Love Me Tender (20th Century Fox, 1956) - Elvis' debut was in a well done western about the real life Reno Brothers (just one year earlier, another movie about the Reno Brothers, Rage At Dawn, was released by RKO Pictures). Elvis' first attempt at acting is a little wooden, but he showed charisma and screen presence. Beautiful Debra Paget was the leading lady, and Elvis sang four songs that were included on an Extended Play 45 RPM soundtrack. One of three black and white Elvis movies, and one of only three to have Elvis with his natural hair color.
Overall, story: B+, songs: B, Elvis' performance: B-.
Overall, story B+, songs: A+, Elvis' performance: B.
Overall, story: A, songs: A+, Elvis' performance: A+.
|King Creole with Walter Mathau and Vic Morrow|
Overall, story: A+, songs: A, Elvis' performance: A+.
G.I. Blues (Paramount-Hal Wallis, 1960) - Elvis' first movie after the army, and his first to be directed by Norman Taurog (who would ultimately direct nine Elvis movies). This is also his funniest Paramount movie. Elvis has great comedic timing in this one, and even gets close to doing some slapstick. A lot is said about Elvis' acting talent being wasted and how he could have been a great actor, but I think his real calling may have been comedy. Juliet Prowse is the leading lady. Scotty and DJ make their final on screen appearance in an Elvis film, as musicians in a German club (Bill Black left Elvis by this time).
Overall, story: B, songs: B+, Elvis' performance: A.
Flaming Star (20th Century Fox, 1960) - Decent western of a half-breed torn in an Indian-white man war, based on Clair Huffaker's novel Flaming Lance. Marlon Brando was originally slated to star. Leading lady is Barbara Eden. Elvis only sings two songs early in the film.
Overall, story: B, songs: title song gets a B, Cane And A High Starched Collar gets a C, Elvis' performance: B+.
Wild In The Country (20th Century Fox, 1961) - screenplay by Clifford Odets based on J.R. Salamanca's novel The Lost Country (later renamed Wild In The Country after the movie's release). A fitting follow up to King Creole has Elvis easily handling a dramatic role of a troubled youth, and has great chemistry with leading lady Tuesday Weld. Batman connection: Alan Napier plays a college dean. This movie did not get a soundtrack LP or EP.
Overall, story: B, songs: B, Elvis' performance: B+.
Blue Hawaii (Paramount-Hal Wallis, 1961) - loose remake of Wallis' Bing Crosby movie Waikiki Wedding. A fun and enjoyable lightweight film with lots of scenic shots. The light script takes a dark turn when teenage Elle attempts suicide. Perhaps Elvis' biggest hit at the box office, compared to the lesser success of Flaming Star and Wild In The Country, which cemented his fate with formula pictures.
Overall, story: C+, songs: B-, Elvis' performance: A-.
|Follow That Dream|
Overall, story: A, songs: B+, Elvis' performance: A+.
Kid Galahad (United Artists, 1962) - based on the Frances Wallace novel and a remake of a 1937 movie of the same name, starring Edward G Robinson, Bette Davis, and Humphrey Bogart, and directed by Michael Curtiz. Elvis lobbied for Curtiz to direct the remake, but Phil Karlson was tapped. Features Charles Bronsan. Third of three movies where Elvis has his natural hair color. Batman connection: David Lewis has a small role. Has an Extended Play 45RPM soundtrack. Overall, story: B+, songs: B+, Elvis' performance: B+.
Girls! Girls! Girls! (Paramount-Hal Wallis, 1962) - the first of what could be called the "Elvis formula" movie. Elvis is back to dyed black hair, and the first of two movies where his hair is literally shellacked. Elvis lost weight and is very thin in this movie. Filmed on location in Hawaii.
Overall, story: C, songs: Girls! Girls! Girls! and Return To Sender get a B+, while the rest of the soundtrack gets a C, Elvis' performance: B-.
It Happened At The World's Fair (MGM, 1963) Elvis' first MGM movie since Jailhouse Rock seems to be an effort to imitate the Hal Wallis-Paramount formula rather than following up their own punk classic. Never the less, actually an enjoyable film. Kurt Russell, who would play Elvis in the Dick Clark produced/John Carpenter directed TV bio-movie, has a small role. Vickie Tiu who plays little Sue Lin, nearly steals the movie, and her scenes with Elvis are very sweet. Elvis looks good in his tailored suits and is very thin. Second of two movies with his hair shellacked. Batman connection: first of two movies with Yvonne Craig, and ironically, Olan Soule (who was the voice of Batman in cartoons from 1968 thru 1986) plays her father. Soule also did an episode of The Monkees.
Overall, story: C+, songs: B-, Elvis' performance: B.
Fun In Acapulco (Paramount-Hal Wallis, 1963) A decent script, with Elvis' character given some emotional heft, but the songs are very weak.
Overall, story: B, songs: Bossa Nova Baby gets a B, the rest C-, Elvis' performance: B+.
Kissin' Cousins (MGM, 1963) - An average movie. Elvis plays two roles, and one can only wonder if Col. Tom Parker negotiated two paychecks for Elvis. The movie has some funny moments and a few good sight gags. The plot is okay, the songs are average. The directing and editing are sloppy when both Jodie and Josh are on screen together, there is little effort to hide the fact one of them is Elvis' stand-in. The final musical number is likewise marred by bad jump cuts. Ironically, it also has two different songs titled "Kissin' Cousins". This is the second and last Elvis film to feature future Batgirl Yvonne Craig. MGM and NBC attempted to spin this movie into a TV series, with Edd "Kookie" Byrnes in Elvis' role, but only a pilot episode was filmed.
