GIRL HAPPY

Elvis Presley (Rusty Wells), Shelley Fabares (Valerie), Harold J. Stone (Big Frank), Gary Crosby (Andy), Joby Baker (Wilbur), Nita Talbot (Sunny Daze), Mary Ann Mobley (Deena), Fabrizio Mioni (Romano), Jimmy Hawkins (Doc), Jackie Coogan (Sergeant Benson), Peter Brooks (Brentwood Von Durgenfeld), John Fielder (Mr. Penchill), Chris Noel (Betsy), Lyn Edgington (Laurie), Gail Gilmore (Nancy), Pamela Curran (Bobbie), Rusty Allen (Linda), George Cisar (Bartender at the Kit Kat Club), Nancy Czar (Blonde on the Beach), Jim Dawson (Muscle Boy), Mike De Anda (Burt), Darren Dublin (Driver), Tommy Farrell (Louie), Ted Fish (Garbage Man), Milton Frome (Police Captain), Norman Grabowski (‘Wolf Call’ O’Brien), Dan Haggerty (Charlie), Alan Hanley (Waiter #1), Ralph Lee (Officer Jones), Richard Reeves (Officer Wilkins), Olan Soule (Waiter #2). Not credited: Lori Williams, Beverly Adams, Theresa Cooper, Stasa Damascus, Hank Jones, Kent McCord, Julie Payne (College Boys and Girls).

Continuing with my beach movie survey, it seems everyone tried to cash in on the Beach Party craze during 1964-1966 even Elvis Presley who starred in the Spring Break musical, Girl Happy (1965).

Produced by Joe Pasternak for MGM, Girl Happy was a combination of the studio’s Where the Boys Are and AIP’s Beach Party. Elvis along with his band members Joby Baker, Gary Crosby, and Jimmy Hawkins are sent on spring break in Fort Lauderdale to secretly chaperone coed Shelley Fabares, the daughter of tough club owner Harold J. Stone, and her two nubile friends, Chris Noel and Lyn Edgington. Elvis thinks he hooks Fabares up with safe bookworm Peter Brooks and can enjoy his time in the sun. But every time Elvis gets cozy with sultry Mary Ann Mobley in a park or his hotel room, Fabares winds up in some sort of predicament like getting drunk with amorous Italian playboy Fabrizio Mioni. Elvis and his troupe have to abandon their girls and rush to her rescue. Trying not to make the trip a total disaster, Elvis volunteers to “court” Fabares to keep her away from Mioni. Naturally, he falls for Shelley but when she learns about his deal with her father, she gets loaded again and does a striptease at a club landing herself in jail. Elvis comes to her rescue and they both confess their love to each other. You didn’t expect it to end any other way now did you?

Compared to the Frankie & Annette films of this genre, Girl Happy is severely landlocked. Despite the ad campaign, there aren’t many scenes on the beach. In fact, Elvis is seen on the seashore only briefly in a montage sequence and a nighttime production number where he sings “Do the Clam” on a makeshift sand dune. On its own however Girl Happy is pleasant fare and one Elvis’ better post-Viva Las Vegas movies despite its wafer-thin plot. Though filmed mainly on the back lot, the colorful production is first rate, the action never lets up, and the film has that glossy vibrant MGM sheen to it. Director Boris Sagal keeps the story moving briskly and surrounds Elvis with a perky, talented supporting cast including standouts Jimmy Hawkins as naïve Doc and Mary Ann Mobley as a frustrated vixen. Presley seems comfortable with his role and plays it breezily. He and Shelley Fabares make a charming couple and have a few tender scenes together.

Though this is a supposed beach movie Elvis sporting a fit and trim physique is never seen in shorts or a bathing suit! The film features a number of handsome actors all who remain covered up. Not so for the gals though. Girl Happy lives up to its title in the flesh department. There is an array of swim suit clad cuties on display from the leads Shelley Fabares and Mary Ann Mobley to the featured performers Chris Noel and Lyn Edgington to bit players Nancy Czar, a knockout in a leopard print bikini, and Gail Gilmore a.k.a Gail Gerber pictured at right with Pamela Curran and Rusty Allen as Elvis’ band mates’ Florida dates.

The popular soundtrack is one of the King’s most varied and best from this time period. From the touching “Puppet on a String” to the swinging “Do the Clam” to the romantic “Do Not Disturb” the songs help buoy the movie and make it fun for Elvis’ core audience. But despite the enjoyable soundtrack, Elvis at his mid-sixties peak, and a bevy of gorgeous bikini-clad gals, hardcore beach party fans may still want to skip this one. For everybody else, Girl Happy is available on DVD.

 

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