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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Wallis Keeps Presley To Formula Grindstone

Thank You, Scott MacGillivray, For This Photo Upgrade

Elvis Adrift with Girls! Girls! Girls! (1962)

Remember when you first began meeting people who'd never seen Elvis pics in a theatre? For me, it was coming of (middle) age, and now it's tough finding anyone who recalls drop-off to shows like this, and what, thirty more of the things? Here was my impression of Big E's following: They were mostly kids --- at least that was case at the Liberty. Maybe teenagers were going at night, but matinees were for my age group to exclusion of elders, particularly adults. My Elvis enthusiasm peaked, then ebbed, between 1964 and 1966, during which came still-sentimental faves Tickle Me, Girl Happy, plus a few beneath their pantheon. Girls! Girls! Girls! (don't forget the exclamation points!!, but no commas!), was another for Hal Wallis, thus better production values and scenery, again Hawaii-set after Blue-same hit of previous year. HD broadcast of the Elvi permit scrutiny of location shots, Presley doubled nearly always on boat/ocean/elsewhere where cameras aren't close. He told lead lady Laurel Goodwin that Wallis spent more on the movies for $ he didn't give the star. Was Hal getting the bargain of the century in his long association with Elvis? You'd think so for fact he did these for over a decade.

Girls! Girls! Girls! was lucky for one song that broke out of an otherwise punk soundtrack and raced up charts: Return To Sender. It and the title tune are highlights here. Laurel Goodwin gave a good account of filming to interviewer Tom Lisanti in a marvelous book, Drive-In Dream Girls. She recalled Elvis as fine, but surrounded by a retinue "with I.Q's of 70." Goodwin also tabbed Wallis as "an old letch" known to contractees who spread word and warning amongst themselves. We might have guessed there was rivalry between girls, girls, and girls working with Elvis, which Laurel Goodwin confirms via account of "pain in the ass" Stella Stevens, who saw this show in slumming terms. I got through Girls! Girls! Girls! thanks to novelty of High-Def and rose-hue sniff of 60's showgoing that comes of all Elvis. So when did he become well and truly sick of doing them? Too bad the King ducked off-casting and dramatic stuff that might have changed tides, because when movies were finished with him, they were really finished. Still, for coming at a near-peak, Girls! Girls! Girls! did well: $3.1 million, which was down from his first two post-service, G.I. Blues and Blue Hawaii, but still solid in profit columns, penny-watcher Wallis not letting his pix run over.


Blogger Reg Hartt said...

That first photo is so red it looks like many of the prints of these films now do.

11:42 AM  
Blogger Tbone Mankini said...

Legend hath it that every time Elvis went for a more dramatic film such as FLAMING STAR or WILD IN THE COUNTRY (from this era. ...later he tried with CHARRO,CHANGE OF HABIT and the one where he was the revival showman) the box office took a nice dive,which in the Colonel's voice,said the fans were deserting the figures back this up?

12:15 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

FLAMING STAR and WILD IN THE COUNTRY both lost money, partly due to high negative costs (WILD IN THE COUNTRY's was three million).

12:31 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

The budgets exceeded his fan base. Having grown used to Elvis is light films the audience he needed to make FLAMING STAR and WILD IN THE COUNTRY did not exist for him in more serious fare. Not that he could not pull it off. He could and did with ease. Too bad he wasn't able to stretch more often.

3:21 PM  
Blogger Tbone Mankini said...

I suppose by the last few films,the fans were past caring what he did. .. so as he geared up to perform to death, the typical "Elvis movie" was consigned to the dustbin....even trying to liven up the scripts, as I'm LIVE A LITTLE LOVE A LITTLE,THE TROUBLE WITH GIRLS and the aforementioned two,never realised any improvement. ..... still as long as he got his much lauded "million " per pic (any proof that was true?) of which Parker took a chunk ( plus his tech advisor few and credit ) the only loser was Elvis himself,as the general public was long past caring...

5:08 PM  
Blogger DBenson said...

"Bye Bye Birdie" -- How did that do in comparison to real Elvis flicks of the period? Since it launched Ann Margret, you wonder if they ever talked about a big hit show and picture being based, loosely but obviously, on him.

5:33 PM  
Blogger Randy Jepsen said...

I may have seen an Elvis movie in a theater. When I was around six, my mother took us kids to a matinee. I never could remember what exactly the movie was but it played like an Elvis film. Otherwise, I never went to see his films. Watched them when they showed up on network movie nights.

As for BYE BYE BIRDIE. What a missed opportunity. Imagine if hey had actually gotten Elvis to do it.

10:40 PM  
Blogger Mike Cline said...

If you think ELVIS is doubled a lot in GIRL! GIRLS! GIRLS!, watch FUN IN ACAPULCO. The double is probably onscreen more than the King.

