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The heir to an oil fortune trades places with a water-ski instructor at a Florida hotel to see if girls will like him for himself, rather than his father's money. Written by
Geoff Poole <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Although it has the worst title of any Elvis movie, "Clambake" (1967) is actually one of his better films. Which is surprising as it is one of his last and generally speaking each film seemed a bit worse than its predecessor. "Clambake's" salvation is certainly not in the soundtrack which is at best very ordinary, only the title song has any energy. Although there is an actual clambake scene on the beach about midway into the film, it seems thrown in just to justify the title, more impressive is a cameo of "Flipper" who had his own television show at that time.
I'm inclined to credit Shelley Fabares for the good vibe I got from this film. She plays "golddigger with a heart of gold" Dianne Carter, Elvis' ultimate love interest. I never cared for her uptight Mary Stone character on reruns of "The Donna Reed Show", and therefore paid almost no attention to her until recently. But since seeing her in "Ride the Wild Surf" and "Clambake" I've had a major attitude adjustment. "Clambake" was the third time she was tapped for the love interest role in an Elvis film so obviously she and the King had grown comfortable working together.
Their romance is a little different than the Elvis standard. In "Clambake" she does not start out hating or ignoring him. Instead they quickly become friends and she is obviously attracted, but she puts the brakes on any romance because she is hunting for a rich husband and has tycoon J.J. Jamison (Bill Bixby) squarely in her sights. She comes around in the end and their chemistry actually feels real, much like it did with Ann Margret in "Viva Las Vegas".
The comfort factor is also apparent between Elvis and Will Hutchins, his real-life buddy. Oil tycoon Scott (Elvis) pulls a "Prince and the Pauper" and swaps places with drifter Tom Wilson (Hutchins). He wants to find someone who loves him for himself. Hutchins is supposed to provide the film's main comic relief as he enjoys the life of the rich and famous, driving Scott's "Munsters" inspired convertible and surrounding himself with gorgeous women who can't dance very well. Although the director had Hutchins overplay the part it is so poorly written that they can't squeeze many laughs out of the premise. But having most of his scenes with Fabares and Hutchins seems to have relaxed Elvis considerably, which makes both he and his film more likable.
Contrary to most, I enjoyed the corny playground scene with the little girl who was afraid of the slide. The "Confidence" song is not a rip off of "High Hopes", the whole scene is a variation on the "Bounce Right Back" number Donald O'Connor did in "Anything Goes". While "Confidence" is not much of a song, this surreal scene is priceless. I wonder what long-time fans thought as they watched Elvis and Hutchins do something so totally "Guffman"? Most entertainers only do embarrassing stuff like this when they are first breaking into the business.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
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