times. She said Elvis was wonderful to work with and asked for nothing. She said, “Elvis was a fine person. His manners are impeccable, he is on time, he knows his lines.” Roustabout was her second to last film before Stanwyck turned to television with The Big Valley. A pair of specially fitted blue jeans were created for Stanwyck by Edith Head. Mae West was originally supposed to play Barbara Stanwyck’s part. There are two stories as to why West turned it down. One story is that she wanted to be the star of the movie with Elvis playing a small part opposite of her. The second story is that she wanted to play Elvis’ love interest, although she was in her 70s she looked like she was in her 40s according to Paul Nathan. Janet Leigh, Carolyn Jones, Shelley Winters, Angie Dickinson, Stella Stevens, Piper Laurie and Patricia Neal were all considered for the role of a younger Maggie while Lana Turner, Lauren Bacall, Dorothy Malone, Bette Davis, Claudette Colber and Ida Lupino were considered for the role of an older Maggie. (If my favorite actress Lana Turne would have been in a movie with my favorite Elvis OMG!!!) Joan Freeman plays Elvis’ love interest Cathy, but in real life did not hang out much with Elvis. Tuesday Weld, Linda Evans, Annette Funicello, Ann-Margret and Joey Heatherton were all considered for the role of Cathy. Sue Ann Langdon plays Madame Mijanou the fortune teller whom Elvis’ character Charlie kisses. She was also in Elvis’ Frankie and Johnny in a larger role as Mitzi. They had to do their kissing scene over and over. Langdon had woken up with an allergy or something and lost her voice. Director John Rich was upset that her voice was hoarse in that scene. Leif Erickson plays Joe Lean, the carnival foreman and Cathy’s father. Telly Savalas, Jack Palance, Burl Ives, Buddy Ebsen, Lee Marvin and Rod Steiger were also considered for the role of Joe. Dabbs Greer plays the banker. He also played the minister on Little House on the Prairie. Pat Buttram plays Harry Carver, the owner of the competing Carnival. He also played a mechanic in Elvis’ Wild in the Country. Jack Albertson plays Lou the owner of Mother’s Tea House. Glen Wilder plays Toby (in the gray sweater at the front table at Mother’s Teahouse nightclub in the first scene). Sonny West told how he was offered a bit part in Roustabout to have a fight with Elvis’ character, but he was too much of an Elvis type that the director wanted more of a contrast for the fight scene. They gave this part of Toby to Glen Wilder, a former football player training to be a stuntman. Elvis insisted on doing the stunt himself. Wilder was supposed to throw a punch and Elvis kicks him in the stomach. According to Sonny West, Wilder went into a flip (instead of just dropping flat) and as he went over his heel caught Elvis just by his eye. They had to write it into the script that Elvis’ character had a motorcycle crash and cut his eye. (remember that scene where Elvis is run off the road on his bike and wears a band aid on his forehead in the next scene.) Now Wilder says Elvis fell on his heel as Wilder was rolling over. There was a lot of blood. As they were taking Elvis to the doctor with a towel wrapped around his head, he saw Red and Sonny and the guys giving Wilder a hard time. Elvis rolled down the window and said, “Leave the wild man alone, it was my fault.” Production was shut down for a while. Elvis got 9 stitches, plastic surgery and makeup and mortician wax as used while filming so you couldn’t see it. Wilder said after it was in the papers, he had girls throw drinks in his face because he hurt Elvis. Gene Wilder also worked on Elvis’ Viva Las Vegas and Harum Scarum as a stuntman / actor. The teenagers sitting at the table besides Glenn Wilder were Racquel Welch (dark hair) in her movie debut, Linda Foster (short blonde hair) up front next to Glenn, Teri Hope (long blonde hair), Norman Grabowski (blue sweater) was also in Girl Happy, Toby Reed (dark jacket and tie) and Lynn Borden (the blonde sitting behind Racquel Welch). Racquel Welch got to say the line “Uh, how come they call this place a tea house, dear?” because the other girl couldn’t get it right. She had an issue with her makeup though. She did not like the way production did her makeup, so she did her own and they did not like that. Linda Foster grew up an Elvis fan, and her father became an Elvis fan when he was introduced to him saying “I have never met a nicer person in my life.” Lynn Borden said she and Elvis would sit in his dressing room and have long talks. Marianna Hill plays Viola and played Lani in Elvis’ Paradise Hawaiian Style. Joan Staley plays Marge the waitress at Mother’s Tea House and played Jonesy in Elvis’ Kissin Cousins. Wilda Taylor plays Little Egypt and also had roles in Elvis’ Harum Scarum and Frankie and Johnny. Diane Libby had a brief scene on the midway about meeting a handsome man in her future to which she responds “I already know all about it brother.” She said working with Elvis made her an Elvis fan. She said Elvis was a lot more talented that she had thought. He was a hard worker and paid attention. After working with him, she saw Elvis perform several times in Vegas. Suzanne Covington was in the audience in the small tent scene. She had small parts in many Elvis films per his request. She was in Kissin’ Cousins, Viva Las Vegas, Tickle Me, Harum