I think Stockholm syndrome is starting to set in. I’ve always sort-of liked Elvis, but now a real fever is taking hold. I find myself wanting to listen to Elvis on the regular, thinking about Elvis randomly, YouTube is recommending Elvis videos to me all the time, and heck, I even bought an Elvis t-shirt. In my defense, at this point in his career, Elvis owned a pet chimpanzee and was obsessed with karate, so look, we’re all going a little crazy here, alright?
Most of all, I love how they keep finding different ways to put Elvis in the same position of deciding between two girls and his life goals. You’ve got Singer Elvis, Western Elvis, Writer Elvis, Tourism Guide Elvis, Boxing Elvis—hell, if they made Elvis Barbie dolls, I would buy them all. So what’s next in the world of ___ Elvis? Check out the latest installment below to find out:
Girls! Girls! Girls! (1962) | 106 min.
Also known as…. Sailor Elvis!
Elvis is back in Hawaii, but this time he’s Ross Carpenter, a fisherman who’s trying to save up all his money to buy the boat he lives and works on. Ross’ father built the boat, but sold it to some Greek family who now employs Ross. He seems to enjoy his bachelor life and his simple job of taking tourists out to fish, but it’s all upended when Papa Stavros (Frank Puglia) tells Ross that he and his wife are moving to Arizona and have to sell their ships.
Ross is now desperate for cash, as he doesn’t want to miss out on the chance to buy his dad’s boat. He decides to go back to the ol’ club in town and take up a second job as a lounge singer to make quick money. There he encounters ex-girlfriend Robin (Stella Stevens), a bombshell blonde with a killer voice to match. Robin’s not too thrilled with Ross trying to swoop in on her territory, plus, she doesn’t seem too happy with Ross in general—I guess he had a wandering eye or something, because she sure is bitter. Girls girls girls, man.
While Robin is giving him the chill, he ends up rescuing a stranger from a drunk and obnoxious date. Her name is Laurel (Laurel Goodwin) and she seems sweet, charming, a bit mysterious, and very interested in Ross. He walks her home and tries overtly to get her to take him upstairs, but she declines and calls him “sweet” for it. (I think I would have used the word “creeper”, but hey, who am I to judge.)
When Ross comes back, his boat has already been sold to some jerk named Wesley (Jeremy Slate) who agrees to keep Ross in employment but lowballs him with the salary. He also promises he’ll sell the boat back to Ross, but he doubles the price Papa Stavros was asking just to be obnoxious. The rest of the film follows Elvis taking Laurel on several dates around the islands, avoiding Robin while singing at her job, and going on fishing expeditions to save up dough.
Later on, Laurel buys the boat for Ross from Wesley because surprise, she is actually super loaded and wanted to help out her new boyfriend. Ross is not cool with that, and throws a hissy fit— girls girls girls, they don’t get it. The rest of the movie is just about Laurel trying to win back Ross and Ross basically deciding his dreams aren’t worth it if a woman can achieve them for you. He eventually asks Laurel to sell the boat so they can get married and he can build a new boat.
I actually enjoyed this one. It’s cheesy, but they don’t try too hard to promise anything other than Elvis in some slick sailor outfits and well-done musical numbers. Elvis has his swing back in this movie, and seems to be enjoying himself a bit more than the last couple of films. He’s moving his hips with feeling again, somewhere in between The Twist and Jackie Wilson. He also punches a couple guys in the face, and cooks dinner after Laurel totally burns everything, so he’s basically a dreamboat on a boat.
My biggest complaint is that they didn’t make better use out of the title—if I’m going to watch a movie called Girls! Girls! Girls! then I want more girls, goddamn it! They went for ‘orphan bachelor who just wants to do his job’ formula instead of going for ‘playboy Casanova who discovers what true love is when the right one comes along,’ the latter of which definitely would have been the superior choice, given the title. We see Papa Stavros’ daughters briefly, and they’re super hot, so I have no idea why this movie didn’t give us more of them. For the first half hour, Elvis does seem to say “Girls!” at the end of every scene, which is perfect and what I wanted—but, unfortunately, they don’t follow through with it. And the last musical number is just about girls from around the world, but it’s totally out of nowhere as far as the plot goes.
Oh, and the casual racism, that’s my other complaint. I’ll give the filmmakers credit that, at the very least, the Chinese family in the film is played by actual Chinese people, and Elvis makes a genuine attempt to speak some Chinese. But otherwise, it’s just stereotypes of Chinese food, appropriated traditional music, broken English, and corny, stereotype-based jokes (“You know what they say about Chinese girl–go on one date, hour later you want another!”). Yeah, you tried, ’60s, but you’re still racist.
Then you’ve got the casual sexism, by way of his inability to deal with the idea of a richer woman helping support him. I personally think Elvis shoulda took the damn boat, which is what he’d do if he really cared about owning what his father built. Instead, he’s just showing his hollow pride and lack of life direction by rejecting it when it’s handed to him.
All in all, not bad, but needed more girls.
Best Song: “Return To Sender” is easily the best song, but as for the best performance, it’s a tough call. I think I’ll have to go with “The Walls Have Ears“ because it’s just so bizarre. A tango about listening to your neighbors argue or maybe have sex, who can tell. By the way, if this chick is so rich, why is she living in a studio apartment made of cardboard? You can do better, Elvis.
