Elvis Movies: ROUSTABOUT

Earlier this year, I began a rewatch of Elvis Presley’s movies. Today’s focus is one that I have not seen as often as some of the others – Elvis’ 16th movie, Roustabout.


“Elvis Presley as a Roving, Restless, Reckless, Roustabout”

Roustabout (Paramount)
Wide Release: November 11, 1964 (United States)
Starring: Elvis Presley, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Freeman
Screenplay By: Anthony Lawrence and Allan Weiss
Story By: Allan Weiss
Music Score By: Joseph J. Lilley
Produced By: Hal B. Wallis
Directed By: John Rich
Running Time: 101 Minutes


Elvis Presley is Charlie Rogers in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Elvis Presley is Charlie Rogers in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

In Roustabout, Elvis Presley stars as Charlie Rogers, a singer who ends up working at a carnival when Joe (Leif Erickson), a grouchy old carny, runs him off the road, damaging his motorcycle and destroying his guitar. Ah, Elvis Movies, you gotta love ’em.

The Morgan Shows carnival in 1964's ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

The Morgan Shows carnival in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Despite the inane setup, Roustabout is pretty good! When Maggie (Barbara Stanwyck), the owner of the carnival, pays for a new guitar and repairs to his motorcycle, Charlie stays on as a roustabout until his bike is ready in order to spend more time with Cathy (Joan Freeman), Joe’s daughter. Joe, of course, is not amused by this turn of events.

Joan Freeman is Cathy and Elvis Presley is Charlie in 1964's ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Joan Freeman is Cathy and Elvis Presley is Charlie in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Outside of this movie, “roustabout” is not a term I have encountered. It essentially means an unskilled laborer. It seems to be used most often today in the oil rigging industry. In this case, Charlie does odd jobs at the carnival, such as helping to set up rides or even filling in at a candy apple stand.

When attempting to attract players for a game that Cathy is promoting, Charlie winds up singing and drawing a crowd. His roustabout days are soon behind him, for Maggie signs him on as a singer instead.

Charlie Rogers (Elvis Presley) begins to draw a crowd for Morgan Shows when the carnival signs him on as a singer in 1964's ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Charlie Rogers (Elvis Presley) begins to draw a crowd for Morgan Shows when the carnival signs him on as a singer in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

It turns out that Maggie has a habit of bailing Joe out of trouble, and her carnival is facing financial ruin because of it. Charlie brings in the teen money, and the situation begins to improve until things come to a head between him and Joe, causing Charlie to switch to a rival carnival.

Barbara Stanwyck is Maggie Morgan in 1964's ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Barbara Stanwyck is Maggie Morgan in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Elvis does a fine job acting in certain parts of Roustabout. A scene between him and Barbara Stanwyck is my favorite of the film:

Charlie: “You collect strays, Maggie. And you got one in Joe. Why don’t you stop recruiting? They don’t make a family.”
Maggie: “What would you know about a family?”
Charlie: “Nothing!”

After Maggie walks away and can no longer hear him, Charlie repeats the line again, softly, sadly: “Nothing…” It is a quick moment, but certainly one of Elvis’ best in his 1960s movies.

Elvis Presley is Charlie Rogers in 1964's ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Elvis Presley is Charlie Rogers in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

The rebellious Charlie is reminiscent of some of Elvis’ earliest film roles. For instance, Charlie remarks early on, “Look, if you’re not tough in this world, you get squashed, honey.” These words could have been taken right out of Vince Everett’s mouth in Jailhouse Rock (1957). Charlie also has traces of Deke Rivers from Loving You (1957) and even a little bit of Danny Fisher from King Creole (1958). At 29 during production of Roustabout, however, Elvis does seem a little old at times to be playing a rebel.

Even some of Elvis’ mannerisms in Roustabout remind me of his 1950s presence, otherwise left out of many of his 1960s movies. Elvis’ performance of “One Track Heart” in Roustabout, for instance, is quite reminiscent of his 1956 “Blue Suede Shoes” screen test, except with a less exciting song. Later on, during “Hard Knocks,” he does his more typical 1960s movie hand-clapping thing, though.

