Jailhouse Rock (1957)
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Yes, there are some cringeworthy bits ('it's only the beast in me'), but in the main this is a rags to riches tale which showcases some raw Presley performances, especially the title track and the quieter 'Young and Beautiful' alongside a contemporary tale of fights, attitude, and the county jail.
The great surprise is that this film still looks and feels fresh after more than fifty years. The pity is that Elvis would only have a handful of decent performances before the rot set in with 'Kissin Cousins', 'Tickle Me', and the like.
In Jailhouse Rock, Elvis plays a rather surly, ill tempered youth whose quick with his fists. A brawl in a bar and Elvis kills a guy with his fists. Granted the deceased was a lout, still the state does frown on that and Elvis got a term for manslaughter. While there, he shares a cell with old time country singer Mickey Shaughnessy.
Mickey helps Elvis survive prison and discovers he's got a voice. When he's released before Shaughnessy, Elvis goes out in search of a career and determined to let nothing stand in his way. He discovers the music business is a cutthroat one and he responds in kind. He gets his success, but it costs him the love and respect of all around him, including young record promoter Judy Tyler who develops a thing for the king.
Elvis has some good songs to sing with the title song being the biggest hit from this film. Jailhouse Rock is given a good MGM style production, worthy of anything you might have seen MGM give one of Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly's musicals. And the record of course is still selling good.
Mickey Shaughnessy appeared in a lot of good films in the Fifties, but usually playing cheerful oafs. This was one of the few times he had a serious part and he carries it off well.
I was disappointed that Judy Tyler did not get to display her musical talents. Elvis's is not the only tragic story from the cast of Jailhouse Rock. Young Judy Tyler with a brilliant career in front of her was killed shortly after completing this film with her husband in an automobile accident. I remember it well because she had been Princess SummerFallWinterSpring on the Howdy Doody Show a few years earlier. After leaving that she got good notices on Broadway in one of Rodgers&Hammerstein's lesser shows, Pipe Dream.
My guess is that Colonel Tom did not want anyone sharing musical time with Elvis so early in his career. Otherwise she might have gotten a number on her own and a duet with the king. Her musical talent would have been preserved in a hit film, but who could have known? Elvis would have to wait until Viva Las Vegas and Ann-Margret before he got a leading lady who could sing and dance to match him.
The plot of the film is similar to The Carpetbaggers so if you've seen that you know how this one comes out. Elvis does a fine acting job and singing, well he is the king.
I tuned into this just to watch the "Jailhouse Rock" number. I'm not a fan of Presley but I heard this was good. I was surprised at how much I liked it. All the songs are good and the "Jailhouse Rock" number is just stunning--easily one of the best choreographed musical numbers ever caught on screen. Taylor is pretty and just charming in her role (sadly she died right after completing this) and Shaughnessy offers strong support. Also it's well-directed in Cinemascope.
The only debits are the overly familiar story and Presley's acting. He was a great singer but no actor--sometimes it was almost embarrassing to watch how badly he played scenes. But it's still worth watching for the songs and the other performances. I give this a 7.
I did check this one out, hoping there would be a number of fast songs in here, such as the great title tune "Jailhouse Rock." To my disappointment, almost all the songs were ballads.....hardly something to get pumped over.
The inmates in this prison were most clean-cut, nicest and most polite "jailbirds" you ever did see. This wasn't a jail; it was the Young Republicans Club. The only nasty person was the warden. Well, they set a trend there as wardens have been nasty in the movies ever since. As for Elvis, let's just say I preferred his records to his movies.