Triple Elvis powers a fresh vision of ALOHA FROM HAWAII

WARNING: This review contains major spoilers for Aloha From Hawaii: 40th Anniversary Edition.

Elvis Presley’s 1973 Aloha From Hawaii television special still stands as a significant milestone in his legendary career. The January 14 concert aired live via satellite to certain parts of the world.  Over the next several months, it aired in other locations, including the United States on April 4.

NBC’s US version of the broadcast featured a slightly edited concert, but also included several additional “insert” songs taped after the main show when the audience left the building. With only slight modifications, this was essentially the “standard” version used for rebroadcasts and home video releases through the 1990s.

2004’s Aloha From Hawaii: Deluxe Edition DVD from Elvis Presley Enterprises and BMG featured a new edit of the full concert. In addition to showcasing some new camera angles, it removed many of 1973’s split screen techniques – which had become dated over the years. The set also contained a January 12 rehearsal show taped as a backup, the January 14 insert song session, and the April 4 NBC broadcast. This 2-DVD set is the definitive release of Aloha From Hawaii.

“Definitive” does not always mean “final,” though. On Monday, EPE released a new 2013 edit of the main show on DVD. Originally created for an Elvis celebration in Honolulu that marked the 40th anniversary of the TV event in January of this year, this edition features a wider presentation that makes use of split screens to show multiple camera angles at once.

Unfortunately, EPE has thus far spent very little effort marketing this new version of Aloha From Hawaii. Press releases and product descriptions have been high on hyperbole but low on detail. Therefore, before getting into the fun stuff, I want to start this review by explaining exactly what to expect with the new Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii – 40th Anniversary Edition DVD.

Specifications

Unlike 99% of DVDs professionally released in the last 10 to 15 years, Aloha 40th contains no technical specifications on the back cover, or anywhere else for that matter.

There are no indications of aspect ratio, running time, or audio channels. There is a “Dolby Digital” logo, but that is as close as it comes to giving technical information. Lack of standard details such as these made the product packaging appear amateurish.

Here are the key technical specifications for the main feature (concert), which I derived on my own:

  • Visual format: Anamorphic widescreen (enhanced for 16:9 widescreen TVs)
  • Aspect ratio: 3:1 (approximate)
  • Running time:  77 minutes
  • Audio: English 5.1 Surround (Dolby Digital)
  • Closed captioned: No
  • Disc region: All
  • Disc format: NTSC

Explanation of Aspect Ratio

Aloha 40th has a radically different aspect ratio compared to previous versions. To this point, Aloha From Hawaii has always been presented in its original television aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (also known as 4:3). This means that for every 1.33 units of width, there is 1 unit of height. This new version is over twice as wide, at about 3:1. For every 3 units of width, there is now only 1 unit of height. This is actually wider than most films of today, which are usually 2.75:1.

What all of this means is that there are black bars at the top and the bottom of the Aloha 40th image, no matter the kind of television used to watch it. Old-style 4:3 televisions will have much thicker bars, however, than modern 16:9 televisions.

Below are simulations that compare the standard 1.33:1 Aloha with the widescreen 3:1 Aloha 40th, in terms of image space used on each kind of television. This is not intended to illustrate relative image quality.

Simulation of original 1973 ALOHA FROM HAWAII image on an old-style 4:3 television

Simulation of original 1973 ALOHA FROM HAWAII image on an old-style 4:3 television

Simulation of 2013 ALOHA FROM HAWAII: 40TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION image on an old-style 4:3 television

Simulation of 2013 ALOHA FROM HAWAII: 40TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION image on an old-style 4:3 television

Simulation of original 1973 ALOHA FROM HAWAII image on a modern 16:9 widescreen television

Simulation of original 1973 ALOHA FROM HAWAII image on a modern 16:9 widescreen television

Simulation of 2013 ALOHA FROM HAWAII: 40TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION image on a modern 16:9 widescreen television

Simulation of 2013 ALOHA FROM HAWAII: 40TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION image on a modern 16:9 widescreen television

Hanging Out Upstairs at Graceland

When I place Aloha 40th in the disc player for the first time, I do not know what to expect. I am always excited to watch a new Elvis DVD, but I am also afraid that this one will be disappointing. Will the contents be treated in the same amateur fashion as the packaging?