Scarum, Girl Happy, Frankie and Johnny and Live a Little Love a Little. Linda Rand plays a college girl and was also in Elvis’ Fun in Acapulco and Girls! Girls! Girls!. Teri Garr worked as a dancer in Roustabout as well as in Elvis’ Viva Las Vegas, Girls Happy, Clambake and Speedway. I know her first from the movie Mr. Mom then later as Phoebe’s mom on Friends. She said Barbara Stanwyck was lots of fun, and Elvis was very nice to all the dancers and would invite them up to his house for parties. She said Elvis was more comfortable with regular people, more than celebrities. Garr said the last time she saw Elvis was in Mobile, Alabama when he was there doing a concert and she was there filming Close Encounters of the Third Kind. They were both staying at the same hotel. Jim Horn who played saxophone during the small tent scenes was also in Elvis’ Girls! Girls! Girls! and played the sax in the studio for Live a Little, Love a Little. Horn said he and Elvis would jam. Johnny Meeks was the on-screen guitarist, in the orchestra pit, during “Little Egypt” and “Big Love, Big Heartache.” They were filmed on two different days. He was in Lance LeGault’s band, and it was Lance who got him the part. Lance plays a carnival barker. Johnny Meeks also played guitar for Gene Vincent and was roommates with Red West for a bit in Hollywood in the sixties. Roustabout featured one of the worlds shortest and tallest actors. Billy Barty, was also in Elvis’ Harum Scarum, was 3’9″ and Richard Kiel was 7’2″. Steve Brodie, who plays the Fred the pitcher, was also in Elvis’ Blue Hawaii and Paradise Hawaiian Style playing antagonist for Elvis’ character to fight with. Kenneth Becker plays Gregg and was also in Elvis’ Loving You, GI Blues and Girls! Girls! Girls!. Joseph Forte plays a concessionaire and was also in Elvis’ Loving You. Mike Mahoney plays a deputy and was also in Elvis’ Loving You and It Happened at the World’s Fair. Kent McCord, who was Elvis’ friend, had an uncredited role in Roustabout as well as in Viva Las Vegas, Kissin Cousins and Girl Happy. Jim Dunsford, an extra during the dunk scene with dark hair wearing a blue sweater and red shirt and white tee, said Elvis was very approachable and would talk to everyone and sign autographs. He was also an extra in four other Elvis movies: Girl Happy, Spinout, Kissin’ Cousins and Double Trouble. Jimmy Gaines was the extra Elvis picked up and puts on his shoulder while singing “It’s Carnival Time.” He said Elvis would leave the door to his trailer open so all the kids in the carnival audience could watch him break boards with his karate chop. Diane Simpson Kerr, an extra who led the elephant around the carnival, said Elvis went through photos of her baby daughter looking at each of them asking questions and commenting on each one. She also worked as an extra in Elvis’ Girls! Girls! Girls! and Fun in Acapulco. For background at the carnival, “waiver extras” were used. They were paid to just walk around the carnival with their family and eat and enjoy the rides. The people who operated the rides were actual carnival workers. Elvis started filming Roustabout on March 9, 1964 at Paramount’s Stage 5. Elvis always used Jerry Lewis’ dressing room when he was at Paramount. Elvis shot the number “Poison Ivy League” on the set used for the interior sequence for the Mother’s Teahouse Nightclub. For the big tent interior shots, for the first time in the studio’s history, three main sound stages were opened and combined. Most of the movie was filmed on location in Thousand Oaks, close to Sherwood Lake. There were three main areas within 10 minutes of each other and about 45 minutes from Hollywood. The first location was the long stretch of highway where Elvis sings “Wheels on My Heels” and crashes his bike. The second location was the exterior of a small house on the Alan Ladd Ranch where he performs karate on the three college guys (after the scene in Mother’s Teahouse. The third location is the Albertson Ranch where the carnival was set up. It was in Elvis’ contract for all his movies that he had a driver and limo to pick him up each morning at his house in California and drive him to the set, whether it be the studio or on location. Elvis wanted the extras out of the small tent scene when he sang “Hard Knocks” and “One Track Heart.” Choreographer Earl Barton kept it simple for Elvis saying he was a singer, not a dancer. He and Elvis got along so well, he was asked back for Elvis’ Harum Scarum and Frankie and Johnny. This was the first movie Larry Geller did Elvis’ hair for as he had recently joined the group. It was during the filming of Roustabout the newspaper article came out with Wallis saying it was because of the money he made from Elvis’ movies that he was able to make classics like Becket. It was also during this time Ed Hookstratten became Elvis’ attorney when Richard Davis hit and killed a man while driving Elvis’ car while on an errand for Elvis. The final day of shooting Roustabout was April 20, 1964 when the finale song “There’s a Brand New Day on the Horizon” was completed. Everyone on set was given an Elvis album and an Elvis bust. There was a preview at the Studio Theatre on the Paramount lot on September 21, 1964, and Roustabout opened nationally on November 11, 1964. A special copy of the song “Roustabout” was sent to the theaters. Before the movie came out, side 1 was