Chadwick Gates (Presley) has just gotten out of the Army, and is happy to be back in Hawaii with his surfboard, his beach buddies, and his girlfriend. His mother wants him to go to work at the Great Southern Hawaiian Fruit Company, but Chad is reluctant. So Chad goes to work as a tour guide at his girlfriend’s agency.
Although it is mentioned in the film that Chad’s parents live in Kahala, one of the most expensive and exclusive areas of Honolulu as of 1961, the view from their lanai (porch or terrace) shows Diamond Head as it appears from Waikiki and downtown Honolulu. This is an error because Kahala is located on the other side of Diamond Head from Waikiki.
There were several scenes filmed in and around the famous Waikiki Beach, including the opening driving scenes as well as the office scene across the street from the “International Market”. The hotel scenes where Chad’s clients stayed and where he picked up his tour group were filmed on the property of what is now known as the Hilton Hawaiian Village on Waikiki Beach. This is also where Chad and his girlfriend spent time on the beach.
“Blue Hawaii” was the first of three Elvis movies to be filmed in Hawaii, followed by “Girls! Girls! Girls!” in 1962 and “Paradise, Hawaiian Style” in 1965.
Angela Lansbury, who played the mother of Elvis, was not yet 36 years old in 1961 when the movie was released. Elvis was 26 years old. Lansbury would later comment that her appearance here was one of the worst in her career.
It could be argued that this film set the tone for Presley’s future film career: pretty locations, gorgeous girls, and mediocre songs. Almost all of these musical-comedy films performed well, whereas more “serious” films such as Flaming Star, Wild in the Country and Charro!, did poorly at the box office. Blue Hawaii on the other hand was one of Elvis’ most successful films.
While some of the songs on the soundtrack album can fairly be described as “inferior,” others compare favorably to his non-soundtrack recordings. Presley’s remake of the title song did justice to the Academy Award-winning song, while also introducing it to an audience too young to remember Bing Crosby’s original hit version. His recording of “Can’t Help Falling In Love” compares quite well to his other Top 10 hits, and his recordings of “Rock-A-Hula Baby” and “Ku-u-ipo (Hawaiian Sweetheart)” are notable as well.
The “Blue Hawaii” soundtrack album was on the Billboard Pop Albums chart for 79 weeks, spent 20 weeks at #1 on the Pop Albums chart, and sold more than 2-million copies.