Complete Elvis Presley
Elvis Presleys MoviesNo actor has been less appreciated than Elvis Presley; no group of films has been more belittled than Elvis' musical comedies. In countless Presley biographies and career overviews and in most rock 'n' roll histories and analyses, Elvis' movies have been written off as mindless, unrealistic, formulaic, and trite.
Elvis Presley was eager to take on more serious roles like the one he played in Wild in the Country. However, his advisors kept leading him back to musical comedies. Yet, no Presley picture ever lost money, and through the benefit of cable television and video, audiences still enjoy his 31 features and two concert films, as well as the many documentaries and TV shows and miniseries about his life.
This contradiction points to the narrowness of the standard view concerning Elvis' Hollywood career while simultaneously calling for a reevaluation of his films by placing them in context. Rather than bemoaning Elvis' squandered talent and reflecting on the missed opportunities of his film career, it is more fruitful to accept what Elvis offered. Love Me Tender is a western drama set immediately after the Civil War. In Elvis Presley's first film, he appears in the secondary role of Clint Reno. This was the only time in his acting career that Elvis received second billing. Clint, the youngest of the four Reno brothers, stayed behind to run the family farm during the war while his older brothers were off fighting for the Confederacy.
Star Richard Egan plays Vance Reno, the eldest brother whom the family believes to have been killed in battle. Upon returning home, Vance is shocked to discover that Clint has married Vance's former sweetheart, Cathy, played by Debra Paget. The love triangle, complicated by the greedy actions of some unscrupulous ex-Confederates, eventually pits brother against brother, resulting in Clint's death. The downbeat ending is tempered by the brothers' reconciliation as Clint dies in Cathy's arms.
Elvis' first experience as a Hollywood actor was closely followed in the entertainment press from the day he was assigned a role in Love Me Tender until the day the film was released. The close scrutiny affected the outcome of the film in several ways. Originally called The Reno Brothers, this western drama was retitled after a number of articles announced that advanced sales for 'Love Me Tender' -- one of the songs recorded for the film -- exceeded a million copies. It was the first time advanced sales for a single release had ever surpassed the million mark, and the producers capitalized on the publicity by changing the film's title. The unprecedented advances sales from the song 'Love Me Tender' inspired producers to make it the title of the movie as well.
The enormous amount of press coverage also affected the film's conclusion. During production, fanzines leaked that Elvis' character was supposed to die near the end of the film. As originally shot, the final scene features Mother Reno solemnly ringing the dinner bell as her three remaining sons toil in the fields. Pain and loss are registered on the faces of Mother Reno and Cathy, who mourn the death of Clint. Elvis' legion of fans were disturbed by the news that their idol was to be killed off in his first film.
In an attempt to counter an 'adverse public reaction', Twentieth Century-Fox shot an alternative ending in which Clint is spared. For reasons known only to the producers, this second ending was rejected. A compromise ending was used instead. Clint is killed as called for in the original script, but the final shot superimposed a ghostly close-up of Elvis as Clint crooning 'Love Me Tender' as his family slowly walks away from his grave. The fans were then left with a final image of Elvis doing what he was famous for -- singing.
Prior to the film's premiere at the Paramount Theater in New York, a 40-foot likeness of Elvis as Clint Reno was erected atop the theater's marquee. Part of the ceremony surrounding the unveiling of the huge cutout included placing the world's largest charm bracelet, which measured nine feet, around the figure's wrist. The charms depicted various events in Elvis' career, and the bracelet was a giant replica of one being merchandised across the country. Some fans attending the unveiling carried placards that complained about Elvis' on-screen death, but Presley biographers have speculated that Colonel Tom Parker, the singer's notorious manager, passed them out to garner even more publicity. If the promotion surrounding Love Me Tender generated excitement among Elvis fans, it generated loathing among the critics. Reviewers around the country were lying in wait for the film, and many were brutal in their assessment of Elvis' performance. In a particularly scathing review for Time magazine, one critic compared Elvis' acting and screen presence to that of a sausage, a 'Walt Disney goldfish', a corpse, and a cricket -- all in the same brief review.
Many did not confine their criticism to Elvis' screen performance.
Critics used the opportunity to reiterate the same complaints the Establishment had always hurled at Elvis, including his singing style, his hair, his Southern background, and his fanatical following.
If Elvis cried over the mean-spirited reviews, then he cried all the way to the bank. The film recouped its production costs within three days of release, guaranteeing that Elvis' Hollywood future would be lucrative.
Songs featured in Love Me Tender
• We're Gonna Move
• Love Me Tender
• Let Me
• Poor Boy
Elvis Presley felt more comfortable in the role of Deke Rivers in Loving You than he had as Clint Reno since the role was based on his real-life career experiences. The musical drama opens as Deke -- a truck driver with a natural talent for really belting out a song -- teams up with press agent Glenda Markle, played by Lizabeth Scott, in hopes of becoming the next singing sensation. Deke begins his new singing career as the opening act for a down-and-out country-and-western band headed by Glenda's ex-husband. It soon becomes apparent that the female faction of the audience just can't get enough of Deke either on stage or off. Glenda capitalizes on Deke's sensual appeal by providing him with customized costumes and arranging publicity stunts.
Deke is torn between the attraction he feels toward Glenda and the genuine affection he has for the band's lead singer, Susan, played by Dolores Hart in her film debut.
When Deke discovers that Glenda has been manipulating him personally and professionally, he becomes confused and runs away. A wiser and more mature Deke returns just in time to perform at a major televised concert, which serves as his introduction to the big time.
Behind the Scenes of Loving You
Elvis' acting had definitely improved by the time he completed the role of Deke Rivers. Partly, he was more experienced this time out, but also the role had been tailor-made for the young singer.
The film showcased Elvis' best musical talents, and the plot was loosely based on his own life -- a practice producer Hal Wallis would continue in the future.
At the time, this practice proved invaluable to Elvis' career. Since Elvis was so maligned in the press as a figure of controversy and rebellion, the people in charge of his career took on the task of remolding his image. By telling parts of Elvis' life story through the familiar form of the Hollywood rise-to-success film, older audiences saw that the singer was not all that different from entertainers of the past. To ensure that the film captured the essence of Elvis' life as a performer, Wallis sent director/co-scriptwriter Hal Kanter to observe Elvis' live appearance on the radio program 'Louisiana Hayride' on December 16, 1956. Kanter followed Elvis around for a few days in Memphis and then in Shreveport, Louisiana, where the 'Hayride' program was based. Kanter was able to capture the chaos, exhilaration, and confusion that surrounds an up-and-coming popular singer.
In addition to capturing the highs of an entertainer's life, Kanter also worked a number of lows into the storyline, suggesting a 'price of fame' theme. While Deke is dining in a restaurant, for example, fans interrupt his meal to ask him to perform, and they then become resentful when he refuses -- a reference to Elvis' own real-life lack of privacy. In another scene, fans write love notes in lipstick on Deke's car, which recalls the many times fans had ruined the finish on Elvis' vehicles by leaving similar testimonies in lipstick and nail polish.
To further equate Elvis with Deke, Kanter and Wallis allowed some of Elvis' family and friends to appear in the film in cameos and bit roles. His parents, Vernon and Gladys, appear as members of the audience in the final production number. Real-life band members Scotty Moore, Bill Black, and DJ Fontana have bits as Deke's band members. The most obvious similarity between the real-life Elvis and the fictional Deke was the controversy both generated because of their performing style. The film explains that the controversy surrounding Deke is based on a misunderstanding involving miscalculated publicity stunts. This was central to the production team's attempt to make Elvis more acceptable to mainstream audiences.
Showing Deke as misunderstood implies that Elvis was also misunderstood. Structuring Deke's success along the same formula as other films about entertainers implies that Elvis' real-life success is just a variation on the same theme. Just as Glenda tells the community leaders in Loving You that Deke's music is as fun and innocent as the Charleston was in the 1920s, so the producers of Loving You were telling 1950s America to relax -- the Deke Rivers/Elvis Presley story was really just a modern-day version of the Al Jolson story.
Songs Featured in Loving You
• Got a Lot o' Livin' to Do
• (Let's Have a) Party
• (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear
• Hot Dog
• Lonesome Cowboy
• Mean Woman Blues
• Loving You
• Dancing on a Dare (sung by Hart's character)
• Detour (sung by Hart's character)
• The Yellow Rose (sung by Hart's character)
• Candy Kisses (performed by the Rough Ridin' Ramblers)
Jailhouse Rock successfully capitalized on the rebellious side of Elvis Presley's persona, which was an aspect of his image still making headlines at the time of the film's release. As the embittered Vince Everett, Elvis portrayed the most volatile, as well as the most exciting, character of his film career.
After accidentally killing a man in a barroom brawl, Vince serves a manslaughter sentence in the state penitentiary, making him cynical and self-centered. While Vince is in prison, former country singer Hunk Houghton, played by character actor Mickey Shaughnessy, takes the young man under his wing and teaches him how to play the guitar. After his release, Vince stumbles onto a hot, new singing style. With the help of record promoter Peggy Van Alden, played by Judy Tyler, he takes the entertainment industry by storm.
Later, Hunk joins Vince's entourage, which becomes larger as the ambitious young singer claws his way to the top. Unfortunately, Vince leaves Peggy behind, despite her love for him.
Attempting to teach the arrogant lad a lesson, Hunk punches Vince in the throat, injuring his vocal cords. A repentant Vince then realizes his love for Peggy, and his voice is miraculously restored.
Behind the Scenes of Jailhouse Rock
If Loving You attempted to present Elvis as a sensitive, misunderstood young man, then Jailhouse Rock was meant to showcase Elvis Presley the rebel. Elvis' character -- Vince Everett -- is self-centered, overly aggressive toward women, and somewhat greedy. Though Vince exhibits a change of heart during the movie, it is his unruly behavior and defiant attitude that many remember from the film. Nowhere is his brash behavior more evident than in the scene where he recklessly grabs Peggy to kiss her. 'How dare you think such cheap tactics work with me', she chides, pushing him away. 'Them ain't tactics, honey, that's just the beast in me', he drawls in a provocative delivery guaranteed to make every girl in the theater swoon.
Yet, Vince Everett was ultimately just a character that Elvis portrayed on-screen. Elvis' behind-the-scenes behavior during the production of Jailhouse Rock belied the rebellious attitude of his on-screen persona.
