Elvis

I’m familiar with Elvis. I grew up during the years of his popularity, although I was too young to be swept up in it. I watched a lot of his movies on TV when I was in high school. A couple years ago, I decided to watch them all one more time. I finished the last one tonight.

Love Me Tender (1956) — Vance Reno returns home from the Civil War to discover that his family thought him dead and his girlfriend Cathy (Debra Paget) has married his kid brother Clint (Elvis). That part was interesting for a while, but then it became a silly chase movie involving Union soldiers chasing Vance for money he stole while in the Confederate army. Clint thinks Vance is running off with Cathy and shoots him in the arm, then feels badly about it and gets killed by some random guy who was only in the movie to cause trouble. Elvis sang four songs, three of which didn’t sound (or look) like Civil War-era songs. — 5

Loving You (1956) — Elvis plays Deke Rivers, a small-town delivery boy with a lot of singing talent. He’s discovered by Glenda Markle (Lizabeth Scott) who makes him the next big thing and exploits him until Deke gets uncomfortable and flees. Glenda realizes she’s been a jerk and tears up Deke’s contract. Deke comes back, but on his own terms. Dolores Hart is along to provide a love interest. I liked the film except that Lizabeth Scott’s character was just creepy. — 6

Jailhouse Rock (1957) — Elvis plays Vince Everett, a young man in prison for manslaughter resulting from a bar fight. His cellmate is Hunk, an old country-western singer who encourages him to become a singer. When Vince gets out, he teams up with Peggy (Judy Tyler), a promoter who helps him get his start. Once Vince becomes famous, he gets conceited and acts like a jerk to Peggy and everybody else. Hunk, now out of prison, decides to teach him a lesson by beating him up. Vince’s throat is damaged, but when he recovers, he realizes what a jerk he’s been to Hunk and Peggy and everything is wonderful. It’s pretty hard to root for Vince as Elvis plays him in this movie, or to figure out why Peggy or anybody else would like him. I was rooting for somebody to punch him early on. — 5

King Creole (1958) — Elvis is Danny Fisher, a tough kid in New Orleans who is forced to find his own way when his loser father can’t keep a job. Danny gets hired as a singer in a nightclub but soon runs foul of Maxie Fields (Water Matthau, who has a grand time playing the bad guy) who owns most of the sleazy joints in town. There’s a big muddle as Danny gets involved with Maxie’s girl (played by Carolyn  Jones, who played the mother on The Adams Family) and good girl Nellie (Dolores Hart, who quit acting three years later to become a nun). Maxie blackmails Danny into helping with a robbery in which Danny’s father is injured. There seems to be no way out until all the inconvenient people get murdered pretty much all at once and those still alive live happily ever after. Most of the songs actually happen on stages in nightclubs instead of on random streets and beaches and some of them aren’t bad. Elvis plays his role convincingly considering the whole thing is film noir melodrama. — 6

G.I. Blues (1960) — There wasn’t much of a plot. Singing soldier takes bet he can spend the night with dancing girl (Juliet Prowse), falls for her, tries to get out of the bet and … they get married. There wasn’t even a moment when it looked like she was going to dump him. But at least Elvis seemed to take his acting in this early movie seriously. I’ve never been a fan of Prowse, and nothing in this movie made me change my mind. The songs were … I forget already. — 5

Flaming Star (1960) — Elvis plays Pacer, the half-breed son of a Texas rancher, who decides to join the Kiowas in their war against the Whites. When his father is killed, Pacer returns to the ranch in time to save his brother (Steve Forrest) but is mortally injured in the process and rides off alone to die. Elvis is actually fairly convincing. He kills several people and only sings two songs. — 6

Wild in the Country (1961) — Glenn Tyler (Elvis) is a troubled young man who is sent to live with his uncle and assigned to meet with a psychologist (Hope Lange). The two soon fall in love. Glenn accidentally kills a man in a fight, but gets off and heads to college. Elvis had three girlfriends in this movie — Lange, Tuesday Weld and Millie Perkins. Sappy. I felt like I was watching a soap opera. — 5

