FANS GUIDE TO "ELVIS MOVIES"
Elvis's movies all as bad as many critics would have you believe?
presents a look at Elvis's 31 narrative films in chronological
order. We offer both critics views (principally from the TV
Guide 'CineBooks USA' reviews) and our own (subjective) opinion
on each film (EIN reviews by Nigel
Patterson), plus a little bit of trivia along the
can visit the TV Guide web site at: www.tvguide.com
watching is inherently a subjective experience influenced
by one's affinity to the star(s) and subject matter and by
various internal and external influences. Fans obviously tend
to watch an Elvis movie with some degree of rose coloured
glasses while many critics are out to find whatever flaws,
significant or insignificant, they can.
welcomes your comments, suggestions and disagreement with
the reviews. Let us know what you think.
can write to us at P.O. Box 5701, Lyons, ACT, Australia, 2606
or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
ratings: each film is rated on a 1 to 5 stars basis -
1 star meaning a lousy movie and 5 stars representing an exceptional
details: for each film we list its USA date of release,
director and original running time.
1: 1956 - 1958 "The Dramatic Years"
ME TENDER: Robert D. Webb, 1956, 94 minutes
York Times: Elvis's dramatic contribution is not a great
deal more impressive that that of the slavering nags. Los
Angeles Times: Elvis pales in comparison when pitted against
the resonant inflections of Egan, of course, but who came
to watch Elvis act? Editors Note: The Los Angeles Times review
was arguably a direct clue for reviewers in how to 'contextually'
assess future Elvis films
Guide rating: 1.5 stars
Guide review: Elvis Presley's first screen appearance
turned what would have been a routine western into one of
Fox's biggest box-office successes. The story takes place
near the end of the Civil War, with Presley playing Clint,
the youngest of four brothers and the only one who has not
gone to war. Believing his brother Vance to have died, Clint
marries his sibling's girl, Cathy (Debra Paget). But all three
brothers return home after stealing a Union payroll and hiding
the money. Finding Cathy married to Clint, Vance (Richard
Egan) decides to take off and return the money, but Clint,
egged on by Confederate loyalists, goes after his brother
and dies in the climactic shootout. Elvis' movie debut was
to have been titled THE RENO BROTHERS, but was wisely (if
misleadingly) renamed LOVE ME TENDER after the song of the
same name. The performances (including Presley's) are lifeless,
the script is overly dramatic, and the direction routine.
Though Presley's songs provide the high points, they are not
well integrated into the plot. Songs: "Love Me Tender" (W.W.
Fosdick, George R. Poulton), "Poor Boy," "We're Gonna Move,"
and "Let Me" (Presley, Vera Matson.)
review: Elvis's screen debut is forced. His lack of dramatic
acting experience is very apparent. Luckily for Elvis a reasonable
plot and solid supporting cast allow Love Me Tender to rise
above Elvis's acting inadequacies. As a western, Love Me Tender
is only average - not bad and not particularly good. The inclusion
of Elvis songs at points in the movie are not well placed
and his hip movements clearly anachronistic to the Civil War
setting and time period. Thankfully his next three films would
prove to be far superior.
YOU: Hal Kanter, 1957, 101 minutes
Guide rating: ***
Presley's second film was a fictionalized version of how he
made it to the top. He's cast as Deke Rivers, a young Texas
truckdriver who becomes a singing sensation overnight. After
delivering a load at a political rally, Deke is talked into
doing a number by press agent Glenda (Lizabeth Scott) and
bandleader Tex (Wendell Corey). Naturally, he's a big hit
and they ask him to join Tex's band. Soon Deke is a statewide
sensation. He falls for Susan (Dolores Hart), a singer with
the band, but is also drawn to Glenda, whose talent for staging
publicity stunts is increasing Deke's fame.
Deke is booked for a big one-man show at a theater outside
Dallas, Glenda pulls off another promotional gimmick, buying
Deke a fancy car and telling the press it's a gift from an
anonymous rich widow, but she has to fire Susan in order to
pay for the vehicle. When Deke discovers that Tex and Glenda
used to be married, he takes off, but Glenda finds him and
brings him back for the big show. By the fade, Deke ends up
with Susan, a TV contract, and down-home values intact, while
Glenda and Tex reunite.