played with the song then an announcer saying “Coming Soon.” Once the movie was out, side 2 was played with the song then an announcer saying “Now Playing.” Roustabout was on Variety’s chart for two weeks peaking at #8 and reaching #28 on the list of movies for the year of 1965 grossing $3 million. Elvis was ranked the sixth biggest money making movie star for 1964. Roustabout was nominated for Best Written American Musical of 1964 by the Writers Guild of America. Decades before Roustabout there was an actual dancer, Catherine Devine, known as Little Egypt who danced at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Three months after Roustabout was released another dancer using the stage name Little Egypt sued Paramount, RCA and Elvis Presley Music for $2.5 million in damages and sought an injunction against showing the movie and selling the album saying she did authorize the use of the name nor the song. She lost her lawsuit. In 1965, Elvis signed a three-picture deal with MGM for $6 million making him the highest paid performer in show-biz history. In 1986, the Irish film Eat the Peach shows an unemployed man watching Roustabout on video in his local pub inspiring him to spend time building a wall of death (like the motorcycle scene). In January of 1965, the Roustabout soundtrack reached #1 on Billboard “Hot LPs” chart and selling 450,000 copies. It received a Gold Record for sales over $1 million. Roustabout was Elvis’ last #1 album until 1973. Strangely there were no singles released. This was the first movie since Kid Galahad that did not have a single released from it. “It’s a Wonderful World,” written by Sid Tepper and Roy C. Bennett, was considered for an Academy Award nomination for Best Song, but it was never actually nominated. It is the only Elvis song every to be considered for an Oscar nomination. “Little Egypt” was written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller back in 1961 and was recorded by The Coasters. I love the Roustabout soundtrack. My favorites is “Little Egypt.”
**I consulted Elvis: The Elvis Files Vol 3, Elvis The Movies, Elvis: Frame by Frame, The Films of Elvis Presley, Reel Elvis, Elvis Presley in the Movies, Elvis Films Faq, Essential Elvis Interviews, Elvis Elvis Elvis The King and His Movies, Elvis Presley The Hollywood Years, Elvis in Hollywood, Elvis Presley from Memphis to Hollywood, The Elvis Film Encyclopedia, The Elvis Movies, Elvis Presley in Hollywood Celluloid Sell-Out, for more information**
* GIRL HAPPY 1965 *
This is THE movie, my favorite Elvis movie since I was little. Yes Girl Happy is one of Elvis’ cheesy Elvis gets girl Elvis loses girl Elvis sings songs beach movie, but it’s not terrible, it’s just a typical feel-good 1960s beach movie that was so popular at the time, and I just love it! And I’m pretty sure why I love it so much and it is still my favorite is because when I was little I loved hearing Elvis say my name over and over in it. One of Elvis’ love interests is named DEENA (played by Mary Ann Mobley who also stars with Elvis in Harum Scarum). I can’t tell you how excited it makes me to hear Elvis say my name, call my name – sigh! I met Mary Ann Mobley (and got her autograph) and told her my story and she imitated Elvis saying Deena like he did to her in the movie. She was so sweet! She was Miss Mississippi and Miss America 1959. I also met Chris Noel and got her autograph. But I have yet to meet Shelley Fabares, the one I most want to meet (who also starred in Spinout and Clambake with Elvis and also tv shows I loved: The Donna Reed Show, Coach and One Day at a Time). Shelley Fabares is definitely my favorite Elvis costar and another reason why Girl Happy is my favorite movie. Gary Crosby, Bing Crosby’s son, costars with Elvis – and I love Bing Crosby! Elvis plays Rusty Wells, who is a singer paid by his Chicago boss to go to Ft. Lauderdale on Spring Break to keep an eye on his daughter Valerie (played by Shelley Fabares) and not let any guys near her. But of course instead Rusty falls in love with Valerie (after first pursuing Deena). Girl Happy is my favorite Elvis movie soundtrack and one I listen to over and over again just like it’s a regular album. Even though they have been dubbed some of Elvis’ worst songs, I actually love “Do the Clam” and “Ft. Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce” – they are just so catchy. My favorites off the soundtrack are probably “Puppet on a String,” “Do Not Disturb” and “Cross My Heart and Hope to Die.” Girl Happy is like Grease (my favorite movie since I was 5) to me, it’s like home. I know it so well it brings me comfort. I watch it repeatedly as I have the dvd and on Amazon prime to stream it – and have it downloaded on my tablet and phone. Girl Happy was produced by Joe Pasternak, who also produced Where the Boys Are – a huge hit in 1960 (which starred Elvis’ previous two-time costar Delores Hart). Pasternak slightly modeled Girl Happy after Where the Boys Are, even the movie posters are similar with their yellow background, blue print and college kids in the background. Girl Happy was directed by Boris Sagal, who until recently I had no idea was Katy Sagal’s father and she got to meet Elvis on set as a little girl. Sagal saw Elvis was frustrated with his movie career and advised him to take a break from making movies to take acting lessons at the Actor’s