Frankie and Johnny (1966) Poster

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Good Light Entertainment
bigverybadtom27 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Which is arguably the case with most Elvis Presley movies, where he plays himself, sings a few songs, and the movie depends on the rest of the cast. This is a costumer set in the indefinite past, where everyone is first aboard a riverboat and then in New Orleans.

Elvis plays a performer in a riverboat musical entertainment show, with a blond girlfriend who acts with him. Trouble is, he is a compulsive gambler in debt to a number of people on the riverboat, including his thuggish boss. Being a superstitious sort, he consults with a gypsy stationed offshore, who tells him he needs a redhead woman companion to start winning at gambling. He finds one...namely the girlfriend of his boss, and the inevitable complications come from that.

This is basically like any other such musical, meant to be amusing without pretense of deep meaning. And in that, the movie works.
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A rough road for these two sweethearts
bkoganbing24 April 2017
The saga of Frankie And Johnny gets a lighter telling in this Elvis Presley film. Elvis plays an entertainer on a Mississippi riverboat circa the turn of the last century with a real gambling problem. His partner in the act is Donna Douglas late of the Beverly Hillbillies who would only marry him if he gives up his ways. Want to bet on the chances that that would happen?

Donna and the King work for Anthony Eisley whose number one girl Nancy Kovack, the infamous Nellie Bly has returned and an old gypsy said that a redhead would bring Elvis fabulous good luck. But that causes problems with both Eisley and Douglas.

A few new numbers were written for the film, but Frankie And Johnny has mostly traditional ballads of the era such as Down By The Riverside and When The Saints Go Marching In. All done in a New Orleans Dixieland style, most agreeable with Presley.

Some others in the cast are Harry Morgan as Elvis's accompanist, Audrey Christie as Morgan's wife, Robert Strauss as Eisley's dimwitted bouncer, and Sue Ane Langdon who spends the entire film absolutely plastered. Watching her complain about not being able to get and hold a man all I could think is that if she drew a sober breath once in a while she might have a chance.

Fans of the King should like this one.
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Okay at best time filler
TheLittleSongbird16 March 2017
Elvis Presley was a hugely influential performer with one of the most distinctive singing voices of anybody. He embarked on a film career consisting of 33 films from 1956 to 1969, films that did well at the box-office but mostly panned critically (especially his later films) and while he was a highly charismatic performer he was never considered a great actor.

This said, a good deal of his earlier efforts (late 50s-early 60s) were actually pretty good and more, his best being 'King Creole', 'Flaming Star', 'Jailhouse Rock', 'Viva Las Vegas' and 'Loving You'. Those films looked good, had great soundtracks, great supporting casts and showed that Elvis could be a very capable actor when his material allowed it, even when the dialogue and stories were in a few of them were not strong suits ('King Creole' was a notable exception though). Am of the opinion that Elvis' film career was an uneven film, while there were good films and performances there were also bad films where he looked bored, where the films had not so good soundtracks and looked cheap, a notable example being his previous film 'Harum Scarum' (widely considered one of his worst for good reason).

'Frankie & Johnny' is towards the lesser half of his filmography while not quite among his very worst. It is better than 'Harum Scarum' (then again a lot of things are), but still contains a lot of things that make some of Elvis' mid-60s onwards films not so good.

Starting with its good things, most of the songs fare well, especially the title song, "Hard Luck", "Shout it Out" (the most energetically performed of the songs) and "Please Don't Stop Loving Me". Didn't think much of the performances this time around, but a couple of actors come off with flying colours. Best of the bunch is Harry Morgan, who really brings a smile to one's face. Audrey Christie is also a lot of fun, and Donna Douglas is a competent leading lady.

The riverboat setting has moments where it's attractive enough, and some of the first half is brightly and breezily paced.