At first, the opening moments are fantastic, with bits of the Aloha press conferences interspersed with shots of the Earth from space.

Then, it zooms down to Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee, and things quickly go awry.

As the camera closes in on Elvis’ bedroom window, there is a knock on the door. The scene cuts inside and the camera takes on the point-of-view of someone exiting his room upstairs at Graceland.

Jerry Schilling is waiting in the hallway for this person, who turns out to be an Elvis imitator wearing an American eagle jumpsuit. Though shot in the present day, the footage is made to look vintage. In fact, it is made to look much older than 1973 for some reason.

In the background, the annoying “Also Sprach Zarathustra” substitute song that was used during backstage portions of Elvis On Tour (1972) and This Is Elvis (1981) plays. With fake “Also Sprach Zarathustra” as his introduction, is fake Elvis about to take the stage for a concert right there in real Graceland?

Not quite. The real Jerry takes fake Elvis down the stairs, through the den, and out real Graceland’s back door.

In the backyard, the real Joe Esposito is waiting to take them to a blue and white helicopter that has landed in the pasture.

These opening moments are reminiscent of both This Is Elvis and Elvis Lives: The 25th Anniversary Concert (released 2007). Ignoring for a moment that the unnecessary use of an Elvis imitator made me queasy, the new opening also left me with more questions than answers:

  • Jerry and Joe are both their present-day selves, so if this footage represents 2013, who exactly are they supposed to be retrieving from Elvis’ bedroom? His spirit?
  • If this footage is supposed to represent 1973, then why is (fake) Elvis already wearing his jumpsuit? Graceland is over 4,000 miles from Honolulu.
  • Where is that helicopter supposed to be taking fake Elvis anyway? To the airport? Elvis always took a car to the airport.

Surely, the creators of this segment are not trying to imply that fake Elvis, after being put out to pasture wearing his fake jumpsuit, rides that helicopter all the way to Honolulu? Everyone knows that when (real) Elvis arrives in Honolulu, he is in a green helicopter and wearing a corduroy suit.

Besides, if they really wanted to impress me, they would have loaded fake Elvis on the real Lisa Marie airplane and used CGI to show the plane take off for Hawaii right from Elvis Presley Boulevard. Sure, Elvis had not yet acquired his own plane at the time of Aloha, but why try to introduce logic into this insanity now?

Yes, I am nitpicking what is obviously supposed to be a fun little segment played for laughs. However, I watch Aloha to see the genuine article, not an imitation, so this poor opening almost spoiled the DVD for me.

Almost.

Then, the scene cuts to the familiar 1973 show opening – enhanced for widescreen. As the satellite graphic appears on screen, morse code begins to spell out E-L-V-I-S.

Soon enough, fake Elvis is wiped from memory as real Elvis takes the stage in all his dazzling glory. Except now, there are three of him!

The Triple Elvis Threat

Example of the split screen technique used in ALOHA FROM HAWAII: 40TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Example of the split screen technique used in ALOHA FROM HAWAII: 40TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Throughout most of Aloha 40th, there is a main camera angle in the middle section of the screen, with two slightly smaller, cropped angles on the left and right sections of the screen. This configuration is used in one of three ways:

  • One angle: Same angle repeated in all three sections
  • Two angles: One angle in middle section, a second angle repeated on both sides
  • Three angles: A different angle in each section

I did not attempt to measure this, but my rough observation is that the two angle configuration of the three sections is used most often, while the three angle configuration is used least often.