Blue Hawaii (1962) — Chad (Elvis) is the son of a millionaire pineapple grower. His parents are upset with his beach-bum lifestyle and his Hawaiian girlfriend Maile (Joan Blackman). He becomes a tour guide for a visiting schoolteacher and four female students which results in all sorts of silliness and misunderstanding. But in the end he reconciles with his parents and marries Maile. As silly as it sounds, but fairly entertaining. — 7

Follow that Dream (1962) — Elvis is Toby Kwimper, a slow-speaking but clever lad who lives with his father and a bunch of orphans they’ve collected. The homestead is on a beach in Florida and they soon run into trouble with the authorities. A social worker interviews Toby and falls for him. When he turns her down, she reports the family to the authorities and the children are taken away. But Toby’s caginess carries the day in court and the family is reunited. Ridiculously implausible, but with a lot of charm. — 6

Kid Galahad (1962) — Walter Gulick (Elvis) is out of the army and looking for work. He signs as a sparring partner at a boxing camp and soon is fighting on his own under the name, Kid Galahad. The mob pressures him to throw a fight, but he refuses — and marries his trainer’s sister (Joan Blackman again). Actually a pretty good movie with good character development and a bit of suspense. It was a bit weird that it was interrupted every so often by a song, but still not bad. — 7

Girls! Girls! Girls! (1962) — Ross Carpenter (Elvis) is a charter boat captain in Hawaii. He’s hoping to earn enough money to buy the boat. In the meantime, he has to choose between Robin (Stells Stevens), a lounge singer and Laurel (Laurel Goodwin), a rich girl. But mostly he has to decide if he likes either of them more than he likes his boat. When Laurel buys the boat, Ross refuses her offer, but when another guy steps in to make a play for her, Ross rushes in an marries her. They agree to build a boat together and then he dances and sings a silly song. — 6

It Happened at the World’s Fair (1963) — Mike (Elvis) is an unemployed pilot who hitches a ride to the Seattle World’s Fair with a truck driver and his young niece, Sue-Lin. The uncle asks Mike to take Sue-Lin to the fair while he makes a delivery, but he gets in an accident and Mike is left caring for the girl while trying to impress Diane (Joan O’Brian), a nurse he meets at the fair. A silly, happy, harmless little movie that I started to forget before the credits were over. — 6

Fun in Acapulco (1963) — Mike (Elvis) is a trapeze artist who runs off to Mexico when an accident at the circus kills his brother. He takes a job as a life guard at a hotel pool with diving boards to try to get over his fear of heights so he can go back to America and perform again. Meanwhile, he meets a precocious orphan boy who acts as his agent and gets him singing gigs at all the hotels in town. Mike is also juggling two women — a female bull-fighter and a deposed European princess (Ursula Andress) whose father is now a chef. The princess is dating one of the Acapulco cliff divers. At the end of all this mess, Mike gets dumped by the bull-fighter because he’s too cowardly to dive, then he beats up the cliff diver so he can’t perform. He decides to take the guy’s place and jumps off the cliff and looks to be in line to marry the princess. A trapeze artist/lounge singer, a princess, a cliff diver and a lady bull fighter — there’s no saving this mess. — 3

Kissin’ Cousins (1964) — Josh (Elvis) is an army officer sent to the Smokey Mountains to convince his hillbilly cousins, the Tatums, to lease their mountain for a missile base. His cousin Jodie (also Elvis) and the other Tatums are resistant, but Azalea (Yvonne Craig) falls for Josh. To cause confusion, there’s the army and a gang of mountain women called the Kittyhawks who attack towns to get husbands (really, that’s part of the plot). Finally the Tatums agree to sign the lease as long as the army stays away from their moonshine still. A lame plot, lame songs and awful dialogue. The scenes in which Elvis appears as Josh and Jodie are particularly hard to watch. — 4