Studio. Girl Happy‘s screenplay was written by Harvey Bullock and R.S. Allen, who had written episodes of The Andy Griffith Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show. Filming on Girl Happy began on June 22, 1964 and ended on August 3, 1964 at MGM Studios. It premiered April 7, 1965, less than two weeks before Easter. Girl Happy was the 25th biggest movie of the year making $3,674,385. Elvis was paid $200,000. plus half of the box office receipts. Both Shelley Fabares and Chris Noel just gushed about how great Elvis was to work with and what an amazing man he was. The Seadrift Motel, originally called the Driftwood Motel, is where half the movie takes place, but it is not a real hotel in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida rather a set on the MGM lot. In fact, Elvis never went to Florida for the making of Girl Happy. This set was created by Set Designers Henry Grace and Hugh Hunt with Art Directors George Davis and Addison Hehr. (I’ve always LOVED this hotel, so pastel and quintessential 1960s Florida to me.) Some of the beach scenes were even on the MGM lot, not on an actual beach. And some of the crowd beach scenes were lifted directly from Where the Boys Are. Similarly, the guys and gals were not really driving in a car down the highway while singing “Spring Fever.” They were on the MGM lot in special cars with a movie of a highway projected behind them as a recording of The Jordanaires backing up Elvis played. Unfortunately the deleted scenes from Girl Happy never made it to the dvd (sadly there are no extras on the dvd besides the original trailer) or anywhere because they sadly just ended up on the cutting room floor never to be seen again, but luckily they weren’t any of Elvis’. (Thank goodness we have Chris Noel’s book to tell us about them as well as share the original script pages.) The first deleted scene was when the hotel manager was going over the rules with the girls when they first arrived. What was deleted was some dialogue between the girls and the hotel manager Mr. Penchill, played by John Fiedler who was the voice of Winnie the Pooh’s Piglet, as he removes breakables from the room to be safe then the girls discuss how boys don’t really want to play the field. This sets up the joke for Gary Crosby’s character we do see in the next scene. The next deleted scene was really just a deleted line. After they pulled Romano’s boat back to the hotel parking it in the pool, the hotel manager comes out and says, “If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times, no toys in the pool!” – that line was deleted. The third deleted scene was actually a bit of a change to the ending of Girl Happy. Valerie’s friends Laurie and Betsy (played by Chris Noel) were actually supposed to push Deena back down into her seat, so Rusty could see Valerie as she was standing directly behind Deena. But for whatever reason, they changed it to having Deena sit at another table and as Rusty walks up to her he sees Valerie at the next table and goes to her. There are eight official 11″x14″ American Lobby Cards for Girl Happy (and I have all of them!) (Located in the lobby of the theater, Lobby Cards’ purpose was to highlight the key plot points of a movie while showcasing its stars via a series of freeze frames – sort of like today’s trailers but in stills.) One of Girl Happy‘s Lobby Cards depicts the first deleted scene discussed above. For some reason, sometimes the Lobby Card was changed a bit from the actual scene. There are two Lobby Cards depicting when Rusty (Elvis) and Valerie (Shelley) meet. The first one depicts the scene when Rusty is singing “Ft. Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce” to Valerie while she is reading a book, and the changes to the Lobby Card were the green pool water was recolored blue, the pink towels and umbrella poll were removed, and a few people were added in the background. The second one (my favorite Lobby Card) depicts the scene right after Rusty serenades Valerie when he sits down on the end of her lounge chair. Rusty’s shirt is red in the movie, but was recolored blue in the Lobby Card. (It has always bothered me his shirt was a different color. Chris Noel doesn’t know why they changed it.) Other changes to that Lobby Card were the people were removed from the background and the pile of towels next to Valerie was changed from pink to red and extended to cover Rusty’s knee. Another Lobby Card, the one with Elvis standing on the ‘beach’ with two girls on both sides of him, was used as the splash screen (aka the menu) for the Girl Happy dvd. Why in this beach movie is Elvis always in long sleeve shirts and long pants, on the beach and even while he is water skiing? He was not overweight, so I am not sure if it was his choice or the producers – no reason in any book was ever given. Another question, is this the only movie where Elvis is in drag? Jackie Coogan, who played Uncle Fester on The Addams Family, played the arresting Sgt. Benson in Girl Happy. During filming, Elvis threw a birthday party on set for the Colonel – attendees included the Colonel, his wife Marie, Nick Adams, Richard Davis, Marty Lacker and the very young Billy Smith. Both Ann-Margret and Priscilla visited Elvis on the Girl Happy set, obviously at different times. Jerry Schilling officially joined the Memphis Mafia after filming on Girl Happy was complete, and