Blue Hawaii (1961)
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Crosby's film was made to take advantage of a whole lot of publicity he received for a trip to Hawaii. But Paramount as they usually did with his films back they made them on the cheap and Hawaii for Waikiki Wedding was recreated on the back lot.
Bing must have been a little jealous and who could have blamed him when Paramount did this film completely on location in Hawaii for the King. And Elvis got to go back to Hawaii for another film in Paradise, Hawaiian Style.
Elvis got a whole lot of musical numbers here including the title tune which he sings over the opening credits. He does a rockabilly version of the French song Alouette and with different lyrics, the Mexican love ballad, La Paloma. And he borrows a hit from Andy Williams when he reprises the Hawaiian Wedding Song.
Of course no film set in Hawaii is complete without Aloha Oe. But the big song from this film is one of Presley's greatest Can't Help Falling In Love With You. He sings it during a scene for a birthday party for Joan Blackman's grandmother. It's sort of done in a throwaway manner like the producer's didn't think it would be the big number in the film.
It might surprise Presley fans that this blockbuster hit was also recorded by another RCA Victor artist named Perry Como for one of his albums. Perry does a nice job with it, but it ain't a patch on the King's version.
Elvis is a rich young kid who'd like very much to get out from under Mom and Dad and prove himself. He's even done a hitch in the army, but that doesn't help. Parents are played by Roland Winters and Angela Lansbury.
Angela Lansbury recounted a story where she and her husband had dinner with Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis when they were casting Blue Hawaii. She said Elvis was a nice, polite young man who barely said three words during the dinner. The talk was all from Colonel Tom who was making all kinds of offers to the future Jessica Fletcher to be in this film.
Angela's career was somewhat in a dry spell, she hadn't made The Manchurian Candidate yet or appeared on Broadway in Mame. So she was quite willing to appear.
I gained some insight into how Colonel Parker handled Elvis with that story. If you look at the cast and even the behind the camera credits of his films, you'll see them populated with a whole lot of Hollywood veterans. I'll bet there were many such dinners during Elvis's film career.
To be sure Presley was certainly the Colonel's meal ticket. But I would have to say that he made every effort to see that Elvis and his films were given the best possible production values. I think that's why the King had a long sustained film career until public tastes change which they inevitably do. Also musicals, even Elvis's became too cost prohibitive to produce any more.
Blue Hawaii marks the height of Presley's singing and film career. The Beatles hadn't come on the scene yet, the King was still ruling the roost on the record charts and his films were grossing big box office.
And unless your Bing Crosby and feel a twinge of jealousy that his Hawaii film was done on the cheap, you'll like Blue Hawaii very much. It's nice entertainment from a great entertainer.
This film laid down the blueprint for the majority of Elvis' other 60's musicals that each and every Company, writer, producer and director, tried to recapture and remake time and again. But, artistically, it never quite happened.
The water was tested with Presley's first post-army movie, the critically acclaimed 'G.I. Blues', the year before, that introduced us to the new Elvis look and feel. The family audience were captured by Tom Parker's crafty, but clever, plans to make his boy appeal to a much wider spectrum of tastes and trends. And, 'Blue Hawaii' established firmly which route 'The King's' film career path was going to take.
It is an absolute must-see for a number of things including the fine direction of Norman Taurog and the beautiful Hawaiian paradise that unfolds like a travelogue. But, most importantly we are treated to a more mature Elvis Presley who handles his character's script with notable impressive comic timing when feeding off the intimidating characterisation by Angela Lansbury who plays his domineering mother.
Elvis seemed to gain a lot of enthusiasm and incentive by working with a fine supporting cast e.g. 'Jailhouse Rock', 'King Creole', 'Flaming Star', 'Wild In The Country', and 'Blue Hawaii' is no exception to the rule. The immediate screen chemistry between himself and his beautiful co-star, Joan Blackman, portraying the couple in love, is quite in evidence here and they both play off each other amicably. Although, rumour had it, it was a different ball game off camera.