The real power of Aloha 40th is being able to view multiple angles at once, so I found the one angle use to be disappointing in most cases. However, when used appropriately, it could still be effective.

With at least two different camera angles on screen at most times, there are undoubtedly some new angles mixed in there that have not been seen on previous releases. One of my favorites that I have noticed so far is Elvis giving a nervous look directly into the camera during James Burton’s “Steamroller Blues” guitar solo. I love moments like this, which humanize Elvis. He has become such a legend, such an icon in death, that his underlying humanity is sometimes lost. He was a real man, after all, who could get nervous on stage.

Watching the split screen angles is a treat, but it also gives my eyes a real workout. I keep scanning back and forth, trying not to miss anything. Meanwhile, the fast, modern editing techniques, including many jump-cuts, also leave me trying not to blink.

While the screen contains three sections most of the time, there are also segments where it splits into dozens of images at once – though still only one or two different angles. Those segments, which are thankfully brief, look like cheap gimmicks, as if someone was allowed to play with Microsoft Movie Maker too long.

"There is nothing wrong with your television set." Visual overloads, such as the above, are thankfully rare in ALOHA FROM HAWAII: 40TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

“There is nothing wrong with your television set.” Visual overloads, such as the above, are thankfully rare in ALOHA FROM HAWAII: 40TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

To be fair, I am certain that the visual overload segments look far better in the environment for which this edit was originally created: Display on a huge movie screen in a large concert arena.

As for the concert, the complete version is used, meaning it includes the “lying like a rug,” “general flunky,” Jack Lord introduction, and other small lines cut from the NBC version.

All of the concert songs appear, including “Johnny B. Goode,” the song Warner Home Video was unable to secure usage rights for in its 2010 Blu-ray and DVD release of Elvis On Tour. EPE was either better at securing a deal with Chuck Berry than Warner, or the terms of its circa-2004 deal allowed for this release as well.

Insert Songs

Most of the “insert” songs from the NBC version of the special are included as well. Different imagery appears in these songs than in the 1973 versions, though.

Inserted between “You Gave Me A Mountain” and “Steamroller Blues,” “Early Morning Rain” contains various shots of Hawaii while Elvis is shown singing on stage after the audience has left.

“Blue Hawaii” features Elvis on stage again, but this time the additional sections are used as a scrapbook of sorts, showing various still photos of Elvis in Hawaii over the years, including production photos from Blue Hawaii, Girls! Girls! Girls!, and Paradise, Hawaiian Style. There are several images that I do not recall seeing before. However, I am not a photo collector, so they might be common.

Since Elvis sings most of “Blue Hawaii” with his eyes closed, the impression is given that he is thinking back on the events shown in the montage. It is an extremely effective sequence, though, in reality, Elvis is probably thinking, “Man, I just finished the biggest show of my career, why am I still stuck here singing to an empty room?”

While previously inserted between “Hound Dog” and “What Now My Love,” “Blue Hawaii” is now placed between “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and “Hound Dog” for some reason. Perhaps the “lying like a rug” line seemed too abrupt of a stopping point to move to the insert. I prefer it in its original position, though.

“Hawaiian Wedding Song” is omitted (as is “No More,” technically, but that was left out of the 1973 broadcast as well, so I am not counting that one). It is the only missing song, and its absence after “I’ll Remember You” does not leave near the same hole as the absence of “Johnny B. Goode” did for the opening of Elvis On Tour.

The remaining insert song is “Ku-u-i-po,” which appears in its traditional spot after “Long Tall Sally/Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.” At first, I am annoyed that only two sections of screen appear, neither of which include Elvis singing in 1973.

Then, it happens.

The Surprise

Right there, in the middle of “Ku-u-i-po,” with no fanfare, no preparation, comes footage of Elvis appearing live in Hawaii.

In 1957.

In color.

It is 30 seconds long.

But . . . wow.

This previously unreleased footage is part of a new exhibit at Graceland, called Elvis’ Hawaii: Concerts, Movies and More.

