Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hail to the King! :: The Big E Turns 75 : The Stage Show Performances (1956)

Clips from Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey's Stage Show.

"Shake, Rattle and Roll" and "I Gotta Woman" ::

"Let's Play House" and "Tutti-Fruitti" ::

"Blue Suede Shoes" and "Heartbreak Hotel" ::

Hail to the King! :: The Big E Turns 75 : The Trouble with Girls (1969)

Our film opens up at the Bradford Center, Iowa train station, where a throng of people have gathered to greet the latest arrival. Then, a narrator chimes in and gets us up to speed by letting us know that Lindbergh just crossed the Atlantic, and while Babe Ruth was threatening to hit sixty home-runs folks were openly wondering if Calvin Coolidge would run for a second term, which makes this, I believe, 1927 or thereabouts. Regardless, those are concerns for another time, because today, the Chautauqua is rolling into town.

What's a Chautauqua? Glad you asked. A Chautauqua is kind of like a circus -- only without the clowns, trapeze artists or animal acts. Okay, that's not really fair -- it's more of a revival meeting meets a renaissance festival with forums, symposiums and speakers on all matters of subjects, topped off with several musical revues. Now, this particular Chautauqua has been around before but it's now under new management, namely Walter Hale (Elvis Presley), the son of the former owner, and there's trouble brewing already. Seems the City Fathers are already haggling over the attraction's guaranteed payment, with the main point of contention being the Mayor, who wants a solemn pledge that his daughter will get the lead in the Chautauqua's annual Children's Pageant to help grease the wheels. After assuring his Honor that all will be well an impromptu parade erupts, and Hale, playing the Pied Piper, leads the march from the train station to the fairgrounds. But as the music swells and the credits roll, we suddenly realize that our leading man isn't singing. Hmmmnnn ... that seems strange. And if you also find that odd, click here to read more.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hail to the King! :: The Big E Turns 75 : Movie Poster Spotlight : Foreign Jobs (Part Eins).

Loving Me Tender 1956 (German) ::

Loving You 1957 (French) ::

Jailhouse Rock 1957 (French) ::

King Creole 1958 (French) ::

G.I. Blues 1960 (French) ::

Flaming Star 1960 (Belgian) ::

Wild in the Country 1961 (French) ::

Blue Hawaii 1961 (German) ::

Follow that Dream 1962 (French) ::

Kid Galahad 1962 (Japanese) ::

Girls! Girls! Girls! 1962 (Japanese) ::

It Happened at the World's Fair 1963 (French) ::

Fun in Acapulco 1963 (German) ::

Kissin' Cousins 1964 (German) ::

Viva Las Vegas 1964 (Belgian) ::

(Click on posters to see larger version.)

Hail to the King! :: The Big E Turns 75 : Movie Poster Spotlight : Foreign Jobs (Part Deux),

Roustabout 1964 (German) ::

Girl Happy 1965 (French) ::

Tickle Me 1965 (Italian) ::

Harum Scarum
1965 (German)

Frankie and Johnny 1966 (Japanese) ::

Paradise, Hawaiian Style 1966 (French) ::

Spinout 1966 (French) ::

Easy Come, Easy Go 1967 (French) ::

Double Trouble 1967 (Italian) ::

Clambake 1967 (Italian) ::

Stay Away, Joe 1968 (Mexican) ::

Speedway 1968 (Italian) ::

Live a Little, Love a Little 1968 (Belgian) ::

Charro 1969 (French) ::

The Trouble with Girls 1969 (Mexican) ::

Change of Habit 1969 (German) ::

(Click on posters to see larger image.)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Hail to the King! :: The Big E Turns 75 : In Defense of (and an Apology to) Dolores Fuller...

Dolores Fuller was officially bitten by the acting bug when she, at the ripe old age of ten, landed a small part in Frank Capra's It Happened One Night (1934). By the 1950's, she already had a fairly successful career in Hollywood as an extra, fashion model, and stand-in before the fateful day she chose to wear an angora sweater to an audition for the film Behind Locked Doors, which immediately drew the attention of the film's slated director, Edward D. Wood Jr. And soon enough, Wood's pie-in-the-sky dreams of conquering Hollywood were so infectious Fuller divorced her then husband and shacked up with her new beau. And together, with Fuller paying the bills at home and providing the majority of the wardrobe (both onscreen and off), the duo blazed a trail of B-Movie infamy with the likes of Glen or Glenda and Jail Bait (during which, while filming, Fuller lost her job as Dinah Shore's stand in when she missed a call).

