When I was a kid in Texas with no cable there was a TV station that would pack it’s summer Sunday programming with Elvis movies. They are mostly formulaic, have familiar faces, take very little commitment, and include spontaneous music. I would commandeer the 4.5 inch portable TV and putter around in my room to the spontaneous Elvis-a-thons. This is how I best know Elvis. Over the fourth of July weekend I made cherry pie, and my husband and I embarked on an Elvis-a-thon of our own. We had bought a few extra movies just for this occasion; we didn’t watch them all.
We started on Thursday after work:
Jailhouse Rock – 1957 – Vince Everett is in jail for accidentally punching a guy to death in a bar fight. A young man, he forms a partnership with his cellmate, Hunk, who used to work the music scene. Vince is talented, and Hunk takes advantage of his naivety by drawing up a 50/50 partnership contract. Once Vince is out of jail he meets a woman who gets him set up in a recording studio, distribution deal, and whom he treats badly. Hunk gets out of jail and Vince treats him badly too. Vince is basically the jerkiest of all jerks. If you have favorable notions of Elvis, this movie might surprise you and possibly annoy you. That’s probably why the Texas TV station of my youth never included this in their spontaneous Elvis-a-thons.
Flaming Star – 1960 – Pacer lives with his Dad, half brother and Kiowa mother in untamed Oklahoma. Power struggles among the native tribe are testing the family loyalties and there are deaths and misplaced blame all around. I totally thought they made up the tribe name for this movie, and am happy to find out the Kiowa Indians are the native tribe of Oklahoma. My notes say: “I’m just gonna concentrate on the horses ’cause the plot ‘s kinda losin’ me.” Elvis sings very little.
And then continued on Friday:
Viva Los Vegas – 1964 – Lucky Jackson is a gear-head racer who is consistently thwarted in getting an engine for his car so he can win the big race. He is in a friendly rivalry with an Italian count, that escalates slightly when they both set eyes on Ann Margaret’s character. That’s pretty much the plot. There is some racing derailment while Lucky takes various odd jobs both to get money and be close to his leading lady. It all comes back around when they butt heads over him only ever thinking about racing. Ann Margaret, triple threat, pretty much steals the show as she sings, dances and acts as both the perfect girl and a strong woman with standards. She’s so frenetic it would be annoying if she weren’t so damn cute.
Blue Hawaii – 1961 – Chadwick Gates returns home to Hawaii from the army and spends the first few days avoiding his folks. By the time he sees his parents, he’s got a plan to avoid the family pineapple plantation and is set up as a tour guide by his girlfriend’s boss. His first customer is, of course, a pretty lady teacher and her 3 female students. Flirtation, jealousy, and unacceptable behavior ensue. Includes the most annoying female character of any Elvis movies I’ve seen to date.