G.I. Blues : Paramount 1960

By: Elvis Australia
Source: www.elvis.com.au
July 22, 2004

G.I. Blues - Paramount 1960
G.I. Blues - Paramount 1960
Not surprisingly, Elvis' fifth film, his first after serving two years of active duty in the U.S. Army, was was entitled 'G.I. Blues' and was set in Germany. Elvis was discharged from active duty with the army in early March 1960 and began preproduction work for 'G.I. Blues' in California on April 21. Filming began on May 2nd and was finished by June 29th. While Elvis was stationed in Germany, Producer Hal Wallis had visited with him in August of 1959. Wallis was there while the German countryside and U.S. military operations were shot for the film. Elvis did not appear in any of this filming, however, the U.S. Army did supply tanks and crews for these shots.

In G.I. Blues, his first musical comedy, Elvis Presley stars as Tulsa MacLean, an Army sergeant stationed in West Germany. Tulsa and his buddies hope to make enough money to open a small nightclub upon their return to civilian life. At the urging of his pals, Tulsa accepts a bet with a group of G.I.s to win the heart of Lili, a beautiful cabaret dancer at the Cafe Europa. Lili, played by dancer Juliet Prowse, has a reputation for resisting soldiers, so Tulsa's finesse with females is required to break through her cool exterior. After a few dates Tulsa realizes that he is in love with Lili and feels guilty about the bet, and the fact that he'll be leaving Germany soon, so he breaks it off with Lili and calls off the bet. Tulsa is called on by Rick to babysit. He has much trouble so he calls Lili for help. They stay up all night in her apartment with the baby, which fulfills the bet. The secret slips out and she finds out that she has been the target of a wager. She is furious but later at a rehearsal for an Armed Forces show, Lili discovers that Tulsa had called off the bet and was really babysitting, proving he truly loves her, so she forgives him.

German Movie Poster - G.I. Blues
German Movie Poster - G.I. Blues

This was the first of nine Elvis films directed by Norman Taurog, who began his career as a child actor in 1912, but turned to writing and directing in the 1920s. He won an Academy Award for his work in the 1931 movie 'Skippy' and was nominated again in 1939 for 'Boys Town'. One source states that his daughter Priscilla appeared in 'G.I. Blues' as an uncredited extra in the children's puppet show scene.

The script was written by Edmund Beloin and Henry Garson. They were both nominated in 1961 by the Writers Guild of America for 'G.I. Blues' as Best Written American Musical. Mr. Beloin's film work includes 'Road To Rio', 'Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court', 'The Sad Sack' and others. He also was a regular writer for the TV series 'My Three Sons'. Mr. Garson worked with Beloin on a number of projects including the 'Don't Give Up The Ship' and the TV series 'My Three Sons' and 'Mona McCluskey' - the latter starring Juliet Prowse.

G.I. Blues Movie Poster
G.I. Blues Movie Poster

Elvis' leading lady in this movie was the dancer/actress Juliet Prowse. Ms. Prowse was born in India to South African parents and began studying dance at the age of four. As an adult, just under six feet tall, she was deemed too tall for ballet and she then pursued nightclub dancing and acting. At the time 'G.I. Blues' was in production, she was engaged to Frank Sinatra. However, they never married.

During production Elvis was visited on the set by King Bumiphol and Queen Sirikit of Thailand, Princess Margaretha of Sweden, Princess Astrid of Norway, and Princess Margretha of Denmark. In his free time Elvis was visiting local nightclubs and seeing the shows of entertainers such as Bobby Darin and Sammy Davis Jr. He also attended a birthday party for Dean Martin on the Paramount lot. With his music and movie career taking off again and his having to travel so much, Elvis wrote to the U.S. Army and requested to be placed on standby reserve rather than active reserve. This was the status he then had until his full discharge in 1964.

Robert Ivers played Cookie, one of Tulsa's army buddies. Mr. Ivers had studied theater in school and was offered scholarships to study at the Pasadena Playhouse and the University of Arizona. Choosing the latter, located in an area where many movies were shot on location, he was able to secure roles in a number of movies. He was signed to a contract with Paramount in 1956 and had roles in such films as 'The Delicate Delinquent', 'The Errand Boy', and a role in the TV series 'Mister Roberts'.

James Douglas played Rick, another buddy of Tulsa's. Mr. Douglas also had roles in a number of TV series including 'Peyton Place', 'Another World', 'As The World Turns', 'The Doctors', 'One Life To Live' and others.

Arch Johnson, who played Sgt. McGraw, had been an Associated Press Correspondent in Europe prior to becoming an actor. He had a very active career playing roles on TV. Some of the shows were 'Maverick', 'Hawaiian Eye', 'Bonanza', and 'The Rockford Files'.