2 1/2 out of 5 Stars,
3 out of 5 Elvises
It Happened at the World’s Fair (1963) | 105 min.
Also known as… Pilot Elvis!
This title sounds like it should be a bad Sci-Fi—like maybe the World’s Fair is secretly an alien trap to abduct people for a human zoo they’re creating on the fairground or something—but alas, it’s just a bland musical comedy.
Mike (Presley) and Danny (Gary Lockwood) co-own a crop-duster biplane named ‘Bessy.’ They scrape by, but they each have their vices—Mike’s a serial womanizer, and Danny’s a compulsive gambler, the latter of these vices causing the sheriff to impound their plane due to debt. So, in an attempt to find work, Mike and Danny hitchhike up to Seattle with a friendly farmer named Walter Ling (Kam Tong) and his seven-year-old niece Sue-Lin (Vicky Tiu) that are heading to the World’s Fair.
When Walter suddenly has to attend to unexpected business, Mike agrees to be a nice guy and take Sue-Lin around the fair, while Danny promises he’ll acquire some cash before the day is up. Mike and Sue-Lin wander around and eat everything in sight until Sue-Lin becomes sick and needs to go to the infirmary. There, Mike meets Diane (Joan O’Brien) an attractive nurse who’s not having any of Mike’s wolfish ways. Her lack of interest is maddeningly attractive to Mike, and he can’t stop thinking about her.
By the time they get out of the fair, Danny’s won them a second-rate car and a trailer park home with his gambling. The next day, Mike goes back to the fair and hires a kid (Kurt Russell!) to kick him in the shin so he can visit the nurse again. His plan almost works, but he gets found out, and Diane storms off. Then Sue-Lin shows up, crying that her uncle disappeared. Mike takes Sue-Lin home and does his best to watch over her while they try and look for her uncle. During this time, Mike scores some more dates with Diane, who turns out to be actually kinda cool, as she’s obsessed with the space program and encourages Mike to join NASA.
Eventually somebody calls Child Services on Mike and Danny, and a woman from there takes Sue-Lin away (and lets this seven-year-old child ride backwards in the front seat of her convertible without a seatbelt for some reason). Even better, an hour after she takes Sue-Lin, she loses her and calls Mike back like, ‘Oops, I lost your kid.’ Mike is furious, and feels compelled to go look for her. Meanwhile, Danny gets them involved in a covert smuggling operation in an attempt to free their plane.
It Happened At The World’s Fair has a bland plot, too many musical numbers with a child, and a mishmash of what I’d consider B-side music with little to no staging. I’ll never understand who the target audience is in movies like this where it’s about gambling and womanizing but includes several musical numbers for children. And Elvis’ lecherous yet heart-of-gold character here is exactly what I wanted him to be in Girls! Girls! Girls!, so way to mix that one up, Hollywood. Plus, his singing is lackluster, and there’s no dancing to be found.
But, here’s the struggle—Elvis looks smoking hot in this movie. Like, ohmigod, his suits are perfectly tailored, and when he’s not in a fly-ass suit he’s in a fly-ass flyboy aviator jacket and a scarf. (Excuse me while I lay down on this fainting couch for a second and fan myself…) Like, Elvis has some serious game in this film, to the point that you’re just rooting for his womanizing because I mean, dang, yeah, that’s too good not to share. Throw in a couple of signature Elvis brawling scenes and you’ve got my approval. Would Hollywood tailor Sy Devore please come out and take a bow? I am definitely crossing my fingers that this was the start of a theme, and that Elvis has tailored suits in all his films after this one.
Big bonus points for the total lack of racism in this film—in fact, there’s zero mention of Uncle Walter and Sue-Lin being Chinese at all, which at this point is almost as shocking as if there were just scenes straight up racism. I was genuinely impressed. Fun fact: Vicky Tiu was actually a real life sister of the other young sisters from Girls! Girls! Girls!, so, way to farm out your kids to Hollywood, Tiu family.
I’ve also gotta mention Gary Lockwood—also known as the other astronaut in 2001: A Space Odyssey and that guy in Star Trek with telepathy from the first Kirk episode. Little did I know he had humble beginnings as a drunken gambler who co-owned a plane with Elvis. (Apparently he was in Wild in the Country too, but I’ll be honest, I didn’t even notice him in that one.)
The other great thing about this movie is its cool setting. I mean, the ’62 Worlds Fair still defines Seattle, the Space Needle being the centerpiece of that city today. I loved seeing Elvis run around on the Alweg monorail, visit the Space Needle restaurant, and eat Belgium waffles—it’s a great time capsule, despite being heavily staged, and despite a lot of obvious green-screening.
Best Song: The songs are all pretty bland, so this is a tough one. I guess I’ll pick “How Would You Like To Be“ which is the creepiest clown-based song sung to a child ever. Though, Elvis looks like he’s enjoying himself, so, appalling lyrics aside, I’ll admit it is a little bit cute.
I’ll also throw in “Happy Ending,” which is the big finale musical number, and really gives you a decent portrait of how poorly a lot of these movies end.
2 1/2 out of 5 stars,
2 1/2 out of 5 Elvises