An Elvis movie wouldn't be an Elvis movie if he didn't chant his way through a number of songs and with 'Blue Hawaii' this culminated in a total of fourteen that made up a soundtrack that was to become one of his biggest selling albums ever. These songs blended the local islands traditional themes('Aloha-oe', 'Ku-u-i-po', 'Island of Love'), with silly production tunes('Ito Eats' and 'Almost Always True') and a taste of the new movie-style rock 'n' roll numbers ('Rock-A-Hula Baby' and 'Slicin' Sand') through to the beautiful ballads that Elvis' remarkably crafted operatic voice of this time, handles with consummate skill and ease ('Blue Hawaii', 'No More' and 'Can't Help Falling In Love'). The film's finale is a cinematic classic and beautifully filmed with Elvis once again in tremendous form with those golden vocal chords-Wonderful!
This film was made at the start of a different era of the Rock music phenomenon, and afterall it was Hollywood, so not all of the Hawaiian flavoured ditties will suite everyone's taste. But, it just went to prove no matter what kind of song Elvis sang and released it would still boost sales to the point of gold record certified!
Elvis' performance as homecoming G.I. turned 'beach bum', Chad Gates, is flawless in this movie and obviously shows us that he has a flair for this kind of comedy setting. The film itself when viewed today is still as fresh and feel-good as it ever was which is more than can be stated of the much later so-called sequel-'Paradise Hawaiian Style' and other such Presley vehicles as 'Girl Happy', 'Tickle Me', 'Harum Scarum', 'Easy Come, Easy Go', 'Double Trouble' and 'Clambake'. All of which try to recreate the 'Blue Hawaii' formula albeit in a bad way with Elvis displaying his acting and singing talents in a mediocre sort of way.
But, finally, for all it's class and high points, 'Blue Hawaii', in the long run, was certainly the 'Kiss of Death' for 'The King', and his acting ability and enthusiasm for the big screen would never be portrayed as consistently ever again.
This film, with its big budget and great soundtrack, laid the groundwork for the Elvis movies made later. Unfortunately, as Parker had negotiated a percentage of each film, it didn't take him long to realize that the faster and cheaper they made them, the more money for him and, by extension, Elvis. In fact, later on, the songs done in the films were not specifically written for the particular film - they were simply unreleased songs that were bundled into an album as the movie soundtrack.
But when you see Blue Hawaii, don't dwell on any of that. Just enjoy the scenery and the young, healthy Elvis, with his whole post-Army life ahead of him. All 17 years of it.
Elvis wanted to be a real actor in a film with bite, but this was as close as he would come. The script is light and fun, the acting is good and there are a few songs that aren't that embarassing to The King. Joan Blackman is great as his girl, Maile (I couldn't picture Juliet Prowse in the role since she looked too strong for the character). Angela Lansbury is hilarious in the role of his mother. She says it was a low point in her career, but in truth the chemistry she has with the rest of the cast is good. It is also full of breathtaking scenery. Even the interiors that were filmed in Hollywood don't look bargain budget.
Sadly, Elvis would make more of the same after this. Viva Las Vegas comes close to the greatness Blue Hawaii had, but Tom Parker didn't care as he just wanted to hear 'cha-ching'. Elvis just wasn't strong enough to say 'no' to Parker. Elvis was better than the movies he was in, and if he did the remake of 'A Star Is Born', that would've changed everything.
Everytime I watch this, I get happy but also sad at the same time. His performance is very good and it makes me wonder what might could have been if he didn't do all those formula films.
The soundtrack is quite possibly the best of any Elvis movie, with such gems as "Can't Help Falling In Love," the toe-tapping "Rockahula," "Hawaiian Wedding Song" and an abbreviated but still enjoyable rendition from Elvis of the traditional Hawaiian classic, "Aloha Oe." Unlike virtually every other musical, they never break into song for no good reason. Whether it's to change the subject, serenade a grandmother on her birthday, or liven up a party, there's always a radio or band present rather than having the music come out of nowhere.
Elvis was in top form here - handsome, slim, and boyish. A far cry from the overweight, ostentatious, muttonchopped, rhinestoned, caped and bell-bottomed joke he became a decade later. The rest of the cast was good, with the exception of an over-the-top Angela Lansbury and a cold, unmusical Joan Blackman. Still, the love story was one of the better ones, with the relationship established before the movie opens instead of the ridiculous whirlwind romance of most other Elvis movies.
Watch this on the biggest screen TV to get the feeling you're actually in this Hawaii that never was, at least during the outdoor scenes, not when they retreated to the studio. Better yet, make it a double feature with "Gidget Goes Hawaiian" and you can luxuriate in the Hawaii of 1961, only two years after it had become the 50th state.
