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GI Blues was Elvis Presley's fifth picture and first one since his
return from the Army as America's most celebrated draftee of the
Fifties. It also marked his first film with director Norman Taurog who
did nine films with the King.
Taurog like so many in Hollywood in front of and behind the camera was getting less and less employment and taking what he could get. These were the kind of people that Elvis's manager Colonel Tom Parker made sure helped his meal ticket in any way possible. Norman Taurog won an Oscar in 1931 for Skippy and was nominated for his direction of Boys Town in 1938 which won Spencer Tracy an Oscar. Over the years Taurog directed such musical performers as Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Mario Lanza, Eddie Fisher, and Debbie Reynolds. This man was most assuredly a help to the King's career and I've no doubt Parker was behind getting him.
Parker is a controversial figure, especially among Elvis's legion of fans as to whether he helped or hindered Elvis's career. He might have done a little of both, but one thing the man was always sure of is that in Presley's movies, he made sure that he got the best support in front and behind the camera. Norman Taurog extended his own career via the King. Everybody made out here.
The Colonel also was a master at keeping the publicity going while Elvis was a $78.00 a month GI serving in Germany. So much so there was a tremendous about of advance publicity about this film which was about a young rock and rolling soldier who finds love in Frankfurt.
Elvis gets hooked into a Guys and Dolls type bet that he can't spend the night in Juliet Prowse's apartment. Prowse is a local entertainer at one of the clubs in Frankfurt and she's got a reputation as one cold lady. But you know she ain't got a chance with the king.
Part of the publicity surrounding this film was Juliet Prowse's relationship with another guy she did a film with that year, Frank Sinatra. She and Sinatra were quite the item and they announced their engagement and then broke it off just as quickly. Juliet was quite the dancer both in GI Blues and in Can-Can. I remember all of this quite well as a lad. And it was always a special treat in Elvis films when he got a female co-star who was also musical like Ann-Margret, Nancy Sinatra, or Juliet Prowse.
Elvis had a bunch of songs in the film including his own Blue Suede Shoes playing on a jukebox during a bar brawl. One song I really liked was Pocketful of Rainbows which he sings to Juliet while riding in a cable car. It should have been a bigger hit for him.
GI Blues was a fine jump start for Elvis's return to the big screen and to his loyal legion of fans.
I loved this film. It's not typical Elvis in the sense that for once he doesn't play the irreverent gigolo with a woman waiting for him in every bar; his one big dream is to do music in his own nightclub. He's quite likable and ends up even being noble when he turns the plot (of a soldier engulfed in an bet with his army buddies to 'defrost' a gorgeous nightclub dancer) on its side when he falls in love with the stunning Juliet Prowse. This one is similar in tone to VIVA LAS VEGAS because female lead Prowse is an independent woman, and not a typical Elvis groupie. That's why I like it all the more. She is never, in my opinion, actually 'refrigerated;' even when she turns down a pass from Elvis she's not so much rude as she is firm in her convictions. But what a dancer- with a pair of gams that stretch into next week!! Her introduction in the film (which shows a spinning cardboard cutout in a marquee window turn into the actual Prowse- in a strapless white, shredded dress) is breathtaking!!
Those of us who're into Elvis' music and other parts of his considerable
musical and cultural legacy should probably hate this movie. After all,
was the first symptom that something fundamental had changed in Elvis'
career after his two years in the US Army. This film, obviously inspired
recent events in Elvis' life, gives us a sanitized King who's
family-friendly and anything but the threat to society's moral fabric that
he was perceived as being a few short years before. At 25, Elvis was now
vetted as suitable for family consumption. Not that that's a bad thing.
The March, 1960 recordings that produced some of Elvis' biggest hits ("Are
You Lonesome Tonight" and the phenomenally-successful "It's Now Or Never"
among them) featured some of the best material that he'd ever recorded,
generally confirmed a shift -- or perhaps really a broadening -- in focus.
Maybe the two years in the Army and his first real exposure to the world
beyond his own country had matured him, especially given that he'd
through the loss of his mother during that time.
Still, the version of Elvis that "GI Blues" presented went a step further than just maturity. If it'd been a one-off deal there'd have been no problem -- the problem was that they kept trying to remake the film, as Elvis himself complained. And the problem with THAT, when you come down to it, is that the man was capable of much, much more. Certainly, he was able to act more effectively than we'd see in later properties like "Clambake" and "Double Trouble." The two films that followed this one, the great "Flaming Star" and "Wild In The Country," ably proved that. Then along came the box-office smash "Blue Hawaii," giving Elvis his biggest film receipts since "GI Blues" and cementing to a great extent his Hollywood future. As if the loss of a potentially great and certainly charismatic acting talent weren't enough, the focus on the bottom line led inexorably to weaker and weaker soundtracks. It didn't take long before Elvis was, with a few exceptions, turning out substandard recordings that would eclipse in volume and sales the still-great studio work that he too seldom did during the '60s. As catchy as I find some of these movie songs, and despite the redeeming qualities to be found in many, the sad fact is that most of what he recorded for the movies was far, far below what he was capable of even on a bad day. Take the movies, but leave the man his music. That is the real tragedy of Elvis' movie career, I think, and the reason why we should cringe at the thought of "GI Blues," the movie that started it all.