Overall, story: C+, songs: Kissing Cousins and Smokey Mountain Boy get a B, the rest a C, Elvis' performance: B-.
Viva Las Vegas (MGM, 1964) - One of the better formula movies with a very good soundtrack. Elvis is a race car driver who gets involved with a swimming instructor played by Ann Margaret. The two have great on screen chemistry. Features William Demarest (Uncle Charlie on My Three Sons). Although there were enough songs for a full soundtrack LP album, RCA originally released an Extended Play 45RPM record.
Overall, story: B, songs: A-, Elvis' performance: A.
Roustabout (Paramount-Hal Wallis, 1964) - A more serious movie, with Elvis, as in Jailhouse Rock, playing an angry jerk who has to take a job at a carnival when his motorcycle is wrecked. Co-stars Barbara Stanwyck. Monkee connection: Richard Kiel.
Overall, story: B, songs: B-, Elvis' performance: B+.
|Girl Happy first of 3 movies with Shelley Fabares|
Overall, story: B+, songs: B (despite the sped up tampering), Elvis' performance: B+.
|Tickle Me with Jocelyn Lane|
Overall, story: B, songs: A-, Elvis' performance: A.
Harum Scarum (MGM, 1965) - I avoided watching this movie for many years, as it has a reputation of being the worst movie Elvis ever made. But when I finally did see it, I didn't think it was quite that bad. The title makes you believe the movie is a silly comedy, but on the contrary, it is actually the closest thing to an action film Elvis ever made. It has a rather dark plot. Elvis plays Johnny Tyrone, a Hollywood actor who gets kidnapped by middle eastern rebels who intend on forcing him to kill a king. The So Close Yet So Far scene is filmed in a unique and atmospheric way.
Overall, story: C, songs: Hey Little Girl and So Close Yet So Far get a B+, the rest C-, Elvis' performance: B-.
Frankie And Johnny (United Artists, 1966) - Very enjoyable movie based on the classic blues tune, co-starring Donna Douglas (Beverly Hillbillies) and Harry Morgan (Dragnet and M*A*S*H ). Batman connection, Nancy Kovack.
Overall, plot: B+, songs: B, Elvis' performance: A-.
Paradise Hawaiian Style (Paramount-Hal Wallis, 1966) - Elvis is a little overweight in this one. OK plot, awful songs. Much of the movie was filmed on Hollywood soundstages, which is why many scenes look more like Gilligan's Island rather than Blue Hawaii.
Overall, plot: C, songs: Datin' and A Dog's Life get a C+, the rest a D, Elvis' performance: C.
|Easy Come Easy Go|
Easy Come Easy Go (Paramount-Hal Wallis, 1967) - Elvis is a scuba diving treasure hunter. Elvis' final movie for Paramount-Wallis. It also has the fewest songs of any of the Wallis films, getting an Extended Play 45RPM soundtrack. Features Pat Harrington Jr. Batman connection: the hot rod in the movie would become the Joker-mobile.
Overall, story: C, songs: C, Elvis' performance: B-.
Double Trouble (MGM, 1967) - Average movie where Elvis gets involved with a British teenage heiress. Set in Europe, but filmed in Hollywood. Originally, The Three Stooges were going to appear in the movie, but scheduling conflicts resulted in them dropping out and being replaced by The Weire Brothers. Monkees connection: Monty Landis and Chips Rafferty.
Overall, plot: C, songs: Long Legged Girl gets an A, the rest B-, Elvis' performance: B-.
Overall, plot: B, songs: B-, Elvis' performance: B.
Stay Away Joe (MGM, 1968) - Comedy with a lot of sight gags, based on the Dan Cushman novel of the same name. First movie to break the Elvis formula. Batman connection: Burgess Meredith. No soundtrack album was released for this movie. Overall, plot: B-, songs: B-, Elvis' performance: A-.
Speedway (MGM, 1968) - Another Viva Las Vegas style race car film, this time with Nancy Sinatra and Bill Bixby. Monkee connection: Carl Ballantine.
Overall, plot: C, songs: Let Yourself Go gets an A, Your Time Hasn't Come Yet Baby and Your Groovy Self get a B, the rest C, Elvis' performance: B.
|Live A Little Love A Little with Elvis' Great Dane Brutus as Albert|
Overall, plot: A-, songs: B-, Elvis' performance: A+.
Charro! (National General, 1969) - Elvis' third western, and only non-singing role, although he does perform the theme song over the opening credits. Based on Harry Wittington's novel, which was published after the movie's release. Features Victor French (Little House On The Prairie).
Overall, plot: C, song: C+, Elvis' performance: B-.
The Trouble With Girls (MGM, 1969) - based on the novel Chautauqua by Day Keene and Dwight Babcock. In development for nearly a decade, and originally slated to star Dick Van Dyke. Features future star Dabney Colman, John Carradine, Joyce Van Patten, and Family Affair's Anissa Jones, with Susan Olsen (The Brady Bunch) in an uncredited cameo. Batman connection: Vincent Price. No soundtrack album was released for this movie. Overall, plot: C, songs: B, Elvis' performance: B+.
|Change Of Habit|
Overall, plot, B+, songs, B-, Elvis' performance: A.
That's The Way It Is (MGM, 1970) - Great concert film/documentary that showcases Elvis' Vegas show. The "special edition" version is even better than the documentary-heavy original theatrical version.
Elvis On Tour (MGM, 1972) - A slightly inferior sequel to That's The Way It Is that follows Elvis on a breakneck tour. No soundtrack album was released for this movie.