Alas, it just wasn't meant to be for these two star-crossed lovers, and between Wood's alternative lifestyle and constant boozing, Fuller finally got fed up and left him shortly after filming Bride of the Monster. And according to several interviews with Fuller, a drunken and despondent Wood would often stand outside her apartment and beg her to take him back. But, that chapter of her life was over and, desiring a fresh start, it was during another casting call that Fuller's career took another unexpected turn.

Seems while trying to land a part in Elvis Presley's Blue Hawaii, Fuller ran into producer Hal Wallis, an old acquaintance, apparently, who was aware that Fuller had dabbled a little as a songwriter. Her most notable song to date was "Cindy, Cindy" for Ricky Nelson back in his Ozzie and Harriet Days (-- the number was later reprised as a duet with Nelson, Dean Martin and Walter Brennan in Howard Hawk's Rio Bravo.) And on Wallis' advice, Fuller skipped the casting call and was sent to see composer Ben Weisman, and together, they wrote the nonsensical but very catchy, "Rock-a-Hula, Baby."

Both the film and the song were a huge hit, and over the next decade Fuller would continue to collaborate on about dozen songs for Presley's ensuing pictures ...

"I Got Lucky" from Kid Galahad (1962):

"Big Love, Big Heartache" from Roustabout (1964):

"Do the Clam" from Girl Happy (1965):

"Spinout" from Spinout (1966):

Over the years since, when folks look back with a jaded eye at the Big E's
floundering film career and the music found therein, Fuller's name is usually one of the first to come up. Somewhat stigmatized by her relationship with Wood, Fuller's contributions were usually slapped down as cheap-jack tactics by Wallis and Colonel Parker to keep costs down and profits up, and unjustly smeared by their titles and titles only (-- easy to do with titles like Do the Clam...). And e'yup; that's me raising a guilty hand. Yeah, I was wrong. Dead wrong. And if you listened to only half of those examples provided, you, like me, will realize those songs aren't that bad at all, and some of them are pretty damned catchy.

These days, after a career that saw her form her own label, and provide material for the likes of Presley, Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee and Johnny Rivers, Fuller is retired, happily married, and just finished her auto-biography, A Fuller Life: Hollywood, Ed Wood and Me, a frank and funny with a side-order of bittersweet look at her life in showbiz. Highly recommended.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hail to the King! :: The Big E Turns 75 : E vs. G : The Battle of the Century

Straight from the Why Do I Keep Finding
Things I Cannot Have Department:

Why! Dammit, why!?!

Hail to the King! :: The Big E Turns 75 : "It Feels So Right" from Tickle Me (1965)

Hail to the King! :: The Big E Turns 75 : Tickle Me (1965)

We open in sagebrush country, where we spy a Greyhound bus winding it's way down a lonely highway. Then, our ears pick up a soulful crooner, serenading these open-spaces, and find Lonnie Beale (Elvis Presley) riding the bus that eventually winds its way to Zuni Wells -- the last stop before you officially get to nowhere. After debarking, Lonnie takes up his meager possessions -- a suitcase, a saddle, and a guitar, and then moseys into the nearest watering hole, where the bartender is busily talking to a Deputy Sturtevant about how the Sheriff is out of town fishing and won't be back for two whole weeks. (And yes, this bit of seemingly trivial exposition should trip your foreshadow-meter alarm, meaning this will probably prove relevant later.) When Sturtevant leaves, Lonnie steps and asks the bartender the whereabouts of one Pete Bowman. Well, turns out this Bowman ran into some trouble with the law and skipped town awhile back, meaning Bowman's promised job as a ranch-hand is long gone. However, the bartender recognizes the champion bull-rider and bronco-buster, which is fine and dandy, but what Lonnie really needs a job until rodeo season starts. When the bartender eyes the guitar, Lonnie rolls his eyes, knowing full well what the implications are. Click here to read more...
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