Monthly Archives: August 2016

A Rare Look at Elvis Screenplays

Elvis - Change of Habit - Open Script

Movie screenplays are available from a number of different sources. They offer thousands of titles, but one thing you won’t find in their listings is an Elvis screenplay.

Script Fly

Script City

Apparently Elvis collectors long ago snapped up every available copy of the scripts of his movies. So, it was quite a surprise to see nine Elvis screenplays offered at the recent Auction at Graceland. They vary greatly in price for a variety of reasons we will discuss here. They will be presented from cheapest to most expensive.

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Wild in the Country:

Elvis - Wild in the Country First Draft Script

The auction website describes this one as remarkable and a rare example of a well-used original first draft screenplay. Bidders obviously thought otherwise because no one would make the minimum bid of $600 ($750 with the Graceland premium added).

Here’s why they shied away. The shabby condition certainly was a factor. Showing signs of heavy use, it is worn along the edges and stained. It also suffered water damage, mostly confined to the cover.

Please note the date of August 7, 1958 on the cover, and the original title, The Lost Country, crossed out and Wild in the Country written in. Elvis didn’t get out of the Army until 1960, so most of the copious use this script received came before Elvis was active in the project.

Elvis - Wild In The Country Movie Poster

While this script wasn’t of much interest to Elvis fans, it may have value to students of film because it contains numerous handwritten notations and amended dialog throughout. One can see how after months (years?) of review and tweaking, an original first draft script can turn into the final version used for filming.

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Roustabout:

Elvis Movie -Roustabout Script

This script for Roustabout is the final version, so all additions, corrections, and replacements on the first working script have been incorporated. The quality is listed as near-mint.

Elvis - Roustabout Movie Poster

The auction website says this script came from a member of the film crew, so bidders knew Elvis never even touched it. The projected winning price for this Roustabout script was $1,000-1,500, but it generated only the minimum bid of $600 (plus 25%).

 

Stay Away Joe:

Elvis - Stay Away, Joe Script

The next three screenplays sold for $938 ($750 plus premium), which was a good bit below the estimate of $1,000 – $1,500. Also, there were only two bids placed on each of them, presumably by the same two people in each case.

Elvis - Stay Away Joe Movie Poster

The auction website spent more space talking about the movie Stay Away, Joe than the screenplay. They did explain that it is a later-phase final script with evolution evidenced by “the plethora of blue replacement sheets, used when changes were made, to avoid having to reprint entire scripts and actors having to transcribe their personal notations.”

Blue Pages in Elvis' Stay Away Joe Script

Blue replacement sheet on left, original white script page on right.

 

Follow That Dream:

Elvis Presley - Follow That Dream Script

Screenplays ae not usually put in a hardback book cover, but this mint-condition version of Follow That Dream was for some reason.

Elvis - Follow That Dream Movie Poster
The interior cover tells us a few interesting things. The number 172 in the upper right corner indicates the large number of copies made of this script. Any number of production and support personnel get copies, not just the actors. You can see the original title was Pioneer, Go Home, with the change to Follow That Dream (Release Title) hand-written above it.

Elvis - Follow That Dream Final Script

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Double Trouble:

Elvis - Double Trouble Final Script

This script for Double Trouble has the same tan-colored cover we will see several times in this post. We are told a sticker reading “All the King’s Things” is affixed to the inside back page, but it is not explained and no photo is included. The condition is listed as Very Good to Excellent.

Elvis -Double Trouble 3

One thing of note is the message at the top of the cover: “Please do not lose or destroy this script. Return to Script Department.”

Double Trouble - Close up

Most of the screenplay copies in the auction had a similar notation, sometimes on the inside cover. The studios tried to keep their scripts from leaking out or going missing, but whoever had copy # 133 of Double Trouble got around the rule.

 

King Creole:

Elvis - King Creole Early Production Screenplay

The next two screenplays sold for $1,500 including the premium, but there doesn’t seem to be any compelling reason for the price jump. This King Creole script did at least have Elvis’ name written on it, but it isn’t stated that he wrote it, so it’s a safe assumption that it was someone else.

Elvis - King Creole Movie Poster

As you can see on the script cover, the title was originally A Stone for Danny Fisher, the same as the title of the Harold Robbins novel it was adapted from.

A Stone for Danny Fisher

That’s not the only thing that changed.

