Elaine Beckett Interview

Elvis' Easy Come Easy Go co-star Talks to EIN

EIN Exclusive Interview by Piers Beagley

Elaine Beckett was born in England, qualified with an Arts Degree and yet was somehow destined to be a co-star in Elvis’ 1966 movie ‘Easy Come, Easy Go’.

Elaine Beckett still lives in LA and it was through a connection with her fine work for ‘The Humane Society Of the US’ that EIN managed to track her down for an interview about her amazing career and her time with Elvis.

Elaine Beckett not only worked with Elvis but met a multitude of fascinating people in her life in Arts and the movies..

(Right; Elaine Beckett with Elvis)

EIN's Piers Beagley recently caught up with Elaine Beckett to talk about her amazing life...

Elaine Beckett was born in England, qualified with an Arts Degree and yet was somehow destined to be a co-star in Elvis’ 1966 movie ‘Easy Come, Easy Go’.
Elaine Beckett still lives in LA and it was through a connection with her fine work for ‘The Humane Society Of the US’ that EIN managed to track her down for an interview about her amazing career and her time with Elvis.

EIN: It’s lovely to speak with you at last. I believe you were born in the England but ended up working in Hollywood. How did that happen?

Elaine Beckett: Yes, I was born and raised in Lancashire in countryside North West England.
My mother and I came over here in 1957 to Los Angeles.
What got me into the acting business in the mid-60s - (laughing) well I suppose blonde hair and blue eyes do it every time! I was walking down the street in Beverly Hills with my mother when someone tapped her on the shoulder and said would you like your daughter to be in movies? I was only a teenager. The person was an MGM talent scout. It wouldn’t happen like that nowadays.

EIN: It sounds like one of those unbelievable movie stories - so what happened?

EB: They took me over to the studio. I met some incredible people and they put me in some class they were having for young movie hopefuls. There I also met Pat Wayne (John’s son) and I was a very studious soul. I took my work seriously and really wanted to go to University so I don’t think they understood what to do with me. I had no experience with film or acting at all but I caught on very quickly. And they put me in a few little roles, although the film I did with Elvis was out at Paramount.

Two of Elaine Beckett's publicity photos from the sixties.

So I did some acting, modelling and TV commercials and these helped me make some decent money to fund my university career. I have been in Alberto Vo5, Dove, Colgate, commercials and plenty of car commercials. After I got my bachelors degree, I worked for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It was then in late 1966, because I still had an agent, that I was cast for a 10 day, two weeks stint, on Easy Come, Easy Go.

EIN: What was it like for you at this point to be told that you were going to be in an Elvis movie - because of the course by then they were pretty low-grade low-budget affairs?

EB: Actually Elvis had not made such an impression on me because I was rather square! I still preferred Pat Boone and in our household we listened to classical music. So whereas everyone else working on the movie was awe-struck I had a different reaction. Elvis was indeed a lovely man. He was everything that everyone who worked in his movies says he was. He was handsome, he was sweet he was kind, he was shy, generous, he was all of those things. Elvis was a lovely, lovely man. But when we did some of those rather intimate scenes that we filmed I was not as over-awed as perhaps the others, because Elvis as a star did not mean that much to me at the time.

Elaine Beckett (left) with Pat Priest (centre)

EIN: And they had poor old Elvis standing in a rubber suit!

EB: Yes, it was demeaning, he hated that. Elvis had never been scuba diving before and he had never worn that kind of gear. He was not particularly happy with it. It has been said in other interviews he was afraid, not really comfortable with open water and not comfortable in the water. He did not want to do any of those stunts.

EIN: There is a quote from director John Rich where said that he felt Elvis was just being tortured by then.

EB: Yes, but of course as the crew we had no idea what was going on backstage. Elvis wasn’t desperately unhappy and had a comfortable relationship with everybody working on the film.
We all wanted him to be more like one of us and we got the feeling that he would have liked to have been, but The Colonel and his entourage just grabbed him as soon as he’d finished his part and took him off to the side. Elvis never got to be part of the fun and comfortable experience that we all had while making the movie where you all, usually, become a team for a while.

EIN: Was it good working with John Rich?

EB: John Rich was a terrific guy, a wonderful man, with a very happy comfortable crew but it could have been a more spectacular movie in every sense. It was Elvis’ last film with Hal Wallis and John Rich, they just wanted to get the film over with. They cut the budget and Elvis did not get the lead he wanted to which was not Pat Priest, although she was a wonderful woman. It was supposed to be Suzanna Leigh. If Elvis was not particularly happy doing the film, Wallis and John Rich also weren’t thrilled because the budget was cut.

EIN: You did about two weeks on the movie didn’t you?

EB: Including pre-production, yes I did. They would film sometimes on the deck of the boat and then Elvis and I would go down below while other scenes were being done. We were that close, he was sweet and because he recognised that I was from England - we talked about the Beatles. I didn’t have a deep understanding of his music per se, so we weren’t musical pals in that sense but we did have some nice conversations.
I perhaps mentioned that I was raised in a convent, Elvis was a religious young man who did take his faith seriously and that was part of his sweetness I think. They were nice conversations - he was terrific.

For the film Elvis had very black hair, I thought it was terribly dyed and artificial which I didn’t like. He was such a good-looking young man, he should have let it be more natural. The first time I met Elvis was actually on the boat when we were filming, and then we’d get off the boat and stop on Avalon beach on Catalina Island. But as acting was not my main profession I was perhaps not quite as excited as my other co-stars.

A French lobby card for their re-named film, "Three Guys, Two Girls and One Treasure"
Fascinatingly for an Elvis movie promotion the lobby-card uses no image of Elvis, instead it features co-star Skip Ward - with Catalina Island in the background.

