It Happened At The World's Fair : MGM 1963

By: Elvis Australia
March 7, 2005

It Happened At The World's Fair
It Happened At The World's Fair
Elvis' twelfth film was 'It Happened At The World's Fair' (MGM, 1963) and was set at the Seattle World's Fair. In It Happened at the World's Fair, a musical comedy filmed against the backdrop of the 1963 Seattle World's Fair, Elvis Presley's character, Mike Edwards, and partner Danny Burke, portrayed by Gary Lockwood, hitchhike to Seattle to find work.

The two desperately need money to reclaim their airplane, on which the sheriff has attached a lien. They hitch a ride with a Chinese farmer and his seven-year-old niece, Sue-Lin, played by talented Vicky Tiu.

When business unexpectedly occupies the uncle, Mike takes Sue-Lin on a tour of the World's Fair, where he meets and falls for nurse Diane Warren, portrayed by Joan O'Brien. When Sue-Lin's uncle fails to return, Mike takes responsibility for the little girl. Mike's situation goes from bad to worse when Child Welfare takes Sue-Lin away and Danny inadvertently becomes involved with a smuggling operation. Mike, Danny, and law officials eventually subdue the smugglers. The film ends happily when Sue-Lin finds her uncle and Mike and Diane find each other.

Principal photography began on September 5th at the monorail terminal. 'It Happened at the World's Fair' premiered in Los Angeles on April 3, 1963 and opened nationally on April 10. It was ranked #55 for the year on 'Variety's' list of movies. Earlier working titles for the film were 'Take Me Out To The Fair' and 'Take Me To The Fair'.

Mike (Elvis) and Danny (Gary Lockwood) fly a cropduster, but because of Danny's gambling debts, a local sheriff takes custody of it. Trying to earn money, they hitch-hike to the World's Fair in Seattle. While Danny tries to earn money playing poker, Mike takes care of a small girl, Sue-Lin, whose father has disappeared. Being a ladies' man, he also finds the time to court a young nurse, Diane (Joan O'Brien).

Elvis Presley receives a manicure on Seattle's Monorail. Presley was filming 'It Happened at the Fair' during Seattle's 1962 World's Fair. Washington, USA.

Elvis Presley receives a manicure on Seattle's Monorail. Presley was filming 'It Happened at the Fair' during Seattle's 1962 World's Fair. Washington, USA.

On August 28, 1962 Elvis reported for pre-production work and settled into his MGM dressing room, which had once belonged to actor Clark Gable. Soundtrack recording got off to a bad start as Elvis had a cold and after only three songs they had to postpone the session. On the 31st Elvis had his wardrobe fittings with Sy Devore, who in an interview reported that Elvis' wardrobe for this movie cost $9,300 and included 10 suits, 2 cashmere coats, 4 sport coats, 15 pairs of slacks, 30 shirts and 55 ties.

Elvis and his entourage arrived in Seattle for location shooting on September 4, 1962 and took up residence on the 14th floor of the New Washington Hotel. Probably in order to be easily identified in the crowds of visitors to the fair, Elvis' entourage members were all dressed in special uniforms. In addition to Elvis' own security staff, there were hundreds of local police and a contingent of Pinkerton plainclothes detectives assigned to protect and escort Elvis through the crowds.

Elvis' pet Chimp, Scatter with Elvis on the set of It Happened At The World's Fair
Elvis' pet Chimp, Scatter with Elvis on the set of It Happened At The World's Fair

The Seattle Fair was actually called the Seattle Century 21 Exposition, thus the name of the trailer park Elvis' character stayed at was 'Century 21 Estates'. Over 10 million people visited the fair that year and many of the structures created for it, including the Space Needle and the monorail, are still used today in what is now called Seattle Center. The 605-foot high Space Needle has become a symbol for the city of Seattle.

The new Key Arena was built in 1995 on the skeleton of the Coliseum, which housed the 'World of Tomorrow' exhibit where some filming with Elvis took place. The Federal Science Building is now the Pacific Science Center. This building was designed by Detroit-based architect Minoru Yamasaki.

Minoru Yamasaki went on to design the World Trade Center in New York City.

