Frankie & Johnny 1966 is an oddity in Elvis’ filmography. A quaint musical comedy based on the popular song which had already inspired a similarly-titled film from 1936 starring Helen Morgan,d featured in the Mae West's movie SHE DONE HIM WRONG (1933) and in Robert Altman’s A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION (2006) Elvis Movies. Elvis films can be divided into 3 distinct categories. His pre-army films, the 60’s travelogues & two documentaries. When Elvis signed a 7-year movie deal in ‘58, Hollywood was still run under the old studio system which disallowed an actor any creative input.
With the void created by James Dean’s death, Hollywood cashed-in on the lucrative teenage market. Pre-Army Movies: Love Me Tender - Loving You - Jailhouse Rock - King Creole. Post-Army Movies: Twenty-Seven Special Duds? Elvis 60’s films say more about Hollywood then Elvis’ acting abilities. The answer to why Hollywood sanitized Elvis the actor can simply be called greed. Because Blue Hawaii set a precedent of not stretching Elvis as an actor & filling the genre with lots of songs and it made millions -the studio just repeated the formula 27 times until even the most loyal Elvis fans stayed away. The question often asked would Elvis have given an Oscar award-winning performance had he taken up Barbra Streisand’s offer to co-star in A Star is Born.
5 G.I. Blues (1960)
6 Flaming Star (1960)
7 Wild in the Country (1961)
8 Blue Hawaii (1961)
9 Follow That Dream (1962)
10 Kid Galahad (1962)
11 Girls! Girls! Girls! (1962)
12 It Happened At the World’s Fair (1963)
13 Fun in Acapulco (1963)
14 Kissin’ Cousins (1964)
15 Viva Las Vegas (1964)
16 Roustabout (1964)
17 Girl Happy (1965)
18 Tickle Me (1965)
19 Harum Scarum (1965)
20 Frankie & Johnny (1966)
21 Paradise Hawaiian Style (1966)
22 Spinout (1966)
23 Easy Come, Easy Go (1967)
24 Double Trouble (1967)
25 Clambake (1967)
26 Stay Away, Joe (1968)
27 Speedway (1968)
28 Live A Little, Love A Little (1968)
29 Charro! (1969)
30 The Trouble With Girls (1969)
31 Change of Habit (1969)
“Singers come and go. But if you a good actor you can last a long time , ” Elvis Presley (1956) By the time Elvis arrived in Hollywood, he had already conquered the music business with 2 hits, Heartbreak Hotel and Hound Dog. He had also stirred a national controversy on television with his gyrating performances. His fame was now set to rise to a new plateau - motion pictures. Elvis always loved movies. In high school, he worked as an usher in a local theatre. Even after he started his singing career, he longed to be an actor as well. When music skyrocketed him to fame the dream of Hollywood suddenly came within reach. Elvis truly believed that being a successful actor would bring him longevity as a celebrity. As it turned out, his movie appearances combined most effectively with his unprecedented musical success established him as the most important entertainer of our time.
Elvis Presley’s first four films, Love Me Tender, Loving You, Jailhouse Rock & King Creole influenced the metamorphosis of popular entertainment in the 50’s. This was a precious, fleeting time in Elvis’ life and career - long before the tabloid image of the aging rock star. Barely out of his teens, Elvis burst onto the movie screen with formidable poise and conviction. He came across as moody and charismatic - a mix of sexual dynamite and enormous charm. Elvis was the rebel who instantly picked up where James Dean left off. But the image of untamed youth that Elvis projected in his first four movies would soon be history. By the time he returned from the Army in 1960 to make GI Blues & Blue Hawaii , he was no longer the rebellious, anti-hero of just a few years before. His hair was shorter, his sideburns were gone - even his music was subdued. Elvis had definitely changed - and it showed.
LOVE ME TENDER ( November 1956) a story set during the Civil War and Elvis plays Clint, the youngest of the Reno Brothers. On the first day of shooting, Elvis arrived with the entire script memorized - his lines plus those of the other actors. He told reporters: “I wouldn’t care too much about singing in the movies.” Love Me Tender was not an Elvis vehicle. He did not get top billing and he does not appear until 20 minutes into the film. He has no screen kiss but he does sing 4 songs. The movie was a major box-office smash, clearly due to Elvis’ appearance. It earned back its million-dollar production cost in less than a week. Faster than any previous Hollywood film, despite critics’ skepticism about Elvis’ acting ability. Watching Love Me Tender Elvis’ mother walked out during her son’s death scene and said that she never, ever wants to be witness to that image again. Memorable Scenes: Elvis’ first screen appearance is ploughing a field. His character introduced as young and innocent, and Elvis promotes a sincere image.
LOVING YOU (July 1957) The success story contained in Loving You closely resembles the rise to fame that Elvis was experiencing at the time. His character, Deke is introduced as a delivery boy who discovers a natural talent for performing and soon reaches national attention as a singer. In contrast to Love Me Tender Elvis appears in nearly all the scenes of Loving You, and it’s the only color Elvis movie from the 50’s. Elvis story is presented on screen in Loving You as a wholesome tale of success helping to transmit the idea that he was not such a threat to middle America after all. The soundtrack is packed with songs, establishing a formula where Elvis’ music promoted his films and vice versa. There are many outstanding musical performances in the film, along with a number of impressive acting moments.
JAILHOUSE ROCK (November 1957) This is considered by many critics to be Elvis’ most classic film. Coming at the height of his 50’s popularity, he portrays a cynical ex-convict turned pop-singer. Elvis received $250K plus 50% from the profits of the film that grossed just under $4 million, ranking #4 for the year. Elvis' dialogue features the latest slang & his wardrobe was cutting-edge rock-n-roll fashion. His manner and dress did much to reinforce his rebel image. Elvis had told the press when he first came to Hollywood, “I took this screen test where I was real happy, I didn’t like that. Then I did other one where I was mad at this guy and I liked it better. It was me.” Jailhouse Rock must have been the role Elvis was waiting for.
KING CREOLE (July 1958) was Elvis’ personal favorite. Based on the Harold Robbins’ novel A Stone For Danny Fisher, King Creole is a dark suspense-filled tale of troubled teenager who grows up quickly after a brush with society’s worst element. The role was reportedly once offered to James Dean. Shot on location in New Orleans, King Creole boasts an all-star cast including, Walter Matthau, Dean Jagger & Carolyn Jones. Michael Curtiz of Casablanca fame was the director. King Creole earned Elvis favorable reviews as an actor, but drew the lowest gross for his 4 films in the 50’s. The script is filled with complex scenes that allowed Elvis to explore a full range of his acting abilities. King Creole hinted at a movie career that was never to be for young Elvis Presley. Many believed that this impressive acting performance, he had opened the door to play additional dramatic roles. Unfortunately, this was never to be the case.
Elvis: That’s The Way It Is (1970)