7:32 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

You should post the original photo as an example of color deterioration. Far too many are unable to figure out why the color looks so bad. Same with poor prints of older films. Many assume the quality of the photography was poor which, of course, it wasn't.

7:56 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

People who complain about the loss of film to digital have no idea what it was like to rent a print of a film and find the physical print an insult to its creators intentions. With digital we no longer have to show warped prints, splicy prints, prints with sections removed by previous people who had it before us, color faded prints, the whole nine yards. We are in a golden age for motion picture preservation and presentation.

10:07 AM  
Blogger stinky fitzwizzle said...

In my opinion, the only memorable thing about an Elvis Presley movie was the occasional Leiber-Stoller song.

11:22 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Griff shares some thoughts about the Elvis Presley vehicles:

Fine and even thoughtful piece on this Wallis Elvis picture. It was, I suppose, axiomatic that the dumber an Elvis movie, the more successful it turned out to be. The ones that stand out in my memory are the films that at least tried to be a bit different. Not just Fox's FLAMING STAR and WILD IN THE COUNTRY, but FOLLOW THAT DREAM (with its interesting family dynamic), the genial FRANKIE AND JOHNNY (a little book musical, really), the remake of KID GALAHAD, CHARRO! (though it isn't very good, just different) and the offbeat Chautauqua-set THE TROUBLE WITH GIRLS. It's still hard to imagine -- it certainly was at the time -- that Elvis had three films in release in 1969. Boy, the business changed so quickly.

My question, though: what theatre is promoting GIRLS! at the top of your page? The Southwest's finest movie presentations, indeed.


Reply From John:

Wish I could recall what Southwest theatre this was, Griff, but it's been several years since I came across that image, so I have no clue as to where it was taken.

1:12 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer looks back on some Elvis viewings:

I never saw an Elvis Presley picture at a theater. My taste at the time was for science fiction and fantasy films, I wasn't interested in music of any kind, and girls were yet a mystery to me, though not one I felt any need to resolve. All this changed profoundly when I became a little older and my life was beginning to open, but even then, my acquaintance with Elvis and his movies was via television. I was intrigued by "King Creole" and "Wild in the Country," by the sort of actor that could have done so much more than the simple-musicals I also became aware of but didn't care for. I remember, though, an evening at the house of that rather odd fraternity I joined, with some of the brothers and their dates gathered before the old, black and white console set that was showing an Elvis movie, probably "Easy Come, Easy Go," and how much they enjoyed it. There was not much to the picture--a story of marginal interest, music that was instantly forgettable, and little real wit--but what they enjoyed was Elvis himself, amiable, sexy, and so sure of himself. I have not made up my mind whether, as a performer, he was paste or diamond of real worth, but even in such setting, there was flash and glitter, and for his fans, it was enough. And for the pleasure of their company, I, too, became a fan for that little while.

8:51 AM  
Blogger Phil Smoot said...

Interesting that standing in the top photo in a blue bikini is Beach Party movies girl Bobbie Shaw,
she is not credited on as being in "Girls, Girls, Girls"

7:43 PM  
Blogger rnigma said...

I have seen some Elvis movies in theaters when I was a kid, because my mother loved him - unfortunately, they were the really bad ones like "Spinout" and "Speedway." The songs weren't even good.
Someone had released an album of the worst Elvis songs, mainly from his movies, called "Elvis' Greatest Sh*t" (on "Dog Vomit Records"). Its cover featured the National Enquirer photo of the deceased Elvis in his casket.

Oh, and one of the King's "Wild in the Country" co-stars, Millie Perkins, would play his mother in the mid-1980s "Elvis" TV series.

7:55 PM  
Blogger Randy Jepsen said...

Just watched GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS! Bobbi Shaw isn`t in it. Apparently she was only hired for publicity photos.

12:23 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

I picked up the 3 disk set of the 1968 Elvis Comeback Special that was designed to wash the bad taste of the movies he had made out of the mouths of his fans. In it Elvis shows why he justly was called The King of Rock 'n Roll. He was not paste. I have never been a fan. One of my sisters went as crazy as any girl watching Presley on Ed Sullivan. She was fun to watch. Even more fun to watch was Presley's professionalism during the making of this special. The bonus discs give us all the takes. Doing that stuff over and over for the cameras is no easy task.

6:46 AM  
Blogger Tbone Mankini said...

And Tuesday Weld was in HEARTBREAK MOTEL about the missing week story in the 70s....

8:04 AM  
Blogger MDG14450 said...

I was working at a consulting company and got called on the carpet for writing a marketing piece that began something like: "Change initiatives are like Elvis movies: everyone has a vague idea what they're like, there seems to be dozens of them, but you never actually meet anyone who's gone through one start to finish."

3:14 PM  

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