Girls! Girls! Girls! 1962 – Elvis’ 11th Movie
Elvis’ last movie of 1962 is my seventh 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 and turned up collar. 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 black 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 owns 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 in Hawaii and everyone returned to Hollywood where filming resumed on May 1st on Stage 5 at Paramount Studios. When Ross and Laurel are walking down the street after leaving the Pirate’s Den, you can see Blue Hawaii posters on the buildings. 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’ (Elvis’ version appeared on a budget album in 1970), a snippet of “I Don’t Want To” was seen in the trailer and is on the soundtrack, “Where Do You Come From” is on the soundtrack (just not in the movie) and “Plantation Rock” showed up on an RCA album in 1983. The songs on the Girls! Girls! Girls! album soundtrack are as follows: “Girls! Girls! Girls!,” “I Don’t Wanna Be Tied,” “Where Do You Come From,” “I Don’t Want To,” “We’ll Be Together,” “A Boy Like Me, A Girl Like You,” “Earth Boy,” “Return to Sender,” “Because of the Love,” “Thanks to the Rolling Sea,” “Song of the Shrimp,” “The Walls Have Ears” and “We’re Coming in Loaded.”
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. I think my favorite is probably “I Don’t Wanna Be Tied.” (If Elvis would have been wearing all black then “I Don’t Wanna Be Tied” would beat “Return to Sender” as my favorite movie performance.) Don’t laugh, but I also really like “Thanks to the Rolling Sea” (it’s just so catchy), “We’re Coming in Loaded” (again just SO catchy!), “A Boy Like Me, A Girl Like You” and of course “Return to Sender.”
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 and 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**
To read my take on all of Elvis’ movies, please click HERE.
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