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Friday, February 16, 2018

Elvis Out Of Fatigues, Does Fatiguing Movie


G.I. Blues (1960) Has Edges Polished Off Presley

The Pelvis in uniform, being comeback error if we're to regard Elvis as iconoclast or rebel figure, which he'd been to varying degree in a first four before his country called. To tame the beast was Hal Wallis' aim. Presley needed to be industrialized, a consumer good minus potholes that controversy or poor press might impose. His knowing fans would protest (the Beatles maintained Elvis was essentially through after his service hitch), but how much of this singer's public caught merchandising drift? Wallis was experienced, perhaps cynical enough, to know fads could be sustained but for so long. If Presley was to last, it would have to be in safe vehicles recycled on two-or-so a year basis like contract stars Wallis herded at Warners and for his independent set-up with Paramount, for which distribution all his Elvis output was made. 

Et, Tu, Caricaturist? Squares In Selling Maintain Bungle Of The Pic

Just as other rock and roll acts were corporate neutralized, so would be Presley. His having served made the rebel pose untenable to sustain. An Elvis mustered out of uniform might wonder if this was moment to try wings at straight performing along action lines, perhaps a combat story as was engaged by other up-and-comers, or a western (picture him as one of The Magnificent Seven). But wait, the music element had to be served, this more lucrative in long runs than films that came and went. For Presley of the 60's, a film, any film, was there largely to sell records.  G.I. Blues is post-Army Presley formula in vitro, an awkward start. Weren't Elvis pics supposed to be just about Elvis? G.I. Blues has its star share focus with "pals" in his unit, two guys principally, each so dull as to evaporate off the screen. One romances the roommate of Presley's love interest (Juliet Prowse), to which '60 youth must have chanted "Who Cares?" The other has sired an illigit kid with a German townie (!), a plot element both soft-peddled (post-production edits?) and of no use toward making G.I.'s 104 minutes easier to withstand.




Here too, was where soundtrack marketing took center, RCA's LP pushed in both ads and the trailer. Trouble was the songs. They weren't much good, not a meaningful hit in the lot, nor a patch on singles Elvis had been getting out before, during, and after, his Army stay. G.I. Blues takes place in Germany, though all of Presley footage was done on Para's backlot. What scenics there were came of a second unit Wallis sent over, then projected behind Elvis and others doubled in the German shots. The singer's filmgoer base had been teenaged --- now it seemed Wallis was throwing nets over children, a puppet act Elvis shares being painful barometer. This, and interminable business with a crying infant, was what disillusioned fans held up as proof that Presley had been gelded. They were right as to that and more, but Wallis was vindicated by grosses, the best he'd seen so far for an association with Presley. G.I. Blues brought $3.8 million in domestic rentals, a gain on $2.7 million King Creole had earned, and $3.3 million Loving You took. This, of course, was all Wallis needed to prove he'd been right, and so dye was cast (if a Technicolor one) for future Elvis output.

5 Comments:

Blogger Michael said...

It's a pity they didn't let him act once in a while, the way modern action stars make a point of putting on glasses and a goatee to play some bookish sort in an indie drama every 10th film or so, to maintain acting cred. The Elvis movies sold but in the end, when they were dead, they were deader than Julie Andrews' career in big budget musicals. Elvis had to go back to black leather and Vegas to revive his rock and roll career before The Trouble With Girls and Change of Habit sucked it down into their black hole.

12:06 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Elvis was marketed to the generation that like him had been wild in its youth but now had to settle into life's routines. Being a bad boy got attention. Becoming a good boy kept the audience paying attention. Many is the star who began their career as a bad boy or girl but swiftly began playing paragons.

1:57 PM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

I read that Col. Parker and Hal Wallis decided that Elvis fans would watch him in anything, so it made more sense financially to skimp on the scripts, songs and costars in a exchange for bigger profit.

10:24 PM  
Blogger Sean D. said...

I'm sure Elvis would have loved to go back to Europe as a civilian. Live shows during breaks in filming would've made a mint. But Col. Parker's status immigration meaning he'd not be able to re-enter the States pretty much confined Elvis to the U.S. for touring and filming of "soundstage travelogues" like Double Trouble.

10:45 AM  
Blogger William Lund said...

It's apparent from watching his serious films of the 60s ("Flaming Star" and "Wild in Country") that his raw ambition to become a film actor ("Jailhouse Rock" and "King Creole") had been diminished and he was content to say his lines, sing some songs, and collect a big pay check. As the 60s dragged on the films got worse and worse till even Hal Wallis dropped him in 1967. There was a brief bright return to live preforming in 1968-72 (which I had the privilege of seeing him in person), but then he took the John Gilbert/Wallace Reid path of self destruction. A great talent who lost his way.

12:46 AM  

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