Viva Las Vegas (1964) — Lucky Jackson (Elvis) is a race-car driver in Vegas for the Grand Prix. But first he needs to raise enough money for a new engine. He meets Rusty (Ann Margaret) and they fall for each other, but Rusty wants Lucky to quit racing. Her father puts up the money for the engine, Lucky wins and marries Rusty … The plot doesn’t stand up to a lot of scrutiny, but the songs weren’t bad and Ann Margaret wasn’t as annoying as I’ve found her in other movies. — 6

Roustabout (1964) — Charlie Rogers (Elvis) is a singer who ends up with a carnival while his motorcycle is being repaired. Owner Maggie (Barbara Stanwyck) thinks Charlie can save the show from bankruptcy. He falls in love with Cathy (Joan Freeman), but her father wants no part of him. Charlie leaves, but returns in time to save the show and get together with Cathy. Elvis was a jerk in this movie for no discernible reason. A few of the songs weren’t bad, but just a few. — 6

Girl Happy (1965) — Elvis is Rusty Wells, the leader of a band in Fort Lauderdale for spring break. Their employer, Big Frank, tasks Rusty with protecting his daughter Valerie (Shelly Fabares), but Rusty soon falls in love with her. When Valerie finds out that Rusty was paid to be with her, she wants no part of him, but — surprise! — she soon changes her mind. Harmless. — 6

Tickle Me (1965) — How can a movie with a name like Tickle Me be anything but great? Lonnie Beale (Elvis) is an out-of-work rodeo cowboy who gets a job as a wrangler at an all-girl ranch/spa. (They have those?) All the girls like him, but he only has eyes for Pam (Jocelyn Lane) who is hunting for treasure her grandfather hid in a ghost town. The scene in the old hotel where Lonnie and Pam find the treasure and thwart the bad guys is ridiculous. In fact the whole movie is ridiculous, with silly songs. — 5

Harum Scarum (1965) — Action movie star Johnny Tyronne (Elvis) is kidnapped while in the middle east by a gang of assassins who think he’s a trained killer. They want him to kill the king, but Johnny only wants to get together with the king’s daughter, Shalimar (Mary Ann Mosley). They, with the help of some thieves and a troop of dancing girls, foil the plot. A train wreck of a movie with awful acting and even-more-awful songs. — 4

Frankie and Johnny (1966) — Johnny (Elvis) is a performer on a riverboat who loses his money on gambling. He and his girl Frankie have an offer to try out for Broadway (of course). When Nelly Bly shows up, Frankie gets jealous, but things soon work themselves out and, unfortunately nobody drowns. Lame plot, lame set, lame acting, lame songs. — 4

Paradise, Hawaiian Style (1966) — A chubby, bored Elvis slouches his way through lousy songs and a lousy plot. He plays Rick Richards, who is trying to start a helicopter charter service in Hawaii with his friend. But his reputation as a goof and womanizer precedes him and he’s soon in trouble. He sings some songs, charms his way out of trouble and gets the girl. — 4

Spinout (1966) — Elvis is Mike McCoy, a singing race-car driver who has three women (Shelley Fabares, Deborah Walley, Diane McBain) chasing him. After much silliness, the women all marry other men and Mike wins the race and stays single. Really stupid, but the cast seemed to enjoy themselves, which helped a little. But not much. — 5

Easy Come, Easy Go (1967) — Ted Jackson (Elvis), ex-Navy frogman, races with another guy to see who can recover sunken treasure. The other guy wants to money to impress a girl. Ted wants it to fund his girlfriend’s hippie art center. Really. Their suspenseful underwater knife fight ends when Ted fills the other guy’s wet suit with air which forces him to bob to the surface. By this time in Elvis’s career, nobody was even trying. — 4

