Hollywood and El's Angels
Elvis in the 1960s
Sergeant First ClassOn January 20, 1960, Elvis was promoted to acting Sergeant, before his full promotion to Sargeant in February. Then, on March 1, he left Germany for the United States. On route he made a brief stop at Scotland’s Prestwick Airport for refuelling, the only time he set foot on British soil. On March 5th he received his army discharge and returned to Graceland.
KarateIn 1960, Elvis received his first-degree black belt in Karate and his passion for the martial art and its principles continued throughout his lifetime. In Memphis, Elvis trained with Master Kang Rhee where his training partners included Wayne Carman and World Champion ‘Superfoot’ Bill Wallace, while in Los Angeles, his training partners included Hawaiian Ed Parker who later joined the payroll as his bodyguard. When Elvis returned to the stage in 1969, his stage costumes were based on a Karate Gi and he frequently demonstrated Karate stances during his performances.
Frank Sinatra – Welcome Home ElvisOn March 22nd, Elvis checked into the lavish Fountainbleu Hotel in Miami to tape the Frank Sinatra ABC variety show on the 26th, for a special entitled Welcome Home Elvis, where he was paid an unprecedented $125,000 for only a few minutes on screen. The show was aired on May 12 featuring the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll and the Chairman of the Board in a legendary duet singing Sinatra’s hit Witchcraft and Elvis’ Love Me Tender.
GI BluesIn April 1960 Hal Wallis cast Elvis as the model soldier Tulsa McClean, who is stationed in Germany, where his army buddies place bets on whether he can win the affections of the fiery dancer Lili, played by Juliet Prowse.
Flaming StarFilmed in August 1960, Elvis played Pacer Burton, who is a half Native American trying to support his family as they struggle with the prejudices of their local townsfolk and his mother’s tribal family. The original screenplay was reportedly written for Marlon Brando and the film was one of three movies produced for Elvis by David Wiesbart, producer of the teen classic Rebel Without A Cause and the controversial Valley Of The Dolls in 1967.
Wild In The CountryFilmed in November 1960, the 20th Century Fox Production Wild In The Country placed Elvis as Glenn Tyler, who always ends up on the wrong side of the law, but is encouraged to become a writer by Irene Speery, played by Hope Lange. His co-stars also included Tuesday Weld as the troubled Noreen and Millie Perkins as Betty Lee.
Charitable DonationsFebruary 25, 1961 was pronounced Elvis Presley Day, which saw Elvis perform two charity concerts at the Ellis Auditorium in Memphis and a luncheon was held in his honour. One month later Elvis performed at the Bloch Arena in Honolulu to benefit the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbour, marking his last live performance for eight years. Before Elvis’ concert, fundraising attempts for the memorial were slowing down, but Elvis’ addition of $65,000 kick-started the campaign. Known as a generous philanthropist, in 1964 Elvis’ donated his $55,000 Potomac Yacht (formally owned by President F.D. Roosevelt) to Danny Thomas for the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis and in July 1965, he donated an unprecendented $50,000 to the Motion Picture Relief Fund, which was accepted by Barbara Stanwyck and Frank Sinatra. In 1973, his groundbreaking satellite performance Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii raised $75,000 for the Kui Lee Cancer fund and made television history. Every year, Elvis gave thousands of dollars to charities and individuals, and certainly not for publicity, as many donations were received without any knowledge of the press at all.
Blue HawaiiElvis remained in Hawaii following his USS Arizona fundraiser to work on the movie Blue Hawaii, the story of former GI and aspiring travel agent Chad Gates. His co-stars included Angela Landsbury and Joan Blackman and the movie produced some of Elvis’ best movie songs and his best selling soundtrack album with songs such as the title song Blue Hawaii, Rockahula Baby, and Can’t Help Falling In Love.
Follow That DreamFilmed in Florida in July 1961, Follow That Dream followed the antics and misfortunes of the loveable Kwimper family, who end up living on a small plot of land alongside a Florida Highway, which soon develops into a small community with its own casino and Elvis as Sheriff Toby Kwimper.
