Making the Most of a Bit Part in Jailhouse Rock

Do you remember the scene in Jailhouse Rock when Elvis tries to convince a club owner to hire him as a singer?  Elvis jumps on stage and starts singing, but a drunk keeps laughing and talking very loud.  When Elvis can’t get the jerk to quiet down, he slams his guitar on their table and storms out.

Well, the pretty young thing at the table with the much older drunk was an aspiring actress named Tracy Morgan.  Her part was so small, you wouldn’t think she had much of a story to tell, but she does.

 

Her agent set up a meeting with the movie’s casting man, whose first impression was that she was too young for the part.  They had already cast the actor to be opposite her, and he was old enough to be her father.  The casting man said he would let the director decide, so he sent her from the casting office to the set on the MGM back lot.

 

It was a long walk, and she had on high heels.  Then, a limousine pulled up and Elvis stepped out.  “Where are you goin’ little lady?”

Tracy was a huge fan and she thought her heart would stop.  “I’m going down to the set.”

Elvis said, “Oh, you mean where they’re doin’ my movie?”  When she said yes, he asked, “Are you gonna be in my movie?”

“I don’t know, it depends on the director.”

“Here, let me give you a ride.”

Tracy got in the limousine, and Elvis put his arm on the back of the seat and chatted with her during the several block ride to the set.  The director, Richard Thorpe, was standing there and noticed who was riding with Elvis.  Later, Tracy reminisced that Thorpe probably assumed she and Elvis were friends, or were dating.

When they walked over to the director, she introduced herself and said, “I’m here to see if you like me for the part in the bar scene.”

Thorpe looked at Elvis and said, “Well, Elvis, I assume you like her.”

Elvis replied, “Oh, yeah, she’s really nice.”

That must have been enough for the director, because he said, “OK, you’ve got the part.”

What could be a better start for a young actress trying to break into the movies?  She not only met the hottest entertainer in the world, but also rode with him in a limo, and then his presence got her the part in Elvis’ third movie.

 

However, that was not the end of Tracy Morgan’s unusual experiences with Elvis during the filming of Jailhouse Rock.  There were problems during her scene which resulted in one of the continuity bloopers some Elvis fans love to look for in his movies.  (Count me in that group.  When I watch an Elvis movie for the sixth or seventh time, I start looking for little things to keep it interesting.)

In her scene, Elvis was singing a “Young and Beautiful” on the Club La Florita stage. when the man with Tracy kept talking and laughing.

 

Elvis told him to shut up, but the guy mocked him and did it more.  This enraged Elvis, so he jumped off the stage and ran over to their booth and smashed his guitar on their table.  Unfortunately, on the first take, the guitar didn’t break as desired, and the drinks spilled on to Tracy’s blouse and skirt.

So, a second take was necessary.  First, they had to have the wardrobe people take Tracy back where they had a matching back-up outfit.  She put it on and they tried filming again.  The second attempt worked better as the guitar smashed somewhat.  A third take was considered, but that would have required her clothes be dry-cleaned first.  Elvis said, “Maybe if I keep doing this, you’ll have some more time on the film.”

Now for the blooper.  Take a look at these back-to-back shots from the movie:

Elvis Swings the Guitar, Glasses on Table

 

Elvis Slams Guitar on Table, Glasses Flying

 

Elvis Storms Off, Glasses Back on Table

Elvis throws the guitar on the floor and storms off.  Tracy’s gentlemen friend is now bent over in front of her.  The angle has changed, so none of Tracy shows except her head.  Was this a clever way to continue the scene filming without showing her wet blouse?   And how about those glasses magically reappearing on the table?

Tracy had more memories of her experience with Elvis in Jailhouse Rock.  Here they are as told to Stu Olson and published in a 1990 issue of Elvis International magazine.

On the movie sets there are prop people who bring you hand props, a drink or a cigarette, or whatever you need in the scene.  Whenever they handed Elvis a prop, fixed his hair, or touched up his makeup, he always turned and said, “Thank you, sir,” or “Thank you, ma’am.”  The whole set was buzzing.  Here was a superstar who could have acted like a real idiot about everything, but he didn’t.

He always knew his lines, not just the scene, or the day’s shooting, but the whole script, and everyone else’s part, too.  He was always helpful and not temperamental.

The first day, when we were all breaking for lunch, he came over and said, “Would you like go to lunch with me at the commissary?”  Well I was excited.  Unfortunately, when we went, his entire entourage went with us, which, for a young girl, was a lot of people to go to lunch with.

Now I had taken a lot of ribbing in my drama class about being such a fan of his, because I played his records all the time.  I knew I was going to class the following night, so I asked Elvis at lunch if he could stop by my class, and I thought to myself, “That’ll show ‘em.”  Elvis graciously said, “Yes.”  But later in the day he came over and said that the Colonel told him he couldn’t, because everyone would be asking him to stop by their group or whatever.  I felt bad, but I understood.  Then he asked me where my class was, and I told him the address.

I went on to class that night and everybody was teasing me.  “So, you got to work with your hero, “Elvis Pelvis,” and so forth.  All of a sudden, the door opened and there stood Elvis!  The whole class stopped and stared.

Elvis looked at me and smiled.  “Hi, Tracy, how are you?  I just thought I’d stop by and say hello.”

I answered, “Hello,” but he quickly left and got back in his car and drove off.

I thought to myself, Well, wasn’t that a sweet thing to do?”

I was a celebrity for months because I had gotten Elvis Presley to come to class.  But, I really hadn’t.  Elvis… made sure he was riding around in the drama class neighborhood.  That’s what I remember most about him, he was always kind, he was always polite, and he never acted like the “star.”

He was just a very sweet, talented, gorgeous man.  I’ll always love him.

©  2012    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

 

Elvis, Elvis Presley, and Graceland are registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

 

One response to “Making the Most of a Bit Part in Jailhouse Rock

  1. John Kingsbury

    A GREAT POSTING.

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