Elvis Movies: BLUE HAWAII

After an eight month break, I am continuing my rewatch of Elvis Presley movies. Next up in the random sequence is Blue Hawaii – his eighth movie. Except for the Elvis: That’s The Way It Is documentary, I’ve probably seen this one more than any of the others.


“Ecstatic romance … Exotic dances … Exciting music in the world’s lushest paradise of song!”

Blue Hawaii (Paramount)
Wide Release: November 22, 1961 (United States)
Starring: Elvis Presley, Joan Blackman, Angela Lansbury
Screenplay By: Hal Kanter
Story By: Allan Weiss
Music Score By: Joseph J. Lilley
Produced By: Hal B. Wallis
Directed By: Norman Taurog
Running Time: 101 Minutes


Just before filming began on Blue Hawaii, Elvis performed a benefit concert for the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. It would prove to be his last live performance until the June 1968 shows captured for the ELVIS television special (NBC) and his August 1969 concert series at the International Hotel in Las Vegas.

Elvis Presley is Chad Gates in 1961’s BLUE HAWAII (Paramount)

In Blue Hawaii, Elvis stars as Chadwick Gates – and I can’t even get started on this post without noting that if there was ever a less Elvis character name than “Chadwick” in one of his movies, I sure don’t know what it is. Anyway, after a 2-year stint in the U.S. Army, where he served in Europe, Chad returns to Kahalo, Hawaii, where he has lived for the last 15 years with his parents. His father is an executive at the Great Southern Hawaiian Fruit Company, and Chad’s entire future has been neatly laid out for him there – mostly by his mother.

Chadwick’s mother has entire life plotted out for him in 1961’s BLUE HAWAII (Paramount)

Chad is having none of it, though. Instead, he hides out for a week at a beach shack until his father gets word through Chad’s girlfriend, Maile Duval, that he needs to come home before his mother finds out. The return home does not go well, particularly for the audience.

This is where we are introduced to one of the most annoying characters in any Elvis movie ever: Chad’s mother, Mrs. Sarah Lee Gates – portrayed by Angela Lansbury, who was only nine years older than Elvis.

Angela Lansbury is Mrs. Sarah Lee Gates and Elvis Presley is Chad Gates in 1961’s BLUE HAWAII (Paramount)

Mrs. Gates is from Georgia, and, as much as the Hawaiian portrayals in this film unfortunately are often stereotypes, so, too, is Blue Hawaii‘s portrayal of a Southerner. Mrs. Gates, of course, has to speak in an over-the-top Southern accent, call her husband “Daddy,” and bring up the Civil War, including a required reference to General “Stonewall” Jackson of the Confederacy. She also notes embarrassment around the fact that a war hero relative was a “Yankee” (i.e., he fought for the North/Union, rather than the South/Confederacy).

Mrs. Gates is alcoholic, racist, classist, and just all around insufferable.

All that said, Roland Winters, who plays Mr. Fred Gates, Chad’s father, does an excellent job playing off of Lansbury’s outlandishness. Winters gets two of the funniest lines of the movie – in two separate scenes. In the first, Mr. Gates has just commented to his wife that Maile is pretty.

Mrs. Gates: “Daddy, aren’t you forgetting yourself?”
Mr. Gates: “I’m trying, Mother. I’m trying.”

Later, Chad storms out of the house after an argument with his parents.

Mrs. Gates: “Oh, Daddy, what did we do wrong?”
Mr. Gates: “Offhand, I’d say, we got married.”

Maile is portrayed by Joan Blackman. The character’s father is French and mother is Hawaiian. Blackman and Elvis often seem wooden together in Blue Hawaii, though they would have much better chemistry in the following year’s Kid Galahad.

Joan Blackman is Maile Duval in 1961’s BLUE HAWAII (Paramount)

Shunning the fruit company, Chad instead decides to become a tourist guide and is soon hired by Floyd the Barber (Howard McNear), who owns the tourism company where Maile works. Okay, it’s not really Floyd the Barber, but Mr. Chapman does appear otherwise to be the exact same character that the beloved McNear played on the Andy Griffith Show from 1961 to 1967.

Howard McNear is Mr. Chapman and Elvis Presley is Chad Gates in 1961’s BLUE HAWAII (Paramount)

Chad’s first assignment? Escorting an attractive schoolteacher and four teenage girls around Hawaii, naturally. Jealousy and hilarity ensues. Well, jealousy anyway.

Jennie Maxwell’s portrayal of angry teenager Ellie Corbett soon livens up the movie, including this zinger she launches at Chad: “I believe you’re being paid to show us a good time. When does it start?”

Jennie Maxwell is Ellie Corbett and Elvis Presley is Chad Gates in 1961’s BLUE HAWAII (Paramount)

Considering that Blue Hawaii is his eighth movie overall and his fourth since returning from the Army in real life, Elvis’ acting is disappointingly poor several times – particularly when he does this high-pitched yelling thing that he tends to revert to in his movies when he seems uncomfortable in a scene (e.g., “I’ll getcha!” in one of the scenes of this movie).

I suspect director Norman Taurog was simply not focused on getting the best acting performance out of Elvis, and Hal Kanter’s flimsy script doesn’t help matters, either. Elvis had natural talent as a singer and musician, but he should have taken acting classes to hone his craft if he was serious about making films. 1957’s King Creole had already proven what Elvis could do under the guidance of an inspiring director (Michael Curtiz).