“The story of A Stone for Danny Fisher featured Danny as a boxer in a suburb of Brooklyn, New York. The film was originally written for James Dean, but then it was shelved after his untimely death in September of 1955. In 1957, the idea of the film was resurrected and adjusted for the lead to be played by the wildly popular star, Elvis Presley. The character of Danny was converted from a boxer to a musician, changed to being set in New Orleans and the title was adjusted to King Creole.”

“This working script was truer to the original story than the final version, as Danny dies on the last page, but this was later changed for the film. Perhaps this change was a result of the reaction to Elvis’ character Clint dying in the end of Love Me Tender.”

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Clambake:

Elvis - Clambake Script

I’m not sure what made this copy of the Clambake script worth more money than others we’ve looked at, except that it is mint condition. It did get ten bids, so some additional people were interested in it compared to the previous scripts at this auction.

Elvis - Clambake Movie Poster

Elvis -Clambake Script Open

With the blue cover open, we see the kind of information script covers usually contain.

 

Live A Little, Love A Little:

Elvis - Live A Little Script

It is easy to see why the top bid on this one went to $2,500 – Elvis’ signature on the cover. The auction website states this original production script was Elvis’ personal working copy. But it also sates: “There is a secretarial Elvis signature on the front cover of this script and someone has added the handwritten notation “(I’m Coming)” under the novel’s title in pencil (it cannot be determined if this is in Elvis’ hand).”

Does that mean a secretary signed his name? If so, she did a pretty good job.

Elvis - Live A Little Movie Poster

 

Change of Habit:

1969 Change of Habit Production Script Signed by Elvis Presley

There is no question why this was the winner for top bid among the screenplays offered at the Auction at Graceland. Just under the Change of Habit title, you can see Elvis’ signature.

Elvis and Barbara McNair

This script is attributed to Barbara McNair, one of Elvis’ costars. Her name is on script cover (shown in the first image of this post), it appears she had a little signing party when filming completed. In addition to Elvis, she got Mary Tyler Moore, Jane Elliot and director William A Graham sign her script. Here’s a look at Elvis’ message to her with some of the adjacent verbiage cut out.

Elvis' message to Barbara McNair

The script and autographs had value added with the inclusion of two copies of shooting call sheets dated April 18, 1969 (the 28th day of shooting) on which sets are listed with the actors’ names and handwritten costume notes.

Elvis Movie Change of Hhabit Poster

If all that wasn’t enough, Change of Habit was Elvis’ last theatrical film, so that probably added some sentimental value and boosted the winning bid up to $4,000, well above the auction estimate.

 

 

© 2016 Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister All Rights Reserved www.ElvisBlog.net

 

 

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

 

Interesting Items at the Latest Auction at Graceland

Elvis Presley Signed Guitar Case

The Auction at Graceland continues to grow and cement its position as the best place to sell your Elvis collectibles. In addition to bringing buyers and sellers together, EPE has introduced another attraction to bring folks to Elvis Week. From just 72 items at the first auction in August 2014, the list of memorabilia grew to 197 lots in the recent August 13, 2016 extravaganza in Memphis.

For the first time that I’m aware of, a nice group of Elvis movie scripts were offered to the public. We will look at these separately in another post in a few weeks. Most of the Elvis autographs, rings, and apparel sold at this auction will show up later as ElvisBlog continues its three popular series on these items of special interest. But that still leaves plenty of goodies to cover here now.

Signed and Inscribed Guitar Case:

 

Elvis' Autographed Guitar Case

This autographed hard-shell acoustic guitar case has an interesting story. Elvis loved to ride horses, and, in February 1967, he purchased a 163-acre ranch just across the Mississippi state line, naming it “Circle G” after Graceland. Later that year, an auction was held to sell off some excess equipment along with a few personal belongings of Elvis. Two young ladies named Peggy Ferrell and Diana Hoover, roommates at the time, attended this auction. Peggy bid $15 on the battered guitar case, said to be one of the first owned by Elvis.

Somehow, the girls were able to get Elvis to sign the case, “To Peggy and Diana from Elvis Presley” with a bold marker on the inside bottom felt.

Article on the girls with Elvis' Guitar Case

Article on the girls with Elvis’ Guitar Case

Forty-five years later, at an October 2012 Heritage auction, the case sold for $5,000. Fast forward four years, and this signed guitar case sold for $9,375 at the Auction at Graceland. That includes the 25% percent premium for Graceland. The net of $7,500 for the seller made a cool $2,500 profit.