Kid GalahadIn late 1961 Elvis began filming Kid Galahad a remake of the 1937 Warner Brothers classic. As car mechanic Walter Gulick, his boss Willy Grogan offers him a job as a sparring partner in his boxing academy and before long he is on the way to becoming a champion. Elvis’ co-stars included another appearance from Joan Blackman (Maile in Blue Hawaii) and Charles Bronson as his trainer.
Girls! Girls! Girls!Filmed in March 1962 in Hawaii, Girls! Girls! Girls! saw Elvis as sailor Ross Carpenter who has his sights set on purchasing his dream boat the Kingfisher. This film also included the classic movie performance of Return To Sender.
It Happened At The Worlds FairFilmed at the Seattle Worlds Fair in the late summer of 1962, Elvis starred as the pilot Mike Edwards, who is left in charge of youngster Sue-Lin, while he tries to win the affections of Nurse Diane Warren. The movie featured an uncredited appearance by an eleven-year-old Kurt Russell, who also went on to play Elvis in the 1979 biopic Elvis.
Fun in AcalpulcoFilmed in early 1963, Elvis played Mike Windgren, a trapeze artist haunted by the death of his brother during a high-flying stunt, who escapes his past as he works as lifeguard and singer, until he faces his fears in a high dive into the sea. His love interests were played by Elma Cárdenas, as bullfighter Delores, and Ursula Andress as Marguerita.
Viva Las Vegas
In this well-loved movie, Elvis starred as racing car driver Lucky Jackson, who desperately tries to earn the money to enter the Las Vegas Grand Prix, after losing his gambling winnings. Elvis filmed Viva Las Vegas in July 1963 and also began a long-lasting romance with his co-star Ann Margret.
Kissin’ CousinsFilmed in October 1963, Elvis performed the dual roles of Lieutenant Josh Morgan and the blond hillbilly Jodie Tatum, who is defending his family’s Smokey Mountain against the military who want to use the area for a missile base. His co-star Yvonne Craig, who also appeared in It Happened At The World’s Fair, later found fame as Batgirl in the TV series Batman.
The Beatles InvasionArriving in the United States on February 7, 1964, the Beatles were welcomed by a media and fan frenzy. Appearing on the Ed Sullivan show two days later, they received a telegram from their idol Elvis welcoming the Fab Four to the United States. The following year, on August 27th, Elvis welcomed the Beatles to his Perugia Way home in Bel Air. After an awkward silence an informal jam session and casino games (under the direction of Colonel Parker) were enjoyed.
RoustaboutIn March 1964 Elvis started work on Roustabout as the aspiring singer Charlie Rogers travelling with a carnival run by Maggie Morgan, who was played by famed actress Barbara Stanwyck.
Girl HappyFilmed during the summer of 1964, Girl Happy featured Elvis as Rusty Wells who is hired to chaperone Shelley Fabares as Daddy’s girl Valerie, but would rather party in Florida during Spring break. The film also co-starred Gary Crosby, eldest son of Bing Crosby and former Miss America Mary Anne Mobley.
Tickle MeFilmed in October 1964 and featuring Elvis as Lonnie Beale a rodeo rider working off-season in a female health ranch, Tickle Me did not feature any new soundtrack recordings. To keep production costs to a minimum, previous non-movie recordings were used in the movie.
Harum ScarumFilmed from March 1965, critics often condemn this movie, although Elvis brings a light-hearted element of comedy into the film with his role as actor turned Arabian adventure hero Johnny Tyronne.
Frankie and JohnnyIn May 1965, Elvis played the superstitious gambler Johnny, who works on a riverboat and finds a lucky charm in redhead Nellie Bly, much to the disgust of his girlfriend Frankie.
Paradise Hawaiian StyleCo-starring British actress Suzanna Leigh, Paradise Hawaiian Style features Elvis as pilot and womaniser Rick Richards. During filming in Hawaii during September 1965, Elvis and Priscilla visited the USS Arizona memorial in Pearl Harbour.
