The Trouble with Girls (1969) Poster

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The Trouble with Movie Contracts...
Shane Paterson1 September 2002
I'd never really particularly liked this film mainly because it was nominally an Elvis movie but had Elvis pretty much co-starring in his own film. It's true that he doesn't get much screen time in this, his second-to-last scripted screen performance, but upon this screening I found that I enjoyed it more just as a film. The story is a little draggy, and fairly quirky, and this is a property that'd been shopped around for years before ending up as an Elvis Presley project.

Chautauquas were popular traveling shows that, peaking around the turn of the century, brought to small towns lecturers and performers of all kinds. In "The Trouble With Girls" (weird title, more descriptive of some of his earlier '60s movies than this piece), Elvis plays the manager of a traveling Chautauqua troupe. They arrive by train in a small Iowa town and -- well -- trouble ensues. In reality, though, the trouble's mainly with the men. The film was originally titled "Chautauqua" but its name was changed because studio executives felt that nobody'd know what the heck a Chautauqua was. Didn't really matter much, anyway, because by 1969 Elvis' movies were finally not exactly packing them in and the unwieldy title "The Trouble With Girls (And How To Get Into It)" is hardly descriptive or indicative of the film's contents. Those who were still going to see Elvis' movies at the theater probably would've gone to see it if they'd titled it "Elvis Presley Movie #29," anyway.

Elvis looks great in this film, with sideburns not only restored to full pre-Army glory (as they had been since late '67) but bigger and fuller than ever before. He does a fine job acting, even though his role is not as demanding as some he'd taken on if only because he was just one of an ensemble cast. It was quite a cast, too, including the likes of Vincent Price (great in a brief couple of bits as "Mister Morality") and John Carradine (only briefly seen, unfortunately -- conventional wisdom has it that this is the last film in which he and Vincent Price appeared together, though IMDB tells me that they co-starred in two more in the '80s). Dabney Coleman, ever-smarmy as a cheating druggist, is excellent as always and it's his character who ends up polarizing and driving the action forward on this rather lethargic property.

But it's an Elvis movie, right? (well, sort of) So what about the songs? Well, because of the setting, all of the songs are realistic in presentation -- none of the typical musical's invisible orchestra -- and most of the Elvis tunes are further realistic in terms of their instrumentation. Elvis doesn't sing much in this film (1968's "Speedway," shot in the summer of 1967, was the last song-heavy Elvis film) but most of what he does is excellent stuff. The rousing traditional black gospel song, "Swing Down, Sweet Chariot" (a totally different song to the "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" that most are familiar with) is done to perfection under the Chautauqua's big tent. Elvis had recorded this song back in 1960 and remade it for this film -- it was only the second of three 'religious' songs that Elvis did for the movies (the first was 1967's "Sing, You Children" from "Easy Come, Easy Go," and the third was "Let Us Pray" from 1969's "Change Of Habit"). Elvis also does a few lines of "Violet" during a medley of college fight songs (he also recorded "The Whiffenpoof Song" but, if it was included in the movie, it's missing from my copy) and he unveils a pretty and simple ballad, "Almost" near the movie's end. Along the way he and Marlyn Mason (no, not Marilyn Manson) duet on the Dixielandish "Signs Of The Zodiac," basically a novelty song. Elvis also does a song called "Clean Up Your Own Backyard," a song that pithily targets hypocrisy (small-town or big-city varieties) and that was as relevant to the situation in 1969, or today, as it was to the movie's central plot. The song is excellent and is heard here without the overdubbing that accompanied the single release. "Clean Up Your Own Back Yard" is easily among the very best of Elvis' movie songs and would have fit seamlessly within the body of work that he was laying down in the studio around this time, all of it of excellent quality (his legendary Memphis sessions of 1969 were just three or so months in the future when he made this film).