More than once Elvis gallantly came to the rescue of his costars when they were caught in potentially dangerous circumstances. During the scene in which Peggy Van Alden, played by Judy Tyler, was supposed to run out the door of a small nightclub after an angry Vince, the young actress accidentally ran into the plate glass door, thrusting her arm through it. Elvis quickly turned back, caught Judy, and blocked the door before it swung back and hit her again. In another instance, Elvis and a property man were passing by Jennifer Holden's dressing room when they heard her scream. An electric heater had shorted out, and her room caught on fire. Elvis and the prop man dashed into the dressing room and quickly doused the flames. Elvis carried the panicky starlet to safety. Far from being greedy or selfish, Elvis was known throughout his life for his generosity toward friends, acquaintances, and even complete strangers. After the principle photography on Jailhouse Rock had been completed, Elvis decided to present each member of the crew with a small token of his gratitude. Each of the 250 crew hands received large envelopes inscribed with, 'Thanks to the entire cast and crew.' Inside each envelope was a personally autographed photo of Elvis, plus a small gift.
Elvis' sensitivity was exposed to the entire country shortly after the production had wrapped.
Elvis was devastated when costar Judy Tyler and Gregory Lafayette, her husband of only a few months, were killed in a gruesome car crash near Billy the Kid, Wyoming. When told of the accident, Elvis broke down and cried. His reaction was disclosed to a reporter who wrote about it for the Memphis Commercial Appeal.
Other papers around the country then picked up the incident.
The article revealed a pensive young man, who murmured in an unguarded moment, 'I remember the last night I saw them. They were leaving on a trip...All of us boys really loved that girl. She meant a lot to all of us. I don't believe I can stand to see the movie we made together now...'
Songs Featured in Jailhouse Rock
• Young and Beautiful
• I Want to Be Free
• Don't Leave Me Now
• Treat Me Nice
• Jailhouse Rock
• (You're So Square) Baby, I Don't Care
• One More Day (sung by Shaughnessy's character)
Elvis Presley received the best reviews of his career with his portrayal of Danny Fisher in King Creole, a musical drama set in New Orleans. Danny is dissatisfied with the financial situation of his poverty-stricken family and blames his father for their problems. He sweeps up at a nightclub to earn extra money -- a job that places the impressionable young man in the company of some shady characters.
An encounter with Ronnie, a local gangster's moll portrayed by Carolyn Jones, results in Danny's expulsion from high school. On the job that night at the club, Danny runs into Ronnie and gangster Maxie Fields, played by Walter Matthau, who insist that Danny sing a song. Danny's natural talent attracts the attention of the owner of the King Creole night spot, who offers him a job. Danny is at a crossroads. He is torn between the love of good girl Nellie, played by Dolores Hart, and his attraction to the ill-fated Ronnie. Danny is also torn between his desire for a singing career and the temptation to join a street gang. A violent altercation with the gang's leader, played by Vic Morrow, leaves Danny with a serious knife wound. After Ronnie nurses him back to health, a jealous Maxie shoots her in cold blood. Maxie in turn is shot by a gang member Danny had once befriended. Danny returns to singing at the King Creole, reconciled with his family and with Nellie.
Behind the Scenes of King Creole
Generally considered Elvis' best narrative film, King Creole benefited from the talents of several Hollywood notables. Producer Hal Wallis chose one of his closest associates, the well-respected Michael Curtiz, to direct the film. Best known as the director of Casablanca, Curtiz was an expert craftsman known for his deft handling of a wide variety of film genres during his 30-year career.
The tight control over the many twists and subplots of King Creole reflects Curtiz's expertise.
Other Hollywood veterans who made up the crew included cinematographer Russell Harlan, who photographed the film in a dark, moody lighting style that captured the seedy but seductive atmosphere of the French Quarter. The level of experience that Wallis, Curtiz, and Harlan brought to the production of King Creole would never be matched in another Presley feature.
Elvis' supporting cast represented some of the finest Hollywood actors of the 1950s.
Carolyn Jones, who appeared as Ronnie, had received an Oscar nomination the previous year for her brief but electrifying performance in The Bachelor Party. Such notable character actors as Paul Stewart (the butler in Citizen Kane), Dean Jagger (the retired general in White Christmas), and Vic Morrow (the juvenile delinquent in The Blackboard Jungle) helped maintain a high caliber of acting; thus, any rough edges in Elvis' performance would go unnoticed. Though relatively unknown in 1958, Walter Matthau would go on to star in such classic comedies as The Odd Couple and The Sunshine Boys. While on location in New Orleans, the crowds of curious onlookers and excited fans were so large that Wallis had to arrange for tighter security. The entire top floor of the Roosevelt Hotel was booked for the film's cast. Pinkerton guards patrolled the floor, the elevators, and the staircase to keep overzealous fans from Elvis. As an added precaution, Wallis insisted that the elevator should not be allowed to run to the top floor to prevent any outsiders from getting onto Elvis' floor.
Simply returning to his hotel room at the end of the day proved difficult for Elvis because there were always large crowds waiting for him in the lobby. To avoid the crowds, Elvis entered an adjacent building, climbed out a window, crossed the roof, and entered his hotel via the fire escape.
In his autobiography, Wallis recalled a particularly sad moment for Elvis. Eager to try some of New Orleans' famous cuisine, Elvis was disappointed to learn he could not dine at the legendary Antoine's because no one could guarantee crowd control. During his stay in New Orleans, Elvis ordered room service. This isolation was part of the price Elvis paid for stardom, and by this point, it had begun to affect his lifestyle.
Songs Featured in King Creole
• Steadfast, Loyal and True
• Lover Doll
• Dixieland Rock
• Young Dreams
• New Orleans• Hard Headed Woman
• King Creole
• Don't Ask Me Why
• As Long as I Have You
• Turtles, Berries and Gumbo (sung by street vendors)
• Banana (sung by Montevecchi's character)
In G.I. Blues, his first musical comedy, Elvis Presley stars as lady-killer Tulsa MacLean, an Army sergeant stationed in West Germany. Tulsa and his buddies hope to make enough money to open a small nightclub upon their return to civilian life. At the urging of his pals, Tulsa accepts a bet with a group of G.I.s to win the heart of Lili, a beautiful cabaret dancer at the Cafe Europa. Lili, played by dancer Juliet Prowse, has a reputation for resisting soldiers, so Tulsa's finesse with females is required to break through her cool exterior. Just as Tulsa realizes that he is in love with Lili, she finds out that she has been the target of a wager. Lili manages to overcome her anger to help Tulsa out during a troublesome night of babysitting for a friend's infant son. At a rehearsal for an Armed Forces show, Lili discovers that Tulsa has called off the bet, proving he truly loves her.
Behind the Scenes of G.I. Blues
G.I. Blues marks the debut of the new Elvis Presley. Taking advantage of the good publicity Elvis received for serving his tour of duty in the Army, the Colonel launched a new, more clean-cut image for Elvis after his discharge. Film critics and movie magazines alike noticed the differences in Elvis' image, including changes in his personal appearance and attire. Gone were the sideburns the press had found so offensive, and gone was the flashy, hip attire. The new look was more conservative -- befitting Hollywood's latest leading man.
As produced by Hal Wallis, G.I. Blues borrowed some details from Elvis' personal life to flesh out his character, Tulsa MacLean. This was nothing new for Wallis and his production team. They had used a similar strategy in Elvis' pre-Army features, particularly Loving You but also in King Creole. The intent was to attract Elvis' legion of fans who were already familiar with Elvis' life. In G.I. Blues, Tulsa MacLean is an entertainer soon to be released from the Army. Tulsa is stationed in West Germany and is a member of a tank division, just as Elvis had been. Despite borrowing tidbits from Elvis' own life, the film differed a great deal from the singer's previous efforts. The major change was in terms of genre: His pre-Army films had been musical dramas; G.I. Blues was a musical comedy. His pre-Army films were based on previously published novels or stories; G.I. Blues was specifically written for the screen and followed a simpler, more formulaic story structure.
Elvis' management team and the film's production team also attempted to soften the singer's screen image. His character is older and more mature, and in one sequence he sings 'Wooden Heart' to a group of children at a puppet show; in another he baby-sits an infant. Other notable differences included toning down Elvis' controversial performing style in hopes of capturing a family audience, not just teenage fans. In G.I. Blues, Elvis no longer swung his hips when he sang, long-legged costar Juliet Prowse did it for him. Even though some of the songs in G.I. Blues are fast-paced, they lack the hard-driving sound, emotional delivery, and sexual connotations of his pre-Army recordings. 'Mean Woman Blues' had given way to 'Pocketful of Rainbows'.
A great deal of publicity was generated during the production of G.I. Blues, much of it designed to showcase the new Elvis. Visiting dignitaries from other countries were paraded through the set at a rapid rate. Elvis met the King and Queen of Nepal as well as Princess Margrethe of Denmark, Princess Astrid of Norway, and Princess Margaretha of Sweden. Elvis met so many foreign notables during the film's production that he had difficulty getting the protocol straight. He once asked, 'Is this another of those highness deals?'
The changes in terms of image and film genre do not mean that G.I. Blues was an inferior film, which many Presley biographers have implied. It remains a well-crafted musical comedy with a number of solid songs and a strong female costar. The only negative result of the film was that Elvis would be discouraged from making other types of movies. G.I. Blues is considered the prototype for the other Presley musicals, which, unfortunately, declined in quality as the decade progressed.
Songs Featured in G.I. Blues
• What's She Really Like
• G.I. Blues
• Doin' the Best I Can
• Frankfort Special
• Shoppin' Around
• Tonight Is So Right for Love
• Wooden Heart
• Pocketful of Rainbows
• Big Boots
• Didja Ever
As Pacer Burton in Flaming Star, Elvis Presley starred in one of the few dramatic roles of his career.
A western with an excellent supporting cast of some of Hollywood's most notable actors, Flaming Star tells a story of racial intolerance toward Native Americans in the Old West. Pacer, the son of a white father and Kiowa mother, lived a peaceful existence with his racially mixed family until members of the Kiowa nation massacre the Burtons' neighbors. Pacer's loyalties are divided between the white man's civilized world and the freer existence of the Kiowas. When white settlers murder his mother, played by longtime Hollywood star Dolores Del Rio, Pacer joins the Kiowas. But the confused young man finds no peace with the tribe, particularly after they kill his father and seriously wound his brother. Pacer abandons the Kiowas to rescue his brother; he sends the injured brother back to town and then prepares to battle the pursuing Indians.
The next morning, a wounded Pacer returns to his brother to bid farewell because he has seen the flaming star of death and knows he must ride into the mountains to die.