Spanish Movie Poster - G.I. Blues
Spanish Movie Poster - G.I. Blues

Mickey Knox played Jeeter. Some of his other movie roles were in 'The Longest Day' and 'The Godfather: Part III'. He also worked as a dialogue coach for several foreign films.

Kenneth Becker played Mac. He also had roles in the Elvis films, 'Loving You' 'Girls! Girls! Girls!' and 'Roustabout'.

Jeremy Slate played Turk. Later, he had a role in the Elvis film 'Girls! Girls! Girls!'. Among his credits are the films 'I'll Take Sweden', 'The Sons of Katie Elder', and 'True Grit'. In 1966, he won a Bronze Wrangler Award from the Western Heritage Awards for his work in the film 'The Sons of Katie Elder'. He also had numerous roles in TV series such as 'Have Gun Will Travel', 'Route 66', 'Gunsmoke', and 'Mission Impossible'.

Edward Faulkner played Red. Later, he had a role in the Elvis film 'Tickle Me'. He was part of a group of actors whom John Wayne regularly used in his movies.

Leticia Roman made her screen debut in 'G.I. Blues' playing the role of Tina. She was the daughter of Academy Award winning set decorator Vittorio Novarese. She went on to play a number of roles in foreign films as well as on American TV shows such as 'The Man From Uncle', 'I Spy', and 'Run For Your Life'.

Bess Flowers, the 'queen of extras' as she was known, played a patron of the Cafe Europa. You might remember her from the earlier Elvis film 'Loving You'.

Among the many character actors who had roles in 'G.I. Blues', Elvis' fifth film, was Ludwig Stossel, who played the owner of the puppet show featured in a memorable scene. This was his last role after a long career in films and TV playing such films as 'The Pride of the Yankees' and 'The Beginning or the End'. Three different sets of twins were used to play the role of the baby Tulsa (Elvis) was babysitting with Lili (Juliet Prowse).

Hannerl Melcher, Miss Austria of 1957 and a Las Vegas showgirl, had a role as an extra in this film. She can be seen as the strolling singer during one of Tulsa's dates with Lili. Ms. Melcher and Elvis were friends. She and roommate Kathy Gabriel spent Christmas with the Presley family at Graceland in 1958.

Sally Todd played a bargirl in 'G.I. Blues'. She had been the 'Playboy Playmate' for the February 1957 issue of 'Playboy' magazine. Elisha Mott played a sergeant in 'G.I. Blues'. The following year, he played a state trooper in the Elvis film 'Wild in the Country'. Joe Gray had an uncredited role as a soldier. He also had roles in the Elvis movies 'Loving You' and 'Kid Galahad'. Mr. Gray, a former boxer, also worked as a stuntman.

Torben Meyer was played a headwaiter in 'G.I.Blues'. Known for his heavy accent, Mr. Meyer made a long career with hundreds of roles that required such an accent. Dick Winslow had played the role of Eddie Burton in Elvis' last film before going into the army, 'King Creole' in 1958. He played an orchestra leader in 'G.I. Blues' and later played a similar role in Elvis' 1966 film 'Frankie and Johnny'.

Paul Nathan was the associate producer.

He also had this responsibility in the Elvis films 'Loving You', 'King Creole', 'Blue Hawaii', 'Girls! Girls! Girls!', 'Fun In Acapulco', 'Roustabout', 'Paradise, Hawaiian Style' and 'Easy Come, Easy Go'.

The cinematographer for 'G.I. Blues', Loyal Griggs, later worked on the Elvis films 'Girls! Girls! Girls!' and 'Tickle Me'. Mr. Griggs received four Academy Award nominations for his work, winning one for the film 'Shane'.

The art director, Hal Pereira, worked on nine of Elvis' films: 'Loving You', 'King Creole', 'G.I. Blues', 'Blue Hawaii', 'Girls! Girls! Girls!', 'Fun In Acapulco', 'Roustabout', 'Paradise Hawaiian Style' and 'Easy Come, Easy Go'. Mr. Pereira was nominated 23 times for Academy Awards, winning for his work on 'The Rose Tattoo'.

The set decorator was Sam Comer, father of actress Anjanette Comer.

Jack Mintz was the dialogue coach and he also worked on the Elvis films 'Blue Hawaii' and 'Girls! Girls! Girls!'.

'G.I. Blues' had a sneak preview in Dallas, Texas on August 18, 1960. It also played on a number of military bases before it opened nationwide on November 23, 1960.

On November 15, 1960, there was a special showing of the film in Hollywood to benefit the Hemophilla Foundation. In attendance were Ronald Reagan, Juliet Prowse and Cesar Romero.