While the split screen techniques of Aloha 40th will someday seem as dated as the 1973 versions did by 2004, the real legacy of this release, what it will be remembered for long-term, will be those 30 seconds of 1957 footage.

Audio

In no way do I claim to be an audio expert, so all I can do is present my subjective opinion on this topic as a layman. My first impression of Aloha 40th‘s 5.1 audio was that I did not like the new mix.

For instance, there seemed to be little use of the rear speakers, except for background singers. In addition, Elvis’ vocal was far too prominent for my taste.

As a comparison, I played “An American Trilogy” from the original pressing of the 2004 edit of Aloha versus the same song on the 2013 edit. While the 2004 mix also has room for improvement, it is far better, in my view, than the 2013 mix. The 2004 mix has a fuller sound with more ambience.

The difference in mixes is best exemplified by what I refer to as the musical “cannon fire” portion of “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” the part where the orchestra goes, boom! Boom!! BOOM!!!

On the 2004 mix, you are the one under fire. In the 2013 mix, the cannons are merely firing off at someone else in the distance.

My primary listening for Aloha 40th was on a six-speaker surround system that used the Dolby Digital encoding (left, center, right, left rear, right rear, and sub). I also listened to selections on a standard two-speaker stereo setup (left and right).

Unlike the 2004 edition, there is not a dedicated stereo track available. Presumably, this means it is left to one’s audio equipment to convert the 5.1 sound to 2.0. In my case, it sounded fine. In some ways, I enjoyed it more than the true 5.1 version, but that might be due to having lower expectations.

Video

As shown in the aspect ratio image examples above, the tradeoff of the multiple angles on Aloha 40th is that the visuals are now smaller overall, using less screen space.

That being said, video quality never jumped out at me as a significant issue on this release. I also do not claim to be a video expert, though, so I only present my perspective as a fan who has watched and enjoyed Aloha From Hawaii for years.

Overall image quality is about the same as the 2004 edition, which was very clean. Once again, I used “An American Trilogy” to make most of my comparisons.

Some of the video footage this time out has an occasional darker look, though, but that may be an intentional effect. Though I noted it, it was not distracting.

Coloring sometimes varies from angle to angle. For instance, Elvis’ jumpsuit sometimes looks white, while other times it is an off-white. Due to the many factors that could cause this, though, I am not prepared to blame the variances on this release in particular. In fact, I am almost sure this has always been the case. The split screens simply make it easier to detect.

One of the things that surprised me was that the 2013 image often appeared crisper than the 2004 version. Since I was watching on a high-definition television, this unexpected benefit was likely due to the comparatively low-resolution image not having to be artificially expanded as much for the increased resolution of modern TVs.

My primary viewing of Aloha 40th was on a 73-inch widescreen TV, from a distance of about ten feet. I also viewed selections on a 27-inch widescreen monitor, from a distance of about three feet. Unfortunately, I did not have ready access to an old-style TV to test how Aloha 40th appears in that format.

Due to the extremely wide aspect ratio and split screen technology, larger, widescreen televisions will obviously have better results than smaller units. However, even on the 27-inch widescreen, Aloha 40th was still enjoyable.

Extras

Aloha 40th also includes the following bonus content:

  • 40th Anniversary Aloha From Hawaii Celebration: A four-minute documentary, which, combined with the main show, certainly makes this DVD a fine souvenir for those fortunate enough to participate in Graceland’s Elvis-themed Hawaiian vacation package earlier this year. It just makes the rest of us jealous, though.
  • Elvis’ Hawaii: Concerts, Movies, and More! Exhibit: A five-minute documentary about Graceland’s new exhibit, narrated by Angie Marchese, EPE’s Director of Archives, who created the exhibit. This documentary does a great job in the time allotted explaining what went into creating the new exhibit, as well as giving a nice walkthrough of its contents. This is another chance to see that spectacular 1957 concert footage, by the way. This documentary also reminds me that I really need to go back to Graceland one day.
  • Aloha From Hawaii Press Conferences: Five minutes worth of footage from Elvis’ September and November 1972 press conferences. I have seen this footage elsewhere in better condition.

