Let’s have a party – (part 1)
” Of course, the Elvis movies that were finally made were made purely for profit ,” explained producer Hal B. Wallis in The Private Life of Elvis. “ (Elvis, author’s note) was one of the most popular entertainers around the world, and his movies were very successful. We had to give his legions of fans what they wanted from us. And they just wanted him to sing .”
One of the first serious problems that Wallis, known by industry people as the prince of Hollywood, had to face immediately after signing the contract with Elvis was finding the right script for his first film.
Nobody, neither the famous producer nor the authorities of the film studio, had any idea at that time what kind of film would be suitable for him. On various occasions, Elvis only emphasized that he would like his first role not to require too much acting skills from him. On the other hand, in conversations with journalists, he was proud of the opportunity to appear alongside Katharine Hepburn and Burt Lancaster in the picture “The Rainmaker“.
So trying to meet the expectations of his new star, Wallis was looking for a story not so much interesting as one in which Presley could feel at ease. Naturally. Finally, one in which he could show his vocal talent.
Unfortunately, the first proposals did not fit the above scheme at all.
“The first idea was to make an old gangster movie called ‘The Kiss of Death’ into a western ,” Hal Wallis remembered. ” Another idea was to remake ‘The Mississippi Gambler’ starring Tyrone Power, while my favorite was the ‘Rodeo’ story about the hard and rough life of Texas cowboys. “
The turning point was a short story by Mary Agnes Thompson in the June (1956) issue of the women’s magazine Good Housekeeping – “The Call From Mitch Miller“.
It was a story about a vocalist, Lonesome Harris, who, after joining the band Tex Warner And His Rivers Ramblers, achieves spectacular success.
Wallis immediately saw the potential of the story and soon after its publication decided to acquire the film rights.
The finished text now only needed to be properly reworked and adapted to Presley. The producer’s intention was to create something along the lines of a ” rock’n’roll biography “.
With his idea, Wallis approached Hal Kanter, a respected thirty-seven-year-old American screenwriter and director best known for such films as Two Tickets to Broadway, Road to Bali starring Bing Crosby, and Beyond Borders with Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell.
” (Hal Wallis, author’s note) handed me a screenplay based on the story ,” recalled Kanter in an interview, who during Elvis’ first screen rehearsals declared that he would like to make a film with the famous singer in the future – even though he did not initially see a serious actor, but only a favorite of teenagers – a fad that will soon pass away. “ But the script wasn’t very good. Then (Wallis, author’s note) said to me, ‘Your first task will be to make this a better script. Something we can shoot .”
In response, Kanter (in collaboration with Herbert Baker) came up with the story of Deke Rivers, a talented beverage supplier who, like his literary prototype, gains popularity after joining a popular country & western band.
And it all begins when Deke and his goods arrive in the town of Delville, where country singer Walter ‘Tex’ Warner and his manager Glenda Markle are also staying. Both involved in the election campaign of Texas governor candidate Jim Tallman.
The meeting proceeds according to the established scheme until Rivers’ resolute collaborator informs the promoter of the popular country singer about his friend’s singing talent. Hearing this, Markle convinces Deke to sing with Tex’s band, the Tex Rough Ridin’ Ramblers.
When he goes on stage, the audience gathered under it, especially the young girls, begins to react spontaneously both to the song he performs and to himself.
Encouraged by what she has just seen, Glenda offers Deke to join the group and go on tour. However, when he refuses, fearing losing his permanent job, the manager resorts to trickery and submits a false notification of a late delivery to the company where he worked.
Rivers is fired.
With nothing left to lose, the young singer accepts the offer of a cunning promoter. The next morning, unaware of Markle’s dishonest conduct, he signs a contract with her, according to which fifty percent of his earnings will go … to her account.
Information provided by EP Promised Land (Poland), Marius Ogieglo
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