The slump begins with "Blue Hawai" .The talented directors (Richard Thorpe,Don Siegel...) were replaced by Norman Taurog who would become Elvis's regular one.
OK,Hawai's pictures are nice,there is Angela Landsbury.
The songs are weaker than in the previous flicks:the only memorable tune is "can't help falling in love" based on an old French folk song "Plaisir D'Amour" (=joys of love).
You'd better take one of the movies I mention above,particularly Don Siegel's "Flaming Star".
Chad, played by Elvis Presley, has just been discharged from the army, but for him the war is only beginning. Like all Presley heroes, Chad wants his independence, to make it on his own. His parents, however, want him to go to work for his father's pineapple business. Chad is torn between the desire to honor his parents and to follow his own dream of freedom. He is also subjected to the wrath of society which demands that the individual suppress all notions of rebellion and toe the line.
What is Chad to do? Can he forfeit his dreams of independence without also forfeiting his happiness? And can he spurn his parents' wishes without forsaking the love of his mother (Angela Lansbury)? It's all very intense. If not for the 12 toe-tapping tunes, watching "Blue Hawaii" would be an emotionally draining experience. (There are 14 songs in all, but the wonderful "Can't Help Falling in Love" and the title tune aren't toe-tappers.) Did you know that another of the songs, "Moonlight Swim," was first recorded by Anthony Perkins (who named one of his sons Elvis)? Go forth and spread the news!
Brian W. Fairbanks
The story is a sparse affair concerning Chad, a returned G.I. who wants to make his own way in life but whose overbearing mother (Angela Lansbury, great as usual) wants only to hear of him working in the family's pineapple business. Chad figures out a way to get a job with a tourist agency taking advantage of his knowledge of the islands, but a crisis involving one of his underage charges threatens to cut his new career short.
The film itself is better than the average Elvis film, not so much because of any redeeming themes or ideas (i.e. "King Creole") but moreso because the script gives the characters witty dialog and the narrative exposition is just heavy enough to keep the audience interested without becoming absurdly dramatic. For example one line that always gets a laugh from an audience is when Chad is trying to convince the schoolteacher that he will be a good tour guide, and she asks him "Mr Gates, are you sure you can handle a teacher and 4 teenage girls?". Just the line itself gets a laugh. This movie has a lot of humor that works very well, it's not like you're sitting there saying "oh look at what Elvis is doing"; a lot of the comedy are situations that would be funny with any decent comedian. Here, as in just a few of his later films like "Follow that Dream", Elvis gets to show he has real ability and good timing for comedy.
The narrative structure itself is fairly effective in terms of drawing the audience in -- always a tough job with a story that has so little action and drama. First we're presented with a fairly standard parents vs. kid dramatic story as described above, and then when we meet the tourists there is another important character, the teenage tease Ellie Corbett. She's a rich kid's daughter who feels unloved and is a bit of a JD if you know what I mean. She doesn't want to go see the pineapple farm, she doesn't want to learn to surf, and she doesn't want to attend a hookie-lau. The audience perhaps identifies with her in some sense, and the elements in the audience that want to resist the urge to enjoy this Hawaiian treat are overcome by way of Ms. Corbett's objections being gradually over-ruled. Also she represents a key in the narrative for Chad -- although she initially creates a romantic confusion between Chad and his girlfriend, eventually it's Chad's ability to reach out to her that proves his maturity and his ability at his job. This takes his character beyond the parent vs. child dichotomy and into the world of maturity, where we leave him.
While not one of the top three Elvis films, those being 'King Creole', 'Flaming Star' and 'Jailhouse Rock', 'Blue Hawaii' is one of his better overall films. It's proof that his early films were actually pretty good, but unfortunately it was one of his last good ones when the formula started here wore increasingly thin and further suffered from looking less appealing and even the quality of the soundtracks and Elvis' acting wavering significantly.
'Blue Hawaii' could have been better. The formulaic story has occasional draggy spots due to the content not quite being enough to sustain the running time. While most of the soundtrack is great, there is a big difference between the best songs and the weakest, with a couple of songs that don't feel necessary, feel thrown in for the sake of it and are neither catchy or beautiful, particularly "Ito Eats" and "Splicin' Sand". The supporting cast is variable, annoying Jenny Maxwell and dull John Archer coming off worst.