YOU is one of Presley's better films. He gives a fine performance,
both in the great concert scenes and in the dramatic ones;
Hal Kanter directs with vigor. Presley sings some great songs
including "Loving You" (Jerry Lieber, Mike Stoller), "Teddy
Bear" (Karl Mann, Bernie Lowe), "Lonesome Cowboy" (Sid Tepper,
Roy C. Bennett), "Got a Lot of Livin' to Do" (A. Schroeder,
Ben Weisman), "Party" (Jessie Mae Robinson), "Mean Woman Blues"
(Claude DeMetrius), and "Hot Dog" (Lieber, Stoller). Look
for Elvis' beloved mom as an extra.
You is the Elvis story (at least to 1957) on film. Integrating
his southern background with a heady mix of country, rock
and blues flavoured songs, it is a much stronger film than
Love Me Tender and is the first film in which Elvis demonstrates
real dramatic acting potential. The soundtrack generally overwhelms
the plot but this does not distract from our viewing pleasure.
A greater balance between story line and soundtrack would
be achieved in Elvis's next two films.
ROCK: Richard Thorpe, 1957, 96 minutes
publicity: From the Big House to the Big Time - Elvis
Zec, The Daily Mirror: I am suffering from ninety-seven
minutes, 8,687 feet of Elvis (The Pelvis) Presley in a film
called Jailhouse Rock. A dreadful film. An unsavoury, nauseating,
queasy-making film, to turn even the best-insulated stomachs.
Memphis Press-Scimitar: The new MGM film is the first which
has to be carried solely by Presley….and he carries it easily.
Time: For moviegoers who may not care for that personality,
Presley himself offers in the film a word of consolation.
"Don't worry", he says, "I'll grow on you." If he does, it
will be quite a depressing job to scrape him off."
Guide rating: 3.5 stars
shook up and enjoyably bad, JAILHOUSE ROCK captures early
Elvis in all his leg-quivering, nostril-flaring, lip-snarling
teen idol glory. This hot black-and-white number was Elvis
Presley's third (after LOVE ME TENDER and LOVING YOU) and
set the standard for the rest of his movie outings--too bad
the the others omitted the dangerous element of his character
presented here. Elvis comes across like a white-trash musical
genius version of James Dean, playing Vince Everett, a surly
good ole boy who accidentally kills a man while defending
a lady's honor... in a bar. This heroism gets him sent up
for manslaughter, sharing his prison cell with Hunk Houghton
(Mickey Shaughnessy), an ex-singer who convinces him to perform
in the slammer's convict show.
Vince is freed, he meets Peggy Van Alden (Judy Tyler), with
whom he forms a record company, and in no time he is a national
star on his way to Hollywood. Peggy, however, sees that Vince
is turning into an egomaniac, and she can't stand it. There's
little surprise but JAILHOUSE really rocks, establishing pre-Army
Elvis, the rockabilly elemental force, when he was really
something. The steamy songs are mostly by Lieber and Stoller;
the latter can be seen as the pianist in the famous "Jailhouse
Rock" sequence (which the young King choreographed). The title
song sold two million records within two weeks, and the picture,
in turn, grossed several million, with Presley receiving 50
percent of the profits. Other tunes include "Treat Me Nice,"
"Baby, I Don't Care" and "Young and Beautiful."
rating: 3.5 stars
an Elvis classic. Elvis is at his moody best as the young
singer destined for stardom and dramas along the way. A sensational
music score by Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller punctuates the
strong story line and The King is very believable in a James
Dean like role. Tight direction, some great camera work using
stark black and white images and a nice pace produce a highly
CREOLE: Michael Curtiz, 1958, 116 minutes
Crowther, The New York Times: ELVIS CAN ACT!!!
Guide rating: ***
CREOLE features Elvis Presley's best film performance, a result
perhaps of the helming of Michael Curtiz--who had also directed
Cagney, Bogart, Garfield, and Flynn and who will always be
revered for CASABLANCA--or of the script by Herbert Baker
and Michael Gazzo, which was based on a novel written by Harold
Robbins before he became a pop fiction cottage industry. Whatever
the reason, the film will be remembered for the many facets
of Elvis that emerged in his portrayal of Danny Fisher, a
singing busboy at a sleazy nightclub on New Orleans' Bourbon
night he rescues Ronnie (Carolyn Jones) from a drunk who is
harassing her. She turns out to be the moll of local hood
Maxie Fields (Walter Matthau), whom she would like to leave,
but she fears for her safety. Later, Danny is kicked out of
school for getting into a scuffle with some fellow students.