While Elvis may stumble on the acting side at times in Blue Hawaii, he brings his A-game on the music side. There are a number of stone-cold classic songs here, especially “Can’t Help Falling In Love” – which he sings in a beautiful version to Maile’s grandmother on her 78th birthday.

Years later, Elvis would reminisce about another musical highlight, saying, “We did a movie called Blue Hawaii, and in the movie, there was a song called the ‘Hawaiian Wedding Song,’ and it was so real, it took me two years before I realized, it was just a movie.”

Hawaii is the real star of 1961’s BLUE HAWAII (Paramount)

Blue Hawaii has some highlights, including the idyllic locations, great music, and a sense of escapism, but overall, it feels like a missed opportunity. Its subsequent success at the box office, however, would help lock Elvis into mostly similar movies going forward.


Boldly Go

Frank Atienza, who played Ito O’Hara in Blue Hawaii, later played a Kohn villager in “The Omega Glory” (1968) episode of Star Trek.

Frank Atienza is Ito O’Hara and Elvis Presley is Chad Gates in 1961’s BLUE HAWAII (Paramount)

Frank Atienza (far right) is a Kohn villager in the 1968 STAR TREK episode “The Omega Glory” (Paramount)

Ron Veto, who has an uncredited role as a Hawaiian in Blue Hawaii, later appeared in numerous Star Trek episodes as a member of the crew of the USS Enterprise as well as other uncredited roles on the show.


Blue Hawaii Tote Board

  • Punches: 21+
  • Songs: 15
  • Kisses: 13

Songs In Blue Hawaii

  1. “Blue Hawaii” (1961), written by Leo Robin & Ralph Rainger
  2. “Almost Always True” (1961), written by Fred Wise & Ben Weisman
  3. Aloha Oe” (1961), written by Queen Liliuokalani
  4. “Hawaiian Beach Chant (Slap Happy/Shave And A Hair Cut)” (1961) [performed twice], performed by the Surfers, written by unknown
  5. “No More” (1961), written by Don Robertson & Hal Blair, based on “La Paloma” by Sebastián Iradier
  6. “Can’t Help Falling In Love” (1961), written by George Weiss, Hugo Peretti, & Luigi Creatore, based on the classical composition “Plaisir d’Amour” by Giovanni Martini
  7. “Rock-A-Hula Baby” (1961), written by Fred Wise, Ben Weisman, & Florence Kay
  8. “Moonlight Swim” (1961), written by Sylvia Dee & Ben Weisman
  9. Ku-U-I-Po” (1961), written by George Weiss, Hugo Peretti, & Luigi Creatore
  10. “Ito Eats” (1961), written by Sid Tepper & Roy C. Bennett
  11. “Slicin’ Sand” (1961), written by Sid Tepper & Roy C. Bennett
  12. “Hawaiian Sunset” (1961), written by Sid Tepper & Roy C. Bennett
  13. “Beach Boy Blues” (1961), written by Sid Tepper & Roy C. Bennett
  14. “Island Of Love” (1961), written by Sid Tepper & Roy C. Bennett
  15. “Hawaiian Wedding Song (Ke Kali Nei Au)” (1961), written by Charles E. King, Al Hoffman, & Dick Manning

The Mystery Train’s Blue Hawaii Scorecard

  • Story: 2 (out of 10)
  • Acting: 3
  • Fun: 7
  • Songs: 8
  • Overall: 5 (For Elvis Fans Only)

Blue Hawaii Around The Web


 


“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”
Ephesians 4:31-32 NLT

No particular place to go

All right, this will be one of those off-the-top-of-my-head posts – so who knows what you’re gonna get out of reading this.

I’m just sitting here on a rainy Saturday afternoon listening to Elvis.

Blue HawaiiI’m getting back into vinyl after pretty much being all CDs all the time for the last twenty years. I pulled out my old collection, and the first one I played was Blue Hawaii.

I couldn’t believe how incredible it sounded on record. I sense a new obsession coming on.

The good thing is, I already have about 25 LPs and 25 45s from the old days before I had a CD player, so those should tide me over for awhile.

* * *

So, there were a bunch of great posts around the web for Elvis Week 2012. My favorite was probably Indisposable Johnny’s “When Elvis Moved On” over on The Round Place In The Middle blog. If you haven’t already, be sure to read it.

One post that I didn’t want to read because I knew what was coming was “Treat Me Nice”, a farewell of sorts by Thomas Melin over on his Elvis Today Blog. After five years and 500 posts, he’s taking an indefinite break from blogging about Elvis in order to spend more time with his family. It’s hard to fault him for that. I’m sure gonna miss his posts, though. Best wishes to Thomas.

While Thomas’ absence leaves a huge void, all is not lost. For instance, Sheila O’Malley continues her excellent series of Elvis Essays on The Sheila Variations blog. Meanwhile, artist Joe Petruccio just began a brand new blog called My Elvis Journal. Petruccio’s unique posts are definitely worth checking out.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

* * *

August 28 Update: I’ve just found that there is yet another new Elvis blog, and it’s one I definitely want to mention. Elvis audio expert and frequent For Elvis CD Collectors Forum poster elvissessions recently began elvissessions.net, which will cover “Elvis Presley in the studio — and beyond.”

I love his informative FECC posts, so I’m looking forward to following elvissessions’ blog. Here’s a recent entry about obtaining Ernst Jorgensen’s autograph on his copy of A Boy From Tupelo during Elvis Week 2012.

Speaking of FTD’s mammoth SUN project, my copy will supposedly be in the mail this week. No autographs, though. I guess that’s one of the many perks of being in Memphis during Elvis Week. Either way, I can hardly wait for this release.