Though I will not watch them very often, the extras are fine. I especially enjoyed the one about the exhibit, which acts as a commercial for Graceland without being obvious about it.

The only additional item I would have preferred in a release of this nature would have been a “making of” documentary about the 2013 edit.

Booklet

The booklet that accompanies the Aloha 40th DVD is actually a modified version of the program given at the 40th anniversary event in January. Though it is nicely assembled, the 12-page booklet contains typical information and pictures. It contains no further details about the DVD. Even the song-listing included is noted as supposedly being for the 1973 NBC broadcast version.

Overall Verdict

Ultimately, the wide format and split screens of Aloha 40th work better than I imagined they would, and they serve to shed new light and energy upon a concert that has become so familiar to Elvis fans. Use of split screen technology returns Aloha to its roots, albeit in modern form.

Aloha 40th should not replace previous edits of Aloha From Hawaii, though. Instead, it should stand alongside them as another viewing alternative.

I know there are some fans who do not enjoy Aloha From Hawaii. They criticize it for a multitude of reasons: Elvis is sluggish, Elvis is nervous, Elvis disrespects his older hits, etc.

While many of those kinds of observations are indeed valid to some extent, I cannot help but love Aloha From Hawaii anyway. While Elvis was alive, it was really his last moment in the international spotlight. Though it might never be in serious contention as his best show, I still find it hugely entertaining and compelling.

If you have not been a fan of Aloha From Hawaii to this point, this DVD is not likely to change your mind. No amount of special editing could ever do that.

If, on the other hand, you already enjoy Aloha From Hawaii and are willing to embrace change, then the Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii – 40th Anniversary Edition DVD is a must.

Once Elvis took the stage, I had a big smile on my face the entire time.

It’s Elvis. It’s fun. What more could I ask?

Booklet cover for ELVIS: ALOHA FROM HAWAII - 40TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION (2013)

Booklet cover for ELVIS: ALOHA FROM HAWAII – 40TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION (2013)

King Creole: The Making Of The Movie

Elvis Presley, 1958

Elvis Presley in King Creole, 1958

King Creole was based on the 1952 novel A Stone For Danny Fisher by Harold Robbins. The novel’s protagonist is a boxer in New York, which the movie adapted into a singer in New Orleans to better suit audience expectations of its star, Elvis Presley. Elvis read the novel as part of his preparations for the role of Danny Fisher.

Producer Hal Wallis had been trying to get the film version of A Stone For Danny Fisher off the ground since 1955, long before Elvis was attached to the project. At that time, A Stone For Danny Fisher was also playing as an off-Broadway production.

James Dean was even rumored to have been in the running for the movie’s lead at one point. This was Wallis’ second Elvis movie. He would go on to produce nine Elvis movies in all.

Hal Wallis: “Michael Curtiz directed the film and he has a very sharp but romantic instinct. Walter Matthau made an excellent heavy and we had marvelous locations in New Orleans” (1).

Controversy swirled around King Creole before shooting even began. In late 1957, Elvis received his draft notice ordering him into the US Army as of January 1958.

With production slated to begin in Hollywood that same month, Paramount requested a deferment from the Memphis draft board, citing $300,000 it had already pumped into the movie during pre-production. Milton Bowers of the draft board replied that a deferment might be possible under the circumstances, but that Elvis would have to be the one to request it.

On Christmas Eve, 1957, Elvis wrote a letter requesting extra time before reporting to the Army in order to make King Creole. He completed the letter by wishing a “Merry Christmas” to the draft board members. Bowers and the draft board indeed granted his extension request, but soon received heat from other organizations – including the national chapter of the American Legion – calling for the immediate induction of Elvis.