This is not one of the classic Elvis films, even within the subgenre of Elvis' classic ‘60s musical films -- it's a drama-focused period piece in which Elvis is an underutilized part of an ensemble cast. It does, however, have some good scenes and some solid acting, though it wasn't about to give Butch and Sundance a run for their money at the box office. Elvis began production of this film a couple of months after taping the legendary 1968 TV Special and within a year would make headlines around the world as a result of his triumphant return to the concert stage. "The Trouble With Girls" was symptomatic of a Hollywood world that had palled in Elvis' mind and that would soon be totally irrelevant to who he was and who he was perceived to be. It's interesting, and has its moments, but it pales beside the real-life drama of Elvis in his element...performing live on stage. Still, for me, seeing Elvis do "Clean Up Your Own Back Yard" is, alone, reason enough to catch this rather odd film. And if you want to see Elvis in anything but ‘a typical Elvis Presley film,' this might be the movie for you. That is, if you can't find a copy or broadcast of "Flaming Star" or "Follow That Dream."
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7/10
Elvis' best overlooked film
funkyfry8 September 2003
Although Elvis' fans may be disappointed at his lack of screen time here, he's actually in a role that is suitable to his persona -- a free-wheeling carnival organizer in turn of the century middle America. The festival he is promoting is no ordinary carnival, though -- it also features theater and philosophical dissertations (delivered by none other than then king of horror Vincent Price) and a kiddie talent show that motivates part of the plot. The rest of the plot is motivated by sleazy merchant Dabney Coleman, and his relations to the mother of a girl in the talent show.

The children in the talent roles are really excellent performers, and this whole production has a quality and a care taken with it that no other post 1966 Elvis movies can boast of. The title is really a turn off, but this is a movie that not only would have stood on its own without Elvis, but which actually benefits by his performance. Solid quirky directing in all but the musical numbers, somewhat interesting movie.
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7/10
A traveling tent show causes excitement in a college town.
Michael O'Keefe10 December 1999
Walter Hale (Elvis Presley) is the manager of a traveling show, a Chautauqua, in the 1920's. Amongst the entertainment, trouble starts to develop. Hale is troubled by a Worker's Union rep, played by the gorgeous Marlyn Mason. A college girl played by Nicole Jaffe, wants to go on the road with the show. And a female citizen kills a man in self defense only to become the highlight of the Chautauqua. A cigar smoking Elvis, dressed in white sings a few novelty tunes and the hit song, "Clean Up Your Own Backyard". This comedy/drama also stars Sheree North, Joyce Van Patton and Vincent Price. A fun movie and a whole lot better than the bad rap it has received.
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9/10
One of Elvis' better films
nigel778 January 2007
The Trouble With Girls was much maligned on its original release in 1969.However it has a strong plot, excellent cast, interesting direction and very good use of camera angles (very unusual for an Elvis film). What a treat to see horror maestro, Vincent Price, in an Elvis film! There is also good chemistry between Elvis and leading lady, Marlyn Mason. The pacing is quite slow but this is one of the few Elvis films which can be viewed in "film critical" mode. Sadly, by the time The Trouble With Girls came out, both critics and the public had tired of Elvis films. Yet it together with Stay Away, Joe; Live A Little, Love A Little; Charro!; and Change of Habit were a positive step in redefining what Elvis' film career could have been.
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6/10
Loaded with familiar faces too bad they forgot a plot
jjnxn-115 June 2013
For an Elvis movie his presence here is strictly secondary and he is sidelined throughout. The picture seems like it wanted to be more than it was, which is a run of the mill mystery with a few songs thrown in. It tries to tell a couple of different stories at once, none really compelling, and sort of limps along until it just ends. Of more interest as a chance to spot the familiar face in small parts than anything else. Hey look there's Vincent Price and Buffy from Family Affair and Cindy Brady and WOW look how young Dabney Coleman is! At least the film is loaded with reliable performers, Sheree North, Edward Andrews, Marlyn Mason, John Carradine etc. they just aren't given much to work with. Not a ghastly film just very ordinary and not terribly involving.
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7/10
River City Has Itself a Chautauqua show
bkoganbing18 December 2011
Except for a couple of westerns all of Elvis Presley's films were modern day movies. Only in this next to last film, The Trouble With Girls was Elvis in a period piece. In it he plays the manager in training of a Chautauqua show who gets involved in the business of a small town his show was playing in when one of his barkers Anthony Teague was accused of murder.

The film takes place in 1927 and imagine Meredith Willson's small Iowa town from The Music Man as the location just a decade later and him deep in the Roaring Twenties. Presley is being trained by Edward Andrews to take over the show because Andrews wants to retire. Andrews and Presley clash over a difference in management styles probably due to a generational difference.