Elvis nicknamed him “The Cougar.” Larry Geller did Elvis’ hair for Girl Happy and eight other Elvis movies. Rusty’s friends and band members are played by Gary Crosby (Andy), Jimmy Hawkins (Doc) and Joby Baker (Wilbur). Crosby is of course Bing Crosby’s son and the only one of the three who could actually sing and play. Hawkins also costarred with Elvis and Shelley in Spinout. He began his career as Donna Reed’s son Tommy in It’s a Wonderful Life and as a teen played Shelley Fabares’ boyfriend on The Donna Reed Show. Baker married Joan Blackman, Elvis’ costar / love interest in Blue Hawaii and Kid Galahad. It has been written Elvis was made part of a three piece band because of the popularity of The Beatles whose movie Help had just been released. Whenever the trio of Crosby, Hawkins and Baker were on screen, the music to “Three Blind Mice” played in the background. The Girl Happy soundtrack was recorded June 10-15, 1964 before filming began so they could lip-sync during filming. Released in March a month before the movie opened, the soundtrack peaked at #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and was certified Gold over 30 years later in 1999. There were two singles released from the Soundtrack. “Puppet on a String” (one of my favorites) was written by Sid Tepper and Roy Bennett and reached #14. “Do the Clam,” written by Ben Weisman, Delores Fuller and Sid Wayne reached #21. (“Do the Clam” was supposed to be the next dance craze, but never took off. I actually love this much criticized song.) On the title track “Girl Happy,” written by Doc Pomus and Norman Meade, Elvis’ voice was sped up 8% to make the song sound more upbeat. The version of the song in the movie was a combination of two different studio takes. “Do Not Disturb” (another one of my favorites) took 36 takes, and “Spring Fever” took 24 takes to complete. Elvis stormed out of the studio and after these sessions were completed did not record again for eight months. “Meanest Girl in Town” was originally done by Billy Haley and the Comets in 1964 under the title “Yeah She’s Evil.” Bonus track “You’ll Be Gone” was written by Elvis and his friends Charlie Hodge and Red West. The Girl Happy soundtrack in order is as follows: “Girl Happy,” “Spring Fever,” “Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce,” “Startin’ Tonight,” “Wolf Call,” “Do Not Disturb,” “Cross My Heart” and “Hope to Die,” “The Meanest Girl in Town,” “Do the Clam,” “Puppet on a String,” “I’ve Got to Find My Baby” and “You’ll Be Gone.” Girl Happy was Elvis’ last major box-office success making about $23 million in today’s money. In 1966, Elvis slipped from 10th to 16th on Quigley’s list of box-office champions and in 1967 dropped out of the top-ten box office acts. After Girl Happy, Elvis never returned to the top ten again. Please click HERE to see my full Girl Happy post complete with photos.
**I consulted Elvis: Filming Girl Happy, The Elvis Files Vol 3, Elvis The Movies, Elvis: Frame by Frame, The Films of Elvis Presley, Reel Elvis, Elvis Presley in the Movies, Elvis Films Faq, Elvis Elvis Elvis The King and His Movies, Elvis Presley from Memphis to Hollywood, The Elvis Film Encyclopedia, The Elvis Movies, Elvis Presley in Hollywood Celluloid Sell-Out, for more information**
TICKLE ME 1965
This is a terrible movie with a great soundtrack. Actually it wasn’t a true soundtrack as previously released songs were used in Tickle Me. Elvis plays a rodeo worker, but when the rodeo isn’t in town yet he gets a job as a singer and horse caretaker at a diet ranch for girls. Not a great plot, but I could deal with it if it weren’t for the weird fantasy and haunted house sequences – just weird. Julie Adams and Jocelyn Lane costar, and Elvis has a fight scene with Red West.
Francine York had been an Elvis fan since Jailhouse Rock. There were several close up scenes of her but were cut. One of them was the archery scene. She had learned to use a bow and arrow in high school, so she volunteered for that scene. There was a problem with the lights or something, so they had to keep shooting the scene over and over. Elvis was asked if he minded shooting in again, and Elvis said he wouldn’t mind doing it all day then whispered into Francine’s ear “and all night.” She said she did hang out with Elvis and the guys off set, but didn’t have an affair with Elvis but the trailers were busy with Elvis and the guys enjoying themselves with the beautiful ladies from the movie. She said Elvis had a girlfriend at the time who was not Priscilla and drove her huge cadillac onto the set and Elvis was mad that she had come to the studio. Francine said no one liked Joyclyn Lane as she walked around with her nose in the air.
Allied Artists Studios paid Elvis $750,000. plus 50% of the profits. No new songs were made for the soundtrack. To save money on the $1.48 million budget (which included Elvis’ salary), songs were used from previous Elvis albums.
HARUM SCARUM 1965
Even though Mary Ann Mobley (from Girl Happy) costars in Harum Scarum, it is a terrible movie, but it has a great soundtrack. Elvis plays a Singer / Actor who makes Sheik movies and is invited to the desert but gets kidnapped until he promises to kill the King but Elvis’ character refuses and instead falls in love with the King’s daughter played by Mary Ann Mobley. This is definitely one of my least favorite Elvis movies.