Behind the Scenes of Flaming Star
Some Presley biographies have indicated that the role of Pacer Burton was originally written for Marlon Brando, adding credence to the commonly held notion that Elvis could have been another Brando if he had not been stuck with so many musical comedies. This is too simplistic an interpretation of what really transpired in terms of the script for this film. Hollywood projects often go through many studios, changing focus and casts at every turn, and this was certainly the case with Flaming Star.
In 1958, Twentieth Century-Fox had purchased the rights to Clair Huffaker's newest novel, which was not yet complete. Titled The Brothers of Broken Lance at the time, the storyline focused on two characters instead of one. Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra were offered and accepted the two main roles, that of the Burton brothers. Later, negotiations broke down with both stars, and neither decided to star in the film. When the novel was completed, it was retitled Flaming Lance. While the novel was being adapted to the script, the focus of the film shifted to one brother. Elvis was the only actor offered the role of Pacer Burton. During production, the film went through a number of title changes, including Flaming Heart, Black Star, and Black Heart, before finally being released as Flaming Star. The role Elvis accepted differed from the original conception of the character that had been offered to Brando. To imply that Elvis replaced Brando in this film is misleading.
In Flaming Star, Elvis was given the opportunity to prove himself as a serious actor. That this film was considered an important feature is indicated by the choice of director, scriptwriter, and supporting cast. Don Siegel, who had directed the science-fiction classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers and who would later direct Dirty Harry, guided Elvis through Flaming Star. With author Clair Huffaker, respected scriptwriter Nunnally Johnson adapted the screenplay. The cast included the legendary Dolores Del Rio, a screen star in Mexico as well as in America. Flaming Star was her first appearance in an American film in 18 years.
Though the movie provided Elvis with one of his few opportunities to act, the film's producers and Colonel Parker were nervous about the reaction of fans. To hedge their bets, they attempted to insert four songs into the film. Director Siegel was not pleased with that decision and fought to keep the songs out even after he had shot them. The final version of the film contains two songs.
Siegel realized from his experiences with Flaming Star that Elvis' chance of pursuing a serious acting career was doomed. He later told Rolling Stone magazine, 'I found [Elvis] sensitive and very good, with the exception that he was very unsure of himself...He felt he could have done better things.
And his advisors -- namely the Colonel -- were very much against doing this kind of straight role. They tried to get him to sing throughout the picture. Obviously, they didn't want him to get off the winning horse. But when I was able to calm him down, I thought he gave a beautiful performance.'
Songs Featured in Flaming Star
• Flaming Star
• A Cane and a High Starched Collar
The part of Glenn Tyler in Wild in the Country represented Elvis Presley's last serious role in a film by a significant director. The story opens as Glenn, a Southern boy from a rural, poverty-stricken background, has just been released from juvenile hall. Central to the character of Glenn is that the brooding young man is at a crossroads in his life, and he must choose the path most suitable for him.
His choices are represented by three women. The sensuous Noreen, played by Tuesday Weld, is Glenn's country cousin who urges Glenn to stay with his own kind. She offers passion and good times, but such a carefree existence allows little thought for the future. Hope Lange costars as Irene Sperry, the court-appointed psychiatrist assigned to Glenn's case, who recognizes in him the raw talent of a budding writer. She encourages him to attend college but causes a scandal when she falls in love with her charge.
Finally, childhood sweetheart Betty Lee, played by Millie Perkins, selflessly places Glenn's future above her own needs, urging him to leave town and attend college. She is prepared to lose him that he may have an education and a secure future. Glenn follows Betty Lee's advice, asking her to wait for him.
Behind the Scenes of Wild in the Country
Tuesday Weld was one of the trio of female costars (Hope Lange and Millie Perkins were the other two) who provide strong supporting performances. Only 17 years old during the film's production, Weld was the hottest starlet in Hollywood. As wild as she was beautiful, Weld had already had romances with two of her costars in the film -- Elvis and 45-year-old John Ireland. So much was written about Weld during the early 1960s that fact and fiction fuse into one long publicity parade. Many of the rumors were spread by Weld herself, who enjoyed thumbing her nose at Hollywood's entertainment columnists. She abandoned the Hollywood scene shortly after Wild in the Country to study at the Actors Studio in New York.
Songs Featured in Wild in the Country
• Wild in the Country
• I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell
• In My Way
• Husky Dusky Day
Blue Hawaii, a musical comedy originally tided Beach Boy, became the most successful film of Elvis Presley's career. Elvis stars as Chad Gates, whose wealthy family owns a successful pineapple plantation in Hawaii, At the beginning of the film, Chad has just returned from the Army, and his family is eager for him to pursue the family business. Instead, Chad lands a job as a guide in the tourist agency where girlfriend Maile, played by Joan Blackman, also works. His new vocation not only allows him to use his knowledge of the Islands' most beautiful sites but also affords him enough time to cavort on the beach with his native Hawaiian buddies. Tension mounts as Chad's blue-blooded mother, played by Angela Lansbury, objects to his job, his girlfriend, and his beach-loving friends. Chad eventually proves a success in the tourist business, and he finally wins the approval of his family by marrying Maile and making plans to open his own tourist agency.
Behind the Scenes of Blue Hawaii
Much of Blue Hawaii was filmed on location in America's 50th state, which had only joined the union in 1959. The new state of Hawaii was as eager for the exposure in a major Hollywood film as the producers and actors were to shoot there. Such beautiful Hawaiian locations as Waikiki Beach, Ala Moana Park, Lydgate Park, and the Coco Palms Resort Hotel were used in the film; also used were such unglamorous locations as the Honolulu jail. Despite working primarily on location, the producers experienced only minor problems. The first occurred just prior to shooting. Juliet Prowse, who had been Elvis' costar in the successful G.I. Blues, was cast opposite Elvis in the role of Maile Duval. She was loaned to Paramount from Twentieth Century-Fox for the film. Eleven days before filming was to begin in Hawaii, Prowse declared that she was not going to report to work until three demands were met. Prowse wanted her Fox makeup man to do her makeup, she wanted the traveling expenses of her secretary to be paid by the producers, and she wanted a change made in her contract regarding her billing. Wallis replaced Prowse with the lesser known Joan Blackman.
Shooting on location was always a problem when Elvis was the star of a film because increased security was necessary to protect him from fans. When Elvis arrived in Honolulu, thousands of fans nearly broke down the barricades before the singer was whisked to his hotel. Since mobs waited around his hotel daily, security guards were on duty around the clock.
Elvis was disappointed that he could not visit the sites, and he often looked out his window to watch others strolling along the beach. One morning he saw a heartfelt message written in the sand by the very fans he needed to be protected from. Elvis was touched by the simple message: 'We love you, Elvis!' One minor incident that caused an unnecessary delay was actually the fault of Colonel Parker. Rain moved in on the location one day, causing the crew to wait hours for a break in the weather. The rain finally stopped, and just as director Taurog was able to roll camera on Elvis running out of the surf, Parker rushed in front of the camera yelling, 'Cut, cut!' Proper etiquette on the set maintains that only the director can stop the action. Hal Wallis and Taurog were furious and demanded to know what could be important enough for Parker to halt the shot.
The Colonel slyly pointed out that Elvis was wearing his own watch during the scene. The contract spelled out that Elvis was to provide no part of his wardrobe, including jewelry. If Taurog wanted to keep any part of the shot that had just been done, Wallis and Paramount would have to pay Elvis an extra $25,000. Taurog asked Elvis to remove his watch, and the shot was redone. Why the Colonel pulled this power play is not known.
The success of Blue Hawaii sealed Elvis' fate in terms of his film career. Though Flaming Star and Wild in the Country had not lost money, neither had they set the box office afire. The Colonel used the box-office grosses of Blue Hawaii to convince Elvis that his fans preferred him in musical comedies.
Songs Featured in Blue Hawaii
• Blue Hawaii
• Almost Always True
• Aloha Oe
• No More
• Can't Help Falling in Love
• Rock-a-Hula Baby
• Moonlight Swim
• Ito Ears
• Slicin' Sand
• Hawaiian Sunset
• Beach Boy Blues
• Island of Love (Kauai)
• Hawaiian Wedding Song
In Follow That Dream, a deviation from his usual musical comedy character, Elvis Presley was Toby Kwimper, a L'il Abner-type in a family of bumbling rural Southerners.
The Kwimpers, consisting of Pop, Toby, and several adopted orphans, claim squatter's rights along an unopened stretch of highway and open a small business renting fishing equipment. Gamblers attempt to take advantage of the Kwimpers' trusting nature. Eventually, Toby routs the hoods. In the meantime, beautiful social worker Alicia Claypoole, played by Joanna Moore, investigates the Kwimpers' situation to determine if the children are receiving proper care. Alicia's attention to Toby angers Holly Jones, played by Anne Helm, who has been in love with the handsome young man since childhood. After Toby declines the social worker's amorous advances, Alicia attempts to take the children away from Pop Kwimper. Toby and Pop plead their case in a comic courtroom scene, and the judge decides in their favor.
Behind the Scenes of Follow That Dream
Follow That Dream was filmed in sunny Florida, marking one of the few times a Presley feature was shot entirely on location. The head of the Florida Development Commission was pleased to have the film shot in his state, declaring, 'This movie will sell Florida around the world'.
Shooting on actual Florida beaches added a touch of authenticity to the movie, but location filming did give the producers minor headaches. The temperature soared passed 100 degrees one week, making it difficult on the cast, crew, and equipment. Elvis had to change his shirt 22 times in one day because he was perspiring so heavily. Another problem involved difficulties obtaining gambling equipment for a couple of scenes, because all gambling was illegal in Florida in 1961. One day, a local politician and a couple of anonymous gamblers just showed up on the set with the necessary equipment. No questions were asked.
Songs Featured in Follow That Dream
• What a Wonderful Life
• I'm Not the Marrying Kind
• Sound Advice
• On Top of Old Smokey
• Follow That Dream
A remake of the 1937 drama of the same title starring Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart, Kid Galahad features Elvis Presley as boxer Walter Gulick. Though not a great boxer, Walter has a powerful right hook and can take a lot of punches. Gig Young costars as Willy Grogan, a down-and-out gambler who owns the training camp where Walter spars with other boxers. Willy decides to groom Walter to be a professional boxer, hoping to make enough money to pay off his gambling debts to gangster Otto Danzig, chillingly portrayed by character actor David Lewis. Willy's relationship with Walter changes when Walter fails in love with Willy's sister, Rose, played by Joan Blackman, Elvis' costar from Blue Hawaii. Willy does not want Rose to be involved with Walter, so he allows Walter to be overmatched for his next fight by a superior boxer. Just before the big fight, Willy realizes that he has compromised his moral integrity. He and Walter rid themselves of Danzig and his shady dealings, while Walter goes on to win the match.