However, Elvis spends the whole time looking as if he didn't want to be there despite singing beautifully as always, while the chemistry between him and Douglas lacks spark or passion. Nancy Kovack and Anthony Einsley are on autopilot in very colourlessly written roles, and in general much of the acting is barely half-hearted. Although the soundtrack is mostly good, several of Elvis' 60s films had at least one song that was disposable. In 'Frankie & Johnny's' case, there are two that in no way pass muster as good songs and don't feel necessary, those being "Chesay" and "Petunia the Gardener's Daughter".

Dubbing is also an issue, Elvis' lip synchronisation is sloppy, and it was far too obvious that it wasn't Douglas and Morgan singing their own music, the difference between speaking and singing is blatant and distracting and Douglas doesn't look at ease. The way the numbers are staged varies, "Hard Luck", "Please Don't Stop Loving Me" and "Shout It Out" are fine but most of the rest are fairly static and seriously repeating footage of the title number in the reprise of the finale was not clever and just screamed of trying and failing to hide running out of time and budget.

Apart from the attractive riverboat setting, 'Frankie & Johnny' is another Elvis film that looks like it was made on the cheap and in haste, with a lot of garish and lurid colours, cheap-looking and anachronistic costumes and a flat made for TV-like look to the photography. The direction is at best lifeless, especially in the very limply paced second half. It is in the second half too where the story becomes increasingly far-fetched and less easy to follow and the dialogue increasingly groan-worthy (even for those expecting that in the first place).

Overall, semi-watchable and okay at best time filler but Elvis was worthy of so much more than this. 4/10 Bethany Cox
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If it wasn't for Elvis, this would have been 20 years too late.
mark.waltz7 March 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Seen 50 years after its premiere, this 1966 movie musical seems like something that Mickey and Judy would have done in 1943, that Doris Day and Gordan MacRae would have done in 1950, and that Gordon would have turned down in 1956 for a reunion with Shirley Jones. It's a period song and dance musical set aboard a show boat seems instantly dated, and Elvis seems way ahead of it in time period. It's all about the issues between singing gambler Elvis, his long suffering girlfriend Donna Douglas and the threats of a gypsy prediction. I wish that they had predicted that co-star Harry Morgan wouldn't sing, and proved to be right. No such luck.

If I look at this as one of the many non MGM musicals of the early 1950's, I could have tolerated the simplistic atmosphere that was out of step in 1966. Even the traditional musical films of that time had modern elements; the ones here had been in use in the mid to late 1930's. The only difference is that when Elvis sings (and shows off his lacquered hair), you're transferred out of the era of the setting of the story and right back into a dress- up party in 1966.

With Audrey Christie as Morgan's nagging wife (making them a copycat version of "Show Boat's" Captain Andy and Party), Nancy Kovack as Nellie Bly (the threatening redhead) and Sue Ann Langdon as ditsy Mitzi, this takes the legend of Frankie and Johnny to cheeky level, with Kovack attractive, but seemingly a bit long in the tooth to be the femme fatale. Robert Strauss adds another cad to his list of villains. As Frankie, Donna Douglas grows some claws every time Kovack is around, almost making you forget that she's the ingenue on a popular sitcom. For me, the only way to not dismiss this was to look past the silliness and enjoy the production numbers, the only one other than "Viva Las Vegas" to feature them. The title song is a little nasal for my taste, but a few takes on traditional American music made a huge difference.
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Disappointing, even by Elvis standards
Marco Trevisiol19 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Even though they have a lousy reputation I've generally been a fan of Elvis Presley films. Many of them provide breezy, painless fun with some good songs thrown in.

Unfortunately, there's precious little entertainment in 'Frankie And Johnny' which is especially frustrating as a lot of the elements are there for a satisfying film such as a workable plot, good supporting cast and colourful sets.

But this feels boring and lifeless from the word go. Elvis deserves some of the blame as - apart from 'The Trouble With Girls' - I can't recall him giving such a dull performance.

But the real culprit is Frederick De Cordova who directs the film so lifelessly and lazily that the film never has a chance.

