KING CREOLE – Elvis’s best movie role – (Part 4)

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– Elvis’s best movie role –
(Part 4)

By Mariusz Ogieg?o

Shooting was officially scheduled to begin on January 20, 1958.

Hal Wallis always made sure that in his latest film the stars shine not only on one but on both sides of the camera. Hence, in addition to the now cult director and respected screenwriters, the cast of “King Creole” also included the most top and distinguished names of contemporary cinema.

The role of the villain – mafioso, Maxie Fields, was played by the increasingly successful (and in the future also winner of an Oscar and many other prestigious awards) Walter Matthau (or rather Walter John Matthow, because that was his real name).

The actor, whose family came from the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth – his mother was an immigrant from Lithuania and his father was a Russian Jewish trader and electrician from Kiev, began his adventure with acting at the age of eleven, playing in children’s shows.

” Just in case it turns out that I don’t have an ounce of talent and I won’t make a career in show business ,” as he said about himself in interviews, after completing his military service, Matthau graduated in acting and journalism.

Eventually, however, he became involved with the stage and in 1948 he made his debut on Broadway, at the Shubert Theater, in the famous play “Anna of the Thousand Nights”. ” He seemed destined for the theater almost from birth ,” it was written about him in later biographies.

In the following years, Matthau successfully performed with the rest in such shows as “Season In The Sun”, “Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?”, “The Burning Glass” and “In Any Language”. In turn, for his participation in the comedy “Once More, With Feeling” (staged at the National Theater from October 1958 to January 1959), he received an award from the New York Theater Critics’ Circle.

He came to Hollywood in the mid-1950s. On the big screen, viewers saw him for the first time in the western “The Kentucky Trapper” by Burt Lancaster.

Due to his characteristic appearance, ” a pole-straight silhouette and a face covered with furrows with a big nose “, as S?awomir Zygmunt described him in one of his articles, Walter Matthau usually played choleric or dark-skinned types. ” I played professional assassins, pirates, rich people and I even sang, even though I’m not very good at it ,” recalled the actor. Matthau also delivered some memorable comedic performances. Mainly in a duet with Jack Lemmon.

Of the ten films in which they starred together (including “The Odd Couple” and “The Best Buddy”), the 1993 comedy “Two Gritty Tetrycy” still seems to be the most popular in Poland (as a curiosity, it is worth adding that in the continuation of this film with 1995, titled “Even Grinder Tetrics”, starred Ann Margret, who in the mid-1960s was Elvis’s on-screen partner in the film “Viva Las Vegas”).

“King Creole” was the fifth film in Walter’s career. ” Michael Curtiz called him Elvy and me Valty ,” he recalled working on the set in a 1987 BBC documentary. “ He said, Elvy and Valty, come over here. Valty’s scene is not worthy of an Oscar. Don’t play so much. You’re a good actor but pretend you’re not. Let Elvy play. And yet Elvy didn’t overdo it .

He also spoke only in superlatives about Presley himself. ” When I came to the conclusion that (Elvis, author’s note) was an instinctive actor, I hesitated a little ,” he said. “ It’s almost a discredit to his talent. It’s like saying he was just a stupid animal who only acted on his instincts. And he wasn’t like that. He was really smart. He was very intelligent. He was so intelligent that he understood the character he was playing and knew how to play it […] He was not a punk. He was very elegant, calm, refined and noble .”

While shooting for his fourth film, Elvis, aspiring to be a good actor, could literally draw on the experience of his older colleagues – outstanding actors, and often, as in the case of Dean Jagger (or rather Ira Dean Jagger, because that was his real name). , who played his movie father, a true Hollywood veteran.

Jagger, who started his career in the late 1920s, appearing in the silent film “The Woman from Hell”, already had a dozen or so appearances on the big screen and… an Oscar for the best supporting role in the film “From a Blue Sky”.

Paul Stewart (actually Paul Sternberg), the film’s Charlie LeGrand, the owner of the King Creole club, also had equally impressive achievements.

Born in March 1908, this television and film actor, director and producer, and privately a close friend of Orson Welles (considered one of the greatest and most influential filmmakers of all time), by the time he received the offer to appear in Presley’s film, had already performed, among others, in dozens of theater performances, including “Native Son” and “Mercury’s Show of Miracles” – both directed by Welles, over a dozen film roles and hundreds of radio broadcasts.

When presenting the profiles of the actors that Hal Wallis and Michael Curtiz engaged in their new project, it is impossible to ignore Vick Morrow (or rather Victor Morozoff, because that was his real name), who played the leader of the local gang, Shark, in Presley’s fourth film.

He was an American actor whose greatest popularity was achieved by playing Sergeant ‘Chip’ Saunders in the ABC series, “Combat!” broadcast in the years 1962-1967. Previously, Morrow had only minor roles in films such as School Jungle, Men at War, and Richard Diamond. Private Detective” or “Hell’s Five Hours”.

He was associated with television and cinema for almost three decades. During this time, he created many unforgettable creations. He died in 1982 at the age of only fifty-three as a result of injuries suffered as a result of a tragic accident that occurred on the set of the horror film “The Twilight Zone”.

Much smaller, episodic roles in “King Creole” were also played by Fred Gavin Gordon (Mr. Primont), Raymond Bailey, Leon Tyler, Dick Winslow, Jack Grinnage, Brian G. Hutton and Chalky Williams.

Most of the musical sequences featured Elvis’ original band, Scotty Moore, Bill Black and DJ Fontana, and their accompanying vocal quartet, The Jordanaires.

Information provided by EP Promised Land (Poland), Mariusz Ogieg?o


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