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To a lot of critics and non-fans of the Master of Song or King of Rock 'n'
Roll, to give him his correct title, Elvis Presley was merely a wooden
celluloid freak who just sang to children, animals, and everybody's
Grandmother on a movie set. That might have been the case during the
mid-'60's when Elvis didn't know how to perform on a movie set any other way
than to follow the less than mediocre script which was getting more tedious
and morose as the previous one. This trend was set by the formula that
started with "G.I. Blues" and finally reaffirmed with the classic, "Blue
Hawaii", from then on in with the exception of "Flaming Star", it was a
pretty poor rag-bag bunch. However, "King Creole" was Elvis' jewel in the
crown. The film is a testimony to a time when rebellion amongst teenage life
was coming to the fore and the struggle for a young person's individuality
in society was a constant threat to many parents of the 1950's genre. If
Elvis was to be a big movie star this is the one that certainly went a step
further than "Jailhouse Rock" to ascertain that position. Elvis' acting
improved over the three film period of 1956-57, and in "King Creole" you can
see the transition. He brings to the screen all the grittiness, excitement,
tension that his character, Danny Fisher, is all about. This great quality
movie really pays justice to a classic piece of film making by Director
Michael Curtiz and a great supporting cast that Elvis gained so much from
performing with in this story. Another transition also happens in this movie
and that is one of the music. Apparently, Elvis never really liked Jazz
music, but he certainly forgot all about that when he cut the soundtrack to
this movie. I'm sure that Jazz music featured slightly higher on his list
after he realised what he could do in the studio with this kind of music and
blending it with his own rock rythmns and blues orientations. To me, this is
one of the greatest films ever made, by one of the most underrated actors of
our time. To the critics and non-fans alike: Watch it and
Elvis Presley can act! This is perhaps his best movie and certainly the one
with the strongest plot. Based on the Harold Robbins novel A Stone for
Danny Fisher', Elvis plays Danny with that teenage angst you'd associate
more with James Dean or the young Marlon Brando. The music too is
exceptional, with the sexy title track alongside of such gems as Steadfast,
Loyal and True', Crawfish' (that unusual of things, a duet between Elvis
and Kitty White), Hard Headed Woman', and Trouble'.
The supporting cast is also eminently watchable Dean Jagger, Walter Matthau, Vic Morrow, Carolyn Jones and help to move the pace along. The look of the film in its non-musical moments is strictly noir, and the whole piece is slickly directed by Michael Curtiz.
King Creole', and a handful of other Presley movies, hint at the movie career that he could have had without his manager Col. Parker's constant greed to display his peacock client in an ever-grating role of innocence to make money.
Elvis Presley plays Danny Fisher, a misunderstood teenager who is
forced to live in a neighbourhood frequented by hoodlums because his
father's business went bankcrupt and lost their other house. Danny
flunks out of high school and does several dead end jobs in order to
make ends meet, but it is discovered that he has a talent for singing
and he is hired by nightclub owner Charlie Le Grand. However, sadistic
blackmailer and criminal Maxie Fields (Walter Matthau) also has corrupt
designs on Danny's talent.
Probably one of Presley's finest movies with a fairly strong storyline and assured direction by Michael (Casablanca) Curtiz. The acting is good from Presley in one of his better roles and Matthau scores as the ruthless gang boss. The film is shot in gorgeous noir black & white and the memorable tunes include "King Creole", "Trouble" and "As Long As I Have You".
I've heard it said that this was Elvis' favourite of his own films. And
wonder. It's about the only film he ever did that allowed him to be an
actor. And let's remember, Elvis had no formal acting training, and sure,
the film is, as usual, peppered with great Elvis numbers and no-one doubts
his talent there.
If only the Colonel had chosen to exploit the acting side a little more, perhaps we would have a lot more memorable stuff like this to remember than some of the later films, such as.....er.....er....well, there you go, I don't remember any. Perhaps Elvis would have been a lot more proud too.
Anyway, alongside Elvis is a wonderful Carolyn "Morticia Adams" Jones and a fairly early Walter Matthau, showing us that he didn't just make us laugh in his movies, but he was able to impress us with dramatic roles also.
An unusual Elvis Presley vehical which actually gives him the opportunity to act. Elvis was a talented actor who was put in crap for most of his career. The Hollywood system always put him in films where he sings without doing much else. Its only when he worked with talented directors such as Michael Curtiz and Don Siegal that his abilities as an actor were fully used. King Creole(1958) is such a film where he is given the chance to act and he passes with flying colors. King Creole(1958) and the western, Charro(1968) are my two favorite Elvis Presley films because of their dark tone and the excellent acting performances by Elvis. One of the better directed Elvis films by veteran filmmaker and Casablanca(1942) director, Michael Curtiz. One of the people who wrote the story was Michael V. Gazzo, who would later play an important role in The Godfather Part 2(1974). Walter Matthaw is terrific in one of his pre Odd Couple and comedic roles. A musical Noir done during the final year of the genre before becoming extinct.
King Creole is not only a great Elvis Presly movie, it's a great movie period. Elvis is simply terrific as hard-edged Danny Fisher, a street wise punk who hits it big time as a singer in a flashy New Orléans club, run by sleazy Matthau. The overall look of the film is excellent, it's fast paced and gritty, moody and athmospheric, and directed by the same man who brought us Casablanca. The dialouge is good and seems authentic enough, Presley is excellent and Matthau is great (as always). Plus, the songs are good. 9 out of 10.