There's only one girl that Elvis problems with, Marlyn Mason who wants to be involved with Elvis but not just romantically, she's organizing the Chautauqua performers for Actors Equity so we're talking labor/management issues as well.

Into this Music Man setting a murder is committed, the deceased is Dabney Coleman without his familiar mustache. This was at the beginning of Coleman's career, but he's starting his very fine line of really smarmy human beings he's taken a patent out on in performing. He owns the local drugstore/ice cream parlor and he's not above taking advantage of people in all kinds of ways.

Sheree North gives a nice performance as a single mom with a talented little daughter in Anissa Jones. And John Carradine as a ham actor and Vincent Price as a Chautauqua lecturer on morality make some great cameo appearances.

Elvis does not do much in the way of singing in The Trouble With Girls. I really liked his number Preach In Your Own Backyard, but it really didn't fit in a Twenties setting. A decade earlier Presley revived the Al Jolson classic Are You Lonesome Tonight and Colonel Parker should have worked that one in for the King.

Presley was coming to the end of his run as a film star and that's a pity because more people should have seen and appreciated The Trouble With Girls.
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3/10
Elvis Is Back in Trouble
wes-connors23 October 2011
In 1927, a "Chautauqua" (traveling troupe of entertainers and speakers) led by Elvis Presley (as Walter Hale) livens up an Iowa town. "The Trouble with Girls" ("...and How to Get Into It" for promotional lure) seems like the usual Elvis film for most of the running - flirty romances, cute kids, and plenty of songs in a carnival-type setting. A murder involving Dabney Coleman occurs later on, which doesn't mix well with the attempted comedy. Vincent Price turns up in a small "guest star" role. John Carradine gets to deliver the film's best line - about "pre-marital relations" in the Des Moines company...

After a couple of promising films, Mr. Presley appears to have given up on acting. Looking great in tailored suits and smoking brown cigarettes, he shows zero evidence of having any idea about the film's setting and plot; he simply walks on set and says his lines. There are enough songs to fill a double soundtrack album, but few of them are sung by Presley. The first solo number is delivered by "Brady Kid" Susan Olsen. Elvis' hit from the film is the musically anachronistic "Clean Up Your Own Back Yard". Little Anissa Jones, her likewise cute pal Pepe Brown, and the folksy songs head up a limited appeal.

*** The Trouble with Girls (9/3/69) Peter Tewksbury ~ Elvis Presley, Marlyn Mason, Sheree North, Edward Andrews
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5/10
A fair Presley outing...though the King isn't around much
moonspinner5512 January 2006
Elvis Presley runs a traveling medicine show that sweeps into a small Ohio town and stirs up the locals. Interesting (if not entirely convincing) 1920s production design (no one had hair like Elvis in the '20s...or so I've been told), cute kids running around (including Anissa Jones from "Family Affair" and an uncredited Susan Olsen from "The Brady Bunch"), Dabney Coleman doing his schmuck-thing (very well), and a hilarious Joyce Van Patten as an Olympic swimmer. Elvis drops out of sight for much of the proceedings; he's around to break up a fight or help pitch a tent, but the film is mostly about the wacky small town folk. In the final minutes, when Elvis gets up on stage with his guitar, the movie is suddenly no longer about these supporting characters--it's all about E.P. whipping the audience into a frenzy, and the cinematographer goes wild with his zoom-lens. "Girls" is misguided, oddly directed, and unsure of what audience to target, yet there are some good things in it, including an interesting milieu for its star. ** from ****
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The Trouble with Girls (1969) **1/2
JoeKarlosi9 January 2009
One of the few of Elvis' last movies I'd never seen before, and kind of refreshing. The action takes place in 1927 and that setting looks and feels very much in the spirit of the period as Presely plays the cool manager of a traveling show, or a "Chautauqua". He tries to keep the show going on and the profits coming in, while all sorts of crazy situations present themselves, including a murder. There's quite a cast of characters on hand: Marlyn Mason is the union shop steward and piano player, Sheree North is the local town slut, Dabney Coleman plays a despicable gambling drug store merchant, and even Vincent Price and John Carradine get into the act as members of the troupe (Price is delightful as an energetic Philosopher, but Carradine not so much in a wasted quickie as a Shakespearean actor). Also featuring little Anissa Jones (Buffy from "Family Affair") and a quick singing turn by Susan Olsen (Cindy of "The Brady Bunch").

