Tony Curtis, Elvis, and Ducktails

Tony Curtis died this past Wednesday, and several Elvis websites noted his passing.  The reason they did this is because there are two stories connecting these two great entertainers.  In case you haven’t read these other websites, here is the Elvis//Tony Curtis story that gives us a look at Elvis’ sense of humor.


In the summer of 1960, Elvis and Tony Curtis were both filming movies at Paramount Studios.  Elvis was making G.I. Blues and Curtis was doing The Rat Race.  During breaks from shooting, Curtis liked to change into shorts and a sweater and walk around the backlot.  He’d look at the old sets and try to remember where they had been used.  One day he came by Elvis’ big trailer and the door opened.  “I looked up and there was Elvis.  And he grabs me and pulls me in.”

Elvis said, “Mr. Curtis, I want you to know what a big fan I am.  I used to watch all your movies in Tennessee.” 

 “Please, don’t call me Mr. Curtis,”

“So what do you want me to call you?”

“Just call me Tony.”  Then Curtis asked, “What do I call you?” 

Elvis impressed him with his quit wit when he replied, “Mr. Presley.”  According to Curtis, from then on they had a great time together.


These photos show there is no question Tony Curtis was a big inspiration for the look young Elvis strived to achieve.  Hold your thumb over Curtis’ face in them and see if you don’t think they could just as likely be Elvis photos.

The Presley family lived in Apartment 328 of Lauderdale Courts in Memphis from 1949 to 1953.  It is now open for public tours, and pictures of Tony Curtis are posted on the wall of Elvis’ bedroom, representing the way it looked while he lived there.  When Elvis told Tony Curtis he was a big fan, he wasn’t kidding.

The other Tony Curtis connection usually mentioned in the Elvis website reports is that Elvis copied the hair style young Tony Curtis favored – the Ducktail.   For those of you not familiar with this style, the hair on the sides is long and slicked back.  On the back of the head, the hair from the sides meets in the middle for a sort-of part.


In the late 50s and early 60, the Ducktail was popular among the more independent and rebellious types.  It was also known as Ducks Butt, or more commonly, Ducks Ass, shortened to D A in popular jargon.  This hairstyle’s popularity even spread to England where it was called a Duck’s Arse.


Elvis Combing His Ducktail

This is the best picture I could find of young Elvis with a Ducktail.  Note how the side hair is slicked back and a bit of the part in the back is visible.


Here is Elvis working on the back of his Ducktail.  There are many photos of Elvis slicking back the side hair, but not too many of him fussing with the back.  Here is another one.



Some of Elvis’ 50s Rock & Roll contemporaries sported Ducktails too.


Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent

And here are two famous movie and TV characters with their ducktails.


                  Danny Zuko                                                              Fonzie                       

There is one other Elvis/Tony Curtis connection that I found in Elvis: His Life From A To Z by Fred L. Worth and Steve D Timerius.  According to them, producer Stanley Kramer offered Elvis the co-starring role opposite Sidney Poitier in the 1958 movie The Defiant Ones.  It never worked out (perhaps because Elvis had to go into the Army in March of that year), and Tony Curtis got the part.  Too bad Elvis didn’t get it, because his desire for a career as a serious actor in dramatic roles would have been significantly enhanced.  Getting the role worked out very well for Tony Curtis.  It brought him his only Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
Suppose Elvis had gotten the role and had been nominated for an Oscar.  He might never have been stuck doing such silly films as Tickle Me and Clambake.


©  2010    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved

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


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