Shark (Vic Morrow), the brother of one of the students, jumps
Danny with a bunch of toughs, then invites him to join the
gang, having been impressed with his fighting ability. Eventually,
Danny does join the gang, who rob the drugstore where his
father (Dean Jagger) works while Danny sings and acts as a
begin to look up when he lands a gig singing at another nightclub,
the King Creole, and soon customers are packing the place
to see him. He dates the sweet Nellie (Dolores Hart), who
would like him to give up this wastrel life and marry her,
but he's also attracted to Ronnie, who lives in fear of the
cruel Maxie and can't act on her feelings for Danny. Maxie,
meanwhile, wants to lure Danny away from the King Creole to
work for him. Failing to do so, he tries to blackmail the
singer by framing him for a holdup. Danny reacts by beating
Maxie up and takes refuge with Ronnie--who, however, is killed
in the finale, clearing the way for Danny and Nellie to reunite
at the fade-out.
a heavy plot for a musical, but they managed to cram it all
in along with 13 songs. This entertaining Elvis vehicle would
be his last film before being drafted into the Army. The tunes:
"King Creole," "Banana," "New Orleans," "Turtles, Berries
and Gumbo," "Crawfish," "Don't Ask Me Why," "As Long As I
Have You," "Trouble," "Hard-Headed Woman," "Lover Doll," "Dixieland
Rock," "Young Dreams," and "Steadfast, Loyal and True."
this Elvis's best ever film? Many critics think so. Like Jailhouse
Rock, King Creole benefits from a great balance between dramatic
plot and superb songs. From the opening strains of Crawfish,
the New Orleans setting is evocative and the film, while slow
in parts, is a roller-coaster ride of dramatic scenes punctuated
by sensational music performances.
supporting cast is among the best ever assembled for an Elvis
movie - soon to be a superstar, Walter Matthau, is great as
mobster Maxie Fields, Carolyn Jones is excellent as the love
interest torn between two worlds, Oscar winner Dean Jagger
turns in a well crafted performance as Elvis' weak father,
and a young Vic Morrow (soon to find fame as the lead in TV's
Combat) is very effective as Shark, a street thug.
Creole also stands out as one of the few Elvis films that
uses major film techniques such as closed frames to convey
meaning and accentuate the viewer's reaction.
2: 1960-1964 "The Presley Travelogues Begin"
BLUES: Norman Taurog, 1960, 115 minutes Hal Wallis (talking
about the industry preview for G.. Blues): …the most exciting
run we've ever had and that takes in a lot.
Guide rating: **
his first movie after his return from real-life military service,
Elvis Presley put his soldiering experience to good use as
Tulsa McCauley, a GI who forms a combo with two dogface pals
(Robert Ivers and James Douglas) and performs at a large Army
show in West Germany. Juliet Prowse plays Lili, an icy cabaret
dancer with whom Elvis is to spend the night if his buddies
are going to win a $300 wager, the seed money necessary for
them to start a club when they get back to the States.
the process of winning the bet (accomplished guilelessly),
Elvis falls in love with Lili, and G.I. BLUES makes its way
to a happy ending. Songs include "Shopping Around" (Sid Tepper,
Roy C. Bennett, Schroeder), "Tonight Is So Right for Love,"
"What's She Really Like?" (Sid Wayne, Silver), "Frankfurt
Special," "Didya Ever," "Big Boots" (Wayne, Edwards), "Pocketful
of Rainbows" (Wise, Weisman), "Doin' the Best I Can" (Thomas,
Schumann), "Blue Suede Shoes" (Carl Perkins), "G.I. Blues"
(Tepper, Bennett), "Wooden Heart" (Wise, Weisman).
Blues is one of those Elvis films I don't really like. And
I'm not sure why. It is a pleasant enough Elvis vehicle with
the usual array of pleasant scenery, attractive co-stars and
aurally and viscerally satisfying songs. It just doesn't grab
me but I know many fans love it - its huge box office made
it one of Elvis's biggest grossing movies (in 1960 it grossed
$4.3m in the US alone).