Take for example the finale where it's been set up by a supporting character that in their staged musical number Frankie will shoot Johnnie with a real bullet instead of a blank. She does shoot him and appears to have killed him but through a stroke of remarkable luck he is unharmed. All this and the culprit is forgotten 15 seconds later for the upbeat closing musical number!

Even amongst his mid to late 1960s work, you can do much better if you're searching for an Elvis film to watch.
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Some Delights for Elvis Fans
Jay Raskin14 November 2011
This movie followed "Harum Scarum" and was a big step up simply because "Harum Scarum" was arguably Elvis's worst movie. This one is actually the closest thing that Elvis ever did to a typical Hollywood musical like "Music Man." There's an interesting plot and some good energy that carries through the first half of the movie, but it limps along badly in the second half. I went to sleep and had to finish watching it the next morning.

The large amount of Broadway musical-type tunes simply doesn't fit Elvis' style very well. Only the title tune is really interesting and works very well. At the end, there is a gem called "Please, Don't Stop Loving Me." It comes at about 80 minutes of the film's 87 minute run and I'm not sure that anybody except Elvis fans will last that long.

Apparently Donna Douglas and Elvis had deep philosophical conversations on Paramahansa Yogananda and the Christian religion during the breaks while shooting this movie. This shows as there is very little chemistry between them. Second lead, Nancy Kovack provides whatever sexual chemistry the film does have. One suspects that if Douglas and Kovack had changed roles, the film would have worked much better.

This doesn't fit into the category of Elvis' good movies, but it also doesn't fit into the category of his bad movies. Lets just say that it is an okay movie that only Elvis fans will find pleasurable.
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even devoted admirers of Elvis will find themselves feeling short-changed by this one
James Hitchcock18 December 2010
"Frankie and Johnny" is one in the long line of musicals which Elvis Presley churned out in the sixties. It has no connection with the Al Pacino/Michelle Pfeiffer film of the same name from 1991, but is instead fairly loosely based upon the well-known American folk-song. It is set some time in the late nineteenth century, probably around 1880 or 1890, although the exact date is never stated. Johnny and his girlfriend Frankie are performers on a Mississippi riverboat; Johnny is also a compulsive gambler, and as the boat has a casino on board he has plenty of opportunities to gamble. The film deals with the complications caused in their relationship by Johnny's gambling habit and Frankie's jealousy of his friendship with an attractive redhead named Nellie Bly. Johnny's interest in Nellie arises from the fact that a gypsy fortune-teller has informed him that a red-haired woman will bring him luck, but the jealous Frankie suspects that their relationship goes much deeper.

One of the problems of casting a rock star in a Victorian period drama is that rock didn't actually exist in the Victorian era. The makers of this film are not really all that concerned with period accuracy- some of the music we hear sounds suspiciously like jazz, which didn't really exist in the 1880s, and even the song "Frankie and Johnny" itself was not published in its modern form until the 1920s. Somebody, however, obviously realised that rock-and-roll would be anachronistic, so the star gets to sing a series of bland, totally forgettable easy-listening numbers.

Elvis was always fairly laid-back as an actor, but in this film he doesn't seem to make much effort as a singer either, being content just to stroll his way through the film. The rest of the cast are no better; in his film career Elvis played opposite some pretty obscure leading ladies, but Donna Douglas is one of the least memorable of the bunch. I was not surprised to discover that this was the last film she made in a brief cinema career. About the complicated and often far-fetched plot, the less said the better. Most Elvis Presley films these days are unlikely to appeal to anyone other than his many devoted admirers, but I suspect that even they will find themselves feeling a bit short-changed by this one. 4/10
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"That fortune teller has a hot cup of tea leaves!" ... "I'm a coffee drinker myself."
moonspinner5530 December 2009
Listless, abysmal Elvis Presley outing, loosely based on a 19th century French folk song, concerns a riverboat entertainer (and luckless gambling addict) in New Orleans told by a gypsy soothsayer that his luck will change once he dumps his blonde steady for a redhead. Filmed on the cheap, with Presley faking his way through. Two good EP songs, "Please Don't Stop Loving Me" and "Shout It Out", though the latter number is stolen from the star by a woozy ho-daddy guitarist in the bottom left of the screen. Donna Douglas, Nancy Kovack, and Sue Ane Langdon are a fun femme trio, but Harry Morgan is a colorless sidekick and Elvis just looks beat. *1/2 from ****
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Better Elvis
Michael_Elliott27 February 2008
Frankie and Johnny (1966)