Behind the Scenes of Kid Galahad
For his role as boxer Walter Gulick, Elvis eagerly began training before the start of production. He prepared for his boxing scenes as a real fighter might prepare for a fight. He did road work, went on a strict protein diet, punched bags, sparred for hours with professionals, and lost 12 pounds in the process.
Coaching the young singer was Mushy Callahan, the junior welterweight champion from 1926 to 1930. Callahan had been plying his skills around Hollywood for some time, having coached actors Kirk Douglas, Errol Flynn, and others in boxing-related films. Callahan was always conscious of training an actor so that his boxing skills suited the character. Callahan praised Elvis for his natural athletic skills -- at least in the publicity for the film. 'He's got a good physique and excellent coordination', the old pro revealed in an interview. 'He never boxed before but he picked it up quick because of his karate training.
Songs Featured in Kid Galahad
• King of the Whole Wide World
• This Is Living
• Riding the Rainbow
• Home Is Where the Heart Is
• I Got Lucky
• A Whistling Tune
Ross Carpenter, Elvis Presley's character in Girls! Girls! Girls! epitomizes the type of role Elvis is most associated with -- the handsome, carefree bachelor with a colorful occupation. Ross works as a charter boat pilot who moonlights as a nightclub singer to buy a sailboat that once belonged to his father. Wealthy Laurel Dodge, played by Laurel Goodwin, falls hard for Ross and secretly buys the sailboat for him.
When Ross discovers that Laurel has purchased the boat, his pride is damaged, and he sails off by himself. Laurel quickly follows in a boat piloted by wealthy Wesley Johnson, portrayed by Jeremy Slate, who turns out to be a wolf in tailored clothing. Ross rescues Laurel from Wesley's clutches, realizing that he loves her. Ross asks Laurel to sell the sailboat so that he can feel free to marry her and build a new boat.
Behind the Scenes of Girls! Girls! Girls!
Girls! Girls! Girls! reteamed Elvis with producer Hal Wallis and director Norman Taurog. The combination of Wallis, Taurog, and Presley had been responsible for two of Elvis' biggest grossing films, G.I. Blues and Blue Hawaii. Paramount used this detail in the promotional material sent to theater owners across the country.
Included in this promotional package were some 'hot tips' on how to bolster attendance for the film. For theaters playing the film during football season, it was suggested that a cheering squad from local high schools be used to draw attention to the film. The squad should perform the cheer, 'Rah! Rah! Rah! Girls! Girls! Girls!' either in front of the theater or on the football field.
Another suggestion was known as the 'Girl Triplets Bally' and involved hiring a set of triplets to parade in front of the theater. The triplets were to be dressed alike and carry identical signs reading, 'Girls! Girls! Girls! Starring Elvis Presley.' This suggestion concluded by advising, 'If triplets aren't available, any three teen-agers of the same height would do as well.' Fortunately, Elvis had a large enough following that Paramount did not have to rely on these types of stunts to pack the audiences in.
Songs Featured in Girls! Girls! Girls!
• Girls! Girls! Girls!
• I Don't Wanna Be Tied
• We'll Be Together
• A Boy Like Me. A Girl Like You
• Earth Boy
• Return to Sender
• Because of Love
• Thanks to the Rolling Sea
• Song of the Shrimp
• The Walls Have Ears
• We're Coming in Loaded
• Dainty Little Moonbeams
• Girls! Girls! Girls (reprise)
• Never Let Me Go (sung by Stevens' character)
• The Nearness of You (sung by Stevens' character)
• Baby, Baby, Baby (sung by Stevens' character)
• Mama (sung by Elvis, Goodwin, Puglia, and Valenty)
In It Happened at the World's Fair, a musical comedy filmed against the backdrop of the 1963 Seattle World's Fair, Elvis Presley's character, Mike Edwards, and partner Danny Burke, portrayed by Gary Lockwood, hitchhike to Seattle to find work. The two desperately need money to reclaim their airplane, on which the sheriff has attached a lien. They hitch a ride with a Chinese farmer and his seven-year-old niece, Sue-Lin, played by talented Vicky Tiu. When business unexpectedly occupies the uncle, Mike takes Sue-Lin on a tour of the World's Fair, where he meets and falls for nurse Diane Warren, portrayed by Joan O'Brien.
When Sue-Lin's uncle fails to return, Mike takes responsibility for the little girl. Mike's situation goes from bad to worse when Child Welfare takes Sue-Lin away and Danny inadvertently becomes involved with a smuggling operation. Mike, Danny, and law officials eventually subdue the smugglers. The film ends happily when Sue-Lin finds her uncle and Mike and Diane find each other.
Behind the Scenes of It Happened at the World's Fair
The transformation of Elvis from rock 'n' roller to handsome leading man that had begun after Elvis' discharge from the Army was complete by World's Fair. The change was indicated by the clothes Elvis wore for the film. Newspapers and news magazines ran articles about the specific attire designed for Elvis for the film, but fanzines constructed stories indicating that Elvis had completely changed his mode of dress, both on-screen and off. Sy Devore, a leading Hollywood tailor, was given the job of dressing Elvis for the film. He designed a series of conservative suits and ties to make Elvis 'look like a smart, well-dressed young businessman', according to producer Ted Richmond. Devore had to be especially careful about the trousers because Elvis supposedly wore no underwear during this period. The wardrobe, consisting of ten suits, four sports jackets, 30 shirts, 15 pairs of slacks, two cashmere coats, and 55 ties, cost about $10,000.
Songs Featured in It Happened at the World's Fair
• 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
• Happy Ending
In Fun in Acapulco, Elvis Presley stars as Mike Windgren, another version of his musical comedy persona: a former circus performer trying to escape his past. Mike's circus career ended when he caused his partner to be seriously injured during their trapeze act. Traumatized by the accident, Mike has developed a fear of heights. At the beginning of the film, he finds himself in Acapulco, where he hires on as lifeguard at a resort hotel. In the evenings, he entertains the guests by singing.
Mike becomes involved with two exotic women -- hotel social director Marguerita Dauphin, played by Ursula Andress, and lady bullfighter Dolores Gomez, played by Elsa Cardenas. Mike soon finds himself in competition with another hotel lifeguard, who every night performs a death-defying jump off the ocean cliffs near the hotel. This rival uncovers Mike's past and tricks him into jumping off the cliffs. Ultimately, Mike's decision to jump helps him overcome his fears. He decides to spend his life with Marguerita.
Behind the Scenes of Fun in Acapulco
In much of the publicity generated during Elvis' Hollywood career, the press noted that the singer performed many of his own stunts. In Fun in Acapulco, Elvis chose to participate in a few stunts that the producers considered risky. In the opening scene, Elvis' character is performing as an aerialist in a circus. The scene called for the character to swing from a high trapeze without a net, 20 feet above the circus floor, and accidentally miss his partner, who plummets to the floor. Every precaution was taken to provide safeguards for Elvis out of camera range, but producer Hal Wallis was still nervous because his star insisted on doing the stunt himself. As a precaution, the studio scheduled the stunt to be performed during the last days of production, when all of Elvis' other scenes had already been filmed. Elvis, who was in top physical condition, performed the stunt without incident. One stunt that Elvis did not do was the 136-foot dive off the cliffs at La Quebrada, Mexico.
Songs Featured in Fun in Acapulco
• Fun in Acapulco
• Vino, Dinero, y Amor
• I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here
• Mexico• El Toro• Marguerita
• The Bullfighter Was a Lady
• (There's) No Room to Rhumba in a Sports Car
• Bossa Nova Baby
• You Can't Say No in Acapulco• Guadalajara
Elvis Presley plays a dual role in Kissin' Cousins, an extremely low-budget musical comedy set in the hills of Tennessee but mostly shot on Hollywood sets. As Air Force officer Josh Morgan, a dark-haired Elvis plays a responsible military man; as blond-haired Jodie Tatum, he appears as a girl-chasin', guntotin' mountain Romeo. Josh is assigned the task of persuading the Tatums, his distant relatives on his mother's side, to sell their land for use as a missile site. When he visits the Tatums, Josh runs into his blond-haired double as well as two beautiful country cousins, Azalea and Selena. The two girls, played by Yvonne Craig and Pam Austin respectively, both vie for Josh's affections. Josh eventually chooses Azalea but not before pairing off Selena with his best friend. In the meantime, Jodie takes up with Midge, a beautiful but fiery WAG played by Cynthia Pepper. Josh persuades Pappy Tatum to sell one side of his mountain to the government as long as the military does not interfere with Pappy's moonshining on the other side.
Behind the Scenes of Kissin' Cousins
Kissin' Cousins, produced by Sam Katzman, is consistently singled out as Elvis' worst film. Katzman had a notorious reputation for churning out low-budget films on short schedules. Estimates on how long it took to shoot Kissin' Cousins vary from source to source, but all claim it was less than three weeks. The film was budgeted at $800,000, compared with the $4 million budget of Blue Hawaii.
To help control expenses, the songs were written in assembly-line fashion. Katzman decided that since the film had a “country” theme, the songs should be recorded in Nashville rather than Hollywood, where all Elvis' previous soundtrack albums had been recorded. However, these mediocre tunes were only some songwriting hack's misguided interpretation of what country-and-western music was like. The eight songs in the film, including 'Barefoot Ballad', 'Pappy, Won't You Please Come Home', and the title tune, sounded nothing like the country music of the era. The few exterior shots for the film were done at Big Bear Lake in California. When the location shooting was finished, Elvis was involved in what could have been a fatal accident. While driving down the mountain from Big Bear Lake in a mobile home, Elvis was shocked when the brakes on the vehicle completely gave out. A car carrying some of the film crew was traveling ahead of the huge vehicle lumbering down the mountain. The road was too narrow for Elvis to pass the car, and a sheer drop on one side made the speed they were traveling at quite dangerous. Elvis had to use the gears to maneuver down the mountain, while the car managed to stay just ahead of them. When the mobile home reached the bottom of the mountain, Elvis kept the vehicle running until it eventually slowed to a stop. Had Elvis not been such a competent driver, Kissin' Cousins would have been his legacy to his fans.
Kissin' Cousins marked a change in approach toward making Elvis' films. It seemed to set a pattern in which the shooting schedules grew shorter and the budgets got lower. Some argue that Colonel Parker realized that Elvis' popularity was starting to wane, so he began seeking out producers who could lower production costs, as well as seeking out resorts and hotels that would allow the casts and crews to stay for free. There is no actual proof of this. Perhaps the reverse was true.