Prowse is very effective as Lili and Elvis cruises through
his part as the handsome, singing GI. The soundtrack is strong
with Blue Suede Shoes and Wooden Heart stand-outs. The latter
track failed to chart in the US but sold more than a million
copies worldwide. In West Germany it was a huge hit.
Blues Trivia: 'She has a body that would make a bishop
stamp his foot through a stained glass window' - Elvis talking
about his co-star Juliet Prowse
STAR: Don Siegel, 1960, 92 minutes
Guide rating: 3.5 stars
was Presley's best film, far superior to the moronic material
he was usually given. Here he plays a young man who is forced
to choose between his white father, McIntire, and his Kiowa
mother, Del Rio. Despite his parents' attempts to stay out
of local racial hostilities, Del Rio is killed by a white
man, and McIntire later dies in an Indian raid. By this time
Presley has joined the Indians, while Forrest, his brother,
tries to avenge McIntire's death by attacking the Kiowas singlehandedly.
He ambushes and kills the chief but is severely wounded. Presley
ties his brother to a horse and sends him to safety while
fighting off the attacking tribe. Eden then tends to Forrest's
wounds and tries to keep him in bed, but Forrest struggles
off to help Presley. However, in the end he can only watch
as the mortally wounded Presley rides off into the mountains
violent western about prejudice focuses on the consequences
of racism, rather than the causes. Siegel's crafty direction
shapes the material into a strong story, and the film proves
that, with an intelligent script, Presley could be a forceful
film is refreshingly lacking in the record-peddling that dominates
other Presley vehicles (there isn't a song sung after the
first 10 minutes). The script was initially written for Marlon
Brando by Johnson, then rewritten for Presley by Huffaker.
Ten minutes were cut from the original version of the film.
western with strong performances by all the leads, including
Elvis. As half-breed Indian, Pacer Burton, Elvis shines in
an unusual role. Along with his performances in Jailhouse
Rock, King Creole and Wild In The Country, Elvis's delivery
in Flaming Star offered a significant glimpse of his potential
as a dramatic actor. A solid supporting cast includes everyone's
favourite genie, Barbara Eden, Steve Forrest and seasoned
actors John McIntyre and Dolores Del Rio. The direction is
tight, the script first-rate and the drama builds very effectively
throughout the film. One of the more serious Elvis films with
its theme of racial prejudice and (for the times) quite strong
violent content. Fans hated the ending where the mortally
wounded Elvis rides off to the hills to die.
Star Trivia: Flaming Star was banned in South Africa as
it contravened that country's strict laws on racial separation.
IN THE COUNTRY: Philip Dunne, 1961, 112 minutes
Dunne (Director of Wild In The Country): What really surprised
me was the extraordinary talent of Elvis Presley. He took
to the part as if he had been a dramatic actor all his life,
with particular feeling for Odet's colorful and poetic dialogue…I
began to feel that between us we were creating a new dramatic
Guide rating: 2.5 stars
is a backwoods delinquent youngster who, after a fight, is
paroled into the care of his crooked uncle, a tonic manufacturer.
He also must pay weekly visits to psychiatrist Lange, a widow,
who discovers a talent for writing in the young man and nurses
it along, finally becoming attracted to him. In the meantime,
Presley is carrying on with the pushy Weld and the more reserved
Perkins. Instead of concerning himself with romance, he concentrates
on his education and leaves for college, presumably to become
a literary giant.
well-versed fellow also manages a few tunes: "In My Way,"
"I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell" (Fred Weiss, Ben Weidman),
"Lonely Man" (Bennie Benjamin, Sol Marcus), "Wild in the Country"
(Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore, George David Weiss). Presley's
character may be tough to swallow, but he makes the attempt
in an enjoyable dramatic role that was a change from the typical
swooning and singing pictures he churned out. One of the less-than-memorable
efforts of screenwriter Odets, the once proletarian dramatist
("Golden Boy," "Awake and Sing") who turned to Hollywood in
the middle 1940s after several successes on Broadway.