** 1/2 (out of 4)

Johnny (Elvis) is a riverboat singer who is also one of the worst gamblers in the world, which gets him into major debt and grief to his partner Frankie (Donna Douglas). With no where else to turn, Johnny starts going to a gypsy for advice and she tells him that great luck will come in a beautiful redhead (Nancy Kovack) but this starts trouble with his boss as well as Frankie. I was pleasantly surprised to see how good this little film was, although it suffers from the same issues as many Elvis films of this period. The story is incredibly weak and once again we've gotta see The King fall for the wrong woman and try to get himself out of trouble while singing. What stands this film apart from the others through are the incredibly well done songs, which also feature some great musical numbers. The highlight is the wonderfully played out title song as well as several other tunes including "What Every Woman Lives For", "Down By the Riverside", "When the Saints Go Marching In" and "Hard Luck". Elvis doesn't give what I'd call a good performance but he fits his role well as the dumb but entertaining singer. The biggest credit must go to the supporting cast with Douglas stealing the show and Harry Morgan adding great comedy.
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FRANKIE AND JOHNNY (Frederick De Cordova, 1966) **1/2
MARIO GAUCI25 August 2007
This is an oddity in Elvis’ filmography: a quaint but pleasing musical comedy based on the popular song which had already inspired a similarly-titled film from 1936 starring Helen Morgan – apart from being featured in the Mae West vehicle SHE DONE HIM WRONG (1933) and, again, as recently as Robert Altman’s A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION (2006).

The star isn’t entirely comfortable amid the 1890s riverboat setting, what with a few of his musical performances (and especially his hairdo) coming off as inextricably modern. Still, the plot – thin as it is – emerges to be quite engaging (what with its backdrop of fortune-telling, gambling parlors, variety acts and costume parties and involving mistaken identities, misunderstandings, an attempted murder and a bar-room brawl)! The cast presents three notable female roles: Donna Douglas (as Frankie), Nancy Kovack as Elvis’ red-headed lucky charm and the flame of his jealous boss, and Sue Ane Langdon as a ditzy “blonde” – who, along with Presley’s long-suffering sidekick Harry Morgan, turns out to be the most likable character as well as the purveyor of the film’s comic relief.

Elvis’ best ‘new’ number is “Hard Luck”; apart from the title tune, he also gets to sing the standard “When The Saints Go Marching In” (while dressed in full military regalia)! The film is short enough at 87 mins. not to overstay its welcome, but the rather low-key presentation also prevents it from being anything more than unassuming entertainment. I wouldn’t classify it among the top-flight Presley vehicles, therefore, but it’s certainly superior to some of the bigger-budgeted (yet simple-minded) fluff he made over at MGM – this being a production from independent producer Edward Small released through United Artists.
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Frankie and Johnny (1966) **
JoeKarlosi25 August 2007
At first this Elvis Presley feature felt like a breath of fresh air, as it's a costume piece set aboard an old-time riverboat where Elvis plays an irresponsible and compulsive gambler named Johnny. Donna Douglas (best known as Elly May from "The Beverly Hillbillies") is his cutesy girlfriend and singing partner Frankie, and they perform as a duet on the boat (Douglas is unconvincingly dubbed). Harry Morgan of M*A*S*H fame plays Johnny's older mentor (he gets to sing too - uggghhh) who visits a gypsy fortune teller with Elvis to learn that a redhead (Nancy Kovack) will soon arrive to change his luck. Fate turns out to come true, but it creates a love triangle in the bargain. Once you get past the fancy costumes, this is fairly standard Elvis stuff. The stage songs aren't outstanding by any means, but they do fit nicely with the "showtime" feel of the proceedings. ** out of ****
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Boring movie with boring songs
gesandmas19 May 2006
I generally like Elvis' music and movies, but this turkey of a movie should be permanently shelved and never shown again.