Milton Bowers: “You know what made me angry about the entire thing is that he would have automatically gotten the extension if he hadn’t been Elvis Presley the superstar” (2).

Elvis Presley: “I’m glad they were nice enough to let me make this picture because I think it will be the best one I’ve made” (3).

On January 10, 1958, just two days after celebrating his 23rd birthday, Elvis departed Memphis on a train for Los Angeles. He brought along several friends, including Alan Fortas.

Alan Fortas: “Every town we passed through, no matter what time of morning or night, the whole station was jam-packed. These people knew as soon as Elvis finished this movie, he was going in the Army, so most of them considered it the last time to see him. […] People knew and they were lined up along the tracks all the way across America” (4).

Elvis arrived in Hollywood on January 13 and reported for pre-production. During the week, he also began work on the soundtrack at Radio Recorders.

During pre-production, the movie was titled Sing, You Sinners. This title was changed to Danny, and finally King Creole, based on the strength of the rock ‘n’ roll tune Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller wrote for the soundtrack.

Filming began on January 20. Many of Elvis’ early scenes were with Jan Shepard, who played his sister, Mimi.

Jan Shepard: “[W]e worked together alone for about a week, because we did the opening of the show. He was […] just a lot of fun and buoyant, not guarded at all. There was a five-and-dime store on our set, and in the morning I would find earrings and little bracelets, little five-and-dime stuff on my dressing room table. I used to call him the last of the big-time spenders!” (5)

Because of his character’s name, Elvis often sang “Danny Boy” on set. He would return to the folk song many times over the years, including a 1959 home recording captured while he was stationed in Germany (available on the posthumous release A Golden Celebration). He formally recorded the song in 1976 at Graceland for the album From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee. An organist played the song at the beginning of Elvis’ funeral in 1977.

Dolores Hart appeared as Nellie, one of Danny’s love interests. She had previously appeared with Elvis in 1957’s Loving You, also a Hal Wallis production.

Elvis Presley: “[King Creole] was quite a challenge for me because it was written for a more experienced actor” (6).

Dolores Hart: “Elvis, no matter what anyone says, deserves credit as a person of talent. There is no reason he shouldn’t soar to the heights the kings [of the screen] occupy now” (7).

Jan Shepard: “[Elvis] was very concentrated, very focused on playing Danny. For a kid coming in and just beginning his career he had a great sense of timing; there was great honesty in his acting. He was a very good listener, and he just became the young boy […]. Just like in his music, he really got involved in his acting” (5).

Walter Matthau played Fisher’s antagonist, Maxie Fields. It was his sixth film.

Walter Matthau, 1958

Walter Matthau in King Creole

Walter Matthau: “I almost hesitate, I creep up to the sentence, [Elvis] was an instinctive actor. Because that is almost a derogation of his talents. That’s saying, ‘Well, you know, he’s just a dumb animal who does it well by instinct.’ No, he was quite bright, too. He was very intelligent. Also, he was intelligent enough to understand what a character was and how to play the character simply by being himself through the means of the story” (8).

Michael Curtiz’s directing credits extended back to 1912. In addition to 1942’s Casablanca, for which he won an Oscar, his other work, from among nearly 200 films, included the 1937 original version of Kid Galahad, Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), and White Christmas (1954). Curtiz was attached to King Creole before it was transformed into an Elvis movie.

Jan Shepard: “Curtiz said he thought Elvis was going to be a very conceited boy, but when he started working with him, he said, ‘No, this is a lovely boy, and he’s going to be a wonderful actor'” (5).

Walter Matthau: “Michael Curtiz used to call him Elvy and he’d call me Valty. He’d say, ‘Now Elvy and Valty, come here, now Valty, this is not Academy Award scene. Don’t act so much. You are high-price actor. Make believe you are low-price actor. Let Elvy act.’ But Elvy didn’t overact. He was not a punk. He was very elegant, sedate . . . refined and sophisticated” (8).

