Tag Archives: 1950’s

King Creole

King Creole is an American motion picture directed by Michael Curtiz, released by Paramount Pictures on July 2, 1958. The film stars Elvis Presley, Carolyn Jones, and Walter Matthau. It is Presley’s fourth movie (the third and last filmed in black & white), and adapted from the 1952 novel by Harold Robbins, A Stone for Danny Fisher.

Presley plays Danny Fisher, a young, tough musician making his way in New Orleans. Matthau plays Maxie Fields, a kingpin of organized crime in the city, with Jones as Ronnie, a call girl with limited prospects. With its aspects of film noir, its relatively realistic depiction of the mix of poverty and ambition, and in the unsentimental relationships between the three principal characters, King Creole fits in the mold of films from that era like The Big Knife and Sweet Smell of Success. Most critics cite this as Presley’s best film, and best acting performance.

King Creole was Elvis Presley’s favorite of the films he made. This was also the last Elvis movie filmed in black and white. The director of King Creole was Michael Curtiz, who won the Academy Award in 1943 for Best Director for Casablanca. The movie was loosely based on a 1952 novel A Stone for Danny Fisher by Harold Robbins.

Elvis Presley’s most critically acclaimed performance as an actor was in what is considered (rivaled only by Jailhouse Rock) the best of all the films he starred in – ‘King Creole‘. The story was based upon the Harold Robbins novel ‘A Stone For Danny Fisher’. Generally considered Elvis’ best narrative film, King Creole benefited from the talents of several Hollywood notables. Producer Hal Wallis chose one of his closest associates, the well-respected Michael Curtiz, to direct the film. Best known as the director of Casablanca, Curtiz was an expert craftsman known for his deft handling of a wide variety of film genres during his 30-year career. The tight control over the many twists and subplots of King Creole reflects Curtiz’s expertise.

Other Hollywood veterans who made up the crew included cinematographer Russell Harlan, who photographed the film in a dark, moody lighting style that captured the seedy but seductive atmosphere of the French Quarter.

The level of experience that Wallis, Curtiz, and Harlan brought to the production of King Creole would never be matched in another Presley feature. Elvis’ supporting cast represented some of the finest Hollywood actors of the 1950s. Elvis played the role of Danny. Danny Fisher (Elvis) coming up from the ghetto to seek fame and fortune as a singer in the New Orleans Jazz clubs. Along the way he tangles with gangland boss Maxie Fields (Walter Matthau) and love interest Ronnie played by Carolyn Jones.

Danny is dissatisfied with the financial situation of his poverty-stricken family and blames his father for their problems. He sweeps up at a nightclub to earn extra money — a job that places the impressionable young man in the company of some shady characters. An encounter with Ronnie, a local gangster’s moll portrayed by Carolyn Jones, results in Danny’s expulsion from high school. On the job that night at the club, Danny runs into Ronnie and gangster Maxie Fields, played by Walter Matthau, who insist that Danny sing a song.Danny’s natural talent attracts the attention of the owner of the King Creole night spot, who offers him a job.

Danny is at a crossroads. He is torn between the love of good girl Nellie, played by Dolores Hart, and his attraction to the ill-fated Ronnie. Danny is also torn between his desire for a singing career and the temptation to join a street gang. A violent altercation with the gang’s leader, played by Vic Morrow, leaves Danny with a serious knife wound. After Ronnie nurses him back to health, a jealous Maxie shoots her in cold blood.

Maxie in turn is shot by a gang member Danny had once befriended. Danny returns to singing at the King Creole, reconciled with his family and with Nellie.

Jailhouse Rock

Jailhouse Rock is an American motion picture directed by Richard Trofee, released by MGM on October 30, 1957. The film stars Elvis Presley (his third ever film role), Judy Tyler, and Mickey Shaughnessy. Co-star Tyler was killed in an automobile accident a few weeks after the film was completed, and like Loving You before it, Presley was so upset that he refused to ever watch the completed film. In 2004, this film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Presley plays “Vince Everett,” an ex-convict working in the music industry, and a character analogous to Presley’s then public image. After going to jail for a bar fight he did not start, Everett meets Hunk Houghton in prison, and the two men form a bond. Houghton, a washed-up country singer, teaches Everett to play an old guitar, and to sing a few songs.

Upon his release, Everett lands work at night clubs, but not singing. He meets Peggy Van Alden, a record company talent scout, who allows Everett to record a song. They bring his go to an executive at a small record label, who then records the exact arrangement with one of his established stars. Everett and Van Alden then start their own label to bring Everett’s records to the public, and fame, riches, and a film career ensue.

