Elvis Jailhouse Rock

JAILHOUSE ROCK – behind the scenes of Elvis Presley’s third movie (Part 10)

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JAILHOUSE ROCK – behind the scenes of Elvis Presley’s third movie (Part 10)

By Mariusz Ogieg?o


Intensive preparations for the shooting began right after the recordings at Radio Recorders were completed. On May 10, Elvis showed up at the MGM hall to rehearse a fight scene that is significant for the entire plot, in which his film hero kills a man (John Dahaeim played the role of the defeated brawler).

Elvis Jailhouse Rock

Then they started discussing the sequence with the song “Jailhouse Rock“, which, it is worth emphasizing, at this stage of work was not yet the title recording. And, what is also worth adding, in its original version, it was nothing like the one that viewers saw on the screen a few months later and which was described in only one of the later articles as “the greatest and most iconic moment in the history of film music“, ” the performanceahead of his time ” and “ the father of modern music videos ”.

The group performed not only in America but also in Europe, including during the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936.

Unfortunately, the European tour almost ended in tragedy. And it’s a tragedy that could have happened during the group’s performance in Poland in 1938. Then, as he writes in his book “The Man Who Made The Jailhouse Rock: Alex Romero. Hollywood Choreographer”, Mark Knowles, a drunk German general entered ” one of the best clubs in the city ” where its members were performing a comedy dance. He ” pointed his finger at Alex and John performing on stage ” and, mistaking them for Jews, began shooting at them.

Fortunately, no one died and Romero soon after returning to the USA began cooperation with the largest American film studios.

The first company to be interested in it, in 1941, was Warner Bros. Engaged by dance director LeRoy Prinz, Romero starred in such musicals as “Heat’s On,” starring Mary Jane ‘Mae’ West, and “Follow The Boys,” starring the then-popular Norwegian ballerina and stage actress, Vera Zorina (a actually Eva Brigitta Hartwig, because that was her real name) and George Raft.

Three years later, in 1944, the increasingly successful Romero was offered a job at Columbia Pictures, in the newly established dance department founded by the “father of theatrical jazz dance”, Jack Cole.

Alex Romero was associated with the then popular dancer and choreographer until the outbreak of the technicians’ strike in 1947. During this time, he managed to star in such comedies as “Eadie Was A Lady” and “The Thrill Of Brazil“.

Later that year (i.e. 1947), Romero became an assistant choreographer at MGM, which gave him the opportunity to work with the absolute biggest and most important stars of the cinema at that time. Such as Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, Doris Day and finally Elvis Presley.

We want you to work with Elvis ,” he heard from producer Pandro Berman in early May 1957.

Shortly after this conversation, Romero, who was privately a fan of rock’n’roll and Presley’s music, went to meet the famous singer.

The circumstances in which it occurred have been described in quite detail in various publications over the years. Both those dedicated to Elvis and the choreographer himself. However, the relationships preserved in them are slightly different. Especially when it comes to the date of the first meeting…

According to the author of the book “The Man Who Made The Jailhouse Rock: Alex Romero. Hollywood Choreographer” was said to have happened on May 6, 1957, during Elvis’ ” secret ” visit to MGM studios. Its initiator was the above-mentioned Pandro Berman.

I checked everyone and none of our choreographers can work with rock ‘n’ roll. Do you understand that you can do it? “, he allegedly told Romero. ” Yes. I’ve been doing this for a long time ,” assured him the choreographer, who just a year earlier had worked on the award-nominated musical “Happy Hunting” (which ran on Broadway from December 6, 1956 to November 30, 1957).

That was enough for Berman to send Romero to the Powell Bungalow * to talk to Elvis.

However, Peter Guralnick in “Last Train To Memphis” and Peter Harry and Pat H. Broeske, authors of the book “Down At The Lonely Street“, write slightly differently about the backstage of this meeting. The Life And Death Of Elvis Presley“, who unanimously maintain that Elvis and Alex Romero met for the first time only four days later, on May 10, in the above-mentioned rehearsal room (Powell Bungalow).

The further course of the meeting was presented in almost the same way in each of the above sources.

Elvis Jailhouse Rock

According to Alex Romero, Elvis initially seemed very distrustful and uncooperative. ” I don’t want anyone to make me out to be a Hollywood boy ,” the singer even said. Romero, in turn, remembered in one of his interviews that ” At that moment (Elvis, author’s note) he looked very unfriendly. Well, he didn’t actually say anything. He just looked at me. So I thought it would be better if I said something. ‘I know what you’re thinking,’ I said. ‘You think I came here to teach you lots of fancy dances, don’t you? “.

When Elvis confirmed, Romero explained to him that he was a fan of his and loved working with rock ‘n’ roll music. He also assured him that the dance routine he was going to prepare would be very similar to the way he moves on stage.

Hearing this, Elvis suggested that Alex show him some steps.

However, when Romero started the presentation, it turned out that his movements resembled Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire’s dance more than Presley’s.

The latter, observing his guest’s performance attentively, laughed out loud and then said: ” It’s not me .”

Then Romero came up with another idea. He asked Elvis to dance to some of his songs. According to George Klein, these were “Don’t Be Cruel“, “Hound Dog” and “All Shook Up“.

Then came the breakthrough. ” I’ll take everything I’ve seen now and use it in our arrangement ,” Romero explained, clearly pleased, to a slightly surprised Elvis. ” You will still do what you feel comfortable with on stage, I will just choreograph it .”

When Presley and Romero met again the next day, the dance routine to the song “Jailhouse Rock” looked almost identical to the one that millions of fans know from the movie.

1* Alex Romero had twenty-one brothers and one sister

2* Powell Bungalow is the term for the rehearsal room where Eleanor Powell worked – an American actress and dancer called the “queen of tap dancing


Information provided by EP Promised Land (Poland), Mariusz Ogieg?o http://www.elvispromisedland.pl/

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