The direction here is sometimes odd, but some handling of sequences are interesting. Elvis is solid in the film and really looks great if not a true reflection of the times, but the only song of note is his rather nifty rendition of "Clean Up Your Own Back Yard", one of the film's highlights. Someone really made a mistake in coming up with this extremely inappropriate title, though -- this is not one of Presley's typical formula films about girls, girls, and more girls ... it's misleading and doesn't do the movie justice. **1/2 out of ****
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A change of pace for Presley
Brian W. Fairbanks30 March 1999
Although this film is ultimately a dreary, draggy bore, it is not an embarrassment, providing as it does a distinct change of pace from the swivel-hipped singer's wretched films of the mid-60s. Set in the 1920s, the only bikini in sight is a one-piece worn by "guest star" Joyce Van Patten, and the few songs are performed in an appropriate setting--a stage (a rarity in the later Presley movies). Elvis is the manager of a travelling tent show rocked by mini-crises and a murder. It's all very lightweight and lethargic, but it does mark a significant change from the godawfal tripe to which Presley lent his name and talent in previous years. M-G-M, however, apprehensive that an Elvis movie called "Chataqua" was too drastic a change for his fans, re-christened the film "The Trouble with Girls" (and added a subtitle--"and how to get into it"--that does not appear on screen), which has nothing to do with the movie and makes it sound like another Presley potboiler. It's a little better than that, though it now ranks as nothing more than a memento, as significant to his accomplishments as one of those scarves he doled out to the adoring females who populated his Las Vegas performances. It's a souvenir that says nothing of the man's talent or his revolutionary achievements.
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4/10
THE TROUBLE WITH GIRLS (Peter Tewksbury, 1969) **
MARIO GAUCI27 September 2007
While, as some of you may know, I recently went through a marathon of Elvis Presley movies (in tribute to the 30th anniversary of his passing) – and which emerged to be a more pleasant experience than I had anticipated – I have to admit that I opted to check this one out mainly for the presence in it of Vincent Price. As it turned out, his role is quite brief and he doesn't even share any screen-time with Elvis!!

Incidentally, this has to be Presley's most eccentric vehicle: it combines the period setting of the star's own FRANKIE AND JOHNNY (1966) with the carnival backdrop of his ROUSTABOUT (1964); however, he seems quite lost here (this was, in fact, Elvis' penultimate film) in which he's given just one typical number ("Clean Up Your Own Back Yard") and where his hair-do and trademark stage moves clash with the feel of quaint Americana the narrative is striving for! Otherwise, the film features annoyingly flashy direction, while the traits of the supporting characters range from the obnoxious (the cardsharp and the villainous store owner) to the embarrassing (Joyce Van Patten reminiscing about her past as a champion swimmer and Sheree North's bout with drunkenness).

Besides, the songs are below-par (most don't even involve the star) and the title itself terrible (apparently, the people who made it didn't quite know how to sell their own product!) – even if we do get three prominent female roles: Marlyn Mason (whose shop steward/piano player/instructor character seems to have been modeled on Doris Day's role in THE PAJAMA GAME [1957]), Nicole Jaffe as the requisite ditzy blonde, and the afore-mentioned North as a 'loose' woman (a single mother who murders the married sleazeball who relentlessly pesters her). Also featured in the cast are Edward Andrews as the long-suffering managing director of Presley's traveling show and John Carradine, criminally underused in a blink-and-you'll miss-him bit as a Shakespearean actor (whose incongruity reminds one of Alan Mowbray's memorable similar turn in John Ford's MY DARLING CLEMENTINE [1946]).

As for Vincent Price, he appears as "Mr. Morality", a philosophy-quoting orator who's another specialty performer of the troupe; having watched him in this film, I was reminded of two more of the horror icon's non-genre performances (both of them Westerns, incidentally) which are available for rental on DVD in my neck of the woods – THE JACKALS (1967) and MORE DEAD THAN ALIVE (1968).
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1/10
Plan 9 From Outer Space With Music
iweise10 August 2002
Strictly for fans of the King this movie is one of the worst I have ever seen. It looked as though it was written and directed by Ed Wood without the props falling over. Elvis' hair changes from one camera angle to another, there is no real plot, all of the characters are predictable. The only saving grace was.....well....there was no saving grace. It's bad.
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Elvis
Michael_Elliott27 February 2008
Trouble with Girls, The (1969)

** 1/2 (out of 4)

Elvis plays a Chautauqua manager who is struggling to keep the business going. I found this one to be a mixed blessing because there's quite a bit of good things yet there are still some rather bland stuff. Most of the bland stuff is aimed at the music, which I found quite lifeless and dull. The director does a very good job at capturing the look and feel of the show, which is a major plus and even Elvis turns in a good performance here. Vincent Price steals the show with his campy brand of humor and it's nice seeing John Carradine answering a question about Romeo and Juliet and their sex life.
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5/10
Troublesome
TheLittleSongbird7 May 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.