SpinoutFilmed in February 1966, Spinout presented Elvis as the singer and race driver Mike McCoy, who is pursued by rich girl Cynthia Foxhugh and a bevy of hopeful girlfriends that he manages to marry off, whilst making sure that he still remains a single guy.
Double TroubleAlthough a lot of Double Trouble is set in London, the budget did not permit Elvis to leave the United States for production during August 1966. Elvis played Guy Lambert in a chase around Europe with bungling jewel thieves and mysterious spies.
Easy Come, Easy GoFilmed in September 1966, Easy Come, Easy Go featured Elvis as Navy diver Ted Jackson, who goes in search of sunken treasure when his official duty is over.
The Circle G RanchIn February 1967, Elvis purchased the 160-acre Mississippi ranch, the Circle G, installing a community of mobile homes, ranch vehicles and livestock for his friends and family who all move onto the property with him.
The Memphis MafiaElvis close-knit entourage, nicknamed the Memphis Mafia included friends from high school, such as Red West, Marty Lacker and George Klein, along with more associates from Memphis, Hollywood and beyond including his cousin Billy Smith, Lamar Fike, Sonny West, Jerry Schilling and Alan Fortas. They were first nick-named El’s Angels as they raced around Hollywood on motorbikes, then were later named the Memphis Mafia by the press. Other long-term members such as Charlie Hodge and Joe Esposito, who also became Elvis Road manager, met Elvis in the army.
ClambakeFilmed in March 1967, Clambake featured Elvis as Scott Heyward, a millionaire playboy who trades places with a water skiing instructor. This is the third Elvis movie to feature co-star Shelley Fabares, who not only enjoyed a successful acting career, but also had two hit records, including the No.1 Johnny Angel in 1962.
Elvis and Priscilla’s WeddingElvis and Priscilla were married in Las Vegas on May 1, 1967. The couple drove to Palm Springs the day before, then flew to Las Vegas early on the morning of the wedding with Joe Esposito and George Klein aboard Frank Sinatra’s lear jet, the Christina. The wedding took place at 9.30am in Milton Prell’s Aladdin Hotel on the Strip and they were married by Nevada Supreme Court Justice David Zenoff. Marty Lacker and Joe Esposito shared the role as best man, although other members of the Memphis Mafia were left in their hotel rooms, uninvited on the Colonels wishes. Elvis and Priscilla honeymooned in Palm Springs for a few days and held a second reception at Graceland on May 29th for the remainder of their friends and family.
SpeedwayFilmed in August 1967, Speedway featured Elvis as Steve Grayson, a speedway driver trying to avoid a nasty IRS payment. His co-stars included Nancy Sinatra and a second appearance from Bill Bixby, famed for his later role as Dr David Banner in The Incredible Hulk and also a keen conspiracy theorist, appearing on a series of television specials speculating that Elvis didn’t really die in 1977.
Stay Away JoeElvis spends a lot of the screen time wrestling with his Memphis Mafia buddies, as the character Joe Lightcloud trying to save his family’s finances and livestock when their breeding bull does nothing but sleep. Filmed in October 1967, his co-stars included Burgess Meredith, famed for his role as the boxing trainer Mickey in the Rocky movies.
Lisa Marie PresleyLisa Marie Presley was born at 5.01pm on February 1, 1968 at the Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis – exactly nine months after the date of Elvis and Priscilla’s wedding. Elvis doted on his only child, who became the sole heir to Elvis’ estate. Lisa has two children, Danielle Riley and Benjamin Storm by her marriage to musician Danny Keough, who she divorced to marry Michael Jackson in 1994. In 2002 Lisa has a short marriage with actor Nicolas Cage, then in 2006 married music producer Michael Lockwood. The couple had two twin girls Finley and Harper, but divorced after ten years. Tragically, Lisa’s son Benjamin died in July 2020 and is buried alongside Presley family members at Graceland.
Live a Little, Love a LittleFilmed in March 1968, Elvis played photographer Greg Nolan in Live A Little, Love A Little, who is relentlessly pursued by Michele Carey as Bernice, while his tries to juggle two jobs. His father Vernon Presley also makes a brief appearance.