of the critics of WILD IN THE COUNTRY called the premise--a
country boy from the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia being groomed
for a career in literature--unconvincing and romantic, without
realizing that the author, J.R. Salamanca, may have based
part of his story on the poet and novelist Jesse Stuart (Taps
for_ Private Tussy), who came out of the hills of Kentucky
to become the toast of New York literary circles in the 1930s
In The Country is underrated. As Elvis's only melodrama, it
is slowly paced but rich in characterisation. Elvis's moody
persona is well balanced by temptress Tuesday Weld, while
Hope Lange and John Ireland are solid in their more middle
of the road roles. It also features Elvis in arguably (Love
Me Tender excluded) his most unusual and unromantic role -
as a young man with great writing ability. Wild In The Country
benefits from only having a few Elvis songs, in fact Lonely
Man was cut from most prints of the movie. The slow pace of
the movie and lack of songs will turn many fans off, but if
you persist with it the movie is surprisingly satisfying by
its end. Wild In The Country Trivia: Readers of Teen magazine
voted Elvis and Tuesday Weld the 'Damp Raincoat Award for
Most Disappointing Performers of 1961'.
HAWAII: Norman Taurog, 1961, 103 minutes
Guide rating: **
Gates (Elvis Presley) returns home to Hawaii after a stint
in the Army only to defy his parents (Roland Winters and Angela
Lansbury), who want him to follow them in the family pineapple-growing
empire. Striking out on his own, Chad becomes a guide for
the tourist agency where his girl friend (Joan Blackman) works
but quickly gets in trouble when he is assigned to escort
a group of teenage girls and their teacher around Honolulu.
Lots of tunes, romance, and misunderstandings later, Chad
is ready to settle down with his love and start his own agency.
Depending on your level of Elvis fandom, you'll either find
this a typically fluffy Presley vehicle with mainly forgettable
tunes--save the hit "I Can't Help Falling in Love"--or none
of that will matter.
first of the Elvis 'travelogues'. Blue Hawaii was such a big
hit at the box office (while dramatic films such as Flaming
Star and Wild In The Country experienced significantly lesser
box office receipts) that it became the prototype for most
of Elvis's early to mid 1960s films. Exotic, romantic locales,
complemented by a bevy of beautiful girls, a regular dose
of happy Elvis tunes and obligatory love songs and exciting
occupations for the lead became the norm after Blue Hawaii.
The 'boy meets girl-boy loses girl-boy wins girl back' concept
was highly successful for a few years but gradually fans grew
tired of the same old thing.
Hawaii is a good film. Colourful Hawaiian land and seascapes
complement well crafted performances from the lead characters
(and what a scream Angela Lansbury is as Elvis's mother!).
The plot is thin but was never expected to be anything more
- its Elvis, fun times and great music that the fans wanted.
Blue Hawaii certainly delivers on that score. The soundtrack
album was #1 on the Billboard Top Album charts for 20 consecutive
Hawaii Trivia: Blue Hawaii was banned in Mexico because
on the unruly behaviour of Elvis fans during screenings there
of G.I. Blues
GALAHAD: Phil Karlson, 1962, 95 minutes
Guide rating: **
makers of KID GALAHAD adapted the 1937 original starring Edward
G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart, added several songs for Elvis
Presley to sing, and came in with a running length six minutes
shorter than that of the first film. Obviously, the story--which
had already been recirculated, with a circus background, in
THE WAGONS ROLL AT NIGHT--was truncated, but this remains
a passable remake.
Walter Gulick (Presley) is a sparring partner at a training
camp operated by Willy Grogan (Gig Young) and Dolly Fletcher
(Lola Albright). Willy detects talent in Walter and convinces
him to turn pro--over the objections of Dolly, who dubs Walter
"Kid Galahad" after he saves her from the clutches of some
gangsters. The Kid wins some fights, falls in love with Rose
(Joan Blackman), Dolly's sister, and wants to quit the game
after his next bout. But Willy owes money to crook Otto Danzig
(David Lewis) and decides that the only way to repay the debt
is to set the Kid up against a much more experienced opponent,
prompting Dolly to walk out on her partner.
ensure the Kid's loss, Danzig tries to bribe the Kid's trainer
(Charles Bronson), who gets his hands broken as a punishment
when he refuses. The Kid wins, however, Willy is forgiven,
and the Kid gets to retire with his girl. Elvis isn't called
upon to play anything but the nice, soft-spoken lad he really
was in those days, and Bronson is excellent as his trainer,
underplaying his role in the style that became his trademark.
