|Page 1 of 2:|| |
|Index||19 reviews in total|
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
*** This review may contain 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.
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 ****
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.
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
*** This review may contain 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.
|Page 1 of 2:|| |
|Plot keywords||Main details||Your user reviews|
|Your vote history|