But I can't do that. I really can't hate such a good-natured film. Even this early in his '60s formula-movie days the music is watered-down to a great extent but most of the songs are still of high quality and some are exceedingly catchy or well done (e.g., the title song, the beautiful "Doin' The Best I Can," "Shoppin' Around," and even the sometimes-maligned "Wooden Heart"). The soundtrack sold like hotcakes -- over two years on the US charts! -- and the movie did huge business. Yes, indeed, Elvis was back! It's not the movie's fault that it became a turning point and one with, ultimately, dire consequences. Elvis' performances is, as befits the material, not as gritty or edgy as that of his previous role (in 1958's classic "King Creole") and this is more a straight musical-comedy of the kind that'd sustained Hollywood for decades. There are a few twists, though, such as the acceptance of one of Elvis' bandmates having fathered a child out of wedlock, and Elvis gets to show off his comic skills to great advantage in several scenes, including those that center upon that baby, 'Tiger.' Actually, it's the scenes with 'Tiger' that I always remembered above all else from when I first saw this movie back in the '70s. I like some of the things that indicate a self-awareness in the movie: Elvis' line at the movie's end, delivered to the camera, is most obvious, but the whole "Blue Suede Shoes" jukebox scenario's pretty funny and Elvis makes two references to "All Shook Up" during the narrative. Elvis does get to flash a couple of looks of anger and even arrogant confidence across his face a couple of times -- he was utterly convincing, just with a look, at portraying such emotions -- but for the most part he's a fairly happy-go-lucky sort in this film. He radiates charm throughout, echoing the sentiments of his "Love Me Tender" costar, Richard Egan: "That boy can charm the birds right out of the trees." Elvis' male and female co-stars all do a competent job throughout, and someone evidently thought enough of Juliet Prowse's long-legged dancing routines to include two of them in the film.
The producers shot scenes while Elvis was still in Germany but used a double for his long-shots. All of the German scenes that we see are either projected behind the principals or are scenes shot on location with other people, while Elvis was still over there finishing his tour of duty. They obviously put a lot of thought into storyboarding the film and getting costumes and everything else sorted out so that location shots would match soundstage scenes. This was not a quick and nasty 'quickie' film -- that would come later, beginning with the filming of "Kissin' Cousins" in 1963.
"GI Blues": it's a nice, entertaining movie, so it does its job. No heavy themes or messages, just the kind of thing that lets you spend a little time in the land of escapist, lightweight, boy-meets-girl stories. It has its place. It's just a pity that its place turned out to be right at the pivot point in the career of the most exceptional vocal and stage performer of the century.
Elvis was photographed in uniform while still in service (in Germany) for
this amusing, light service comedy. He must make good on a bet made for
another serviceman who's been sent to Alaska -- to bed dancer Prowse within
a week. She's legendarily cold, but warms up to E's garrulous charms and
his chivalry. She takes him out to the country, where he sings to her on a
ski-lift and (unfortunately) at a children's puppet show. This is really
the beginning of the new Elvis, the family Elvis, which is now despised by
many fans of his grittier 50s act, but also really helped him sustain his
career through the weird 60s pop music atmosphere. A lot of people that are
into Elvis are down on his movie recordings, but the fact is that this is
what kept his stuff going when others who came up in rock and roll (Chuck
Berry, Gene Vincent, Bill Haley, etc.) were faltering or beginning
exclusively European and Mexican tours and films.
The film, as it is, should serve as nostalgia for some, and as a bright spot of silliness on the now much bleaker cinema screens.