However, Elvis looks natural and is very charismatic, as well as vocally and performance-wise being very much in prime. Personally thought Joan Blackman was appealing, likewise with her chemistry with Elvis, but Roland Winters and particularly Angela Lansbury fare best in support.
Visually, 'Blue Hawaii' is one of the most beautiful-looking Elvis films, along with 'King Creole' and 'Flaming Star'. It's beautifully shot and Hawaii entrances more than it ever has on film. Norman Taurog directs assuredly in by far one of his better outings with Elvis (there were 9 and the first two, the other two being 'GI Blues', are the best).
Most of the soundtrack is simply great, the highlight being the sublime "Can't Help Falling in Love", one of Elvis' most famous songs and it is impossible to not understand why. "No More", "Rock-a-Hula Baby", "Hawaiian Sunset" and "Hawaiian Wedding Song" are honourable mentions. The script is witty and there is enough of the story that amuses and charms.
In conclusion, good Elvis film, one of his better ones without being among his very best. 7/10 Bethany Cox
Presley's 28 or so movies are pretty much evenly divided between great, good, fair and poor. This one ranks solidly in the top of the good category. Like "Fun in Acapulco" and "Viva Las Vegas," there's some great scenery, good music, and a plot that holds interest pretty much all the way through.
Cinematography takes top honors. Hawaii has hardly ever looked so good.
Presley interacts well with the natives and does a good job convincing us that he could be a native boy. He seems fit and comfortable with everything and everyone in the movie.
The movie seems more crowded with Presley songs than usual, hardly five minutes goes by before there's another one. Fortunately, they're generally pleasant with an Hawaiian or in one case Jamaican flavor. The song "Can't Help Falling in Love with You" is one of Presley's greatest and unfortunately it is more or less a throwaway here, with Presley singing it to his girlfriend's grandmother more than her.
Definitely a must see for Elvis fans and a watchable one for non-Elvis fans.
I watched this on the day that the writer Hal Kantner died. He created two excellent television shows in the 1960's, "Julia" and "Valentine's Day." He was an excellent and intelligent comedy writer as this film shows.
It has been said that this film set the tone for Elvis Presley's future film career; a musical romantic comedy featuring pretty locations, prettier girls, mediocre songs and banal plots. Several of his later films would also fit this formula, including his two others set in Hawaii, "Girls! Girls! Girls!" and "Paradise, Hawaiian Style". (Presley did not spend all his time working for the Hawaii tourist board; he was equally ready to offer his services to other prime holiday destinations, hence the likes of "Fun in Acapulco" or "Viva Las Vegas"). None of these films made any great demands on his acting skills, and in "Blue Hawaii" he is (as he often was) so laid-back as to be practically horizontal.
Although Elvis was, in chronological terms, still young (only 26) when he made this film, he was, in career terms, already middle-aged. Gone was the hip-swivelling Elvis the Pelvis of the mid-fifties, the wild young rock-and-roller denounced from pulpits all across America as a danger to the morals of the nation's youth. In his place was Elvis the lounge singer, a younger, better-looking version of Frank Sinatra or Bing Crosby, crooning a string of bland, middle-of-the-road easy- listening numbers, in this film often with a vaguely Hawaiian flavour. Only occasionally does he break into anything resembling rock-and-roll. The only memorable song here is his well-known hit "Can't Help Falling in Love", and even that is a gentle romantic ballad, unlikely to be denounced from the pulpit of even the most censorious preacher.
In some of Elvis' films his leading ladies were well-known actresses, such as Ursula Andress in "Fun in Acapulco" or Ann-Margret in "Viva Las Vegas", but here his love interest is the attractive but obscure Joan Blackman. The only other actor of any celebrity in the movie is Angela Lansbury who plays Chad's mother Sarah Lee. Lansbury started her career in the mid forties playing pretty young things, but by the time of "Blue Hawaii" she had settled down into what was to be her normal niche of playing women considerably older than her actual age. (In 1961 she was 36, only ten years older than Elvis himself). She plays Sarah Lee with an exaggerated, stagey southern drawl; the Gates family are supposed to have moved to Hawaii from Georgia, a detail presumably inserted to explain away Elvis' own southern accent, but Sarah Lee ends up speaking with a quite different accent from either her son or her husband. Lansbury later rated her performance here as one of the worst in her career and it is hard to disagree with her.