EIN: On the boat he was in his stifling scuba rubber suit. So could he not wait to get out of it or was he forced to go below deck while still wearing it waiting for more shots to be done?

EB: Well he was certainly a professional and never complained. Or if he did none of us knew that. Remember this was 48 years ago but I do remember the weather was good and we were off Catalina Island so the situation itself was fun.

We just all wished that Elvis could have joined the crew, just have dinner with us all and relax. But that was not to be because he was such a unique individual and talent and he just felt more comfortable with his pals.

Elvis did however come to the wrap party and - similarly to other actors I have worked with such as Rock Hudson and Angela Lansbury - Elvis was extremely cordial, said thanks and chatted to everybody. This was not always the case with big stars where sometimes the main actors are very aloof and disinterested in the other players. Elvis certainly knew who he was and knew what it would means to all of us to individually say thanks. He personally said thank you, gave us kisses and held our hands - he was a very generous spirit.

Above: Two publicity shots of Elvis and Elaine Beckett that featured in the press

EIN: There is a little dance party scene in Easy Come, Easy Go with a room packed full of people, you weren’t by chance part of that crowd we’re you?

EB: No, sadly for me it was just the Catalina stuff, going up and down on the boat getting seasick. Unfortunately I never saw Elvis singing a song, that would have been very special. (laughing) I’m not sure about ‘Yoga Is As Yoga Does’ though - he must have cringed doing that!

EIN: Hal Wallis had been with him since 1956, surely he must have known that Elvis would not be happy doing subaqua scenes. Why on earth did he make him a singing, sub-aqua bomb diffuser expert on the last film. It almost seems as if there was something vindictive on the part of Hal Wallis making Elvis do that?

EB: Well, Hal Wallis would have OK’d the script. Elvis wasn’t happy and John Rich wasn’t happy either. It couldn’t have been the most pleasant of script choices, but everyone had to do it and get the contract finished and they did.

EIN: Do you think Col Parker’s management let him down?

EB: Elvis certainly had more talent that he was never allowed to express. If only he had been given a longer leash, perhaps gone to Europe or given better movie roles. Now of course actors fight for every chance to stretch themselves as actors, even doing roles that will challenge their general audience. They do take those risks. Elvis was never allowed to do that.
I guess the contract that was signed by Parker was for so many movies a year. Elvis never made a stand like for instance Bette Davis who told the studios, "To hell with this, this is beneath my talents. I don’t want to the same thing again and again."

EIN: After the film finished did you keep in contact with any of their crew from the movie like Pat Priest or Dodie Marshall?

EB: No. In fact I went back to university, did a Master’s Degree in fine arts and opened my own arts studio. Everyone had moved on to other projects and for me it was part-time fun work.
The movie business can be, as we all know, sometimes not so pleasant when you’re waiting for the movie parts to turn up. I knew friends who felt very stressed and under pressure and in some ways I was glad to move on and use my arts degree.
And then I had the chance to also meet Andy Warhol and others - it was a very exciting time to be in the arts in those days. Timothy Leary would drop by - it was the 60s!

EIN: it was an amazingly creative time, that period, compared to post-war conservatism.

EB: Of course when you’re meeting them at the time you wouldn’t realise what place they would hold in the future in arts history. I met so many people, practically everyone, the only people I didn’t meet was The Beatles.
At the time The Mamas and Papas lived just down the road. I still say hello to Michelle Phillips who is the last surviving original member as she still lives down the road.

Coincidentally my stepfather also sold Elvis many of his Cadillacs as he had a Cadillac dealership. He also told me what a wonderful man Elvis was.

Being British I also connected and chatted with actors like David Niven and Peter Lawford and I met Alfred Hitchcock. Those were the days, it was fantastic.
As you know the story of Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren is quite something. Being part of the Humane Society I still know Tippi Hedren who is an animal rights activist who cares for animal welfare and has presented for us at the Genesis Awards. She is still very active.

EIN: That all sounds an amazing set of contacts over the years. So what are you doing now?

EB: I am still very busy helping with multiple non-profit organisations including many that support animal rights and welfare. Groups I mentioned like ‘The Humane Society of the US’ and their associated Genesis Awards (see note below). I also still follow my arts and continue to paint fine portraits in oil for commissions and for my own pleasure. (see portrait below)

EIN: It sounds like you had a fantastic life.

EB: I have - and I am still trekking on!

Right: Elaine Beckett recently at The Humane Society Genesis Awards and with the wonderful British actress Virginia McKenna (from the movie 'Born Free').

Virginia McKenna helped initiate the organisation 'Born Free USA' a national non-profit animal advocacy group who's mission is to end the suffering of wild animals in captivity and more... 

Please go here to find out more about the The Humane Society of the United States.

The Genesis Awards are awarded annually by The Humane Society of the United States to individuals in the major news and entertainment media for producing outstanding works which raise public awareness of animal issues.
The awards have honored such well-known personalities as Aaron Sorkin, Anderson Cooper, Peter Gabriel, Ellen DeGeneres, Jane Goodall, Michael Jackson, David E. Kelley, Sir Paul McCartney, Arthur Miller, Stephen Colbert, Oprah Winfrey, Prince, and Jacques Cousteau, as well as journalists, film and documentary writers and producers, print and broadcast news outlets in the United States.

Interview by Piers Beagley.
-Copyright EIN October 2014
EIN Website content © Copyright the Elvis Information Network.

Click here to comment on this interview

THANKS as always to EIN's good friend Joan Gansky for the contact.

Right: One of Elaine's recent oil paintings

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