Jan Shepard: “You just didn’t have a lot of fooling around with Curtiz […]. But no matter what Curtiz would ask of Elvis, he would say, ‘Okay, you’re the boss'” (5).

Elvis at a party in 1958

Elvis performing at Jan Shepard’s birthday party on February 22, 1958. Also pictured is Dolores Hart on clarinet.

Hart threw a birthday party for Shepard on February 22. Elvis showed up with a stuffed tiger that he named “Danny Boy.” His birthday gift for Shepard was a movie camera, definitely not from the five-and-dime store. He also played guitar and sang at the party.

King Creole was the first Elvis movie to include location shooting. On March 1, the film’s cast and crew headed for New Orleans by train. At this point, Red West, Elvis’ friend since his high school days, and actor Nick Adams, who Elvis had befriended in 1956, joined up with the rest of his entourage for the trip.

Carolyn Jones played Ronnie, Danny’s other love interest. She brought her husband, actor Aaron Spelling, along for the train ride to New Orleans. The couple would divorce in 1964. Spelling later went on to produce dozens of television series, including Charlie’s Angels and Beverly Hills 90210.

Tom Parker, Elvis’ manager, expressed concerns about security on the location shoot to Wallis. Wallis assured Parker that they could handle it. After all, he had worked with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis at the peak of the duo’s popularity.

Alan Fortas: “There were thousands of people. Hal Wallis couldn’t believe it. […] I never saw so many people in my life. They declared it Elvis Presley Day and let the kids out of school and it took us two hours to get back to the hotel no matter where we were, even from across the street” (9).

In the French Quarter, the car carrying Elvis was almost overturned by the massive crowd.

Carolyn Jones: “[Elvis] had to ride in an old sedan, lying on the floor in the back, so his fans couldn’t mob him” (10).

Elvis took over the tenth floor of the Roosevelt Hotel, one block from where they were filming in the French Quarter. Hotel security was so tight that no one was admitted to the tenth floor. As a joke, Hart, Jones, and Adams armed themselves with toy guns and held up the elevator operator to force their way to Elvis’ floor. The elevator operator was not in on the joke and was apparently still shaken the next day.

Alan Fortas: “[W]e got on the elevator and we said, ‘Tenth floor, please.’ The elevator operator said, ‘No, sir, I can’t stop on the tenth floor. Mr. Presley is up there and we just can’t stop.’ Elvis was on the elevator with us and he said, ‘Yeah, I know. I’m Elvis.’ The elevator operator looked straight at him and said, ‘I’m sorry, sir, I can’t stop on that floor for anybody.’ We had to go to the eleventh floor and walk down” (9).

The film’s climax was shot at a house on stilts at Lake Pontchartrain. Elvis and Jones shared scenes there.

Carolyn Jones: “[Elvis] was always asking a lot of questions. God, he was young! I didn’t think anyone could be that young. He was always talking about his folks and about the house [Graceland] he’d just bought them” (8).

When onlookers at Lake Pontchartrain became unmanageable, Elvis had to escape through the back of the house to a motorboat that whisked him away.

Though Memphis was tantalizingly close, the group had to return by train to Hollywood to be released from King Creole. Elvis attended a wrap party on March 12, and then he and his friends were on yet another train. Destination: Memphis.

Alan Fortas: “We’d just sit and talk [on the train], try to write songs, try to sing. You know, just typical ol’ boys. But it got to us by the time we got to Dallas. We couldn’t take it any longer. So we got off that train and rented some Cadillacs and drove the rest of the way home” (11).

Elvis arrived home on March 14 and was inducted into the Army on March 24.

Paramount released King Creole throughout the United States on July 2. It peaked at #5 on the Variety charts. At this time, Private Presley was still stationed at Fort Hood in Texas.