Songs Featured in Kissin' Cousins
• Kissin' Cousins
• Smokey Mountain Boy
• One Boy, Two Little Girls
• Catchin' on Fast
• Tender Feeling
• Barefoot Ballad
• Once Is Enough
• Kissin' Cousins (reprise)
• Pappy, Won't You Please Come Home (sung by Farrell's character)
In Viva Las Vegas, perhaps his best musical comedy, Elvis Presley was finally teamed with a costar whose singing and dancing matched the intensity of his own performing style. As Rusty Martin, dynamic Ann-Margret perfectly complemented Elvis' character of Lucky Jackson. Lucky, a race-car driver whose car desperately needs a new engine, arrives in Las Vegas for the Vegas Grand Prix.
He and fellow driver Count Elmo Mancini, played by Cesare Danova, are rivals on the track as well as off the track, competing for the affections of Rusty. Rusty works at the same hotel as Lucky, who throughout the film is trying to raise money to fix his car. Rusty is reluctant to become seriously involved with Lucky because of the dangers of his occupation. Eventually, she changes her mind and assists him in his last-minute efforts to complete his repairs. Lucky lives up to his name and wins the Grand Prix.
Behind the Scenes of Viva Las Vegas
Elvis was not restricted to working only for Hal Wallis and Paramount, since the contract he signed with them was not an exclusive one. Elvis also worked for other producers at other studios, including MGM, United Artists, and Allied Artists. Interestingly, the producers from these other studios tended to follow the musical comedy formula that Wallis had developed for Elvis, and occasionally even improving on it. Though Viva Las Vegas follows the familiar formula of the 'Presley travelogue', the inclusion of dynamic Ann-Margret made it a cut above the rest. Shot predominantly in Las Vegas, the film made effective use of such locations as the Flamingo and Tropicana hotels and the drag strip at Henderson, Nevada.
Viva Las Vegas is perhaps best remembered for the romance between Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret. The romance was played out on the front pages of the newspapers after the two were noticed attending restaurants and nightclubs together in Las Vegas. The publicity surrounding the romance was a dream come true for the producers of Viva Las Vegas. Even Elvis' hometown newspaper, the Memphis Press-Scimitar, ran stories with such sensational headlines as 'It Looks Like Romance for Elvis and Ann-Margret' and 'Elvis Wins Love of Ann-Margret'. Ironically, Elvis was not happy at first to be teamed with Ann-Margret, although he was flattered that she was known as 'the female Elvis Presley'.
Supposedly, someone on the production team of Viva Las Vegas had dated her during an earlier film venture and was still smitten by her charm and beauty. This crew member assisted with the photography on Viva Las Vegas and seemed to favor Ann-Margret with better lighting and camera angles.
When Elvis complained to the Colonel, the big guns came to the rescue and the crew member was soon chastised. Elvis ultimately realized it was not the fault of Ann-Margret, and the two young performers quickly grew close. The obvious chemistry between them was an asset to their performances on-screen. The two generated an electricity during their musical numbers seldom matched in Elvis' later films.
Ann-Margret shared many things in common with Elvis, including the pressures of a show business career. Both enjoyed similar activities, such as riding motorcycles, and she got along well with Elvis' group of buddy-bodyguards. They called her 'Rusty Ammo', or 'Ann-Margrock.'
The romance between these two high-profile stars did not survive the production of the film. Rumors abound as to what split them up, ranging from Elvis' relationship with Priscilla Beaulieu to Ann-Margret's hasty confession to the press that she and Elvis were engaged. Though the relationship did not work out in the long term, Elvis and Ann-Margret remained friends for the rest of his life. Elvis would later marry Priscilla Beaulieu, and Ann-Margret would marry actor Roger Smith. According to Ann-Margret, Elvis sent her flowers in the shape of a guitar on the opening night of every one of her Las Vegas engagements.
Songs Featured in Viva Las Vegas
• Viva Las Vegas
• The Yellow Rose of Texas
• The Lady Loves Me
• C'mon Everybody
• Today, Tomorrow and Forever
• What'd I Say
• Santa Lucia
• If You Think I Don't Love You
• I Need Somebody to Lean On
• My Rival (sung by Ann-Margret's character)
• Appreciation (sung by Ann-Margret's character)
• The Climb (sung by The Forte Four)
Playing opposite Barbara Stanwyck this time out in Roustabout, Elvis Presley was in awe of his costar and worked hard to live up to her professional standards. Unfortunately, the scriptwriters were less demanding of themselves, and the film suffers from banal dialogue and predictable plotting. Elvis stars as Charlie Rogers, a drifter with a chip on his shoulder who lands a job as a roustabout, or handyman, with a down-and-out carnival operated by strong-willed Maggie Morgan, played by Stanwyck. When Charlie breaks into song on the midway one day, throngs of young people flock to hear him sing. As news of his talent spreads, Maggie's carnival begins to turn a tidy profit. Charlie's good fortune continues as Cathy, a beautiful young carnival worker played by Joan Freeman, takes a romantic interest in him. However, after a misunderstanding involving a customer's missing wallet, Maggie and Cathy chide Charlie for his selfish attitudes. The embittered young man quits Maggie's outfit to work for a rival carnival. When Maggie's carnival starts to go under, Charlie returns with enough money to ward off the creditors. His unselfish act wins Maggie's respect as well as Cathy's heart.
Behind the Scenes of Roustabout
A cast of big-name stars, including Barbara Stanwyck, Leif Erickson, and Jack Albertson, made Roustabout one of Elvis' best vehicles. Wallis' solid reputation in Hollywood often helped secure some of the bigger names for Elvis' movies, and this film was no exception. Supposedly, Mae West was first approached for Stanwyck's role but declined the offer. The combination of Elvis Presley and Mae West would have made a sensational screen pairing. Stanwyck's image as a tough, independent woman suited the character. Edith Head, Hollywood's most illustrious costume designer, did the clothing for the film, even designing a special pair of formfitting jeans for Stanwyck. Elvis would later say that working with Stanwyck made him a better actor.
Songs Featured in Roustabout
• Poison Ivy League
• Wheels on My Heels
• It's a Wonderful World
• It's Carnival Time
• Carny Town• One Track Heart
• Hard Knocks
• Little Egypt
• Big Love, Big Heartache
• There's a Brand New Day on the Horizon
To take advantage of the popularity among college students of the Ft. Lauderdale Easter vacation, producer Joe Pasternak put together Girl Happy, a youth-oriented flick combining Elvis Presley, Ft. Lauderdale, bikini-clad girls, and wacky dance crazes. Elvis stars as struggling pop singer Rusty Wells, whose musical combo works for a tough Chicago nightclub owner known as Big Frank.
Big Frank's big weakness is his only daughter Valerie, who insists on spending her Easter vacation in sunny, sinful Ft. Lauderdale. Frank sends Rusty and his friends to Florida to keep an eye on Valerie without her knowing about it. Rusty attempts to pursue a few college coeds of his own, but he is constantly interrupted by the need to rescue Valerie from various Ft. Lauderdale loverboys. Naturally, Valerie, played by Shelley Fabares in her first Elvis Presley musical, falls in love with the smooth-talking Rusty.
Behind the Scenes of Girl Happy
After working on several musical vehicles back-to-back, Elvis began to tire of the same type of role over and over. He also complained of the endless succession of mediocre pop tunes that filled each soundtrack. Sensing his disillusionment, director Boris Sagal took Elvis aside and urged him to stop his grueling film schedule. Sagal suggested that Elvis take time off to study acting in New York, perhaps at the acclaimed Actors Studio or the famous Neighborhood Playhouse. The director supposedly told Elvis, 'Every actor studies his trade, even those as good as Marlon Brando.' Elvis agreed, admitting that he looked forward to the day when he could do a film without any music. But Girl Happy would not be that film. This lively but formulaic spring vacation comedy contained 11 songs for Elvis -- about average for a Presley picture. Girl Happy featured some familiar faces from other youth-oriented films, including Joby Baker, Jimmy Hawkins, and Gary Crosby as Elvis' wacky musical trio. Of the three actors, only Crosby (the son of Bing Crosby) had any musical talent.
The film also costarred television actress Shelley Fabares, whose popularity with audiences was undoubtedly the result of her role as the eldest daughter on 'The Donna Reed Show.' No stranger to the pop music scene, she had recorded 'Johnny Angel', a number-one hit in 1962. Her role opposite Elvis in Girl Happy proved quite successful, and she costarred in two subsequent Presley films, Spinout and Clambake. Elvis later declared her to be his favorite costar. Of the dozen or so tunes in Girl Happy, two are particularly memorable -- the low-down and bluesy 'Wolf Call' and the easy-sounding ballad 'Puppet on a String'.
One song in the film is frequently mentioned as one of the worst tunes ever recorded by Elvis, though he should not have to shoulder the blame. 'Do the Clam' was written as accompaniment for a dance called the clam that was specially created for the film by choreographer David Winters.
Winters, the dance director for the rock 'n' roll TV program 'Hullabaloo', had also choreographed Viva Las Vegas. He was quite familiar with modern music, but the clam never caught on. During the mid-1960s, several dance crazes swept the nation, including the monkey, the pony, the swim, and countless others. Though the clam was not the success the film's producers hoped it would be, it nonetheless reflected the era. When put in the context of the times, the song and the dance are not nearly so outrageous.
Songs Featured in Girl Happy
• 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
• Read All About It (sung by Talbot's and Fabares' characters)
By the time Tickle Me was released, the storylines of Elvis Presley's musicals had become paper-thin and the credibility of his characters had become strained by their ridiculous occupations. Though disturbing to critics and biographers, fans understand that the appeal is Elvis himself, not his characters.
Here, Elvis stars as Lonnie Beale, a singing rodeo cowboy who moonlights as a handyman at a beauty spa. Though several women try to catch the attention of Lonnie, including spa owner Vera Radford, played by Julie Adams, the rodeo rider falls for Pam Merritt. Pam, portrayed by Jocelyn Lane, is visiting the spa to investigate a nearby ghost town where her grandfather has supposedly hidden a cache of gold.
Pam enlists the help of Lonnie and his sidekick Stanley, played by Jack Mullaney, to recover the treasure. Unscrupulous locals, also looking for the gold, try to frighten the hapless trio into leaving the territory, but the three eventually prevail. Lonnie and Pam marry at the end, marking one of the few times that one of Elvis' characters actually weds on-screen.
