JAILHOUSE ROCK – behind the scenes of Elvis Presley’s third movie (Part 7)

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– Behind the Scenes of Elvis Presley’s Third Movie –
(Part 7)

By Marius Ogieglo
Elvis Presley - "Jailhouse Rock"

“It’s not a trick, honey. It’s just this beast inside me…”

Shortly after finishing recording at Radio Recorders, Elvis moved back to Culver City, to the complex of film and television studios owned by MGM (and now to Sony Pictures), where filming for his new film was to officially begin in a few days.

Presley, just like before in “Loving You“, was given the role of a singer who achieves spectacular success before the eyes of the audience. This time, however, the main character’s talent is discovered in completely different circumstances…

We meet Vince Everett, a young and successful construction worker created by Elvis, on his payday, which he and his colleagues decide to celebrate at a nearby bar. However, the joyful celebration is interrupted by a fight that breaks out between Everett and a random, pushy and aggressive customer. Unfortunately, as a result, the latter loses his life and Vince, accused of unintentional manslaughter, ends up in prison for many months.

Upon arriving at the penitentiary, Everett is assigned to a cell where Hunk Houghton, a former country music star convicted of bank robbery, is serving his sentence.

And it is Houghton who introduces Vince to the secrets of prison life and in his free time teaches him how to play the guitar. However, when he notices the boy’s talent, he becomes the attraction of a special show for prisoners broadcast on national television.

The program is a success, and a few days after its broadcast, the prison post office is literally flooded with letters from admirers of the debuting singer. However, he himself finds out about his popularity only when he is released, when the head of the facility hands him the previously confiscated correspondence.

It quickly turns out that the letters did not reach the recipient thanks to Hunk Houghton, who out of jealousy ordered postal workers to hide them.

Instead of delivering the parcels, Hunk asked Everett to sign an agreement under which they would become partners after leaving prison. He also gave him the address of a nightclub where he could allegedly continue his musical career.

However, when Everett arrives at the agreed address, it turns out that the club’s owner is not looking for a new vocalist and all he can offer is a job behind the bar. Disappointed, Vince, wanting to convince him to change his decision, jumps on stage and, accompanying himself on the guitar, performs the ballad “Young And Beautiful“.

Unfortunately, his performance is constantly interrupted by the loud laughter of one of the slightly tipsy patrons. Initially, Vince tries to ignore his behavior, but when after a few minutes the situation continues, he jumps off the stage and smashes the guitar on his table in front of the other guests.

The whole incident is closely watched by Peggy Van Alden, manager of the popular singer Micky Alba, who, after leaving the premises, suggests that Vince record a demo album.

The script for the film, written by Guy Walter Trosper – already known from such previous productions as the biographical “The Stratton Story“, “Devil’s Doorway” starring Robert Taylor and Paula Rajmund or “The Prife Of St. Louis“, was based on a short story by Nedrick Young (also known as Nathan E. Douglas). Born in March 1914 in Philadelphia, a controversial actor and screenwriter, whom film studios, both in the 1950s and 1960s, very often placed on the so-called blacklisted and did not want to cooperate with him due to his unclear connections with the Communist Party.

Despite numerous pressures and requests from the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HCUA), Young never took a clear position on the matter and did not reveal his possible connections with the above-mentioned organization.

Young’s ambiguous and controversial behavior also had an impact on the film starring Presley being produced by MGM. But more on that later…

Richard Thorpe was entrusted with directing the film, whose title at various stages of production was “Treat Me Nice“, “The Hard Way” and “The Jailhouse Kid” (Mike Stoller also mentioned the title “Ghost Of A Chance“. The sixty-one-year-old American director, who, in addition to many years of cooperation with MGM and an impressively long list of produced films, including “Ivanhoe” with Robert Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor in the main roles, enjoyed the reputation in the film community of being able to complete the project assigned to him in a very short time.

Elvis Presley - Jailhouse Rock

Today it is difficult to say unequivocally which of the above advantages turned out to be more important for the creators of Presley’s new film.

The fact is that in the 1950s Thorpe was professionally associated with film producer Pandro Samuel Berman (also known as Mr. Berman). They both previously worked on films such as the previously mentioned “Ivanhoe“, “The Prisoner Of Zenda“, “Knights Of The Round Table“, “All The Brothers Were Valiant” and “The Adventures Of Quentin Durward“.

Jailhouse Rock” was their next one.

Unofficially, it was said that Berman was persuaded to make a film with the famous singer in the main role by his wife, Viola. He himself, however, remembered in one of the interviews that when he was assigned to work on the described picture, people from the film studio made it clear to him that “the only priority is profit – without any artistic considerations .” At the same time, he also emphasized that ” Elvis’s great achievement was that through his performance he left the studio’s cynical greed in the shadow .”

Information provided by EP Promised Land (Poland) , Marius Ogieglo http://www.elvispromisedland.pl/

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