The acting and dialogue are stilted, and the songs featured in this flick are far below Elvis' standards.

When I first saw the movie in its theatrical run, I got up and walked out of the theater after only about 15 minutes of viewing.

When I recently saw the movie again, I changed TV channels after enduring 30 minutes of the movie. Don't waste your time with this one.

It's too bad that Elvis never got the chance to perform as a serious actor.
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deaniac1-127 November 2005
I give this three stars just because it's a boring movie. I don't think it's bad. It's just really uneventful. I saw this on television once, and I switched over to the Food Network. I kind of remember what it was about, and that's about it. I have sat through probably everyone of his films, and while this isn't as bad as others (Harem Scarem!), it is pretty close. You can really tell that he was have less fun than the viewers. He looks really good (of course), but that's about it. It isn't even a fun bad movie, where you would see him as an Arabian Prince, or a race car driver. Instead of wasting time on this, watch Jailhouse Rock (the best), King Creole and even Blue Hawaii. You'll thank yourself later.
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Closer to "Tacky and Yawny"
Poseidon-323 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Falling close to the middle of Presley's film career in both quantity and quality, this is an exercise in mediocrity with only a few things to recommend in it. Very loosely inspired by the classic title song, it showcases Presley as a riverboat performer and gambling addict. He has a relationship with his singing partner Douglas, but that is strained to the limit when he encounters Kovack, a redhead who he believes is essential in fulfilling his gypsy fortune to win big money at the roulette wheel. Unfortunately, Kovack is the one-time love of Presley's boss Eisley and he isn't quite ready to give her up yet, despite his own affair with kooky chorine Langdon. More direct comedy is provided by Morgan and Christie as Presley and Douglas' married friends. The shenanigans (including mistaken identity, flirtation, drunkenness and the roller coaster of the roulette wheel) all come to a head during a performance of the title song during which Presley's life is endangered. What may sound lively and entertaining in description is only partly so in reality. The pace of the film borders on stagnant, despite the setting, and the many songs Presley performs are chiefly forgettable and unimaginatively staged. Presley is close to his physical prime here, though his performance lacks any real spark. His infamous jet-black hair (which fails to ever move except for one cowlick in front) is incongruous with the time period, as are several of his costumes. It's surprising to see Douglas in a role other than her iconic Elly Mae Clampett. She is unable to ditch the accent from that character despite obviously trying to at various points. She is lovely to look at most of the time, but is obviously uncomfortable in the musical sequences in which her voice is dubbed and her movements are lacking in assurance. Morgan does a decent job, but Christie manages to outshine him with her caustic brand of dry humor. They share some of the movies most amusing bits. Langdon is, as usual, very broad in her role though she does contribute some energy to the proceedings. Eisley is adequate. Nothing more. Kovack is attractive, but, like Douglas, far from seeming at home in the musical interludes. The songs are mostly forgettable and the one major song, the title tune which has endured for so long, is rather mangled by switching it from a narrative style to a first-person number with people singing about themselves. Few things are as uncomfortable-looking as Presley loping down the street in his marching band get-up. Though the film has many colorful costumes and settings, it comes off as pretty cheap-looking. Fans of The King will still want to watch this for his brand of light romance and comedy, but it hardly ranks as one of his best outings.
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Not exactly a sleeper, but....
juliano6610 February 2005
Frankie and Johnny wasn't half bad as Elvis pictures go- which means it was half- watchable as a movie and not just a typical kitchy vehicle to ogle the King. The musical performances we're good and the sets and costumes interesting-the high point in the film is the last performance of Frankie and Johnny--Elvis actually comes off pretty suave at times as a river boat gambler and his character played well off a nubile, young Donna Douglas. Harry Morgan does a good job as Elvis' older, more wary sidekick and the rest of the cast work well and don't detract/subtract from the main action which is of course- Elvis. Not a bad way to kill an afternoon or round off an evening of insomnia.
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Oh, my
Ripshin17 August 2004
Yes, this is a truly bad film. While the 1890s (?) riverboat setting is a change of pace from go-go dancers, the filmmakers still manage to make it a formulaic Elvis dud. Donna Douglas is obviously miscast, with a dubbed singing voice that doesn't even match her speaking tones. Director De Cordova's lack of high-end filmmaking experience is clearly evident - this film indeed, as a previous user has stated, evokes a cheesy TV movie from the 60s. The sets are designed and lighted horribly. The film is a complete bore. The long shots of the riverboat appear borrowed from "Show Boat," or perhaps "Huckleberry Finn."