Behind the Scenes of Tickle Me
Tickle Me represented a somewhat different arrangement between Colonel Parker, Elvis, and Allied Artists Productions, the studio producing the film. Allied was facing deep financial trouble. They desperately wanted to make a deal with Elvis because a Presley picture was a guaranteed money-maker. The Colonel agreed to cut Elvis' salary from $1 million to $750,000 (plus the usual 50 percent of the profits) to help Allied cut expenses. This meant that the studio had to come up with the rest of the budget -- a mere $750,000. To keep within that minuscule budget, no new songs were purchased or recorded for the film.
The soundtrack was made up of previously recorded Elvis tunes. True to form, this Elvis musical comedy was financially successful. Allied executive Steve Brody later admitted Elvis' hand in saving his studio, 'You might say they were ready to wheel the patient out when Dr. Presley came in'.
Songs Featured in Tickle Me
• Long, Lonely Highway
• It Feels So Right
• (Such an) Easy Question
• Dirty, Dirty Feeling
• Put the Blame on Me
• I'm Yours
• Night Rider
• I Feel That I've Known You Before
• Slowly hut Surely
Another 'quickie' produced on a very low budget by Sam Katzman, Harum Scarum features Elvis Presley as matinee idol Johnny Tyronne. A takeoff on Elvis himself, Johnny is a famous movie and recording star who makes the women swoon and the men jealous.
On a personal appearance tour in Lunarkand -- a fictional country somewhere in the Middle East -- Johnny is kidnapped by a gang of assassins and suddenly thrust into a plot to kill King Toranshah. Johnny escapes and falls in with a band of pickpockets and rogues, all the while rescuing damsels in distress and singing a variety of pop-styled tunes. Johnny falls in love with a beautiful handmaiden, played by Mary Ann Mobley; unbeknownst to him, she is really Princess Shalimar, daughter of King Toranshah. Johnny thwarts the assassination attempt on the king, wins the heart of Princess Shalimar, and returns to America with a new act. He opens in Las Vegas with a Middle Eastern dancing troupe, complete with exotic harem girls.
Behind the Scenes of Harum Scarum
With a shooting schedule of only 18 days, Harum Scarum was a no-frills production with little time or money to spend on props, costumes, or set design. Little if anything was actually purchased or designed for the film, a not uncommon practice for low-budget productions.
The temple set had originally been built in 1925 for a Cecil B. DeMille silent feature called King of Kings. The costumes worn by the extras in Harum Scarum had been used in the 1944 version of Kismet and then retailored for the 1955 musical remake. Even the dagger carried by Elvis had been used in an earlier adventure film, Lady of the Tropics. Little effort was invested in the script, and the plot was thrown together following the same Presley formula. How bad was it? The Colonel suggested adding a talking camel to the storyline, which was seriously considered for a time before it was mercifully dropped.
Songs Featured in Harum Scarum
• Harem Holiday• My Desert Serenade
• Go East, Young Man
• Shake That Tambourine
• Hey, Little Girl
• Golden Coins
• So Close, Yet So Far (from Paradise)
A slight change of pace for Elvis Presley, Frankie and Johnny was a lighthearted musical based on the folk song, 'Frankie and Johnny.' In the original song, the title characters are lovers whose romance goes awry when red-headed Nellie Bly steals Johnny away from Frankie. Frankie gets revenge by shooting Johnny dead. The movie lightens the tone of the tale by adding a few details and changing the downbeat ending.
In the film, the song has been specially written for riverboat performers Frankie and Johnny, played by Donna Douglas and Elvis. Johnny is a gambler whose bad luck changes when dancer Nellie Bly, played by Nancy Kovack, joins the troupe aboard the riverboat. Each night, the three perform the number 'Frankie and Johnny' onstage. As Johnny's interest in Nellie increases, Frankie's jealousy is piqued. One night, someone loads real bullets into Frankie's prop gun, and Johnny is shot during the performance. As luck would have it, Johnny is saved by a charm that he wears around his neck.
Behind the Scenes of Frankie and Johnny
One of the few period pieces Elvis starred in during his film career, Frankie and Johnny was set during the Victorian Era and made full use of its colorful costumes and riverboat setting. The reviews were mixed regarding the film: Some critics felt the setting was a welcome change for a Presley picture, while others recognized the same old storyline under the period costumes.
Despite the nay-sayers, the film benefited from the juicy secondary roles played by a seasoned cast of character actors. Harry Morgan, who later gained recognition on the TV series 'M*A*S*H', played Cully the piano player. Sue Ane Langdon portrayed Mitzi, the girl who is always edged out in the romance department. It was the type of role that had become Langdon's specialty. Robert Strauss, the burly villain in many crime dramas, played Blackie, the boss's stooge. Directed by Frederick de Cordova, who later became the director of 'The Tonight Show', the film is notable for its good production values.
Songs Featured in Frankie and Johnny
• Come Along
• Petunia, the Gardener's Daughter
• What Every Woman Lives For
• Frankie and Johnny
• Look Out, Broadway
• Beginner's Luck
• Down by the Riverside/When the Saints Go Marching In
• Shout It Out
• Hard Luck
• Please Don't Stop Loving Me
• Everybody Come Aboard
Paradise, Hawaiian Style, Elvis Presley's third film based in Hawaii, features the singer as Greg 'Rick' Richards, a helicopter pilot who starts a charter service with his friend Danny, played by James Shigeta. Rick has coaxed three beautiful women employed at various tourist-related businesses around the Islands to steer customers to their helicopter service. Covering the office is beautiful Judy Hudson, played by Suzanna Leigh, whom Rick and Danny call 'Friday'. Danny fears that Rick will not be able to resist Judy so he tells the island Romeo that their girl 'Friday' is married. A misunderstanding involving a forced helicopter landing results in Rick having his license temporarily suspended. Under orders from the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) not to fly, Rick risks his license to rescue Danny and his daughter from a deserted island. The FAA understands the mitigating circumstances surrounding Rick's decision and assures him he will be able to fly again. In the meantime, Rick discovers that Judy is not married, and the two embark on romance.
Behind the Scenes of Paradise, Hawaiian Style
Elvis became notorious for romancing the female costars of his films. From Tuesday Weld and Ann-Margret to such lesser-known starlets as Yvonne Craig and Joan O'Brien, Elvis often swept his costars off their feet both on the screen and off. One actress who was not impressed with Elvis, either professionally or personally, was Marianna Hill, who gained attention as Elvis' partner in the 'Scratch My Back' number from Paradise, Hawaiian Style. According to press interviews at the time, Hill was annoyed with members of Elvis' management team who kept asking the skeptical actress, 'Hasn't Elvis got talent?' Always honest but diplomatic, Hill managed to reply that she thought he was 'a show business phenomenon.' When asked if she would date Elvis, she replied, 'No', citing the singer's ever-present staff of bodyguards and pals as a bit odd.
Songs Featured in Paradise, Hawaiian Style
• Paradise, Hawaiian Style
• Queenie Wahini's Papaya
• Scratch My Back (Then I'll Scratch Yours)
• Drums of the Islands
• A Dog's Life
• House of Sand
• Stop Where You Are
• This Is My Heaven
• Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home (sung by Donna Butterworth's character)
Playing a singing race-car driver once again, Elvis Presley stars as dashing Mike McCoy in Spinout. Mike fronts a popular singing group, and he is also the defending champion on the racing circuit.
Fast cars are not nearly as dangerous for Mike as beautiful women, all of whom want to race him down the aisle to marriage. Les, played by perky Deborah Walley, works as the drummer in Mike's band, and she is extremely jealous of his attention toward other women. Also vying for Mike's affection is sophisticated Cynthia Foxhugh, played by Shelley Fabares, who is the daughter of wealthy auto magnate Howard Foxhugh. Finally, representing the intellectual type is writer Diana St. Clair, played by Diane McBain, who falls in love with Mike while finishing her book The Perfect American Male. In an ending that seems to mock Elvis films in general, Mike does not end up marrying any of these women. Instead, he succeeds in wedding them to friends and associates, while he remains free to begin a new romance.
Behind the Scenes of Spinout
The story of how Spinout came to be proves that Elvis' movies were perceived by Hollywood as lightweight vehicles that could be churned out cheaply and quickly. The scriptwriters for Spinout, George Kirgo and Theodore Flicker, had originally been commissioned to write a script for Sonny and Cher. Shortly thereafter, they received a call from MGM to write something for Elvis instead.
They quickly finished the script and showed it to the Colonel, who declared that he loved it. Just one thing, though. Could they put a dog in it? Kirgo and Flicker accommodated the Colonel, only to be summoned by the producers a few days later. Could they put a race car in it? Again, they obliged, though it changed the focus of their original idea, which had been to do a romantic farce. Their title for the film -- After Midnight -- was quickly dumped by MGM in favor of Never Say No, and then Never Say Yes. Finally, Kirgo suggested Spinout, which was the discarded title of another script he had written earlier.
Songs Featured in Spinout
• Stop, Look, and Listen
• Adam and Evil
• All That I Am
• Never Say Yes
• Am I Ready
• Beach Shack
• I'll Be Back
In Easy Come, Easy Go, his last film for Hal Wallis, Elvis Presley stars as Navy frogman Ted Jackson, who is about to be discharged from the service. On one of his last dives, Ted discovers a treasure chest on a sunken ship. Captain Jack, a local expert on nautical lore, is unable to tell Ted the exact treasure or cargo of the ship. But Captain Jack does reveal the name of the only descendant of the ship's captain.
Ted tracks down this descendant -- a vivacious young woman named Jo Symington, played by Dodie Marshall. Jo believes the chest contains pieces-of-eight. She agrees to help Ted if the money is given to the community arts center. Their attempts to retrieve the treasure are impeded by scoundrels Gil Carey and Dina Bishop.
Carey and Bishop steal Ted's equipment and kidnap Captain Jack, but Ted tracks them down and rescues Jack. When Ted opens the chest, he discovers that the coins are copper, not gold. Ted donates the money for a down payment on a new arts center, winning Jo in the process.
Behind the Scenes of Easy Come, Easy Go
Elvis usually got along well with his directors; the exception was John Rich, who directed Elvis in Roustabout and Easy Come, Easy Go. More a television director than a film director, Rich managed to snag some big-screen assignments during the mid-1960s. His film work tended to be glossy but uninspired. Rich and Elvis did not get along on the set of Roustabout, and their mutual feelings of animosity did not disappear by the time cameras rolled on Easy Come, Easy Go.