"Blue Hawaii" was clearly intended as wholesome family entertainment, but there are two points at which it might cause some raising of eyebrows today. The first is the (presumably) unintentional double entendre which occurs when Maile asks Chad whether he can satisfy a teacher and four teenagers. The second comes when Chad picks Ellie up, puts her across his knee and gives her a good spanking. Ellie is, admittedly, an obnoxiously spoilt and sulky little brat, seventeen going on six- it is not hard to see why Chad prefers the more placid Maile- but even so such behaviour would today count as either sexual harassment or criminal assault. Perhaps in the early sixties there was a clause in Hawaiian state law permitting tour guides to administer corporal punishment to unruly teenagers.
My copy of "Blue Hawaii" is a DVD recently given away free as part of a newspaper promotion, which suggests that there must still be a market for this sort of thing, as they are hardly going to give away films that nobody wants to watch. Presumably that market consists of die-hard subjects of King Elvis, especially the older generation who can still remember him in his prime. I suspect that were it not for the presence of the great man "Blue Hawaii" would be just another long-forgotten cheesy sixties beach movie. 5/10
Unfortunately for the audience, Presley's co-star in G.I. Blues in 1960 pulled out of this movie. Juliet Prowse who starred with Elvis in G.I. Blues would have made a great followup character to add in Blue Hawaii. The story goes that she made so many demands on the studio that she was dropped from the picture. She continued in movies and then mostly in television. She later guest starred in a Murder She Wrote staring Angela Lansbury; Lansbury plays Elvis mother in this picture (she was 35 at the time). Blue Hawaii was the most successful soundtrack albums of the Elvis movie genre.
Like the other Elvis movies the reason to see this one is Elvis himself and the great music performances he gives. Elvis retuned to Hawaii many times so this must have been a special film for him. Hal Wallis does his usual excellent job of framing this film in his talented way that fuses the music with the story without being too sappy. This is a must see film on the Elvis list. ***/****.
As for the poster The half sheet of Blue Hawaii is more popular that the one sheet. Mainly this is due to the large musical note that Elvis is singing on top of with the girls. I like the one sheet better with the surfboard but both posters are just great.
The movie and album soundtrack both struck gold financially which meant that Elvis was unable to get away from making this kind of movie for virtually his entire acting career. Blue Hawaii is a great film, if there was ever such a genre as paradise cinema, Blue Hawaii would be the definitive flick.
Chad Gates (Elvis) has just left the army, and is living it up on the beautiful Hawaiian beach, loving' his girl, surfing' and singing. But he soon has to get a job, and refuses to work for his rich parents which causes all sorts of problems as he sets out as a tourist guide.
Blue Hawaii of course features the classic song 'Can't Help Falling in Love', magnificent scenery, plenty of laughs and two hours of sheer enjoyment. A huge film on it's release and still one of Elvis' most popular and well known movies.
I'm personally however not the biggest musical lover. So to me, it loses a grade instantly for that. But dang man..the Elvis hit "Can't help falling in Love" is in there.That doesn't mean avoid all musicals your entire life. If you do, you might just miss a beautiful little flick like this. Oh by the way...Elvis is a fine actor...and did a fine job in Blue Hawaii.
While I can't say I'm a huge Elvis fan, nor have I seen almost any of his movies, I rather enjoyed this one. It is just so laid back and fun. Sure, it makes little sense that he just breaks into song and sounds absolutely perfect. But does it matter? Amovie like this seems perfect or the era that brought us Frankie Avalon and such movies as "Beach Blanket Bingo". They just do not make good beach movies anymore. Heck, do they even make bad ones?
For me this is one of his better films and features a pretty good cast including Angela Lansbury as Elvis's mom. His love interest is played by Joan Blackman who even by Elvis girl standards is incredibly beautiful and who puts in a charming performance.
There are a few laughs to be had and a few memorable scenes. The only downside for me was the quality of the songs which with a few exceptions weren't the greatest.
This will likely appeal mainly to fans of Elvis but even those with just a passing interest in him can find some enjoyment from this fun movie.