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Monday, June 05, 2017

More From Boyhood Scrapbooks

Someone Should Have Warned Me In 1965 About Indiscriminate Scotch-Tape Application

North Carolina Drive-Ins Yum-Yum Eat Up Elvis

Plops Go Auction Hammer and One-Time Albemarle Rd. Drive-In
Spend the night with Elvis! Lots wished they could, here at least a partial fulfillment. So much of him had accumulated by the mid-60's, and all, it seemed, could still be had from busy film exchanges. Ours in Charlotte kept Presley in constant circulation, theatres and drive-ins always wanting him back, so long as terms were fair (as in cheap). That's how I got to see my favorite of his, Tickle Me, at least twice at the Liberty. The Albemarle Rd. Drive-In, just outside Charlotte, was site of feast above, and how they must have chowed on burgers, dogs, steak sandwiches, the lot as tendered at concession huts like full-blown cafeterias. Being "All In Color" meant something to then viewers --- it showed up better especially on outdoor screens. I like how Girls! Girls! Girls! is pushed harder as "Return To Sender." That was the pic's sole hit tune, but a whale of one that played non-stop on transistors every kid carried. I'll bet the Albemarle Rd. booked the whole show for less than $100, then took in --- who knows how much? Elvis really was a gold stash back then.

Further proof comes courtesy of Greensboro's long-ago ad for double-up of Kissin' Cousins with Your Cheatin' Heart, both our then-idea of classics that would live forever. I'll not forget Kissin' Cousins when new at the Liberty. We drove past from church on opening day and saw lines run the entire block to circle around our local bank for a 1:00 show. Many of these would be turned away, but back to try again at 3:00. Elvis was rural and so was this story setting, result biggest yokel biz for a Presley since his early ones. Kissin' Cousins was said to have been shot "in the Great Smokies," but Sam Katzman produced, so I'm not so sure about that. Your Cheatin' Heart was the sad but ultimately uplift story of Hank Williams as done by George Hamilton. It was pure socko around here. Theatres couldn't get prints after a first couple years, a complaint MGM loudly heard from NC showmen who wanted more like this and less like Ryan's Daughter. The South Drive-In for this event had a "New, Giant screen." Let's hope they expanded the lot too for this blockbuster meet of the "King Of Swing" with the "King Of Country."


Blogger Reg Hartt said...

This blog continually inspires me:

9:28 AM  
Blogger Mike Cline said...

The Elvis prints, as you mentioned, remained in our local Charlotte film depot until they could not longer get through projectors. Elvis always available for Saturday or summer kiddie shows at fees as low as $25.00.

Our first drive-in engagement of ELVIS ON TOUR came with second EP hit VIVA LAS VEGAS, then eight or nine years of age. The 35mm color print was as red as a fire engine. Patrons would enter the concession stand asking me to adjust the color. I replied, "I wish I could."

They was no color to adjust. But most stayed to watch nonetheless. After all, it was Elvis.

10:28 AM  
Blogger radiotelefonia said...

Fortunately, I can adjust the red in videos.

4:31 PM  
Blogger stinky fitzwizzle said...

Hilariously placed pic of Olivia!

4:49 PM  
Blogger Joshua said...

Was the reference to Elvis as the "King of Swing" unusual, or was that designation used more commonly? I would expect Elvis to be referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll" instead.

1:35 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

The South Drive-In's manager was probably pre-rock and roll age-wise, if not pre-swing. In fact, he might have been more of a Paul Whiteman man.

5:22 AM  
Blogger stinky fitzwizzle said...

Elvis and Paul Whiteman. Stinky always gets those two confused.

11:55 AM  
Blogger Lionel Braithwaite said...

@Mike Cline: This is why I'm glad that cinema's gone all digital now-at least we can see older movies on screen again without having to worry about the picture quality of the movie in question being degraded (Cineplex here in Canada [Toronto] has shown It's A Mad, Mad Mad World, The Godfather, and a few other classics recently at two of the big theaters in downtown Toronto [the Scotianbank Theater and the Yonge Dundas at the corner of Yonge and Dundas.]) Perhaps the movie exhibhitor company where you live (or somebody else enterprising) couls show a schedule of Elvis movies again.....

11:01 AM  
Blogger Randy said...

Most of what I read about Presley's screen career treats it as, for the most part, a joke. Too many bad movies filled with too many cheesy songs. How were his movies regarded back in the day, though? They must have been popular, since he appeared in a steady stream of them for more than a decade.

11:19 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Presley films were reliable profit centers for over fifteen years, so long as they were kept to a fairly fixed cost. I know I liked them and went to see most during the 60's, even bought the soundtrack albums for a few.

12:03 PM  
Blogger StevensScope said...

