HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ELVIS!
In honor of Elvis Presley’s birthday, Turner Classic Movies is running an all-day marathon of his movies on Friday January 8. Below are comments from his former co-stars whom I interviewed for my various publications:
6:15am Harum Scarum
Elvis goes Arabian as a singer kidnapped on tour in the Middle East and goes from swingin’ with dancing gypsies Brenda Benet, Gail Gerber and Wilda Taylor to falling in love with a princess, Mary Ann Mobley.
“Elvis was intelligent, quiet and very sweet. But at that time, he seemed like a young man in turmoil—sort of like a ‘Who do I have to fuck to get off this picture’ kind of thing. Elvis was a tortured guy who obviously hoped for, and deserved, something better than the movies he was getting offered to do like Harum Scarum.” – Gail Gerber, Trippin with Terry Southern
7:45am Kissin’ Cousins
Double the Elvis as a serviceman torn between bare-footin’ hillbillies Yvonne Craig and Pamela Austin and his distant look-a-like hayseed cousin who flips for WAC Cynthia Pepper.
“With Elvis, it was always fun. He didn’t hang around much but he would stand there behind the camera if you had to do a take for a close up. He wouldn’t leave—unlike some other stars. He was also very gentlemanly. A number of times he offered me his chair when he saw me standing.” – Cynthia Pepper, Drive-in Dream Girls
Race car driver and singer Elvis zigs and zags to avoid marriage-minded rich girl Shelley Fabares, author Diane McBain, and drummer Deborah Walley.
“I’ve just always felt that, since Elvis never talked about himself when he was here, it wouldn’t be right for me to discuss him now. I will say that he was a wonderful person—kind, sweet, and funny. Doing those pictures with him were some of the happiest experiences I ever had, professionally or personally.” – Shelley Fabares, Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema
Carnival time with Elvis as a roaming reckless roustabout who is out butched by its owner Barbara Stanwyck.
“I thought Elvis Presley was very nice and very, very polite. It was ‘Yes, Sir, Yes, Mam.’ To me it was ‘Yes, Madame’ because I played Madame Mijanou. He’d say it with that little giggle of his. Elvis also liked to tease me and thought I’d be a good ‘business woman’ in some ‘house’ somewhere. Despite that little joke he was a very shy, Southern gentleman.” – Sue Ane LAngdon, Drive-in Dream Girls
1:00pm Girl Happy
Elvis is where the boys are on spring break in Fort Lauderdale secretly chaperoning a mobster’s daughter, Shelley Fabares and her friends Chris Noel and Lyn edgington.
“I loved Elvis. He was wonderful. However, I had a problem with him one day when he stuck his tongue in my ear. I was sitting in a chair on the set watching them film a scene. Suddenly, in my right ear is this wet tongue. I automatically yelled, ‘Lay off!’ I turned to my right and there was Elvis. I was flabbergasted. Of course, when I look back I think ‘Oh my God! I should have said, ‘Elvis do it again and again and again!'” – Chris Noel, Hollywood Surf and Beach Movies
Speedster Elvis racing to get to the finish line first and away from I.R.S. agent Nancy Sinatra.
“He was very much a Southern gentleman but always surrounded by his entourage. I didn’t get much of a chance to talk to him or get to know him. I got the impression that he was uncomfortable in his own skin and maybe not comfortable doing movies. I don’t know why but it felt this way to me.” – Victoria Carroll, Glamour Girls of Sixties Hollywood
4:30pm Blue Hawaii
Elvis goes Hawaiian as a rich boy who rather guide such nubile babes as Jenny Maxwell, Pamela Austin, and Darlene Tompkins around the islands then work on his father’s pineapple plantation.
“The movie’s success really, really surprised me because it was done so lighthearted. We had so much fun just filming it nobody expected it to as big as it was. You’d think if a movie were going to be such a hit you’d put your blood, sweat and tears into it. But on Blue Hawaii we just had fun.” – Darlene Tompkins, Drive-in Dream Girls
6:15pm Viva Las Vegas
On screen Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret heat up the dunes of Vegas while off-screen rumors abounded they heated up the sheets.
“I was cast in Viva Las Vegas but I couldn’t do it. I was raised in a family that said dancing was a sin. I had a cameo part and had to dance with Elvis [who she knew and liked]. I actually broke down and started crying on the set. I said, ‘I can’t do this.’ The director said, ‘Yes, you can.’ I just couldn’t do it so they gave the part to someone else.” – Ann Morell, Glamour Girls of Sixties Hollywood