Adapted from the book "A Stone for Danny Fisher", Elvis Presley plays a rebellious kid with a wimp of a father (Dean Jagger) who quits school and takes up singing at a night club in New Orleans, only to get mixed up with a group of thugs (headed by Vic Morrow) and their crime boss (Walter Matthau). Elvis considered this melodrama his best film and I happen to agree. It's nicely photographed in noirish black and white and directed by Michael Curtiz, featuring Elvis' most cultivated performance. It's a good story too, complimented by good actors in their roles. Walter Matthau is ideal as Maxie the heavy, who practically owns the whole town. Carolyn Jones is properly pitiful as his pathetic tramp, and Vic Morrow does well as the lead hoodlum who caters to Matthau. The songs Presley sings fit nicely into the action and are pleasant, though I don't believe any of them were signature biggies for Presley outside of, possibly, "Hard Headed Woman," and "King Creole" itself. It's a real shame that the best hit rocker, "Hard Headed Woman," is really given a raw deal as we only get to hear the end of it within the movie. The best music performance is Elvis' rendition of "Trouble" as he dominates the nightclub stage with authority and toughness while fearlessly singing it at Maxie. *** out of ****
I had an epiphany tonight. 'King Creole' is a better film than 'Jailhouse Rock'. 'Jailhouse' may contain King's best acting but 'King Creole' is his best film. Why? I would say King's acting is only slightly less convincing in 'Creole' but two things make it a better film: the cast and the story. 'King Creole' boasts the finest cast by far of any Presley film. Only Ann-Margret is sexier than Carolyn Jones, Vic Morrow has that ferocious mouth, Dean Jagger is almost perfect as the beaten father and Walter Matthau is deliciously vile. Harold Robbins' novel 'A Stone for Danny Fisher' is gritty and at times hard to read. Although the screenplay (co-written by 'Frankie Five-Angels', Michael V. Gazzo) is quite a bit more tame it is still tough. Think about it: King plays a character who kills a man in an alley with a switchblade. Here he is not 'Jailhouse Rock's amoral Vince Everett. Instead he is, at times, IMmoral. Forget all you think you know about the icon, Elvis Presley, and watch his eyes when, as Danny Fisher, he tells his father 'you go to school. I'm goin' out to make a buck'. If you don't see it, if you don't see IT, you're just not looking.
Whether you are an Elvis fan or not, this is just a great movie. It shows that Elvis had that natural acting ability which unfortunately didn't matter to the money hungry corporate jerks. After this movie I think is when all his movies were just made to make money, which they ALL did. Elvis unfortunately became a joke in comparison to other actors all because of the terrible scripts. There was one movie (can't remember which one, there were over 30) in which he reportedly told the director after filming was done "Hey nice movie, maybe I'll read the script sometime" . In other words, Elvis hated the fact that he wasn't getting good scripts. He was the first real money making star which is what ultimately lead to the atrocious film roles. Well except for maybe 4 or 5 of his films. Anyway if you never saw Elvis in a movie before (which I find hard to believe with all the Elvis marathons on tv), see this one!
By this time Elvis Presley was a big movie box office name due in no
small measure to the astute management of Colonel Tom Parker. I have no
doubt that the Colonel got him Michael Curtiz as a director and a top
flight supporting cast consisting of Oscar winners like Dean Jagger as
the King's father and Walter Matthau as the villain of the piece. And
other such outstanding players as Carolyn Jones, Vic Morrow, Paul
Stewart, and Dolores Hart.
Presley steps into James Dean territory here, had he lived I'm sure Dean would have played the part of Danny Fisher in what would have been a non-musical story or one where Dean's singing would have been dubbed. Danny Fisher is just the kind of troubled youth searching for himself that Dean excelled with in East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause. In fact in the relationship between Presley and Jagger you can see a lot of the dynamics of Dean's and Jim Backus in Rebel Without a Cause.
Elvis has had to go to work because his father has been unable to hold down a job ever since the death of his wife. So's Elvis's sister, Jan Shepard, also had to work. He gets a break in Walter Matthau's club with an impromptu audition, but it's rival owner Paul Stewart who hires Elvis. That sets the stage for a lot of the action to come.
For those who are used to seeing Walter Matthau as the lovable grouch starting from The Odd Couple it would surprise many to learn most of his early roles were bad guys. He's an exceptionally nasty bad guy in King Creole.
The title song became one of Elvis's early best sellers and it is also the name of the club Matthau owns in the New Orleans French Quarter. Presley has some other good numbers in this film as well.
Some other reviewers have mentioned that Elvis should have done more dramatic stuff like King Creole. Maybe he should have, who knows. But I think the point should be made is that first and foremost Elvis was a singing icon, not an acting one. As were the idols of former generations Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. I don't think Elvis was willing to push himself as player in the same way they were. Neither Crosby or Sinatra also had a manager with as tight a control over them creatively as Colonel Tom Parker. Both Crosby and Sinatra got Oscars, but it was for parts that they knew they could handle and went after, especially Sinatra. Maybe Elvis in the words of another icon, knew his limitations or the Colonel did.
King Creole also was one of the first of Harold Robbins's novels to be made into a film. Yet it's never thought of as a Robbins film like The Carpetbaggers or The Betsy. It's an Elvis film, first and foremost.
And that's good enough for fans of the King and others.
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