* FRANKIE AND JOHNNY 1966
This is my 10th favorite Elvis Movie, tied with Clambake. I think I like Frankie and Johnny because as it is set at the turn of the century it is different from the rest of the movies Elvis was doing at the time. And there is a lot of Jerry Schilling in it! He is prominently featured in many scenes, the best of which is the gambling scene where Elvis’ character loses his money at roulette. The movie is loosely based on the song. Elvis plays a riverboat singer Johnny who is a gambler. Johnny spends time with his boss’ girlfriend Nellie Bly (played by Nancy Kovack) because a gypsy told him a red head would bring him luck. Johnny’s girlfriend, Frankie (played by The Beverly Hillbillies‘ Donna Douglas) becomes jealous. Harry Morgan (Colonel Potter from tv’s MASH) costars. Harry Morgan’s character writes a song for a production on the riverboat and the song is of course “Frankie and Johnny” where Frankie shoots Johnny after seeing him with Nelly Bly. This movie gets panned a lot, but I actually like it and find it refreshing.
* PARADISE HAWAIIAN STYLE 1966
Not a popular opinion, but I really like this movie and have watched it often over the past few years as it was one of first Elvis movies available on Itunes and amazon digital back in the day. It is my 9th favorite Elvis Movie. Elvis plays a pilot who flies tourists around Hawaii. He is in business with his friend, but he keeps getting in trouble. This is Elvis’ third movie filmed in Hawaii. There is a dumb scene in a helicopter with Elvis, Julie Parish and a lot of dogs, but I think it is very funny because I’m a dog lover and the dogs are so cute and so funny. I didn’t meet Julie Parish, but I saw her speak at the Elvis Memorial Service George Klein puts on (either the 25th or 30th). Suzanna Leigh (who sadly just passed away after a long battle with cancer) played Elvis’ love interest. I talked with Suzanna at length at the Days Inn about 10 years ago or so. She signed her book for me and actually gave me her contact information as I was looking for a job so I could move to Memphis. She was a really nice lady.
Julie Parish said it was a lot of fun doing the scene with all the dogs, my favorite scene. But although the dogs were trained, they were in that confined space for a long time because they had to do the scene over and over again. She said Elvis played with them in between takes and talked and petted the dogs a lot, and the dogs really liked Elvis. Julie said Hal Wallis was a real letch, he was married and still hit on her asking her out as if she owed him for giving her the part. He even locked the door behind him, pinning her on the couch kissing her saying, “Little girl, we’re going to have a long talk about your future.” Julie made up an excuse about an audition and ran out of there. Later on set he called her threatening, “Little girl, you better think again.” She didn’t care she would never work for him again as he was ugly and old enough to be her grandfather.
Suzanna Leigh said the movie was just supposed to take 15 days to film, but they actually spent about 3 months there because elvis was dragging it out because he loved hawaii so much. he would just tell the director he didn’t feel like filming and they would go hang out and talk. Suzanna said Elvis had a problem with the little girl Donna Butterworth. She said she was over the top and drover them all ‘scatty.’ She said you can see Elvis in a scene looking over at Suzanna while doing scenes with Donna. Suzanna did not fly the plane in the movie, but it inspired her to get her pilot’s license. Suzanna told about the time a fan after talking to Elvis and her for a while just dropped her coat while Elvis was giving her an autograph – she was completely naked underneath her coat. Suzanna started to run away, but Elvis grabbed her to stay so he didn’t have to face the naked lady all alone. She just stood there naked as Elvis finished his autograph. Suzanna and Elvis never had an affair, they were just friends, but they kissed for photographers just after filming ended. She said Elvis had a great knowledge of Shakespeare. Elvis wanted Suzanna for Easy Come Easy Go, but she said the Screen Actors Guild refused to allow her to play another American. As a joke, Suzanna had make up make her up as an old lady and she asked Elvis for an autograph. She said they spent 16 hours a day filming and it months to complete so she and elvis became very close. Elvis bought her a harley (and everyone a harley) and gave her a bracelet which was since stolen and paid for a fan’s mother’s body to be flown back to England when she found out she suddenly died of a heart attack (they had been hanging out on set). Suzanna said Elvis said she was the sister he never had.
During filming in August of 1965, the Beatles visited with Elvis at his house on Perugia Way. A month later when the movie wrapped in September, Elvis rented the home at 10550 Rocco Place in Bel Air. Around the same time, Elvis built the house in Palm Springs on Chino Canyon for $85,000. A white stucco single story house of 15 rooms and a pool on two acres of land.
I really want to like Spinout more than I do because it costars my favorite Shelley Fabares, but the plot is just too dumb. Although it is cool Shelley Fabares’ character’s Dad is played by Carl Betz who played her Dad on The Donna Reed Show. Diane McBain also costars. (I have her book, and she has a really interesting story.) Elvis plays a singer with a traveling band and a race car drive. Three women are after him and want to marry him. I used to get Spinout confused with Speedway, which I like even less.
February of 1966 filming for Spinout began in California. Some of the filming was done at Dodger Stadium where the guys accidently left Elvis’ famed black make up case, which carried his wallet, combs and pills. Elvis made them go back during the night and climb the fence and go into the trailer to retrieve it.