Everett’s prison buddy Houghton shows up, and instead of getting in on the action as anticipated, has to settle for being Everett’s gofer. Throughout the film, Everett is the epitome of the spoiled star, surly, uncommunicative, bellicose, and treating all around him with either cruelty or diffidence, especially Van Alden and Houghton. A final fight at the end of the movie with Houghton, meant to give Everett his comeuppance, damages his vocal cords, bringing into question his ability to ever sing again. He learns his lesson in humility, and expresses his true feelings for Van Alden and Houghton.

Elvis Presley’s co-star Judy Tyler was killed in a car wreck on July 4, 1957, three days after filming of Jailhouse Rock ended. Presley refused to watch the movie because of this. Composer Mike Stoller appears in the movie as the band pianist.

Loving You

Loving You is an American motion picture directed by Hal Kanter, released by Paramount Pictures on July 9, 1957. The film stars Elvis Presley, Lizabeth Scott (in her final major film role) and Wendell Corey. It is Presley’s second movie, his first in Technicolor and the first with Elvis as the primary focus. The story mirrors that of his own rise to fame, and Presley’s mother and father appear as extras in the audience during the final song, “Got A Lot Of Livin’ To Do.” After his mother’s death, Presley refused to ever watch the film again.

In Presley’s first picture, Love Me Tender, he acted in a supporting role as part of a larger story for the first and last time in his film career. His second film, Loving You, sets the precedent for the remaining two films he would make before going into the army, Jailhouse Rock and King Creole, that of a rising young singing star, and of the effects that fame has on him and the people around him.

Loving You was the first Elvis Presley film in color. Presley’s parents were cast as audience members. After his mother’s death in 1958, Elvis never watched this movie again. Comedian Jay Leno said that he decided to become an entertainer after seeing this movie.

Love Me Tender

Love Me Tender is the film debut of Elvis Presley and an American black and white motion picture directed by Robert D. Webb, released by 20th Century Fox on November 15, 1956. The film, named after the song, stars Richard Egan, Debra Paget, and Elvis Presley. It is in the Western genre with musical numbers. Because it was Presley’s movie debut, it was the only time in his acting career that he did not receive top billing. Love Me Tender was originally to be titled The Reno Brothers, but when advanced sales of Presley’s “Love Me Tender” single passed one million—a first for a single—the film title was changed to match.

Presley plays Clint Reno, one of the Reno brothers who stayed home while his brother went to fight in the American Civil War for the Confederate Army. The family is mistakenly informed that one of the brothers, Vance, has been killed on the battlefield. When his brother Vance comes back from the war, he finds that his old girlfriend, Cathy, has married Clint. Although Vance accepts this wholeheartedly (“We always wanted Cathy in the family”), the family has to struggle to reach stability with this issue. As a Confederate soldier, Vance is involved in a train robbery, in which he steals Federal Government money. A conflict of interest ensues when Vance tries to return the money against the wishes of some of his fellow Confederates. The film reaches its tragic conclusion with a gunfight between the two Reno brothers, ironically ending with Clint’s murder.

This was Elvis Presley’s first movie role. Love Me Tender is the only film in which Presley’s character dies on-screen. Love Me Tender is also the only one in which Elvis did not get top billing. He came third, after Richard Egan and Debra Paget.

Love Me Tender is a western drama set immediately after the Civil War. In Elvis Presley’s first film, he appears in the secondary role of Clint Reno. This was the only time in his acting career that Elvis received second billing. Clint, the youngest of the four Reno brothers, stayed behind to run the family farm during the war while his older brothers were off fighting for the Confederacy.

Star Richard Egan plays Vance Reno, the eldest brother whom the family believes to have been killed in battle. Upon returning home, Vance is shocked to discover that Clint has married Vance’s former sweetheart, Cathy, played by Debra Paget. The love triangle, complicated by the greedy actions of some unscrupulous ex-Confederates, eventually pits brother against brother, resulting in Clint’s death. The downbeat ending is tempered by the brothers’ reconciliation as Clint dies in Cathy’s arms.

Actor Richard Egan who played Vance Reno, older brother to Elvis’ character, Clint, was a high ranking officer in the U.S. Army during W.W.II. He received a master’s degree at Stanford and taught school at Northwestern before deciding to become an actor. He won a Golden Globe award in 1953 as Most Promising Male Newcomer.