51 Years Ago Today

Double Trouble one of the worst Elvis Presley movies opened with one of his least inspiring leading ladies, Annette Day making her film debut. The movie tried to cash in on swinging mod London and the popularity of spy movies of the time. Despite being set in Europe, this being another quickie production, the entire movie was shot on MGM’s massive soundstages.

In the movie, Presley is worldwide singing sensation Guy Lambert who meets mysterious teenage heiress Jill Conway (Day) while performing in a London discothèque surrounded by hip swaying go-go girls. Underage Jill becomes infatuated with the singer much to the chagrin of her uncle and guardian Gerald Waverly (John Williams) who sends her away to Belgium to keep the pair apart but to also stop Guy from discovering that he was trying to steal his niece’s inheritance. While searching for her, Guy gets involved with spies, jewel thieves, and foreign intrigue. Inexplicably Guy chooses the teenage twit over sophisticated playgirl Claire Dunham (Yvonne Romain) by fade-out, which ends with the pair’s wedding a rarity for an Elvis movie.

This was Christopher Riordan’s sixth movie with the King and commenting on Annette Day in my book Talking Sixties Drive-In Movies, he said, “You could tell this little girl who looked like some librarian was nervous and didn’t know what she was doing or where she was going. I remember the director was having a lot of trouble with Day. Elvis was very sweet and patient. He’d whisper in her ear, ‘We’re going to turn here and then look for your mark.’ Despite his kindness, I felt here was no chemistry between them. I kept thinking to myself, ‘Why do they keep doing this to Elvis—saddling him with weak leading ladies.’ Elvis was very sensual and had a lot of chemistry going for him. There were several actresses that he played opposite where I thought he did very well such as Marlyn Mason in The Trouble with Girls. They are wonderful together and just sizzled.”

Double Trouble had an interesting premise but was sunk by a confusing script and the inexperienced Annette Day. When an Elvis film is not populated with a strong young supporting cast as here, he needs a strong leading lady. Ann-Margret in Viva Las Vegas is a perfect example. Her talent and chemistry with Elvis elevated that movie despite the missing cadre of friends surrounding them and a very weak story. Double Trouble needed an “Ann-Margret” as well. You would have thought with all the talented young British actresses around at the time including Hayley Mills, Suzy Kendall, and Judy Geeson they could have found someone who at least knew their way around a soundstage. Obviously, they were doing the movie on the cheap and hoped the newcomer would deliver. Alas, Day did not.

 

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