Deborah Walley’s part of Les was actually written for her. She actually learned to play the drums in real life. She was not an Elvis fan before meeting him. She said Elvis had such charisma and he made the room electric when he walked in and at the same time very down to earth and not full of himself. She said she got along great with the guys Red, Sonny, Joe, Richard. She said Elvis and her adopted a dog on set and she kept it after. It was a german shepherd that came up to them on set. Elvis got food for it and sent it to the groomers. The dog rode with them in the rolls royce back to Deborah’s house. She called her Missy. She said filming took several months. She said she and elvis would go to his house or hers and sit and talk and eat big bowls of ice cream.
EASY COME, EASY GO 1967
This is not a great movie, but I don’t hate it – I actually like it quite a bit and it’s soundtrack. I don’t like the whole hippie aspect of it, just because to me it doesn’t go with Elvis (and I’m sure he didn’t like that part either). Although I do enjoy the performance of “Sing Your Children Sing.” Elvis plays a navy man diving for buried treasure. Dodie Marshall and Pat Priest costar, as does Schneider from One Day at a Time.
Pat Priest (Dina Bishop) said Hall Wallis wanted to try for the first time having the blonde as a bad girl instead of the usual good girl and have the brunette as the good girl. (Another movie where one of the female leads is named Dina like me even though it’s spelled wrong and Elvis says Deena way more in Girl Happy than Dina in Easy Come Easy Go.) Pat says Elvis was shy (they all say he was shy and charismatic) and religious and his guys were very polite. He was always on time and knew his lines and was a delight to work with. Funny, Pat is the only one I ever heard say Elvis liked all his movies. Pat socialized more with the guys off set than with Elvis. She went out with Sonny and Red a couple of times and kept in touch with Joe. (It seemed like everyone kept in touch with Joe.) Elvis sold Pat his black Eldorado Cadillac convertible for $3000 with the EP keychain. Pat foolishly traded it in a few years later for a Pontiac with the keychain but just sold it as a regular car, not elvis’ car. She said she never knew Elvis to hate the water, but a stuntman was used for all of the water scenes.
Sonny West told how the director ordered Elvis’ guys off the set after they kept cracking him up, so Elvis told him that part of his fun making the movies is being with his guys and if they go he goes.
Elvis wanted Suzanna Leigh for Easy Come Easy Go, but she said the Screen Actors Guild refused to allow her to play another American.
After his last films with Elvis Paradise Hawaiian Style and Easy Come Easy Go, Hal Wallis had lost interest in Elvis and was just fulfilling his contract with elvis and the Colonel.
DOUBLE TROUBLE 1967
I used to get this movie confused with Kissin Cousins, because of the title, but it is WAY worse. I just think a movie about twins should be called Double Trouble – plus the poster for the movie has twin Elvises on it. Anyway in Double Trouble, Elvis plays a singer with two girls, a killer and jewel thief chasing him in England. Annette Day and Yvonne Romain costar. This is probably my least favorite Elvis movie.
* CLAMBAKE 1967
Yes I like Clambake. In fact it’s tied with Frankie and Johnny for my 10th favorite Elvis movie. Yes there is no accounting for taste. Maybe there is no rhyme or reason to why I like one Elvis movie over another, but I do like Clambake – except for the “Confidence” scene. I probably like it mostly because Shelley Fabares costars in it. This is the third time Shelley plays Elvis’ love interest. Shelley is the only actress to costar in three movies with Elvis. Bill Bixby also costars. Elvis plays a rich oil trust fund baby race boat driver who switches places with a poor ski instructor. Shelley Fabares’ character wants a rich guy and goes after Bill Bixby’s character but of course ends up falling in love with Elvis’ character and then finds out he is rich. Jerry Schilling is prominently in the background at the bar and on the beach up against a tree making out with a girl as Elvis walks by. Lee Majors (as in The Six Million Dollar Man) is disguised as a waiter. This is always a hated movie, but it’s not that bad (better than Spinout and many others) and contains the beautiful song “You Don’t Know Me.”
Early 1967 at United Artists. Elvis had not dieted before filming began and was just enjoying his meals on his newly purchased Circle G Ranch. Arthur Nadel, the director, was furious at Elvis’ weight and had a dozen jackets made that would help hide his weight gain. It was during filming where Elvis slipped and fell in the bathroom causing filming to be postponed. According to Alan Fortas, Colonel told Elvis if he didn’t stop taking the pills he would drop him as a client and ruin his career. He removed Marty Lacker as foreman and the new foreman would report to the Colonel, not Elvis. Furthermore, the Colonel would now take 50% of Elvis’ gross, before expenses. Because of Clambake, Elvis postponed his wedding to Priscilla . originally scheduled for early 1967, to May 1st. The day after his wedding, Elvis went back to Hollywood to complete some last minute dubbing.
STAY AWAY JOE 1968
I have never liked this movie, but in recent years I like it more than I used to but it is still in my bottom three along with Double Trouble and Harum Scarum. True I don’t like Westerns, but Stay Away Joe is a silly slapstick Western. Elvis plays a Native American guy in the rodeo. Burgess Meredith and Joan Blondell costar.