The film ranked #2 for the week on Variety's chart and was the fourteenth highest grossing film of the year.

Behind the Scenes of G.I. Blues

G.I. Blues marks the debut of the new Elvis Presley. Taking advantage of the good publicity Elvis received for serving his tour of duty in the Army, the Colonel launched a new, more clean-cut image for Elvis after his discharge. Film critics and movie magazines alike noticed the differences in Elvis' image, including changes in his personal appearance and attire. Gone were the sideburns the press had found so offensive, and gone was the flashy, hip attire. The new look was more conservative -- befitting Hollywood's latest leading man.

Crown princes Margarethe of Denmark visiting Elvis on the set of GI Blues, 1960
Crown Princes Margarethe of Denmark visiting Elvis on the set of GI Blues, 1960

As produced by Hal Wallis, G.I. Blues borrowed some details from Elvis' personal life to flesh out his character, Tulsa MacLean. This was nothing new for Wallis and his production team. They had used a similar strategy in Elvis' pre-Army features, particularly Loving You but also in King Creole.

The intent was to attract Elvis' legion of fans who were already familiar with Elvis' life. In G.I. Blues, Tulsa MacLean is an entertainer soon to be released from the Army. Tulsa is stationed in West Germany and is a member of a tank division, just as Elvis had been.

Despite borrowing tidbits from Elvis' own life, the film differed a great deal from the singer's previous efforts. The major change was in terms of genre: His pre-Army films had been musical dramas; G.I. Blues was a musical comedy. His pre-Army films were based on previously published novels or stories; G.I. Blues was specifically written for the screen and followed a simpler, more formulaic story structure.

Elvis' management team and the film's production team also attempted to soften the singer's screen image. His character is older and more mature, and in one sequence he sings 'Wooden Heart' to a group of children at a puppet show; in another he baby-sits an infant. Other notable differences included toning down Elvis' controversial performing style in hopes of capturing a family audience, not just teenage fans. In G.I. Blues, Elvis no longer swung his hips when he sang, long-legged costar Juliet Prowse did it for him. Even though some of the songs in G.I. Blues are fast-paced, they lack the hard-driving sound, emotional delivery, and sexual connotations of his pre-Army recordings. 'Mean Woman Blues' had given way to 'Pocketful of Rainbows'. A great deal of publicity was generated during the production of G.I. Blues, much of it designed to showcase the new Elvis. Visiting dignitaries from other countries were paraded through the set at a rapid rate. Elvis met the King and Queen of Nepal as well as Princess Margrethe of Denmark, Princess Astrid of Norway, and Princess Margaretha of Sweden. Elvis met so many foreign notables during the film's production that he had difficulty getting the protocol straight. He once asked, 'Is this another of those highness deals?'

The changes in terms of image and film genre do not mean that G.I. Blues was an inferior film, which many Presley biographers have implied. It remains a well-crafted musical comedy with a number of solid songs and a strong female costar. The only negative result of the film was that Elvis would be discouraged from making other types of movies. G.I. Blues is considered the prototype for the other Presley musicals, which, unfortunately, declined in quality as the decade progressed.


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Elvis Presley Lyrics G.I. Blues
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Thorne Nogar and Elvis on the GI Blues Set
Thorne Nogar and Elvis on the GI Blues Set

The soundtrack was recorded at RCA Studios and Radio Recorders, Hollywood, April-May 1960. Engineer Thorne Nogar. The musicians were: Guitar: Scotty Moore, Tiny Timbrell, Neal Matthews Jr., Elvis Presley. Bass: Ray Siegel. Drums: D.J Fontana, Frank Bode, Bernie Mattinson. Piano: Dudley Brooks. Accordian: Jimmie Haskell. Vocal accompaniment by the Jordinaires.

G.I. Blues - Paramount 1960

Directed: Norman Taurog
Writing Credits: Edmund Beloin, Henry Garson
Producer: Hal Wallis
Assistant Director: Michael Moore
Associate Producer: Paul Nathan
Technicolor and Vistavision.

Cast Overview : Elvis Presley .... Tulsa McLean, Juliet Prowse .... Lili, Robert Ivers .... Cookie, James Douglas .... Rick, Letecia Romen .... Tina, Sigrid Maier .... Marla, Arch Johnson .... Sergeant McGraw, Mickey Knox .... Jeeter, John Hudson .... Captain Hobart, Kenneth Becker .... Mac, Jeremy Slate .... Turk, Beach Dickerson .... Warren, Trent Dolan .... Mickey, Carl Crow .... Walt, Fred Essler ....

Elvis Presley Photos Elvis Presley on the set of G.I. Blues - Paramount 1960
Elvis Presley Photos The G.I. Blues Recording Sessions : April 1960
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