It's a shame they rarely gave Presley a good vehicle to showcase his talents. His sexiness and vulnerability are constantly being overshadowed by stupidity, garishness AND REALLY BAD SONGS.
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One of Elvis' worst films
kdboles14 October 2002
"Frankie and Johnny" is undoubtedly one of, if not THE, worst of Elvis Presley's films. Mind you, none of Elvis' films were Academy Award material, but this film looked as if it were a hokey made-for-TV movie rather than a theatrical release. Donna Douglas' singing voice is obviously dubbed as is Harry Morgan's. Presley seems out of place in a cast made up primarily of 1960s supporting television actors. Even the director of the film, Frederick de Cordova, had his roots in TV working with George Burns and Johnny Carson - hardly credential enough to be directing a movie musical at a time when the movie musical was all but dead anyway.

I walked away from the movie feeling as if I had wasted my time.
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Good fun for Elvis fans, Donna Douglas fans
funkyfry10 October 2002
Romping, colorful Presley vehicle with plenty of songs and good comedy from Harry Morgan and Donna Douglas. Johnny (Presley) is a riverboat gambler who becomes convinced that a redhead is his good luck charm -- problem is, Frankie (Douglas) is a blonde! She goes after him with a gun, and the rest is in the song (a personal favorite of Elvis', I understand). Edward Small's production clearly outclasses the Sam Katzman drek Presley would soon be floundering in. Some fairly elaborate musical numbers well-executed, quality photography and decent directing. DVD is a good one, buy it Elvis fans.
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OK movie
kwbucsfan20 August 2001
This movie was OK. Not good, not bad. Some of the songs leave a lot to be desired, but there was a pretty good supporting cast in this movie, Donna Douglas (The Beverly Hillbillies) and Harry Morgan (M*A*S*H*) to name a few. This was a typical Elvis movie, but the fact that it was on a riverboat set in the late 1800's early 1900's makes it interesting. There were a few good songs in this movie, but they were few and far between. A watchable movie, but nothing spectacular.
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A costume musical aboard a riverboat.
Michael O'Keefe14 November 1999
Elvis plays Johnny, a riverboat entertainer that has a big gambling problem. Donna Douglas, better known as Elly Mae Clampett, is Johnny's girl, Frankie. A fortune teller tells Johnny how he can change his luck. Enter a new lady luck played by Nancy Kovack and the cat fight begins. Costumes range from classy to gaudy. A dozen songs make up the soundtrack featuring "Hard Luck" and "Please Don't Stop Loving Me". This film was directed by Fred de Cordova, director of Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show". Also in the cast are Sue Ane Langdon, Harry Morgan and Anthony Eisley. A fun movie to watch.
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