I don’t know why I am not a fan of this movie, maybe I need to watch it more. Nancy Sinatra costars with Elvis in Speedway and does have a song of her own, which bugs me. Bill Bixby (from Clambake) again costars with Elvis. Elvis plays a race car driver – there are actual NASCAR drivers in Speedway. Elvis’s character owes back taxes and Nancy Sinatra’s character is with the IRS (who also sings in nightclubs apparently). I just find this one a little boring, but I like the soundtrack (except for Nancy’s song).
During filming in mid-July, Elvis announced Priscilla was pregnant. Speedway was actually filmed before Stay Away Joe but was released after it.
LIVE A LITTLE LOVE A LITTLE 1968
The best part about Live a Little Love a Little is the dog Albert and the performance of “A Little Less Conversation.” There is controversy over whether the dog was actually Elvis’ Great Dane Brutus. Elvis plays a photographer and his dad Vernon has a cameo. I think why I dislike this movie is because I cannot stand Elvis’ costar Michele Carey’s character. She is so annoying and everything I detest about the stereotypical manipulative, needy woman. But it is cool that Darrin from Bewitched and Rudy Vallee also costarred. Elvis looked absolutely beautiful in this movie, even more so than usual. But the more I watch it the past few years, the more I like it.
Elvis got to stay home with the baby for three weeks before going to California to start filming for MGM. He was only there for three days when he missed Priscilla and the baby so much, he asked them to come out and join him. They took a little side trip over to Vegas then to Hawaii when filming was complete.
True I don’t like Westerns, but Elvis looks SO darn good in this one! Plus Elvis doesn’t sing at all. “Charro” is played during the credits. This is a real western, not like Stay Away Joe. In fact, Charro! was originally made for Clint Eastwood. Ina Balin costars.
July of 1968 they went to Apache Junction, Arizona to begin filming.
THE TROUBLE WITH GIRLS 1969
I never really gave this movie much thought over the years, but I actually liked The Trouble with Girls for a while but now not really a fan. But Elvis looks amazing in it – especially his sideburns! Spectacular! Cindy from The Brady Bunch, Buffy from Family Affair and Danny from The Partridge Family are in it. Marlyn Mason (whom I’ve seen speak at two Elvis events), Dabney Coleman and Vincent Price costar. Elvis plays the boss of a traveling show in the 1920s.
CHANGE OF HABIT 1969
This was Elvis’ last movie. Elvis just looks SO beautiful in it! In Change of Habit, Elvis plays a doctor (which I’m sure he loved) in the ghetto (pun intended). This is such a departure for Elvis, and a welcome one. Change of Habit is an actual drama with a real story line – his only socially conscious movie dealing with race relations (with maybe the exception of Flaming Star). One of my favorite lines is after hearing a racist comment they say, “It seems our neighbors are Catholics. Too bad they’re not Christians.” Elvis’ character Dr. John Carpenter (an alias Elvis actually used in real life along with John Burrows) runs a free clinic where three disguised nuns (played by Mary Tyler Moore, Barbara McNair and Jane Elliot – who went on to play Tracy Quartermaine on General Hospital for years) help him try to make the neighborhood a better place. Of course Elvis’ character falls in love with Mary Tyler Moore’s character because he doesn’t know she’s a nun. Ed Asner plays a policeman. This was the first pairing of Ed and Mary and a bit of foreshadowing as they would be star together in The Mary Tyler Moore Show the following year. My favorite parts are the performances of “Rubberneckin,” “Let Us Pray” and the incognito “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” when Elvis’ character says “I’m from Shelby County Tennessee” and of course the football scene with Elvis wearing the UT Memphis sweatshirt that I now have a replica of thanks to Beth Hilton. Change of Habit has become one of my favorite Elvis movies moving up to my eighth favorite Elvis movie. I just got the huge FTD very details book about the making of Change of Habit, so I am sure I will have more insights to share. After watching it again after reading the book, I noticed A Martinez in one of the first scenes running down the street chasing the woman – A Martinez as in CRUZ CASTILLO from Santa Barbara.
According to Alan Fortas in his memoir, the first-run grosses of all thirty-three of Elvis’ movies (I guess he included the two concert movies) made $500 million. Of that, Elvis’ share was $200 million, but his creativity was stifled. Through the years, the Colonel turned down various movies that would have fulfilled Elvis’ creativity and his dream to become a serious actor. Among those was the role of Jim Curry in The Rainmaker, an opportunity to appear in a John Wayne movie, a part of Hank Williams in Your Cheating Heart, the lead in West Side Story, the Paul Newman character in Sweet Bird of Youth, the Tony Curtis role in The Defiant Ones, the Jon Voight lead in Midnight Cowboy, a part in Tennessee William’s The Fugitive Kind directed by Elia Kazan and of course the Kris Kristofferson role in A Start is Born. I also heard Olivia Newton-John say Elvis was considered for the role of Teen Angel (played by Frankie Avalon) in Grease. Ironically though, Elvis died the day the slumber party scene was filmed August 16, 1977.