Follow That Dream

"Homesteading on a public beach has never been so much fun"

(MGM, 1962, Color, Running time: 1 hour 49 minutes)

Based on Richard Powell's best selling novel, 'Pioneer Go Home', Follow That Dream was Elvis' ninth movie. With its summery Florida locale, swaying palm trees and white sands, it was good natured, well filmed and welcomed by theater critics.

The reviews included:

"Lively, warm-hearted...guaranteed to have you rocking with laughter!" (Boxoffice)

"Amusing and fast-paced" (Variety)

Elvis does very well as the naive, but well meaning, resourceful and very practical, backwoods born and bred, Toby Kwimper. He conveys a lot of hillbilly charm. In fact it is one of the few roles where Elvis actually gets to act!

The film plot is simple but well constructed under the able direction of Gordon Douglas. Simply put, it is a fish out of water tale of old values versus new values...a tension still apparent, in fact increasingly apparent, today!

There are numerous rib tickling scenes in what is a highly enjoyable, funny, family movie based around the American tradition of 'respecting private property at all times'. As the major plot device this is very clever and drives much of the film's humor.

Elvis appears for most of the film with his shirt unbuttoned. While this will undubtedly please female viewers, it also exemplifies the ongoing battle Elvis had to fight with his weight (as early as 1962!)

Follow That Dream is also a film that gives social workers a bad name, and while there are several examples of sexism (eg. "woman are natural nesters"), these were not politically incorrect statements in 1962.

However, the film has great social merit as well. It is the movie that tells teenage boys how to effectively deal with that "only one thing on their mind" dilemma (even if Joanna Moore as the temptress social worker has a Freudian take on it). However, Toby's solution is probably very close to reality.

There are only five (full) songs in Follow That Dream and most seem to occur in the first half of the film:

  • Follow That Dream
  • What A Wonderful Life
  • I'm Not the Marrying Kind
  • Sound Advice
  • Angel

They are fine upbeat, early 60s pop. (Although I did find it somewhat disconcerting listening to Elvis warbling a tune with guitar in hand with an invisible band also present...or should that be a "virtual" band?)

A highlight of Follow That Dream are the cutting, classic lines throughout the movie, for example:

(on the frustrations with bureaucracy) "You do nothing for a single, solitary sole, and that's because you're pretending you're doing something for everyone...the public"

(and again) "How can you get your hat on with your head so crooked?"

Supporting Cast: In 1962 production values for Elvis films were still quite high and it shows in Follow That Dream. Apart from the highly amusing script, there is a wonderful supporting cast of colorful characters.

The "well-built" Holly (Anne Helm) provides an effective love interest for Toby (Elvis) who claims not to be the marrying kind. Arthur O'Connell as (shades of Elvis) 'guitar toting, hip swivelling' Pa is a hoot as the bedrock of the extended family. He would later turn up in a not dissimilar role in Kissin' Cousins. Joanna Moore is convincing, if unconvincing, as the lusty (and sometimes wet) social worker, Alicia Claypoole. The young twins are played by Gavin and Robin Koon and they have several scene stealing moments.

The minor roles are very competently performed by actors familiar to watchers of 1960s TV and films. Simon Oakland is Nick the gangster boss, Herbert Rudley is suitably reserved and confident as the bank manager (Mr. Endicott), while Howard McNear excels in his oft reprised role as the stressed out, budding executive, George Binkley.

Trivia buffs should look out for F-Troop's Chief Wild Eagle (Frank deKova) as a Detroit gangster) and My Favorite Martian's Detective Brennan (Alan Hewitt) as the snarly bureaucrat. Red West appears as a bank security guard.

I recommend you also check out Elvis' hair color during the opening credits and compare it to later in the film.

Production values: as I noted earlier, Follow That Dream exhibits solid production values. There is significant use of exterior, location shooting, set design is very good and the costuming faultless. A good script, solid cast and nice balance between narrative and songs also help to shape a professionally made and highly enjoyable movie. Unfortunately the public wanted more of Elvis singing (ala Blue Hawaii and Girls! Girls! Girls!), and paradoxically this would be a contributing factor to the decline of the Elvis film in subsequent years.

Technical data: The US version we watched comes as a double sided disc with the original theatrical widescreen or letterbox format (2.35:1) and standard TV screen format. The audio is powered by Dolby Difital but limited being only English (and Spanish) mono. Still the audio is clear. There are English, Spanish and French sub-titles.

The picture is clear without outstanding. There is good color saturation but the print would have benefited from digital enhancement (it appears to be a basic video to DVD transfer) and the night scenes come across as muted. There were no print imperfections noticeable on my copy.

A negative is that there is no 'scene selection' option.

The only extra is the original theatrical trailer. The DVD case is in full color with an "airbrushed" Elvis on the front cover.

Verdict: "I'll be doggone. Follow That Dream is a ripping good yarn for the old'uns and young'uns. Y'all come back hear me!"

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