It is easy to be put off by the rather dreadful and inappropriate title, but giving it a chance 'The Trouble With Girls' while a long way from a great film was much better than its title suggested. Whereas the title indicated another formulaic Elvis set in the 50s-60s with lots of girls and variable thrown in songs it was actually rather a change of pace with a unique 20s setting. 'The Trouble With Girls' is a long way from Elvis' best, but it is equally a long way from being one of his worst as well (it's not even the worst of this particular period of his career).

'The Trouble With Girls' has its strengths. The setting is interesting and looks quite handsome, while the photography is a far cry from the garish, cheap look of many of Elvis late 60s outings. Of the songs, the standout is "Clean Up Your Own Back Yard", one of the best songs in an Elvis for a long time. "Swing Down Sweet Chariot" is also lovely.

As for Elvis himself, he looks great and while his vocals are underutilised compared to usual he also sounds great. While he has given more enthusiastic performances before he still looks confident and there is not as much a sense that he was not interested like with some of his later films. The supporting cast were a mixed bag, but Dabney Coleman makes for an excellent sleazebag and Vincent Price is suitably distinguished and a lot of fun. Sheree North fares the best of the ladies and Anissa Jones is immensely charming.

Quite a lot doesn't work however. John Carradine's only noteworthy bit is the line regarding Romeo and Juliet, otherwise he's wasted, and Marlyn Mason and Nicole Jaffe are similarly given little to work with. Joyce Van Patten is plain obnoxious in alternative to funny. and Edward Andrews' role is too underwritten for him to do much with it. Generally the characters are a mix of bland and annoying, so it's hard to empathise, and they also are saddled with dialogue that felt more at home in a badly out of date sit-com.

While Elvis doesn't come off too badly, he is underused and too much like a supporting character. Apart from two songs, while none reach disposable or career-low level, the rest of the songs are not particularly memorable. The weakest element is the story, the slightness may have been more forgivable if the pacing wasn't so lethargic or the storytelling so muddled, as a result of trying to include too much and not knowing what to do with it or who to target it towards. The direction seems at odds with the material, with it being obvious that Peter Tewksbury was more comfortable with cosy and wholesome and not with darker edge and broad.

Overall, not as bad as the title suggests but not Elvis' finest hour either. 5/10 Bethany Cox
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4/10
A Different Type of Elvis Film Makes for Less Satisfying Time
JLRMovieReviews12 August 2015
If you're looking for Elvis Presley on a beach, on an island or in the tropics and looking for girls or fighting them off!, then this film is not for you. "The Trouble with Girls" centers on a circus-like festival that travels from town to town and stops in this little hamlet. Residents include Dabney Coleman and Sheree North, and horror film veterans Vincent Price and John Carradine make cameos, which are probably the best attributes of this film. It's not that the film is that horrible, but it's not that terribly good either. In the beginning much of the perspective is seen from a little girl (who is very cute and adorable) and a little boy. Even though most of Elvis' beach movies are dismissed as generic and formulaic fluff (such as "Clambake,") they can be relaxing and enjoyable, if one likes that sort of movie. But this was all a hodge podge, with not much singing in it and no plot to follow and no one to really like. Elvis doesn't even have that much air time in it. There may be worse Elvis films (I know there are,) but this was a major disappointment in all categories of a relaxing time with Elvis.
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One of his better later films
kwbucsfan21 August 2001
While this film is not one of his all time best, it is certainly one of his better later films. It's interesting to see Elvis in a film set in the 1920's rather than the psychadelic 1960's. This movie had an interesting plot, but was marred by some rather bad acting. Elvis was okay and the scene with Vincent Price was interesting, but most of the acting was lame.
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