’68 ComebackNBC’s television special, Elvis, was recorded during the end of June 1968 and aired on December 3rd. Produced and directed by Steve Binder, the network planned to place Elvis as the headliner in a Christmas show along with well-known variety artists in a formula NBC had a proven success with, particularly with the long running Dean Martin Show. However, Steve Binder was determined that Elvis should stand alone in the production, confronting the network and the formidable Colonel Parker, to produce what is known today as the ‘68 Comeback Special. Opening with Trouble / Guitar Man, Elvis then jammed with his original band members, guitarist Scotty Moore and drummer D J Fontana, (unfortunately his bass player Bill Black died in 1965) along with Charlie Hodge, Alan Fortas and Lance LeGault, as they recalled their memories from the fifties and played raw uncut versions of Elvis’ rock ‘n’ roll classics. The show also featured a montage of his recording and movie career using songs such as Guitar Man, Little Eygpt and Big Boss Man to link the scenes together, along with a section of gospel music, which Elvis introduces as a main influence on his career. At the end of the special, with his name emblazoned in red lights behind him, Elvis performs a passionate version of If I Can Dream, its poignant lyrics representing the era perfectly – as just two months before the taping Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis. NBC’s Elvis special became the biggest television hit of the year and still remains a legendary rock ‘n’ roll performance. Elvis was paid $250,000 for his appearance, which marked the closing of his stagnant movie career and gave him the confidence to return to the live stage.
CharroCharro was the only movie where Elvis did not sing on camera, he only sung over the opening credits. The film featured Elvis as the bearded Jess Wade, who is pursued by bad-guy Vince Hackett and his gang. Charro was written and produced by Charles Marquis Warren, a veteran of the western having worked as writer, director and producer of several film and TV classics including Gunsmoke and Rawhide.
The Trouble With GirlsOriginally entitled The Chautauqua, The Trouble With Girls was filmed during October and November 1968. Elvis stars as Walter Hale the manager of a travelling show alongside Marilyn Mason, horror veteran Vincent Price and Nicole Jaffe who later supplied the voice of Velma for the cartoon Scooby Doo.
American Sound SessionsFrom American Sound, a forsaken building on Thomas Street in Memphis, Chips Moman produced hits for countless artists including Neil Diamond, Dusty Springfield, B.J Thomas and Elvis’ future backing group the Sweet Inspirations. As a talented producer, songwriter and musician, Chips founded American Studios in the mid-sixties and along with his legendary group of musicians – known as the 827 Thomas St Band – he produced over 120 hit records. Encouraged by members of his inner circle, and against the wishes of the Colonel, Elvis cancelled a recording in Nashville and began work at American Studios on January 13, 1969. The critically acclaimed American Studio sessions resulted in the From Elvis In Memphis album and classic hits that included Don’t Cry Daddy, In The Ghetto and Suspicious Minds, which restored Elvis’ chart status.
Change of HabitIn March 1969, Elvis returned to Hollywood for his last acting role in Change Of Habit. Playing Dr John Carpenter a sweet-wise inner-city doctor, his co-stars included Mary Tyler Moore, Barbara McNair and Jane Elliot as three Nunns working incognito as nurses.
Las Vegas ComebackIn August 1969, Kirk Kerkorian’s International Hotel was the largest resort in the world and cost $80 million to complete. After working on rehearsals, Elvis opened in the International Showroom on July 31, 1969. Booked for a four-week engagement the reviews were ecstatic with Elvis breaking all attendance records for the city. Five months later Elvis returned to the International and broke his own attendance records, starting a series of twice yearly engagements that would continue until 1976. Following his opening performance, Colonel Parker and hotel manager Alex Shoofey signed a contract scribbled on a restaurant tablecloth which, despite receiving many attractive offers from other Vegas resorts, Elvis dutifully honoured. In 1970, the Hilton Hotel group purchased the International Hotel, along with Kerkorian’s other property, the Flamingo. Today, after several changes of ownership, the hotel is owned by Westgate Resorts and is renamed the Westgate.
Birth – 1959 — The 1970s