Elvis’ natural flair for comedy comes into play a few times in Roustabout. One example:

Cathy: “You must get your face slapped a lot.”
Charlie: “About 50–50.”

Pat Buttram does a terrific job playing the villainous Harry, the owner of the big-time carnival that is looking to put Maggie out of business. Another great couple of lines:

Charlie: “Not everybody is as big a crook as you are, Harry.”
Harry: “Well, everybody tries.”

Pat Buttram is Harry and Elvis Presley is Charlie in 1964's ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Pat Buttram is Harry and Elvis Presley is Charlie in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Charlie’s show goes over well, and Harry asks him to do an encore. “Nah,” says Charlie. “Always leave ’em wanting more.” This phrase, of course, was the philosophy of a real-life carny huckster, “Colonel” Tom Parker, when it came to managing Elvis. Parker also served as technical advisor on Roustabout and most of Elvis’ other films.

I try not to review soundtrack albums in this series, focusing any discussion of songs instead on how they appear in the movies themselves. However, I do want to point out in this case that Roustabout has one of the worst soundtrack albums – with nary a hit or highlight in sight. I was surprised, then, that just about all of the songs work perfectly in the context of the actual film. Perhaps based on the fun of seeing the movie, fans propelled the otherwise lackluster Roustabout soundtrack to Billboard‘s number one album position in January 1965. It would be over eight years before Elvis scored another number one album (1973’s Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite).

Joan Freeman is Cathy and Elvis Presley is Charlie in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Elvis Presley in a production number taped for 1968's ELVIS television special (NBC)

Elvis Presley in a production number taped for 1968’s ELVIS television special (NBC)

Roustabout obviously had an influence on some of the production numbers created for the 1968 ELVIS television special, even down to costuming. The denim outfit that Elvis wears at times in the movie is almost identical to one he wears during portions of the special, for instance. Roustabout is also one of the few times we see Elvis in leather prior to the special. The barker lines on the ELVIS-TV Special soundtrack album might even have been directly lifted from recordings made for this movie. The performance of “Little Egypt” in the ’68 special is better than the cringey one in Roustabout, incidentally, though the outdated song is a detriment to both productions anyway.

Charlie Rogers (Elvis Presley) at Harry’s carnival in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)


Boldly Go

Multiple uncredited cast members from Roustabout went on to play roles in Star Trek.

K.L. Smith plays the Sheriff in Roustabout and appears as a Klingon in the Star Trek episode “Elaan Of Troyius” in 1968.

Elvis Presley is Charlie and K.L. Smith is the Sheriff in 1964's ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Elvis Presley is Charlie and K.L. Smith is the Sheriff in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

K.L. Smith is a Klingon captain in the 1968 STAR TREK episode "Elaan Of Troyius" (Paramount)

K.L. Smith is a Klingon captain in the 1968 STAR TREK episode “Elaan Of Troyius” (Paramount)

Other cross-overs include:

  • Dick Cherney [Roustabout: Carnival patron | Star Trek: A council member in “A Taste Of Armageddon” (1967) and a passerby in “The City On The Edge Of Forever” (1967)]
  • Carey Foster [Roustabout: College girl | Star Trek: An Enterprise crewmember in “The Squire Of Gothos” (1967), “This Side Of Paradise” (1967), and “The Alternative Factor” (1967)]
  • Teri Garr [Roustabout: Carnival dancer | Star Trek: Roberta Lincoln in “Assignment: Earth” (1968)]
  • Marianna Hill [Roustabout: Viola | Star Trek: Helen Noel in “Dagger Of The Mind” (1966)]
  • Jesse Wayne [Roustabout: Carnival worker | Star Trek: Chekov stunt double in “The Tholian Web” (1968)]

Some of these players will show up again in other Elvis movies not yet covered, giving them another chance to be featured here on The Mystery Train Elvis Blog.

An honorable mention goes to Elvis’ pal Lance LeGault, who appears as a barker in Roustabout and plays Captain K’Temoc in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Emissary” in 1989.


