Fun in Acapulco 1963 – Elvis’ 13th Movie
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 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 or on the soundtrack. 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 am not really a fan of the Fun in Acapulco soundtrack. Of course I like “Bossa Nova Baby,” and I enjoy the bonus tracks that were not in the movie especially “Slowly But Surely.”
**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**
To read my take on all of Elvis’ movies, please click HERE.
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