Double Trouble (1967) — Guy Lambert (Elvis) is a singer touring Europe. He’s followed everywhere by Jill (Annette Day), a young heiress who’s in love with him. Guy is also being chased by two jewel thieves who, unbeknownst to him, have hidden diamonds in his luggage. And Jill’s uncle is trying to kill her to get her money. It all gets sorted out in slapstick fashion, and Guy and Jill get married. Silly, but with some not-awful songs. — 5

Clambake (1967) — Elvis is Scott Hayward, the son of an oil tycoon who heads to Florida and becomes a ski instructor to see if he can get a girl to love him for himself and not for his money. He falls for Dianne (Shelly Fabares), but she’s only got eyes for millionaire James Jamison (Bill Bixby). Jamison finally proposes, but not before Dianne decides she loves Scott after all. When she agrees to marry him, he lets her in on his secret. I find it difficult not to like any movie with Shelly Fabares in it. — 6

Stay Away, Joe (1968) — Elvis plays Joe Lightcloud, a rodeo rider who returns to his parents’ home on the reservation when the government gives his father Charlie (Burgess Meredith) a herd of cattle. Joe’s sister is dating a guy from town, so to impress the guy’s family, Joe’s mother sells the cattle to buy stuff for the family shack. Joe has to win a bull-riding competition to earn the money to buy the cows back before the government throws his father in jail. It’s hard to know where to begin. Elvis’ “Indian” make-up kept changing shades all through the movie. Burgess Meredith looked like a clown and scrambled around like a drunken maniac — I have no idea what his character was supposed to be. Most of the movie consisted of Joe and his friends drinking, fighting and chasing girls. The songs were pathetic, and the plot was awful and offensive. — 4

Speedway (1968) — Stock-car driver Steve Grayson (Elvis) finds out that his manager has gambled away all his money and he owes the IRS thousands. But he gets out of trouble when the IRS agent Susan (Nancy Sinatra) falls in love with him. It all made no sense, and Nancy Sinatra was creepy. — 4

Live a Little, Love a Little (1968) — Elvis is Greg Nolan, a fashion photographer who is waylaid on a beach by Bernice (Michele Carey), a strange woman with a split personality and several boyfriends. Greg tries to resist, but can’t, and in the end, gets together with her. A bizarre movie that was racier than most of Elvis’s. Bernice was very, very strange. — 5

Charro! (1969) — Jess Wade (Elvis) is trying to break away from Vince Hackett and his band of thieves. Hackett steals a memorial cannon (supposedly used to fire the last shot in the war for Mexican independence) and frames Jess. Jess manages to clear his name, return the cannon, save the town and win the girl without hitting anybody with the many shots he fires. Elvis looks tough, but doesn’t actually do much. He only sings one song, which plays over the opening titles. — 5

The Trouble with Girls (1969) — Elvis plays Walter Hale, the manager of a traveling Chautauqua show. He has to deal with the usual problems — pressure to put the mayor’s daughter in the show, a union representative (who he loves) hassling him about salaries, major acts not showing up. When a local pharmacist’s body is found in the river, the showmen are under suspicion. Walter figures out that the murderer is a local woman who did it in self defense and has her confess live on stage, both to bring in dollars, but also because it’s the only way she could get a fair hearing. Elvis sings a couple songs, but mostly he just stands around with a cigar in his mouth, looking like a bemused extra. The combination of musical, comedy and murder mystery didn’t really work. — 5

Change of Habit (1969) — Dr. John Carpenter (Elvis) runs a free clinic in the ghetto. Three nuns, including Michelle (Mary Tyler Moore) work in the clinic under a new program in which they don’t identify themselves as nuns. John falls in love with Michelle before he discovers she’s a nun. The movie ends with Michelle debating whether to remain a nun or leave the sisterhood and marry the good doctor. The movie tried to address social issues, but it did so in such a simplistic way that it was insulting. Elvis probably could have been a good actor if he’d been given good roles. If … — 5

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