Elvis Presley takes a pummeling as Charlie Rogers in 1964's ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Elvis Presley takes a pummeling as Charlie Rogers in 1964’s ROUSTABOUT (Paramount)

Roustabout Tote Board

    • Songs: 11
    • Punches: 11
    • Kisses: 8
    • Karate Chops: 4
    • Slaps: 2
    • Motorcycle Crashes: 2

Songs In Roustabout

  1. “Roustabout” (1964), written by Bill Giant, Bernie Baum, & Florence Kay
  2. “Poison Ivy League” (1964), written by Bill Giant, Bernie Baum, & Florence Kay
  3. “Wheels On My Heels” (1964), written by Sid Tepper & Roy C. Bennett
  4. “It’s A Wonderful World” (1964), written by Sid Tepper & Roy C. Bennett
  5. “It’s Carnival Time” (1964), written by Ben Weisman & Sid Wayne
  6. “Carny Town” (1964), written by Fred Wise & Randy Starr
  7. “One Track Heart” (1964), written by Bill Giant, Bernie Baum, & Florence Kay
  8. “Hard Knocks” (1964), written by Joy Byers
  9. “Little Egypt” (1964), written by Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller
  10. “Big Love, Big Heartache” (1964), written by Dolores Fuller, Lee Morris, & Sonny Hendrix
  11. “There’s A Brand New Day On The Horizon” (1964), written by Joy Byers

The Mystery Train’s Roustabout Scorecard

  • Story: 6 (out of 10)
  • Acting: 8
  • Fun: 8
  • Songs: 6
  • Overall: 7 (Worth Watching)

Further Roustabout Reading Around The Web


Click image for larger, full-color version


“Since Jacob was in love with Rachel, he told her father, ‘I’ll work for you for seven years if you’ll give me Rachel, your younger daughter, as my wife.’ ‘Agreed!’ Laban replied. ‘I’d rather give her to you than to anyone else. Stay and work with me.’ So Jacob worked seven years to pay for Rachel. But his love for her was so strong that it seemed to him but a few days.”
Genesis 29:18-20

The Elvis Movie Awards (The Edge Of Reality #9)

What if the “Elvis movie” genre had its own awards show? Take a walk down the sepia carpet into. . . the edge of reality.

The Edge Of Reality

Below are the winners of the Elvis Movie Awards. Each winner takes home a prestigious Hal statuette.

Song

“Jailhouse Rock” from Jailhouse Rock — Lyrics by Jerry Leiber; Music by Mike Stoller

Documentary

Elvis—That’s The Way It Is — Herbert F. Solow and Dale Hutchinson, Producers

Writing

King Creole — Herbert Baker, Michael Vincente Gazzo

Actress In A Supporting Role

Dolores Hart in LOVING YOU

Dolores Hart in LOVING YOU

Dolores Hart — Loving You (“Susan Jessup”)

Actor In A Supporting Role

Walter Matthau in KING CREOLE

Walter Matthau in KING CREOLE

Walter Matthau — King Creole (“Maxie Fields”)

Actress

Ann-Margret in VIVA LAS VEGAS

Ann-Margret in VIVA LAS VEGAS

Ann-Margret — Viva Las Vegas (“Rusty Martin”)

Actor

Elvis Presley in CHANGE OF HABIT

Elvis Presley in CHANGE OF HABIT

Elvis Presley — Change of Habit (“Dr. John Carpenter”)

Directing

King Creole — Michael Curtiz

Best Motion Picture

Jailhouse Rock — Pandro S. Berman, Producer


Winners are now on their way to the most exclusive after party of them all, located somewhere deep in the heart of… the edge of reality.

[With apologies to Serling.]

Rock to the Jailhouse Rock

Well, Elvis Day is over. Right as midnight approached, I finished watching Jailhouse Rock on Blu. Outside of the concert documentaries, it’s probably my favorite Elvis movie. It looks incredible in high definition. I could almost imagine it was 1957 and I was in the theater. . . .

