Frankie and Johnny opened on March 31, 1966, and was Elvis’s 20th film. Although the quality of his films had fallen off during the previous few years, the fans had kept the box office numbers respectable. But Frankie and Johnny followed a real clunker in Harum Scarum, and attendance dropped about 1/3 from the usual average.
It’s too bad, because this is an enjoyable little firm. And speaking from the male perspective, it had the greatest amount of cleavage of any Elvis movie.
The pretty blonde in the center is Donna Douglas, talking a break from the Beverly Hillbillies to play Frankie opposite Elvis’ Johnny. The redhead is Nancy Kovak playing Nellie Bly, the woman Johnny believes brings him good luck at the gambling casino in the riverboat where they all work as performers.
By the way, Elvis’ character has no last name in this picture. He is just Johnny. And he has two problems. Although he’s Frankie’s man, he has a wandering eye for the ladies.
And he has terrible luck at gambling.
Naturally this causes many uncomfortable moments with Frankie.
But there are lots of fun, happy moments for them, too.
This is kind of like a dream sequence the film morphs into as Johnny sings a song to Frankie called “Beginner’s Luck.” If you study Elvis’ position for a moment, doesn’t it look like the most unnatural and uncomfortable one possible? Fortunately, he didn’t have to hold it for long.
Frankie and Johnny looked like they really enjoyed doing this dance routine to the song “Petunia, the Gardeners Daughter.” That title might be one of Elvis’ worst, but the song is surprisingly good. I’m going back to my 2012 blog article called Dancing Elvis (in the Movies) to add this shot. And this one, too.
This shot is part of the Showboat’s production number “Frankie and Johnny”. The lyrics say, Johnny was doing Frankie wrong with Nellie Bly. The plot sets this situation up in real life (although mostly in Farnkie’s mind), and also has it as the theme of the production number. In the show, Frankie has had it with Johnny interest in Nellie, and she grabs her gun and shoots him.
This guy is Johnny’s boss, the riverboat owner who has claimed Nellie as his own and sees Johnny as a threat. The word gets to his goon who decides to put a live bullet in Frankie’s gun,
So, when Frankie pulls the trigger, Johnny goes down and it looks like he’s bought the farm.
But, no. Johnny carries a good luck charm from Frankie near his heart, and it stopped the bullet.
We’ve seen this gimmick before, but it works here. Johnny is not hurt, and the near catastrophe makes them realize their love is meant to be. Happy ending.
Here are some additional pictures and my random thoughts.
This is Frankie in costume for a nightime Mardi Gras party. She has just thrown $10,000 of Johnny’s gambling winnings out the hotel window. Tension and conflicts are necessary for a good movie, and this scene had them big time.
Johnny expresses his loss by singing a blues song “Hard Luck” accompanied by this young harmonica player. Of course, an invisible band of piano, bass, drums, and even trombones is soon heard. Those invisible bands are a staple of Elvis movies.
Another staple of all Elvis movies is a fight scene. Here he is slugging it out with his boss the riverboat owner.
One of my favorite things to do when watching an Elvis movie for the fifth or sixth time is to try to spot some of his buddies in the background. See Red West at the table? Supposedly, George Klein had a cameo in the movie, too, but I couldn’t find him. Maybe I will when I watch for the seventh time.
One of the plot points of the story had Frankie and Nellie wearing identical Madam Pompadour costumes to the Mardi Gras party. Frankie wanted to test Johnny by pretending to be Nellie. After about 30 seconds of coaching, Frankie carries on a substantial dialog with Johnny where she sounds exactly like Nellie. Of course, it was Nancy Kovak dubbing her lines. This was the second time it happened to Donna Douglas in this movie. All of her singing parts were dubbed by someone else.
One thing I noted was all the different outfits Elvis wore in the movie. We have already shown six or seven. Here are some more.
As usual, we will end this Elvis movie pictorial with him kissing his leading lady.
This kiss took place in the dream sequence and was sweet and tender.
Elvis’ surprised look here is because he thought he was kissing Nellie but he quickly realized it was Frankie.
Here they are later when Frankie’s mask is off and they both enjoy it much more.
Donna Douglas died on New Year’s Day 2015. Click here to read more about her.
Nancy Kovak was featured in a 2009 ElvisBlog article titled Star Trek Elvis Connection — Part 2 about actresses that starred in both Star Trek episodes and Elvis movies. Click here.
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