Elvis sings a number of songs, including "King of the Whole
Wide World," "This Is Living," "I Got Lucky," "A Whistling
Tune," "Home Is Where the Heart Is," "Riding the Rainbow,"
and "Love Is for Lovers."
as a singing pugilist! What will they think of next. If that
combination isn't weird enough watch the contrast in Kid Galahad
between the corny soap opera love angles and the hard-hitting
violence of mob involvement in the fight game. Elvis is OK,
Oscar winner Gig Young is wasted while future superstar, Charles
Bronson, is particularly effective as Elvis's trainer. The
music is pleasant without being particularly memorable - there
are no stand out songs or hits. Several critics have praised
the fight scenes in Kid Galahad, personally I don't find them
particularly convincing. Kid Galahad is entertaining but is
certainly no Rocky!
GIRLS! GIRLS!: Norman Taurog, 1962, 101 minutes
Guide rating: 2.5 stars
year and several pictures after making BLUE HAWAII, director
Taurog and actor Presley returned to the Aloha state for GIRLS!
GIRLS! GIRLS! (no question but that Presley could churn out
musicals). Here Elvis takes on the role of a Hawaiian charter-boat
captain who is suddenly without a boat. By day Presley fishes
for tuna; by night he sings in a nightclub, trying to come
up with enough cash to buy the sailboat that once belonged
to his father. Two women play prominent roles in Presley's
life: chanteuse Stevens (singing for the first time in movies)
and Goodwin (a rich girl who pretends not to be). Both are
after Presley's heart, but it's Goodwin who gets it--although
when she buys his dad's boat for Presley, it's nearly curtains
for the romance (sure).
numbers: "The Nearness of You" (Ned Washington, Hoagy Carmichael,
sung by Stevens); "Never Let Me Go" (Jay Livingston, Ray Evans,
sung by Stevens); "Girls, Girls, Girls" (Jerry Leiber, Mike
Stoller); "Return to Sender," "We're Coming In Loaded" (Otis
Blackwell, Winfield Scott); "A Boy like Me, A Girl like You,"
"Song of the Shrimp," "Earth Boy," "The Walls Have Ears" (Sid
Tepper, Roy C. Bennett), "Thanks to the Rolling Sea," "Because
of You," "Where Do We Come From?" (Ruth Batchelor, Bob Roberts);
"We'll Be Together, Mama" (Charles O'Curran, Dudley Brooks);
"I Don't Wanna Be Tied" (Bill Giant, Bernie Baum, Florence
Kaye); "I Don't Want To" (Janice Torre, Fred Spielman).
rating: 2.5 stars
formula vehicle works nicely. The plot is reasonably well
constructed and the acting sound without being outstanding.
As usual, Elvis cruises through his part as a charter boat
captain and nightclub singer, and the kids almost steal the
picture. The Hawaiian locales are as usual colourful and the
14 songs are a diverse but effective mix. Elvis ends up with
nice girl Laurel Goodwin, personally I found Stella Stevens
more appealing. Apparently (in real life) Stella Stevens didn't
think much of Elvis or his talent…there again whatever happened
THAT DREAM: Gordon Douglas, 1962, 109 minutes
Guide rating: 2.5 stars
Presley vehicle sees him as an Army vet in Florida. He joins
forces with O'Connell and four adorable orphans--including
19-year-old Helm, who loves Presley from afar--against a gang
of thugs trying to steal the family's squatters' rights to
some unclaimed land. Presley uses some new judo moves, fending
off a nosey parker from the state's welfare department, and
croons five songs along the way: "Follow That Dream" (Fred
Wise, Ben Weisman), "What a Wonderful Life" (Sid Wayne, Jerry
Livingston), "I'm Not the Marrying Kind" (Mack David, Sherman
Edwards), "Sound Advice" (Bill Giant, Bernie Baum, Florence
Kaye), "Angel" (Sid Tepper). For Elvis fans only.
of Elvis's better light comedies. Elvis is very good as the
backwoods boy helping his Pa fight bureaucracy. Arthur O'Connell
(to be seen again as Elvis's Pa in Kissin' Cousins) is effective
as are Elvis's siblings in the movie. Follow That Dream is
one of those easy to watch movies perfect for all the family
on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Sure the plot is basic and some
of the comedy obvious, but it is carried off in an engagingly
pleasant way. The soundtrack is solid without being outstanding,
but by late 1962 both the artistic and music quality of Elvis
movies were starting to slip.