True ELVIS fans of the day would attend the first showings of his latest movie, and then rush to the local record store to buy the 'soundtrack' album--soundtrack containing just the ELVIS songs of course , no music except that. In a check of his movie career, one can truly witness ELVIS-THE ACTOR vs. ELVIS -THE SINGER who had more songs to sing with each passing FILM. ( then again a few would not have count enough to fill an LP, so they would release an EP-album packing 4-6 songs each). Well, I guess point here being the fact that Elvis COULD DO BOTH, with the tilt on the totter toward the singer of course, since the singer sang awhile long before he showed on a movie screen. His individual performance in each one surely shows us a real difference in his characters--excepting that each of his characters would have to sing, and THIS, of course prevented Elvis-THE ACTOR from continuing with any serious attempt/effort to ACT from then on, belting out each soundtrack album of songs a cornier list as good or as bad as the last or next one?! THEN 1963. I grab this year as the beginning of his dive-down in any chart of popularity with the start of a long string of films made at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer starting the batch with a couple of good ones; then my first walk-out-of-a-theatre showing the latest (maybe worst?)'ELVIS FLICK' happened- and could any 'ELVIS FLICK ' BE ANY WORSE than "HARUM SCARUM"? Well, yes! "DOUBLE TROUBLE"!! and THAT one came later, ..and GOD, what WITS encircling ELVIS brought us the insipid "STAY AWAY JOE", (with a co-starring cast who were rightly EMBARRASED, even if Presley WASN'T)?. The final role iced the cake for being the most embarrassing as well as being the most ill-conceived junker of all--"CHANGE OF HABIT"(1969).AND HOW (never really explained) did ELVIS PRESLEY WIND UP his MOVIE career over at UNIVERSAL, of all places?. That's enough, this boy can't offer anything to the soggy old saga(s) of a world icon excepting a few simple opinions added to all of the rest. Those not really in tune with ELVIS should check out his fist FOUR (and several after those 4) FILMS. THEY START WITH "LOVE ME TENDER" (1956). HINT: I believe the BEST OF ELVIS MOVIES were THOSE PRODUCED BY HAL WALLIS'/PARAMOUNT. Let me comment then, on the WORST and LAST of THAT batch which contained MY FAVORITE anti-ELVIS REVIEW of ALL..for "EASY COME, EASY GO"(1967),a ridiculous NAVY-SUNKEN-TREASURE YARN worded: "an enduring story containing the question of how to get Elvis to sing underwater!! Thanking the GODS he didn't.

7:34 PM  
Blogger Lionel Braithwaite said...

@Steven: How did Elvis wind up at Universal doing Change of Habit, you ask? It's simple: NBC most likely produced the film as a TV movie in the wake of the 1968 Comeback Special as part of some package deal, but then decided to release it in theaters (perhaps to recoup production costs? Who knows?) The reason I say this is because the movie's produced by NBC Productions, with distribution from future corporate sibiling Universal.

Next thing you know, the next Elvis movie would have been some spy picture to capatlize on James Bond, or maybe a movie similar to the Monkee's swan song Head. A tragedy that Parker couldn't have let Elvis be in Midnight Cowboy as it's believed he was to be, or True Grit (although he did get to be in Charro, with a five o' clock shadow and all.)

9:33 PM  
Blogger Anthony Britch said...

From Wikipedia - By 1969, Presley's future in Hollywood was under threat. Although still financially successful, mainly due to the "make 'em quick, make 'em cheap" attitude of Presley's manager Colonel Tom Parker, Presley's films had been making less profit in recent years. When Parker had struggled to find any studio willing to pay Presley's usual $1 million fee, he struck a deal with NBC to produce one feature film, and a TV Special entitled 'Elvis'. NBC would pay Presley $1.25 million for both features, and Parker was happy in the knowledge that he was still able to earn $1 million for his client.

The film Change of Habit had been announced in 1967, with Mary Tyler Moore signing up in October 1968. It was considered a Moore vehicle until January 1969 when Presley signed on to take the lead role.
Even though at times it had that early 1970's TV movie look - it was always intended as a theatrical feature, but made on a low budget, probably about $600k-$700k for Production and $850k for Elvis.

1969 - Elvis' career was experiencing a resurgence, Elvis had already finished cutting the best music since his return from the Army in 1960 in early 1969. With Suspicious Minds, In The Ghetto, Don't Cry Daddy and Kentucky Rain all waiting for release Elvis focused on his new month-long stand in Vegas (July-August 1969) but before rehearsals could begin, filming for Change of Habit(March 1969)was dealt with first. A month later, filming competed Elvis left his acting career behind.

Change of Habit, releasing at the end of 1969 caused barely a ripple with rentals in the $1.1m-$1.3m range losing money against the total Production budget($1.3m-$1.5m) but getting back its' Production Costs of about $600k-$700K.
Looking at it today, its a film that wants to be a number of things, socially conscious, provocative and entertaining. its too slight when tackling the issues raised (mental illness, autism, rape, poverty and crime - but it tries.

Elvis' performance is relaxed, confidant and full of charm.

Change of Habit is a forgotten film that contains one of Elvis Presley best performances - and his last.

12:40 AM  

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