This is a good example of how the Auction at Graceland has raised the bid prices for Elvis memorabilia. Still, scoring a profit doesn’t happen every time, and there has even been a few cases where the resell lost money for the owner. It must be an intriguing mystery to figure out what items are underpriced and could payoff later like this guitar case did.

 

Elvis Tonight – 8:00 p.m. Banner:

Elvis Tonight Banner

This has to be the biggest piece of Elvis memorabilia ever reported on this blog. The new owner better have a huge wall to mount it on, because it measures 4 x 19 feet. But the banner has two other things going for it. It was was produced to hang outside the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland, Maine for Elvis’ concert on August 17, 1977. It was to be the first stop on a new tour. Elvis never made it, of course, dying the day before.

Elvis Tonight Cumberland County Civic Center, Portland ME

The second feature adding value to the banner is that it was used during the making of the 1981 film This Is Elvis. The film’s director had it hung above the door to the Civic Center just as it would have appeared on the day Elvis was supposed to play. The photo above is from the movie.

This was a high interest item with 25 total bids running the price up to $4,250.

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Huge Elvis Signatures:

Huge Elvis Presley's Signatures

While we are talking huge Elvis goodies, check out this panel with four autographs. It measures 8-3/4” wide by 17-1/4: long, plus the matting and frame. Col. Parker apparently had Elvis create them as artwork for posters, menus, photo albums, postcards, album covers, etc.

Five Inch Elvis Presley's Signature

This signature measures almost five inches wide, possibly one of the largest Elvis signatures in existence. The Best Wishes Elvis Presley inscription is almost six inches wide.

Some well-heeled Elvis autograph collector shelled out $6,000 for this unique collectible.

 

1971 Colt Lawman MKIII .357 Magnum Revolver:

Elvis' 1971 Colt Lawman MKIII .357 Magnum Revolver

What would an Elvis auction be without at least one firearm? The bidding on the Colt .357 Magnum topped out at $20,000. The auction website says, “Perhaps never again will one see such a mountain of evidence attesting to a gun being owned and used by Elvis Presley.”

Federal Firearms Acquisition and Disposition Record for Elvis' Colt Magnum

This proof of Elvis’ ownership is the Federal Firearms Acquisition and Disposition Record completed by Frontier Gun Shop when Elvis bought the pistol. It contains the gun’s model and serial number, plus Elvis’ name and Beverly Hills address. This is so solid it makes the accompanying letter of authenticity from Graceland Authenticated almost superfluous.

 

Horsehead Ring:

The Auction at Graceland Horse Head Ring

Elvis must have really liked horse head rings, because at least three have been reported here after sales at auctions. To my eye, this one has nowhere near the visual appeal as the other two. See what you think.

Horse Head Ring - Christie's 2001 !8,000

Sold at Christie’s Auction in 2001 for $18,800

 

Elvis' Horse Head Ring - Julien's oct 2010

Sold at Julien’s Auction in 2010

While these other rings were loaded with diamonds, the one at the Auction at Graceland had just a single ruby for the horse’s eye. Unfortunately, there was no photograph offered taken. from the top, which might have given a better idea of what the ring looks like.

Elvis' Horsehear Ring - Alt View

This view doesn’t do much except reinforce the idea that it’s a very weird ring. No wonder Elvis gave it away to bodyguard Sam Thompson. It sold for $12,500, but two other outstanding rings at the Auction at Graceland sold for $35,000 and $40,000.

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Elvis Presley Birth Record Document from Delivering Physician:

Elvis Presley Birth Record Document

This item is so unique that the auction website offered a short video from the previous owner to tell the story of how he acquired it back in 1994. The person is actor John Corbett, who made reference in the video to his roles in Northern Exposure and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. He did not relate how much he paid for it, but it certainly had to be less than the $80,000 it sold for this time. Note that Elvis’ name is spelled wrong.

Article of Elvis Presley's Birth Doctor

Included with the birth record was a newspaper article on Dr. Robert Hunt, who was primarily a birth doctor for the poor rural families of northern Mississippi from 1913 until the early 50s. He brought 1,845 babies into existence, and Elvis was number 920. The delivery cost $15.

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1973 American Express Card:

Elvis' American Express Card

This is another item John Corbett put up for sale at the auction, but he did not make a profit on it. The website says he paid nearly $60,000 for it in 1994, but brought only $37,500 this time. On the video, Corbett admits he got carried away bidding against the Hard Rock Café who had considerably deeper pockets than his.

Elvis' American Express Card - Back

Of course, the card had Elvis’ signature on the back, but as we have seen, the value of his autograph varies widely depending on what item he signed.

 

Loving You Pants:

Elvis' Loving You Pants

Elvis apparel is always popular at the auctions, especially if photos are available showing Elvis wearing an item of clothing. That is certainly the case with these western-style pants he wore in the movie Loving You.

Double Elvis in Loving You Outfit

Elvis Seated Wearing Loving You Pants

It also helps if the clothing has labels sewn in that have Elvis’ name on them. Although ELVIS PRESLEY is faded here, it can be made out with the naked eye.

Nudie's Label with Elvis' Name inside Loving You Pants

The website made it a point to say that Elvis actually wore these pants during filming. I suspect this was because the wardrobe department produced extra back-up pairs that didn’t get worn. One of these showed up at the Heritage Ultimate Elvis Auction in 2010, and it sold for over $20,000. Now the pair of pants he actually did wear just went for $42,500.

 

Cuff Links:

Elvis Cuff Links

Elvis’ cufflinks do not show up at auctions very often, so this pair generated heavy bidding and topped out at $8,750. I am perplexed at this high price because the cuff links are not the kind of fine jewelry Elvis usually bought. The metal is not gold; it is called goldtone. The inlay is faux mother-of-pearl, and the stone in the center is a rhinestone, not a diamond.

Maybe the bidders were encouraged by a cute story concerning the cuff links. Over the years, Elvis gave many gifts to friend and back-up singer J.D. Sumner. Some were serious valuable items, others were just for fun. Sumner had so many of these that ultimately he hung them on a faux ficus tree in his office. It became known as the Elvis Tree, and these cuff links dangled from it for years until Sumner passed away.

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Hilton Hotel Hanging Banner:

Hilton Hotel Blue Elvis Hanging Banner

We opened with a banner, so we’ll close with another. At 6-1/2 x 36 inches (12 x 44 framed), it is much smaller, but it sold for more money. There were 31 bids placed on this banner, more than any other item, and it topped out at $6,000.

Elvis Hilton Hotel Show Invitation

The banner was a clever invitation to Elvis’ concert that night, and it had a RSVP envelope enclosed. I wonder what it took to be on the guest list of those who received this banner/invitation.

 

The Auction at Graceland

Next week we’ll take a look at Elvis movie scripts from the auction. Down the road, we’ll cover the autographs, rings, and clothing.

 

 

© 2016 Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister All Rights Reserved www.ElvisBlog.net

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

 

Touching AP Wire Stories after Elvis’ Death

Newspaper Headline of Elvis' Death

Elvis’ incredible rocket ride to superstardom coincided exactly with my high school years. I have always felt fortunate to have been a teenager when Elvis burst on the scene and changed everything. It was an exciting time for those of us lucky enough to be around then. Sometimes I marvel at all the folks who have become Elvis fans in spite of never experiencing the Elvis phenomenon in real time.

This week I realized there are also current Elvis fans who never experienced another momentous event – his death. It was a brutal shock to us fans, and the pain and sorrow we felt over his loss was staggering.

To honor the 39th anniversary of Elvis’ passing, I would like to reprint some of the sentiments expressed by Associated Press writers in the days after his death. These went out to hundreds of subscribing newspapers along with assortments of photographs. They are not straight news stories, but rather narratives on the effect Elvis’ passing had on the fans.

I think you may find these stories a welcome addition to your celebration of Elvis Week 2016.

 

Fans at Gates of Graceland august 18, 1977

The throng of grieving fans who descended on Graceland the day after Elvis died is well documented. Less known are the pilgrimages fans made to other of Elvis’ former homes, like the one at 144 Monovale Street in the Holmby Hills area of Los Angeles.

Elvis Home -- 144 Monovale, Holmby Hills section of Los Angeles

 

August 17, 1977:  (Author attribution not given)

As a light rain fell, fans of Elvis Presley sat outside the black iron gate of the Holmby Hills mansion once owned by the dead star. They waited, but they didn’t know what for, and they didn’t really know why they had come.

A tour bus stopped Tuesday, and after telling his tale, the driver leaned out to the damp visitors and said, “You know he doesn’t live there anymore.”

They knew.

Dany Frye said it was like being shot when he heard that the king of rock and roll was dead. Almost without thinking, he and his wife made a pilgrimage to the house where Frye and other fans often visited to catch a glimpse of Elvis. “He was Mr. Music to me,” said Frye. “I don’t think anybody will ever take his place. I used to come out here and wait by the gate, along with a hundred other people.”

The 29-year-old Frye had seen Presley once. “You know, he meant a great deal to people my age. The Beatles came along and he wasn’t so hot for a while, but his true fans loved him.”

Frye occasionally peeked through the hole in the fence at the expansive Tudor-style mansion capping grass-knolled lawns. He ran his hands through his hair, pacing back and forth.

Frye knew the trees that dotted the estate, knew the tennis court, but didn’t know why he was there.

[Editor’s note: We know.]

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Fainter Coming through the Gates of Elvis' Graceland

The dedication and anguish Elvis fans endured in Memphis the day after his death is probably not known by many of the folks in town for this year’s Elvis Week. Any who read this story will probably be less inclined to complain about the Memphis heat.

August 18,1977: by Eric Newhouse

The bouquet of red roses, meant to adorn the coffin of Elvis Presley, wilted in the sun.

“The girl standing next to us originally brought flowers,” said Margaret McCasland of Memphis. “We picked them up and decided to deliver them when she fainted.”

Hundreds fainted Wednesday as they waited in the stifling heat outside Graceland mansion for a last glimpse of the king of rock ‘n’ roll. After treatment by paramedics inside the mansion’s gates, many doggedly continued their pilgramage to Presley’s seemless copper coffin.

Police said 25,000 to 30,000 people passed the open coffin just inside the doorway to Presley’s white-pillared home for a two-second glimpse of the singer.

Presley was burried today after a private ceremony. At 5:55 p.m. a policeman announced over a megaphone that “gates will be closed at 6:30. No one will be admitted after that.” No one moved.

At 6:30 sharp, another announcement: “The family has requested that the gates be closed. They are sorry you couldn’t make it.” Still no one moved.

“It is not our doing,” pleaded the policeman. “The family has asked us to stop the visitation.”

The huge crowd responded with a chant: “One more hour, one more hour.” But the gates adorned with dancing musical notes opened only to admit a last-minute surge of children and fainting women.

Thousands were turned away.

“I think it’s terrible. I’ve waited six hours,” said Ms. McCasland, holding the wilted bouquet.

“We came all the way from New York,” said Donna Griffin. “We stood there for five hours and they shut the door in our faces.”

One man denied entry said he had flown from Switzerland. Another said he had come from Baltimore. A woman said she had come from California.

Sheriff Barksdale said he had been in law enforcement in Memphis for 27 years, “and I’ve witnessed many events, including the assassination of Martin Luther King,” he said.  “I’ve never whitnessed anything like this.”

Presley’s body was discovered Tuesday afternoon. News of the 42-year-old singer’s death swept the country.

“I heard on the radio that he was dead and then they started playing ‘I Can’t Help but Love You,’” Rita Hambrick of Texarkana, Ark. said.

“I couldn’t help it – I broke out crying and cried until I went to bed. And I woke up crying again to the radio playing ‘Love Me Tender.’”

Miss Hambrick and her friends drove 130 miles to Memphis Wednesday morning and spent six nightmarish hours waiting in the heat.

‘Seven people fainted around me. The lady in front of me and the lady behind me had to be caried out on stretchers.’

“It was horrible,” she said, “but I’d do it again, because it was our last chance to see him.”

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I always enjoy reading about how Elvis changed things for the teenagers of the late 50s. But many kids of that age in 1977 knew little about Elvis.

Woman Crying

 

August 19, 1977:  by Linda Deutsch

To little kids and teenagers, it must be a strange spectacle: a world of adults grieving the death of a rock ‘n’ roll singer.

“Who was this Elvis Presley, anyway?” they wonder. “Why did Mama cry when she heard he’d died? And what’s this got to do with me?”

How do you explain?

If there had been no Elvis, we might still be wearing crewcuts and saddle shoes. We might be humming ballads and saying nothing about sex.

“If there had been no Elvis,” says music publicist Paul Wasserman, “there would have been no Beatles, no Rolling Stones. Elvis was a pioneer.”

Like George Washington?

Well sort of. He was a revolutionary for sure, but he carried a guitar, not a musket, and his message was a different kind of freedom.

He was a “culture hero” and it seems just now that he should be compared to another man in this century: Rudolph Valentino. They were American originals – “The Shiek” and “The Pelvis.”

In the 1920s, Valentino danced the Tango on a movie screen and women swooned.

In the 1950s, Elvis wigglesd his hips on TV and girls fainted.

 

Screaming Elvis Fans

Elvis’ death shocked and stunned his fans around the world. Did you know that so many of them flocked to Graceland the next day that president Carter had to send in 300 National Guard troops in to maintain order? It has been written that 500,000 people and 1,000 police officers lined the streets of Memphis for Elvis’ funeral procession on August 18. That seems incredibly high, but such is Elvis lore.

Elvis Presley's Funeral Procession

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To those of you who weren’t around then to experience the anguish of the fans mourning for Elvis, hopefully these three AP wire stories will give you a new appreciation for it.

 

Have a great Elvis Week.

 

 

© 2016 Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister All Rights Reserved www.ElvisBlog.net

 

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

 

Fun and Games on Elvis’ Movie Sets

Elvis Tossing Football off Set on 'Follow That Dream'

Three months ago I shared a few excerpts from the new book Elvis Humor by Bo Keeley. Bo had a unique concept for producing a successful book about Elvis. He went out and bought 43 other books on Elvis, and searched through them to find 290 anecdotes about his humor and love of fooling around and pulling stunts on others.

Elvis Humor

 

Elvis Humor is organized into many categories like the three in the subtitle: Girls, Guns, and Guitars. Last time we looked at a few from the Graceland section, but this time the stories of fun and games take place in the Movies category. Bo Keeley precedes each story with a little background and follows with the original source information.

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Wet Shirt

The Memphis Mafia was a mobile family that accompanied Elvis wherever he went, including onto Hollywood movie sets. Each had a specific duty such as bodyguard, valet, sport trainer, scheduling logistics, or playing in the bands. In Hollywood, the function of the group was to make sure Elvis had a good time. The boss always said that when making movies stopped being fun, he would stop making movies…

Elvis on Motorcycle in Clambake

I walked on the set of Clambake one morning. A bucket of water hit me from way up on one of the high catwalks. Elvis had a dressing room trailer that they pull from different locations. And I was there waiting for somebody to come out. Well, Red West had taken two buckets of water and crawled to the top of that studio. And I’m sitting there waiting. All of the sudden, a bucket of water hit me all over my head. And, when I looked up, the second one got me right in the face. Then I went to wardrobe and got a dry shirt. I hung my shirt up. And I went over there about 30 minutes later, it was still ringing wet.

Wet Shirt

We broke for lunch, and when we came back, it was still wet. About an hour later, I came back, it’s still ringing wet. Well, this time I shot around the trailer, and I stopped and looked back where my shirt was hanging. And Elvis had one of those pumps, you know, that they use to keep the greenery looking good on the set. Every time I’d walk away, he’d go pump it and drown my shirt again. But that’s the type of thing we’d just for fun.

(Attribution missing on this one)

 

Wigged Out In Kissin’ Cousins

An Army officer returns to the Smokey Mountains and tries to convince his kinfolk to allow th Army to build a missle site on their land. On Arriving, he discovers he has a lookalike cousin…

Elvis - Kissin Cousins Poster

Elvis played twins in the movie Kissin’ Cousins for MGM in 1963. Although he got a kick out of seeing two of himself on the screen, before filming started he became quite uncooperative with the director. He was required to wear a blond wig as one of the twins, and because he though the hairpiece made him look stupid, he refused to come out of his dressing room. The studio heads contacted Colonel Parker, who came down to the set to try to coax Elvis out. He told Elvis he was wasting the good money the studio was paying him, as well as hurting the other actors and prolonging everyone’s day.

Elvis with Black and Blonde Hair in Kissin' Cousins

When Elvis finally emerged with the wig on his head, he was startled to see everyone on the set wearing blond wigs. Even the Colonel, with his ever-present cigar poking out of his mouth, was sporting a curly blond wig on top of his bald head. Elvis rolled over laughing. He forgot his nervousness and apologized to the cast and crew for his behavior.

Jim Curtin, Elvis:Unknown Stories Behind the Legend, P.84

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Frightening, Isn’t It?

Elvis found out by watching movies that Tony Curtis wore mascara, so that on film and when they took photos, his eyes would be more defined. So, Elvis started doing it also when he performed. He was one of the very few men, with those Roman chiseled features, who could get away with it…

Young Elvis wearing eyeliner.

Young Elvis wearing eyeliner.

He was eagerly looking forward to one particular film, Harum Scarum (1965), seeing it as a chance to create a genuinely interesting character.

Elvis - Harum Scarum Soundtrack Album

He identified his role with Rudolph Valentino’s in The Sheik. At last, he thought, a part he could sink his teeth into. He saw a physical resemblance between himself and Valentino, especially in profile.

Rudolph Valentino

During production, he came home darkened with makeup, dressed in white harem pants and a white turban. He looked extremely handsome, much more so than Valentino.

Elvis Wearing Turban in Harum Scarum

Tilting his head down, with a piercing gaze, he asked rhetorically, “Frightening, isn’t it, how much I look like him? How does this get to ya?” He took me in his arms Valentino style and dipped me a la the famous poster of The Sheik.

Rudolph Valentino The Shiek

Night after night he kept his makeup and turban on all through dinner and up until bedtime.

Priscilla Presley, Elvis and Me. P.211.

 

Just Plain Ol’ Elvis

Elvis blamed his fading popularity in the 60s on his humdrum movies, and yet the silver screen gave many of his fans around the world their only opportunity to view him. He stayed sane through the decade with pranks on the sets involving the Memphis Mafia, sports, and girls. In 1962, he played Walter Gulick, who is returning from his military service to his birthplace where he was orphaned as an infant, and grew up elsewhere, but always wanted to return to where he was from. Walter is happy to take any kind of work, but his devastating right hook send him down a different path as Kid Galahad…

Elvis - Kid Galahad Poster

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During the filming of Kid Galahad in the winter of 1961, Elvis’ friends ordered a custom-made director’s chair as a prank gift. The chair had “Mr. Presley” stamped on the back of it. They presented it to the star on the first day of filming in mid-November. Elvis turned to the crew, the director, and the producer and asked, “Mr. Presley? Why so formal?” Director Phil Karlson said, “Only the best for our star.”

Elvis in Director's Chair

Elvis hated the formality of it. He wanted to be treated like one of the boys, and the chair destroyed the illusion. The next day a new chair replaced the formal one. The bright red canvas sported bold print that read “JUST PLAIN OL’ ELVIS.” Elvis laughed out loud and plopped into the chair.

Jim Curtin, Elvis: Unknown Stories Behind the Legend, P.98

 

Memphis Mafia on Set

Robert ‘red’ West was a close friend of Elvis and the first member of Presley’s inner circle, known as the Memphis Mafia. He first met Elvis in high school, where he was a year behind him, and defended Elvis in a bathroom brawl. After Elvis’ discharge from the Army in 1960, West was employed as one of Elvis’ bodyguards, and not only was quick to his boss’ defense, but strong on the practical jokes. West also became a movie stuntman appearing in 16 of Elvis’ films in the 60s, usually playing extras or bit and supporting parts…

Red West Before Swinging at Elvis - Tickle Me

Red West remembers that there was so much playing around on Clambake [four of the stories in this post are from that movie]. We sure did cut up on Clambake, but I don’t think we held up production any. There were pie-throwing, firecracker fights, and water bombardments.

“In one scene,” Red remembers, “Bill Bixby was before the cameras, which were rolling, and Elvis walked in and hit him with a cream pie.”

Cream Pie in the Face

“Up until that time, director Arthur Nadel hadn’t been hit. I thought he felt a little bit left out of it. So on the last day of shooting, he was dressed in a raincoat and rain hat, virtually inviting us to hit him. We didn’t. But that night as we had the end-of-movie party, he changed into a suit. After the party, he was going to a meeting. Well, we all made a little speech about how we love him and what a great guy he was to work with and what a great guy he was. Well, he gets choked up and begins to say thanks, and that’s when we hit him with a pie right in the face. At last he got the pie he wanted, but he was fully dressed.”

Red West, Elvis: What Happened, P.273

 

Boom Truck

After graduating from high school, Elvis took a full-time job driving a truck for Crown Electric Company. His pay was $1 an hour. Elvis enjoyed driving a truck for 14 months until the fall of 1954. His truck driving career was interrupted by a phone call from Sam Phillips inviting Elvis to record at Sun Studio. It was resumed in 1965 on a Hollywood set…

Girl Happy Poster

Elvis was in a restless mood during the filming of Girl Happy. In order to get in Elvis’ good graces, as well as to lift his mood, one of the cameramen offered Elvis the chance to drive the camera boom truck around the studio lot. Excited at the prospect, Elvis ran over to the truck before the cameraman could change his mind. Elvis maneuvered the vehicle slowly at first, familiarizing himself with the gadgets. Within minutes, he was driving like an expert.

Elvis on Camera Boom

Elvis began to get restless and drove the truck all over the lot much too fast. The cameraman ran after him, shouting at him to slow down, but Elvis would not listen. As he manipulated the large vehicle around the sets, he came within inches of knocking down permanent light fixtures and several backdrops. Panicking, the cameraman started to direct Elvis and prayed that the actor would listen. Elvis slowed the vehicle down and drove it around the lot at a reasonable speed. Fifteen minutes later, he parked the truck and shut off the engine. He thanked the cameraman for the opportunity. Relieved that nothing terrible happened, the cameraman had nonetheless learned his lesson. He never allowed the King to ride in the boom truck again.

Jim Curtain, Elvis: Unknown Stories Behind the Legend, P.86

 

Sidecar Singers

Elvis waterskied on McKeller Lake, Memphis as a teenager, so he was a natural in the 1967 musical Clambake. He is heir to an oil fortune who trades places with a waterski instructor at a Florida hotel to see if girls like him for himself, rather than for his father’s money…

Elvis on Camera Boom

We were in Nashville cutting the soundtrack or Clambake with the Jordanaires, and Elvis told them, “Y’all sing on the chorus with me.” Well, the director of the picture was there, and he said, “Elvis, I don’t think you understand where the song’s going in the picture. In this particular scene, you’re riding down the highway on a motorcycle singing this song.”

Elvis Singing on a Motorcycle in Clambake

“The voices can’t sing along with you. Where would we put the singers?”  Elvis thought for a second and said, “Put ‘em the same damn place you put the band.” That was the end of that.

Rose Clayton, Elvis Up Close, P.226

 .

Cricket Interlude

Filming for the musical Follow That Dream began July 6, 1961 in the summer heat of Florida. Recording sessions had taken place at RCA studio in Nashville. Six songs were recorded for the movie, and a distressed Presley insisted the worst song “Sound Advice” be omitted from the soundtrack. However, to director Gordon Douglas, the worst recording of the film was the crickets on location…

Follow That Dream Poster 2

The film crew had a difficult time recording the soundtrack for Follow That Dream. Filming took place in Florida from July through August 1961, and the crickets caused major problems. The crickets seemed to have an uncanny instinct to congregate at the exact location of Elvis’ movie set. Every time Elvis’ voice was heard, the crickets began to sing; every time he stopped, silence filled the set.

Lots of Crickets

Director Gordon Douglas yelled at the crickets to shut up, which they did. He turned to Elvis and asked him why the crickets were making so much noise. Elvis smirked and blurted out, “Maybe they’re Pat Boone fans.” Elvis started to sing with the crickets and remarked that it even sounded like they were chirping a Pat Boone song. Everyone laughed.

Douglas had to postpone that day’s filming. To make sure that the crickets would not cause further delays, he called an insect specialist.

Jim Curtin, Elvis: Unknown Stories Behind the Legend, P.98

 

Firecracker Battle

When Elvis lit a firecracker, it was to ease tension, make a point, or bring people together. When he lit dozens of them…

Stash of Firecrackers

In March 1967, Elvis was working on the movie Clambake. While he was having his make-up done by make-up man Dan Greenway, one of the crew members tossed a lit firecracker into the trailer. An all-out firecracker war was soon under way.

Elvis lit a firecracker to toss under a crew member’s chair. He misjudged, however, and the cracker landed on top. As the crew member sat down, the firecracker blew a hole in his pants. Elvis laughed so hard he did not hear one of his bodyguards behind him until a larger cracker popped right under his own read end. He quickly ran to his dressing room and retrieved his own stash of fireworks. The firecracker fights continued for several days. The set looked and sounded like a war movie. Even director Arthur Nadel got involved in the action; he eventually appeared on set sporting a German war helmet.

German Army Helmet

Rear ends were singed and fingers were burned, but by the time some action was finally caught on film, everyone was in a great mood and it showed.

Jim Curtin, Elvis: Unknown Stories Behind the Legend, P.100

 

 

Elvis Humor on Amazon

My thanks to Bo Keeley for agreeing to let me use excerpts from his book in this post. If you are interested in getting a copy of Elvis Humor – Girls, Guns & Guitars, click here.

 

 

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