It’s been awhile since I’ve watched it, and I’d forgotten just how cool Elvis was in Jailhouse Rock. In fact, I would say Jailhouse Rock stands next to the ’68 Comeback and That’s The Way It Is as Elvis at his absolute coolest. I’m gonna have to pick up FTD’s Jailhouse Rock volumes soon.

This was probably his best acting performance, too – though 1958’s King Creole is surely a contender as well. It makes those 1960s formula movies seem all the more disappointing.

It’s been a long day, and I need some sleep. Good night, folks.

“I’d like to shove their conversation. I’m not even sure they were talking English!” –Vince Everett (Jailhouse Rock)

Shoppin’ Around: Elvis Presley 2010 Christmas Gift Guide

If you know and love an Elvis fan, here are some Christmas gift ideas to suit a wide variety of budgets. Price ranges listed are in US dollars, but most of these items are available around the world.

Under $10

Viva Elvis: The Album: Reactions from the Elvis fan community have been mixed on this CD, which features new backing music to Elvis’ vocals. While this tribute to his career obviously will never replace the original recordings, I love this retrospective. Viva Elvis is a fun and brilliant album that presents Elvis in a whole new light – how it might sound if he recorded today.

Under $20

On Stage (2010 Legacy Edition): This two-CD set contains both On Stage-February 1970 and Elvis In Person At The International Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, which capture his August 1969 and February 1970 Vegas engagements. Elvis is in top form here, and these recordings have never sounded better. A few bonus tracks are also included on each disc, from the same time period.

Under $30

Elvis Blu-ray Collection: Jailhouse Rock/Viva Las Vegas/Elvis On Tour: This three-disc Blu-ray set, currently retailing for less than $9 a movie, presents a well-chosen sampler of Elvis’ film career. Jailhouse Rock is the classic 1957 rocker that holds its own against King Creole (1958) and Flaming Star (1960) as Elvis’ best dramatic performance. 1964’s Viva Las Vegas is the highlight of his 1960s “formula” movies – aided, no doubt, by the talents of the beautiful Ann-Margret. Finally, 1972’s Elvis On Tour features Elvis on stage and behind-the-scenes during an April 1972 tour. While not as incredible as 1970’s Elvis-That’s The Way It Is (not yet available on Blu), Elvis On Tour is still a fantastic experience not to be missed.

Fair warning: This 2010 release of Elvis On Tour has been modified from the original version. Due to Warner Home Video’s inability to obtain permission to use “Johnny B. Goode,” the opening song of the movie is now an amateurishly looped, throwaway version of “Don’t Be Cruel.” This only affects the first two minutes of the otherwise unaltered film. The power of Elvis manages to save this release and make it worth recommending. Despite what you may read elsewhere, picture and sound quality for Elvis On Tour are terrific on Blu.

Elvis As Recorded At Boston Garden ’71: This Follow That Dream collectors label CD is a soundboard recording of Elvis’ one and only concert at Boston Garden. This is a must-have for fans of this era, for it provides the missing bridge between his 1970 and 1972 live concert sound. Great show! Find FTD releases at ShopElvis.com and other online Elvis stores.

$400 – $750

Elvis: The Complete Masters Collection (Franklin Mint); The Complete Elvis Presley Masters (Sony): These are two different but similarly themed CD releases. Both contain all 711 recordings that Sony identifies as masters released during Elvis’ lifetime. Sound quality is upgraded, but faithful to the original mixes (in most cases, anyway). The $400 Franklin Mint version also includes a 24-page booklet, a “record player” style display case, and a reproduction of Elvis’ first SUN record, “That’s All Right”/”Blue Moon Of Kentucky.” The $750 Sony version is aimed at higher-end collectors and includes another 103 songs (alternate masters, outtakes, home recordings, etc.), a 240-page book, and a fold-out case to hold everything. The first run of the Sony edition is sold out, but pre-orders for a January second run are now being accepted. To still have something to place under the tree, you could print out a photo of the set from the Sony site. The Franklin Mint version is still available.

Have fun, fellow Elvis fans, and thanks to all of those who love us!