This is THE Elvis movie for me, 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! In fact, it is categorized as the first and the best of the next several low budget formulized Elvis movies. 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 made me and 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 in 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. Shelley is the only love interest who costarred in three Elvis movies. The other two are Spinout and Clambake. Shelley was also in tv shows I loved: The Donna Reed Show, Coach and One Day at a Time. Shelley recorded “Johnny Angel,” which held the #1 spot in 1962 until it was knocked out by Elvis’ “Good Luck Charm.” Shelley Fabares is definitely my favorite Elvis costar and another reason why Girl Happy is my favorite movie. I think if she had not just gotten married, there definitely would have been a romance between Elvis and Shelley. Elvis was known to say Shelley Fabares, not Ann-Margret, was his favorite costar. Gary Crosby, Bing Crosby’s son, costars with Elvis – and I love Bing Crosby! In Girl Happy, Elvis plays Rusty Wells, who is a singer paid by his Chicago boss, played by Harold Stone, 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 also 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.
I have built up quite the Girl Happy memorabilia collection over the years including (but not limited to) the original 24″x 80″ Girl Happy banner, all 8 US Lobby Cards, 1 UK Lobby Card, Exhibitor’s Campaign Book from MGM, the MGM Press Book, original post card, original cast photo signed by Mary Ann Mobley and Chris Noel, original photo of Elvis and Shelley, original newspaper advertisements, 10 original soundtrack acetates from MGM, the 1965 original issue vinyl album, the reissue vinyl album, the FTD Girl Happy sessions (with the outtakes) on cd and iTunes, a Girl Happy record purse (as in a purse made from the actual vinyl record and cover and of course an autographed copy Chris Noel’s book Filming Girl Happy (that was Sandi Pichon’s). To see photos of all of Girl Happy memorabilia close up, please click here.
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. George Hamilton, who had just finished making Your Cheating Heart, visited the set with his then girlfriend Lynda Bird Johnson, President Johnson’s daughter. 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 as you can see above). (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 in the previous paragraph.
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 on June 23rd, Elvis threw a 55th 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. On the MGM set on a break from filming, Elvis was awarded a Gold Record from South Africa for “Kiss Me Quick.” Girl Happy was fourth in 1965 in Golden Laurels for Musicals.
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 Hard Days Night had just been released (and Help was about to be). This was actually the first movie since GI Blues where Elvis played the leader of a musical combo. Whenever the trio of Crosby, Hawkins and Baker were on screen, the music to “Three Blind Mice” played in the background. This was also the theme song for the popular Three Stooges.
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 remained on the charts for 31 weeks peaking at #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart selling over 400,000 copies and was certified Gold over 30 years later in 1999. A portrait of Elvis in Girl Happy was created by artist June Kelly just for the movie to be used as a record store promotional poster in 1965 (and I have one of them).
There were two singles released from the Girl Happy Soundtrack. One was “Puppet on a String” (one of my favorites), which was written by Sid Tepper and Roy Bennett and reached #14 on the charts. Bennett said it was his favorite of the songs he wrote for Elvis. The second single was “Do the Clam,” which was written by Ben Weisman, Delores Fuller and Sid Wayne. remained on the charts for eight weeks peaking at #21. “Do the Clam” was supposed to be the next dance craze, but never caught on. I actually love this much criticized song. Choreographer David Winters had worked on Viva Las Vegas with Elvis and was asked to choreograph the dance to “Do The Clam” 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” (not featured in the movie) 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.
**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**
To read my take on all of Elvis’ movies, please click HERE.