One afternoon, Elvis and Red West were trying to do a scene together but were hampered by a case of the giggles. Angered by what he felt was unprofessional behavior, Rich threw all of Elvis' buddy-bodyguards off the set. Elvis was furious. He put everything into perspective for Rich and the film's producers when he frankly told them, 'Now, just a minute. We're doing these movies because it's supposed to be fun, nothing more. Now when they cease to be fun, then we'll cease to do them.' If that had only been the case...
Songs Featured in Easy Come, Easy Go
• Easy Come, Easy Go
• The Love Machine
• Yoga Is as Yoga Does
• You Gotta Stop
• Sing, You Children
• I'll Take Love
Taking advantage of the latest craze for discotheque dancing and the popularity of spy movies during the mid-1960s, the producers of Double Trouble combined the two fads to form the basic plot of this mediocre Elvis Presley musical. Elvis walks through the role of Guy Lambert, a pop singer who becomes involved with intrigue while playing the discotheque scene in London and Antwerp.
Guy's problems begin when he meets heiress Jill Conway, played by young Annette Day, who has a crush on the singer -- much to the chagrin of her guardian. Jill leads Guy through numerous adventures involving spies, counterspies, jewel thieves, and harebrained detectives. The latter, played by the zany Wiere Brothers, provide the film's comic relief. Eventually, Jill succeeds in casting her spell over Guy, and the two marry.
Behind the Scenes of Double Trouble
One of the youngest actresses to ever costar with Elvis, English ingenue Annette Day was just 18 years old when she acted in Double Trouble. Day was discovered in typical Hollywood fashion. Producer Judd Bernard was shopping in an antique store on London's famed Portobello Road when he caught a glimpse of the red-haired teenager. The shop belonged to Day's mother, and Day was working behind the counter that day.
Months later, when Bernard was casting for the film, he remembered the perky girl and called on her to ask the fateful question, 'Do you want to be an actress?' After a script reading in London and some meetings with MGM executives, Day did a screen test in Hollywood, which satisfied the producers enough to cast her opposite Elvis. Her only prior acting experience had consisted of doing the Charleston in a Christmas concert at school. Elvis did take an interest in Day during filming, though not in the romantic sense. He surprised her near the end of shooting with a white Mustang as a remembrance of her first film experience.
Songs Featured in Double Trouble
• Double Trouble
• Baby, If You'll Give Me All Your Love
• Could I Fall in Love
• Long Legged Girl (with the Short Dress On)
• City by Night
• Old MacDonald
• I Love Only One Girl
• There Is So Much of the World to See
In Clambake, a 'Prince and the Pauper' tale with a contemporary twist, Elvis Presley portrays Scott Heyward, the son of a Texas oil baron. While in Miami, Scott meets penniless Tom Wilson, played by Will Hutchins, at a local snack bar. Determined to make it without using his wealthy father's name, Scott persuades Tom to switch identities with him. Scott takes over as the new water-ski instructor at a swank hotel, while Tom lives it up masquerading as the son of a millionaire. Bill Bixby costars as James J. Jamison III, a wealthy playboy who has won the Orange Bowl International Power Boat Regatta for three straight years.
Scott sets out to defeat Jamison in the upcoming Regatta by teaming up with a local speedboat designer. The rivalry between Scott and Jamison is heightened by their mutual interest in beautiful Dianne Carter, played by Shelley Fabares, who claims to prefer Jamison because of his money. Scott reveals his true identity only after he wins the Regatta and the affections of Dianne.
Behind the Scenes of Clambake
Clambake was plagued by misfortune and chaos even before shooting started, and much of it was due to Elvis' total disinterest in doing the film. Depressed at being forced to make another zany musical comedy, Elvis experienced a major weight gain. United Artists demanded he take off the extra poundage. On the first day of scheduled shooting, Elvis slipped on his bathroom floor and hit his head. After a private conference with the Colonel, the doctor declared that Elvis had suffered a concussion and could not work. Shooting was delayed for more than two weeks. Bored with his films, Elvis and the Memphis Mafia resorted to crazier and crazier antics with each production. By the time Clambake rolled around, the group seemed out of control. Pie-throwings, firecracker fights, and water bombardments on the set were a common occurrence. MGM sent down a memo just before the shooting of the next Presley film, Stay Away, Joe, warning the group about their behavior.
Songs Featured in Clambake
• Who Needs Money
• A House That Has Everything
• You Don't Know Me
• Hey, Hey, Hey
• The Girl I Never Loved
Elvis Presley played a Native American for the second time in his career in the musical comedy Stay Away, Joe, based on a best-selling book by Dan Cushman. This time, however, instead of being a relevant commentary on prejudice -- as was the superior Flaming Star -- the film stereotypes American Indians as shiftless and irresponsible. Elvis stars as rodeo rider Joe Lightcloud, a Navajo whose family still lives on the reservation. Joe persuades his congressman to give him 20 heifers and a prize bull so he and his father, played by Burgess Meredith, can prove that the Navajos can successfully raise cattle on the reservation. If their experiment is successful, then the government will help all the Navajo people. But Joe's buddy accidentally barbecues the prize bull, while Joe sells the heifers to buy plumbing and other home improvements for his stepmother, portrayed by Katy Jurado. Former leading lady Joan Blondell appears as tavern owner Glenda Callahan, whose daughter, played by Quentin Dean, can't seem to stay away from the girl-chasing Joe.
Behind the Scenes of Stay Away, Joe
Stay Away, Joe provides another example of a Presley vehicle bolstered by a supporting cast of talented veterans. One of these veterans was Katy Jurado, who had built her career around playing sensuous exotic leads or juicy supporting roles. Her role as Elvis' stepmother in Stay Away, Joe represented her first major appearance in a comedy. Jurado brought a great deal more to the character of Annie Lightcloud than the producers had requested. The dedicated actress gained over 20 pounds to make her appearance more believable. Just prior to shooting, Jurado broke some bones in her foot. Unbeknown to the producer or director, she removed the cast before clearing it with her doctor. Consequently, her character walked with a limp. When asked, Jurado declared that the limp was part of her characterization. No one questioned her about it!
Songs Featured in Stay Away, Joe
• Stay Away
• Stay Away, Joe
• All I Needed Was the Rain
Elvis Presley's pals Nancy Sinatra and Bill Bixby costar in Speedway, a musical comedy that features Elvis as stock-car champion Steve Grayson, a generous soul who is always sharing his winnings with people in need. Partly due to his generosity and partly because of his manager's love of gambling, Steve finds himself owing the government back taxes. Sinatra costars as IRS agent Susan Jacks, while Bixby plays his bumbling manager, Kenny Donford. Susan attempts to put Steve on a budget that will allow him to pay off the government in installments. Steve tries to soften the all-business agent with romance and music, but she thinks him frivolous and irresponsible. But her tune changes when she realizes that Steve's latest charity case is a former stock-car driver with five daughters who has fallen on hard times. Eventually Susan is able to keep Steve on a budget, while Steve is able to keep Susan on his arm.
Behind the Scenes of Speedway
Nancy Sinatra's friendship with Elvis dated back to 1960 when she met him at the airport upon his return from Germany to be discharged from the Army. Nancy presented him with some shirts as a gift from her famous father. Though the gesture fueled rumors of a romance between the two, chances are it was meant to promote Frank Sinatra's upcoming TV special featuring Elvis, Frank Sinatra's Rat Pack, and Nancy.
Elvis and Nancy did not work together again until 1967 when they began shooting Speedway. Elvis had married Priscilla Beaulieu a few weeks earlier, but rumors began to fly that he and Nancy were having a relationship. Fanzines had a field day with the rumors. 'Will Nancy Sinatra Steal Elvis from Priscilla?' and 'How Can Elvis Resist his Sexy Costar?' blared the headlines. Testament to their friendship is indicated by the inclusion of Nancy's song, 'Your Groovy Self' on the Speedway soundtrack, marking the only time a solo by another singer appeared on a regular Presley album.
Songs Featured in Speedway
• Let Yourself Go
• Your Time Hasn't Come Yet, Baby
• He's Your Uncle, Not Your Dad
• Who Are You? (Who Am I?)
• There Ain't Nothing Like a Song
• Your Groovy Self (sung by Sinatra's character)
In an attempt to keep up with the changing times, the producers of Live a Little, Love a Little created a slightly different Elvis Presley film. Live a Little, Love a Little featured a franker approach to sex than previous Elvis comedies. It also made use of kookier characters who were devoid of the sentimentality of his earlier films, and it included a psychedelic-type production number called 'Edge of Reality'.
Elvis stars as photographer Greg Nolan, who earns his living by working for two very distinct clients. Mike Landsdown, played by Don Porter, owns and operates Classic Cat Magazine, a girlie publication that features titillating photos. Louis Penlow, played by Rudy Vallee, owns a tasteful advertising agency that prides itself on its classy photography. Neither client knows Greg is working for the other. When Greg is not hopping back and forth between photo assignments, he is trying to get freewheeling and free-loving Bernice, played by Michele Carey, out of his hair.
Behind the Scenes of Live a Little, Love a Little
Elvis' management team, as well as the producers at MGM, were aware that the singer's image had not kept pace with the fast-changing 1960s. Producer Hal Wallis had chosen not to renew Elvis' contract when it expired in 1967 because, as Wallis noted, 'It's not so much that Elvis is changing, but that the times are changing. There's just not the market for the no-plot musicals that there once was'.
Billed as a comedy rather than a musical comedy, Live a Little was fashioned after the hip sex farces of the 1960s, such as The Swinger and A Guide for the Married Man.
Though not as wild as some films from the era, it did feature Elvis' character swearing. Also, the script makes clear that the character of Bernice had been sexually active prior to meeting Greg; near the end of the film, Greg and Bernice sleep together without benefit of marriage. Though the story ends with a marriage proposal, the franker attitude toward sex was a surprise to some critics and audience members.
Songs Featured in Live a Little, Love a Little
• Wonderful World
• Edge of Reality
• A Little Less Conversation
• Almost in Love
Sporting a beard and a tough demeanor, Elvis Presley stars as Jess Wade in Charro! an offbeat western that features no musical numbers. The minimal storyline finds Wade, a reformed badman, pitted against the members of his old gang. The gang is now led by Vince Hackett, played by character actor Victor French, who takes delight in terrorizing a small Mexican town. The gang has stolen from the town a gold-plated cannon that was used by Emperor Maximilian in his ill-fated fight against popular Mexican leader Benito Juarez. The gang's motive is to force a ransom from the town for the cannon, but the gang also uses the cannon to hold the townspeople at bay. Only Wade can save the people from his former gang. European star Ina Balin costars as Tracy Winters, a dance hall hostess in love with Wade.
