Friday, January 08, 2010


Elvis was born 75 years ago today in Tupelo, Mississippi.

To celebrate, both Turner Classic Movie and the Fox Movie Channel have scheduled a cross-section of his films.

Turner's line-up - which runs all day long - consists mostly of the throwaway stuff that Presley made for MGM, with the exception of Norman Taurog's "Blue Hawaii," a 1961 Paramount release that TCM is airing at 4:30 p.m. (est). The other near-interchangable titles include two by actor-dancer Gene Nelson, "Kissin' Cousins" (1964) and "Harum Scarum" (1965); John Rich's "Roustabout" (1964), co-starring Barbara Stanwyck; Boris Segal's "Girl Happy" (1965), a bastardization of the old musical; two more by Taurog - "Spinout" (1966)and "Speedway" (1968) - and, of course, George Sidney's dependably awful "Viva Las Vegas" (1964).

Richard Thorpe's "Jailhouse Rock" (1957) caps the day with a midnight screening. This film has a reputation greater than it deserves; its only notable element is the clever staging of the title number.

Two Elvis docs complete the Turner's full-bodied schedule.

Fox Movie Channel, meanwhile, airs two of The King's better efforts, both made for Twentieth Century-Fox - Philip Dunne's "Wild in the Country" (1961), which teams Elvis with three very good leading ladies, Hope Lange, Millie Perkins and Tuesday Weld, in a script by no less than Clifford Odets, and Don Siegel's "Flaming Star" (1960), a Western co-starring the great Delores Del Rio. They air at 2 and 4 p.m. (est.), respectively.

Unfortunately, Elvis' best films aren't represented.

Missing are Michael Curtiz's "King Creole" (1958), based on the Harold Robbins novel and starring Walter Matthau, Carolyn Jones and Delores Hart; Gordon Douglas' charming "Follow That Dream" (1962), with Arthur O'Connell, Anne Helm and Joanna Moore (Tatum O'Neal's mother), and Phil Karlson's remake of "Kid Galahad" (1962), toplined by Gig Young, Lola Albright, Joan Blackman, Robert Emhardt and Charles Bronson.

The most glaring omission is Elvis' debut film, Robert D. Webb's "Love Me Tender" (1956), which offered The King his ideal leading lady.

Debra Paget.


Stephen said...

I’m glad to see Phil Karlson's murky, involving “Kid Galahad” ( unaccountably ignored by Turner for its marathon; what’s going on over there?) at last given its due. I can think of few Presley films superior to Karlson's revisionist/naturalist take on this material.

Dorothy said...

I have to concede that not all of Presley's screen work was execrable, but I still like “Jailhouse Rock" quite a bit. "King Creole" is one I missed. I would love to see what Curtiz did with Elvis.

Robert C. said...

Count me in as a "King Creole" partisan, a flick I haven't seen on television recently. It’s a far greater film than its reputation, mainly for its unfussy, earnest approach. It also demonstrates a rather authentic and lived-in sense of time and place. I felt sweaty watching it!

Nancy said...

I have some fond memories of Elvis on screen but not the movies that Turner keeps broadcasting. Spinout? No thank you. I agree with you that he made a few fine films but they almost never get shown. He wasn’t a great actor but with a great director, Elvis did some good work. "Wild in the Country" isn't very good but it's interesting to see Hollywood grappling with Odets. I always found "Kid Galahad" a good, stirring, old-fashioned movie, and it really benefitted from Albright and Young.

Wayne said...

Joe, you’re right about “Kid Galahad,” it’s a solid movie and Gig Young’s mercenary character elevates it above the original material. I haven’t seen it in a long time but I still remember his strong performance — and I wonder how it would look today compared, say, "Golden Boy" or the original.

Jane said...

Come on! What's wrong with "Viva Las Vegas"? (I agree with you, however, that a movie tribute to The King is incomplete without his first film "Love Me Tender.")