Hal Wallis: “Now, although I don’t have all the figures, I believe that one of the least successful of Elvis’s films was King Creole. But that was my favorite!” (1)

Dolores Hart and Elvis Presley in King Creole

Dolores Hart and Elvis in King Creole

Dolores Hart: “Elvis is a young man with an enormous capacity of love . . . but I don’t think he has found his happiness. I think he is terribly lonely” (12).

According to longtime friend Sonny West, if Elvis had his way, he would have reunited with director Michael Curtiz when Elvis was cast in a remake of Kid Galahad, which filmed in late 1961 (13). This time, Elvis actually played a boxer, albeit a singing one. Despite Elvis’ campaign, Phil Karlson received the directing nod instead. Curtiz passed away in April 1962 at the age of 74.

Elvis later reunited with Jan Shepard in 1966’s Paradise, Hawaiian Style, in which she played Betty Kohana. Shepard had maintained a friendship with Hart after King Creole. By this time, the quality of Elvis’ movies had declined. While King Creole is a contender for Elvis’ best movie, Paradise, Hawaiian Style is a contender for his worst.

Jan Shepard: “One time [Elvis] asked about Dolores Hart, and we had a little bit of a conversation. In the quiet moments, he was still very sweet. When we reminisced about Creole, he said, ‘Honey, that was my favorite picture'” (14).


Bibliography

  • Careless Love: The Unmaking Of Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick, Little, Brown And Company, Boston, 1999.
  • Down At The End Of Lonely Street: The Life And Death Of Elvis Presley by Peter Harry Brown and Pat H. Broeske, Dutton, New York, 1997.
  • ELVIS: The Biography by Jerry Hopkins, Plexus, London, 2007.
  • Elvis Commemorative Edition, compiled by Bill DeNight, Sharon Fox, and Ger Rijff, Publications International, Lincolnwood, IL, 2002.
  • Elvis Day By Day: The Definitive Record Of His Life And Music by Peter Guralnick and Ernst Jorgensen, Ballantine Books, New York, 1999.
  • The Elvis Encyclopedia by Adam Victor, Overlook Duckworth, New York, 2008.
  • Elvis: The Great Performances, dir. Andrew Solt, perf. Elvis Presley, 1989, DVD, SOFA, 2011.
  • Elvis: His Life From A To Z by Fred L. Worth and Steve D. Tamerius, Wings Books, New York, 1990.
  • Elvis In Private, edited by Peter Haining, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1987.
  • Elvis: Still Taking Care Of Business by Sonny West with Marshall Terrill, Triumph Books, Chicago, 2007.
  • Good Rockin’ Tonight: Twenty Years On The Road And On The Town With Elvis by Joe Esposito and Elena Oumano, Avon Books, New York, 1994.
  • Internet Movie Database, accessed March 23, 2013.
  • King Creole, dir. Michael Curtiz, perf. Elvis Presley, Carolyn Jones, and Walter Matthau, 1958, DVD, Paramount, 2000.
  • Last Train To Memphis: The Rise Of Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick, Little, Brown And Company, Boston, 1994.
  • Viva Las Elvis: Celebrating The King, compiled by Peggy Thompson, Arsenal Pulp Press, Vancouver, 1994.

References

(1) Elvis In Private, p. 92
(2) Down At The End Of Lonely Street, p. 137
(3) Last Train To Memphis, p. 446
(4) ELVIS: The Biography, p. 129
(5) Last Train To Memphis, p. 450
(6) Last Train To Memphis, p. 456
(7) Elvis Commemorative Edition, p. 112
(8) Last Train To Memphis, p. 451
(9) ELVIS: The Biography, p. 130
(10) Down At The End Of Lonely Street, p. 139
(11) ELVIS: The Biography, p. 131
(12) Elvis: His Life From A To Z, p. 85
(13) Elvis: Still Taking Care Of Business, p. 120
(14) Careless Love, p. 209


My grandmother worked in the ticket booth of a theater for decades. I dedicate this series of movie posts to her, who would have turned 103 this month. I often remember her when I watch movies.