Behind the Scenes of Charro!
With its gritty look, violent antihero, and cynical point of view, Charro! was obviously patterned after the grim Italian westerns of the 1960s. Elvis' character, Jess Wade, is costumed similarly to Clint Eastwood's notorious 'Man with No Name' from Sergio Leone's Italian westerns. Both wore a scruffy beard and dust-covered western garb, and both kept a well-worn cigar in their mouths. The music in Charro! was scored by Hugo Montenegro, who was responsible for the memorable score of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Unfortunately, director Charles Marquis Warren was no match for Sergio Leone, and Charro! suffers from poor production values.
At the time, much was made about the absence of songs in the film, as though that fact proved Charro! was a serious effort. Advertisements for the film declared Charro! featured 'a different kind of role...a different kind of man.' Elvis granted more interviews and generated more publicity for Charro! than he had for any film in a long time. One interview quoted him as saying, 'Charro! is the first movie I ever made without singing a song. I play a gunfighter, and I just couldn't see a singing gunfighter.' Eventually, Elvis did agree to sing the title tune, but there are no songs within the body of the film. Charro! was filmed in the late summer of 1968 after Elvis' comeback special had been shot for television, though the special would not air until December. Elvis seemed to have taken stock of his career that year: He recorded music that was not merely fodder for soundtrack albums, and he starred in a prestigious television special. Perhaps Elvis was hoping to upgrade his acting career as well by appearing in a completely different type of film. Unfortunately, the film was a dismal critical failure; much of the blame was placed at the feet of director Charles Marquis Warren.
Warren had been a writer, director, and producer for several western television series during the 1960s. Though he had not worked in the cinema since the 1950s, he chose to produce, direct, and write the screenplay for Charro! Elvis seems to have gotten along well with Warren despite an incident that occurred on the set. One morning, Elvis was practicing his quick draw for an upcoming scene. Not realizing one of the guns was loaded with blanks, Elvis accidentally fired a gun into Warren's face at a range of one yard.
Luckily, the gun had only a quarter-load blank charge, and the director received only minor powder burns and cracked glasses. After receiving first aid on the set, Warren returned to direct that day. According to witnesses, Elvis was much more upset than Warren about the accident, so Warren began joking with him. 'Well, at least now I know what you think of your director', he kidded. Fewer shenanigans involving Elvis and his buddy-bodyguards were reported from the set of Charro! than was typical for a Presley film. Many of the film's crew and some members of the Memphis Mafia grew beards to match Elvis' while the film was in production. Even Colonel Parker grew a beard, but he chose to shave his when he returned home to his wife, Marie.
Songs Featured in Charro!
An odd mixture of music, comedy, and melodrama, The Trouble with Girls is unique for an Elvis Presley picture because Elvis is only on screen for about a third of the film. Elvis stars as Walter Hale, the manager of a traveling chautauqua. A chautauqua is a school that provides education combined with entertainment. Walter is beset with a number of problems as his show arrives in town for one week.
He worries that he might have to give the mayor's untalented daughter the lead in the children's pageant to stay in the mayor's good graces. He must contend with his assistant, played by Marlyn Mason, who is constantly harping about the union rights of his employees. Finally, someone murders the local druggist, and a member of the chautauqua is accused. These loose ends are tied together during the final show, when Walter cannily reveals the killer's identity and wins the heart of his pretty assistant.
Behind the Scenes of The Trouble With Girls
The Trouble with Girls had a long history of trying to reach the screen. In June 1959, trade magazines announced that Don Mankiewicz was set to write a sceenplay based on an unpublished story by Mauri Grashin, Day Keene, and Dwight Babcock. The film was tentatively titled Chautauqua. In December 1960, MGM announced that Glenn Ford was slated to star in Chautauqua with Elvis Presley, Hope Lange, and Arthur O'Connell. Valentine Davies was scheduled to adapt the story.
The following year, only Elvis remained in the original cast, and William Wister Haines was doing the adaptation of the story, which Keene and Babcock had recently published as a novel. By 1964, Dick Van Dyke was announced as the star of Chautauqua. Many writers later, the property was sold to Columbia Pictures. Van Dyke was still scheduled to be the star, but the title had been changed to Big America. In April 1968, the property was resold to MGM, where it was adapted as an Elvis Presley vehicle by Arnold and Lois Peyser.
Songs Featured in The Trouble With Girls
• Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
• The Whiffenpoof Song
• Violet (Flower of NYU)
• Clean Up Your Own Backyard
• Sign of the Zodiac
Ending his days in Hollywood with the type of dramatic role Elvis Presley always craved gives an ironic twist to his movie career. Though not a particularly profound film, Change of Habit does represent a change of venue for Elvis. A drama instead of a comedy, the film featured only three songs.
As Dr. John Carpenter, Elvis stars as a professional man for the first time in his career.
Dr. Carpenter heads a clinic in a ghetto area of a major metropolis. He is surprised to be offered assistance by three women. Unknown to him, the three are nuns in street clothing who want to aid the community but are afraid the local residents might be reluctant to seek help if their true identities were known.
Dr. Carpenter falls in love with Sister Michelle Gallagher, played by wholesome Mary Tyler Moore, but Sister Michelle's true vocation remains unknown to Dr. Carpenter. Sister Michelle also has feelings for the doctor, but she is reluctant to leave the order. The film concludes with Sister Michelle entering a church to pray for guidance to make her choice -- the church or Dr. Carpenter.
Behind the Scenes of Change of Habit
Change of Habit was very loosely based on the story of Sister Mary Olivia Gibson, who worked with children afflicted with speech handicaps. Sister Mary Olivia headed the speech clinic at Maria Regina College in Syracuse, New York. Part of her therapy involved using variations on theatrical techniques. How much of her story was retained in the script was pondered by many critics in their reviews, but they all agreed that the material provided Elvis with a welcome change of pace. That it was too little too late was apparent by Elvis' lack of interest in pursuing a film career. He had let his film contracts expire, and Change of Habit was his last commitment. He was eagerly awaiting his freedom so that he could return to live performances.
Songs Featured in Change of Habit
• Change of Habit
• Have a Happy
• Let Us Pray
Rather than a narrative feature, Elvis Presley's 32nd film, Elvis -- That's the Way It Is, is a documentary chronicling his 1970 summer appearance at the International Hotel in Las Vegas. Elvis began rehearsals July 5 at the MGM studios in Hollywood, where he worked on his material for about a month. The show opened August 10. The MGM cameras not only recorded the rehearsals but also opening night, several performances throughout the engagement, and one show at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, Arizona.
The film is structured so that the rehearsals and other scenes of preparation build to an extended climax of Elvis onstage. Dressed in a simple, white jumpsuit, accented with fringe instead of rhinestones and gems.
Elvis is showcased at the pinnacle of his career.
Behind the Scenes of Elvis : That's the Way It Is
According to the personal accounts of a couple of Elvis' buddy-bodyguards, Elvis received a death threat during this engagement at the International in the summer of 1970. A security guard at the hotel was notified on August 26 that Elvis would be kidnapped sometime that night.
Feeling protected by extra security, Elvis chose to perform that night as usual. The next day, Colonel Parker's office received a similar warning over the phone. Again, Elvis performed that night as usual. On August 28, the wife of Joe Esposito, who was Elvis' foreman, received another threatening phone call at her home in Los Angeles. She was told that Elvis would be shot in the middle of that night's show.
With armed bodyguards in the wings, and, according to some, a couple of guns tucked into his costume, Elvis honored that old show business tradition that declares the show must go on. The person or persons responsible for the odious threats were never apprehended.
The second documentary to capture Elvis in performance focused on his road show. Elvis on Tour chronicled the singer's extensive 15-city tour in the spring of 1972. The tour started in Buffalo, New York, and came to a rousing conclusion in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Much of the tour centered in the South. In addition to the concert footage of Elvis, the film attempted to reveal the real Elvis Presley backstage and off-guard. A camera followed the singer and his entourage, while Elvis was asked to comment on such topics as his music and his childhood. Elvis on Tour did not present the real Elvis, it only added to the myth that surrounded him.
Despite the filmmakers' intentions, Elvis would drop no veils. In lieu of a revealing portrait, the filmmakers succeeded in capturing the hectic pace of Elvis' tour through a montage sequence of cities visited during the tour. A collection of clips from his movies in which Elvis kisses a number of his costars adds a touch of humor.
Behind the Scenes of Elvis On Tour
Costing $600,000 to produce (not including Elvis' fee of $1 million), Elvis on Tour recouped its production costs after three days in the theaters. Documentaries are rarely major box-office draws, but this film was a financial success. Critically acclaimed as well, Elvis on Tour won a Golden Globe as the Best Documentary of 1972. Elvis himself kept track of the awards ceremony the evening the Golden Globes were passed out, and he shouted with pride when the film won. Much of the creative success of the film was due to its effective editing style, which relied on a split-screen technique to convey the excitement of Elvis in concert. Multiple images of Elvis performing were shown simultaneously on the screen. The series of scenes from Elvis' movies plus the succession of clips of the different cities visited on the tour also depended on precise editing for its visual impact. In charge of these montage sequences was a young filmmaker named Martin Scorsese.
Songs Featured in Elvis -- That's the Way It Is
• Mystery Train/Tiger Man
• The Next Step Is Love
• Polk Salad Annie
• Crying Time
• That's All Right (Mama)
• Little Sister
• What'd I Say
• Stranger in the Crowd
• How the Web Was Woven
• I Just Can't Help Believin'
• You Don't Have to Say You Love Me
• Bridge Over Troubled Water
• You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'
• Mary in the Morning
• I've Lost You
• Patch It Up
• Love Me Tender
• Sweet Caroline
• Get Back
• Heartbreak Hotel
• One Night
• Blue Suede Shoes
• All Shook Up
• Suspicious Minds
• Can't Help Falling in Love
Songs Featured in Elvis On Tour
• Johnny B. Goode
• See See Rider
• Polk Salad Annie
• Separate Ways
• Proud Mary
• Never Been to Spain• Burning Love
• That's All Right (Mama)
• Lead Me, Guide Me
• Bosom of Abraham
• Love Me Tender
• Until It's Time for You to Go
• Suspicious Minds
• I, John
• Bridge Over Troubled Water
• Funny How Time Slips Away
• An American Trilogy
• Mystery Train
• I Got a Woman/Amen
• A Big Hunk o' Love
• You Gave Me a Mountain
• Lawdy Miss Clawdy
• Can't Help Falling in Love
• Lighthouse (sung by J.D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet)
• Sweet Sweet Spirit (sung by J.D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet)