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.
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.
Wild in the Country:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.”
Follow That Dream:
Screenplays ae not usually put in a hardback book cover, but this mint-condition version of Follow That Dream was for some reason.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
With the blue cover open, we see the kind of information script covers usually contain.
Live A Little, Love A Little:
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.
Change of Habit:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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