HAPPENED AT THE WORLD'S FAIR: Norman Taurog, 1963, 105
Guide rating: 2.5 stars
don't need much of a plot to please a diehard Elvis Presley
fan, just lots of songs and the King himself, and that's just
what this picture offers. Bush pilot Mike Edwards (Elvis)
goes to the 1962 World's Fair in Seattle, where he finds himself
falling in love with nurse Diane Warren (Joan O'Brien) and
taking care of adorable lost tot Sue-Lin (Vicky Tiu).
partner, Danny (Gary Lockwood), informs the welfare authorities
of the child's whereabouts in order to get Mike back in the
piloting business so the two can redeem their debt-impounded
airplane. Unknown to Mike, however, their next flight is to
be a smuggling expedition. Meanwhile, Sue-Lin, terrified of
the prospect of life in an orphanage, runs off. Mike retrieves
her on the fairgrounds and takes her to the waiting aircraft,
where he grows suspicious about the cargo and thwarts the
bad guys. What's more, he wins Diane and reunites Sue-Lin
with her uncle.
sings "I'm Falling in Love Tonight," "They Remind Me Too Much
of You" (Don Robertson), "Take Me to the Fair," "Relax" (Sid
Tepper, Roy C. Bennett), "How Would You Like to Be" (Ben Raleigh,
Mark Barkan), "Beyond the Bend" (Ben Weisman, Fred Wise, Dolores
Fuller), "One Broken Heart for Sale" (Otis Blackwell, Winfield
Scott), "Cotton Candy Land" (Ruth Batchelor, Bob Roberts),
"A World of Our Own" (Bill Giant, Bernie Baum, Florence Kaye),
"Happy Ending" (Sid Wayne, Weisman).
rating: 2.5 stars
formula Elvis vehicle lifted above many others by its setting
in Seattle at the 1962 World's Fair. The plot is routine,
direction uninspired and the songs very fluffy. Nevertheless,
the film proved to very popular with audiences and hence was
very profitable. And of course who can forget Kurt Russell's
small part as the young boy who unceremoniously kicks Elvis
in the shins. How ironic that Russell would later play Elvis
so well in Elvis The Movie and not so well (as a quasi
Elvis impersonator) in the recent 3000 Miles To Graceland.
IN ACAPULCO: Richard Thorpe, 1963, 100 minutes
Guide rating: **
a traumatic accident in the States, Mike Windgren (Elvis Presley),
a vertigo-afflicted trapeze artist, turns up at an Acapulco
resort hotel working as a lifeguard and singer. There, he
falls in love with Margarita Dauphine (Ursula Andress), the
hotel social director. Unfortunately, fellow lifeguard and
cliff diver extraordinaire Moreno (Alejandro Rey) also has
his eye on her. The two men battle for her affection, which
leads to the final sequence at La Quebrada, where Mike conquers
his fear of heights, does a 136-foot dive, and wins the lady's
10 forgettable numbers, FUN IN ACAPULCO is just a travelogue,
cashing in on Presley's slowly diminishing box office appeal.
Songs (all sung by Presley): "Fun in Acapulco" (Sid Wayne,
Ben Weisman), "Vino, Dinero y Amor," "Mexico," "The Bullfighter
Was a Lady" (Sid Tepper, Roy C. Bennett), "El Toro" (Bill
Giant, Bernie Baum, Florence Kaye), "Marguerita" (Don Robertson),
"(There's) No Room to Rhumba (In a Sports Car)" (Fred Wise,
Dick Manning), "I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here" (Hal Blair,
Don Robertson), "Bossa Nova Baby" (Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller),
"You Can't Say No in Acapulco" (Dee Fuller, Lee Morris, Sid
Feller), "Guadalajara" (Pepe Guizar).
rating: 2.5 stars
great Acapulco scenery, a bright script and great Latin songs
lift Fun In Acapulco above many other Elvis formula vehicles.
