Wild in the Country

Wild in the Country is a 1961 film drama starring Elvis Presley in which he portrays a troubled young man from a dysfunctional family who pursues a literary career.

The movie starts off with Glenn Tyler (Elvis Presley) getting into a fight with, and badly injuring, his drunken brother. A court releases him on probation into the care of his uncle in a small town, appointing Irene Sperry (Hope Lange) to give him psychological counselling. Marked as a trouble-maker, he is falsely suspected of various misdemeanors including an affair with Irene. Eventually shown to be innocent, he leaves to go to college and become a writer. Filmed on location in the Napa Valley and in Hollywood Studios, although it is set in the Shenandoah Valley, the cast and crew created a public sensation in Napa for over two months of filming. The motel that they stayed at, Casa Beliveau (since torn down) was so mobbed that Elvis had to be moved to the St. Helena home that was being used in the film as Irene Sperry’s (Hope Lange) house where Glenn Tyler (Elvis) went for counseling. Now a top-rated Inn in the Napa Valley and known as The Ink House you can still stay in the room that Elvis slept in for over two months. Other Napa Valley locations figuring prominently in the movie are the downtown main street of the town of Calistoga where Glenn Tyler’s uncle and his cousin (Tuesday Weld) lived, the Silverado Trail between Calistoga and St. Helena, the old movie theater still in operation in downtown St. Helena where the dancehall scenes with Elvis and Tuesday Weld were filmed, and the hills and farmland behind what is now Whitehall Lane Winery just north of the town of Rutherford. At the Ink House you will recognize the house, the backyard where a drunken Glenn Tyler tries to hose down Irene Sperry through the porch window, and the 1885 barn where Irene Sperry drives her DeSoto in to attempt suicide when she is so distraught over her suspected romance with Glenn and the scandal it has caused.

This was Elvis’ last dramatic lead role until Charro! as his next film, Blue Hawaii, was his first big budget musical and was a box office sensation. All his subsequent movies were largely formula musicals which were quite lucrative but never gave him the chance to develop his potential as a serious actor that was very apparent in “Wild in the Country“.