Elvis rocks the peace time army and breaks through the defences of a hard hearted cabaret dancer in a fictionalised musical version of his own military service. Tulsa (played by Presley), Rick and Cooky ,three army buddies spend most of their off - duty time together. When they are not playing music as a combo, they are frequently at their favourite nightclub. The main attraction is a red head dancer named Lili. Many have tried to melt this beautiful icicle but have failed. Rick and Cooky bet that Tulsa will succeed where all others have failed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This was Elvis' first movie after his Army release; the 1st Medium Tank Battalion, 32nd Armored was Presley's regiment when he was in the Army with the 3rd Armored Division in Germany, so it was used for the film; the soundtrack album went to No. 1 on Billboard and spent over two years (111 weeks) on the Billboard charts. This a very good Elvis movie in my opinion. It has a lot of music, hence the trio excuse, good humor, good acting and excellent scenery of sections of Germany. He shows some funny little moves when he is singing. Little mannerisms like stopping his leg shake or funny facial expressions. His character starts reluctantly trying to romance a cabaret dancer (Lili) played by Juliet Prowse to win a bet so that his trio can open a night club when they get out. It starts to turn serious and Elvis does what most GI's wouldn't, he backs out of the bet. Robert Ivers plays Cookie, the second member of the trio, a stereotypical American serviceman out for seemingly one thing (take a guess what). James Douglas is Rick, the third member of the trio, he is looking for his lost love Marla. He finds where she lives with their baby that he doesn't know about, he is told she has moved. They don't show how but Rick ends up with Marla, delirious about the fact he is a father. He gets Elvis's to baby sit while the pair run out to get married, after telling him the baby will sleep like a baby. If you have ever had a kid(s) you know how that works out!! Using the crying baby to get a panicked Elvis and Juliet back together again is a cute way to accomplish what any one watching the movie would realize was going to happen. Scheming Cookie trying to win the bet takes the roommate Tina, a girl he is trying to ????, out on the town so they other two are left alone as per the bet. Of course Lili finds out about the bet and things get tense for awhile between the two of them. Then things get cleared up, the trio gets it break by going on the Armed Forces Network. As usual in this type of film everything turns out well for every one. Tulsa (Elvis) and Lili get married, Rick and Marla too. Cookie can't scheme his way out of love. So all's well that ends happily.
Elvis's first film back after his military service is not as good as his best film King Creole nor as flashy and fun as Viva Las Vegas but still falls into the plus category as far as his films go. He has a talented co-star in Juliet Prowse, her exotic brand of sex appeal adds a nice component that adds a different spice to the movie. While the script is innocuous it certainly is far better than the slug he would be making just a few years later like Speedway and Harum Scarum. He looks very fetching in his uniform, the songs, including Blue Suede Shoes, by and large are pretty good and the film has many attractive locations. A pleasant diversion.
Back in Hollywood, after a two-year stint in the US army, Elvis Presley
(as Tulsa McLean) is a stationed-in-Germany singing soldier out to bed
sexy dancer Juliet Prowse (as Lili). This tailor-made film set the
standard for the successful "ELVIS" movie. Presley spent the 1960s
swinging and singing through "Top Ten" box office and record charts.
"G.I Blues" propelled Elvis back into Quigley Publications "Box Office"
ten most profitable movie stars, where he stayed through 1966. The RCA
soundtrack went platinum, and was #1 for ten of its amazing 111 weeks
on the LP chart. RCA planned no 45 RPM singles (which helped album
sales), but "Wooden Heart" and "G.I. Blues" became hits anyway.
Unfortunately, the musical's trend-setting success overshadowed Presley's superior studio recordings from the time (listen to "Elvis Is Back!"). Also note, the re-recording of "Blue Suede Shoes" is a pale imitation of the 1956 original. So, a creative cancer was being forged. But, it's not fair to fault "G.I. Blues" for the sight and sound of Elvis Presley singing "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" in "Double Trouble" (1967). And, although everyone (including Presley) longed for him to be a great dramatic actor, he shows up in "G.I. Blues" as a charming and natural light performer. Herein, Presley introduces many of the playful mannerisms used throughout the remainder of his career, in musicals and on stage.
****** G.I. Blues (8/18/60) Norman Taurog ~ Elvis Presley, Juliet Prowse, Robert Ivers, James Douglas
Elvis' first post army movie is about what? A G.I. in West Germany wants to buy a nightclub in Oklahoma. Tulsa McLain (Elvis) takes on a wager that he hopes will solve his money problems. He is to stay the night with ice cold, leggy dancer, Lili(Juliet Prowes). Girl dances for boy; boy sings for girl. But baby sitting becomes the problematic solution to the plot. A more grown up look for Elvis and a great soundtrack that is more pop than rock.
Though this movie sealed Elvis's fate as to what kind of films he'd be
churning out by the dozen; it's hard not to like it.
Elvis is thoroughly charming as Tulsa, an American GI stationed in Germany. He takes part in a rather despicable bet as he claims he can "defrost" a sultry dancer (Juliet Prowse). He succeeds in charming her but, to his own surprise, also falls for her.
Well, the story's simple - but it sets the stage for some truly entertaining Presley songs and some knockout dancing by the charming Juliet Prowse who also gives a good performance. The film is energetically made and the usual Presley "possé" is fairly likable here.
There's no denying the fact that the "defrost" bet is very tasteless but Elvis's character sidesteps it quite nicely. Here Elvis plays basically the same character as in his subsequent films; a mischievous lad, wholly independent, with a surprisingly strong moral sense and prone to landing in at least one bar fight. But this is the first light-hearted Presley flick and he looks like he's enjoying himself and the songs really are top notch. "Tonight is so right for love" and "Shopping Around" are among many highlights here and it's very funny to see a guy in a bar pick "Blue Suede Shoes" on the jukebox by some rocker named Elvis Presley (and that lands him in a fight with...well, Elvis).
Although "G.I. Blues" laid the groundwork for some inferior films to come it's a very pleasant film and comes recommended to more than just hardcore Presley fans.
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