Elvis doesn't stretch himself, but there again the script
doesn't require him too. Ursula Andress (in her US film debut)
makes a formidable heroine while young Larry Domasin as Raoul
virtually steals the picture with his cheeky and amusing antics.
music is strong, fun and very danceable. It may have a corny
title, but There's No Room To Rhuma In A Sportscar is virtually
guaranteed to get your foot tapping. Bossa Nova Baby was a
major hit single for Elvis and other pleasing tracks include
Vino, Dinero y Amor and Mexico. The climactic cliff dive scene
could have been staged more dramatically but overall this
doesn't detract from another enjoyable, fun Elvis matinee.
LAS VEGAS: George Sidney, 1964, 85 minutes
publicity: That Go-Go Guy and that Bye-Bye Gal in the
Fun Capital of the World.
publicity: Elvis is at the wheel. But Ann-Margret drives
Guide rating: 3.5 stars
one really good musical, mainly because it features a female
costar, Ann-Margret, who can match the coiffed one in the
charisma stakes. Elvis plays Lucky Jackson, a race-car driver
who comes to Las Vegas to compete in the upcoming Grand Prix
against his arch-rival, Count Elmo Cancini (Cesare Danova).
To earn money for a new engine, Presley takes a job as a waiter
at a casino, romancing swimming teacher Rusty Martin (Ann-Margret)
and singing songs in his spare time before the race.
include: "The Lady Loves Me" (Sid Tepper, Roy C. Bennett);
"Viva Las Vegas," "I Need Somebody to Lean On," (Doc Pomus);
"What'd I Say" (Ray Charles); "Come On, Everybody" (Stanley
Chianese); "Today, Tomorrow and Forever" (Bill Giant, Bernie
Baum, Florence Kaye); "If You Think I Don't Need You" (Bob
"Red" West); "Appreciation," "My Rival" (Marvin More, Bernie
Wayne); "The Climb," "The Yellow Rose of Texas" (Don George);
and "The Eyes of Texas Are upon You."
probably make some enemies here but I actually don't really
like Viva Las Vegas. While I've rated it three stars for its
strong production values, it has always been an Elvis movie
I've found hard to get into. Ann-Margret is undoubtedly a
great co-star (in fact she gets to outshine Elvis in their
music/dance scenes) and the story line is sound. The supporting
performances are certainly good but with the exception of
the great Ray Charles number, What'd I Say, the soundtrack
is average. As for the climactic race scenes they lack real
credibility, seeming too rushed in the way they have been
shot (this possibly a deliberate ploy to make the action seem
more dramatic*). Anyway, what would I know.
Having later seen Viva Las Vegas at the cinema I must
say that the race scenes are much more effective on the big
John Rich, 1964, 101 minutes
Guide rating: 2.5 stars
a fracas at the coffee house where he sings, Presley hits
the road and lands a job as a handyman at the carnival run
by Stanwyck. Presley by any other name still being Presley,
it isn't long before he's singing (some 11 songs) and attracting
throngs of young people to the carnival to hear him. Of course,
he's also attracted the attention of the lovely Freeman, who
talks him into returning to the carnival after a fight with
a patron sends Presley packing and leaves Stanwyck in big
better than average Presley fare, ROUSTABOUT boasts a better
cast than most of the King's films--with Stanwyck's presence
lending the production status. There are recognizable names,
though, all the way to the end of the credits--Albertson,
Welch (in her film debut), Kiel, and Barty, as well as Playboy's
Miss November of 1958, Staley.
sings "Roustabout," "Poison Ivy League," "One-Track Heart"
(Bill Giant, Bernie Baum, Florence Kaye); "Little Egypt" (Jerry
Leiber, Mike Stoller); "Wheels on My Heels," "It's a Wonderful
World" (Sid Tepper, Roy C. Bennett); "It's Carnival Time"
(Ben Weisman, Sid Wayne); "Carny Town" (Fred Wise, Randy Starr);
"Hard Knocks," "There's a Brand New Day on the Horizon" (Joy
Byers); "Big Love, Big Heartache" (Dolores Fuller, Lee Morris,
light comedy successful for the strong performances of its
supporting cast, notably Oscar winner Barbara Stanwyck and
The High Chapparall's Leif Erickson. The soundtrack is short
and fluffy but enjoyable (the soundtrack album runs for just
over 20 minutes yet made #1 in the US!). The plot is thin
and the carnival setting adds some atmosphere. Look for Raquel
Welch in a bit part in the opening scenes.
to read Part 2
article was originally written in November 2001 and updated
in March 2005.