President John F. Kennedy opened the fair by telegraph key from his Easter vacation in Florida on April 21, 1962, using the same telegraph key that President Taft had used to open the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle in 1909. The key triggered a radio telescope in Maine, which picked up an impulse from a star 10,000 light years away. This impulse was directed towards the fairgrounds to start the festivities, which included the release of 2,000 balloons, the ringing of the Space Needle's 538 bell Carillon, 10 Air Force F-102s flying overhead and aerial bombs bursting and raining down tiny flags. Among the celebrities who visited the fair were Attorney General Robert Kennedy and his family, England's Prince Phillip, Danny Kaye, John Raitt, Sammy Davis Jr., Louis Armstrong, Victor Borge, Lawrence Welk, Johnny Mathis, Maurice Chevalier, John Wayne, Jack Lemmon, Vice President Lyndon Johnson, Carl Reiner, Carol Channing, George Burns, Jonas Salk, Rafer Johnson, Walt Disney, Richard Nixon, Lt. Col. John Glenn and even Lassie'.It Happened at the World's Fair' was the fourth studio movie known to be made in Seattle and Elvismania soon set in the city. Elvis noticed a local 18-year-old, Sue Wouters, and dated her during filming in Seattle. Other not-so-lucky girls posed as reporters for high school newspapers and tried to get an opportunity to meet Elvis.

Alan Fortas (an Elvis entourage member) recalled that Elvis and the group were often confined to the hotel for long periods of time and said that, when boredom set in, they played a favorite trick on the room service personnel. They moved all the furniture out of the room and then ordered room service. When the food arrived they were all sitting on the floor in an empty room. The befuddled bellboy left without a word and when the manager arrived a few minutes later, all the furniture had been returned where it belonged.

Location shooting was finished by September 13, 1962. Before returning to California to continue filming at the studio, Elvis, on behalf of Tennessee Governor Buford Ellington, presented a ceremonial gift of two Tennessee hams to Washington Governor Albert Rosellini. Elvis and his entourage left Seattle when location shooting was done and filming resumed back in Hollywood at the MGM lot on September 17, 1962. On the set Elvis was interviewed at length by Lloyd Shearer and in the interview Elvis discussed his love of reading and studying philosophy and how he would have liked to have become a doctor.

Kurt Russell and Elvis Presley
Kurt Russell and Elvis Presley
A favorite scene in this movie is when a ten-year-old Kurt Russell is paid by Elvis' character to kick him in the shins. Little did anyone dream that years later the same Kurt Russell would play Elvis in the made for TV move 'Elvis' and receive an Outstanding Lead Actor Emmy nomination for his portrayal. Russell was briefly married to his 'Elvis' costar Season Hubley with whom he had a son, Boston. Mr. Russell began his career as a child actor when Walt Disney signed him to a ten-year contract. After that he pursued a career in professional baseball. He played second base for the minor league until an injury forced him to retire. (His father Bing Russell, a former baseball player who turned to acting, had played the deputy sheriff on 'Bonanza' for a number of years.) Kurt Russell returned to acting after his baseball career and has had many prime movie roles that include films such as 'Silkwood', Tango and Cash', Backdraft' and 'Vanilla Sky' among others. He often performs his own stunts and is a licensed pilot. He and his long-time life partner, actress Goldie Hawn, now live in Vancouver, Canada where they encourage their son Wyatt with his career in hockey. They recently became grandparents when Hawn's daugther, the actress Kate Hudson, gave birth.

On November 8, 1962, Elvis' father and then Memphis Mayor Loeb visited the set of this film where the mayor accepted Elvis' annual donation of $50,000 to Memphis charities.

On November 9th, Elvis completed his work on this movie and traveled to Las Vegas where he vacationed before returning to Memphis.

Elvis' leading lady for this film was actress Joan O'Brien. She began her career as a teenage country singer working on TV with Tennessee Ernie Ford. She went into acting and ironically played a nurse in several different movies including this one. Other nursing roles included the movie 'Operation Petticoat' the Jerry Lewis film 'It's Only Money'. She also starred in a teen musical with Nancy Sinatra called 'Get Yourself A College Girl'. She gave up her acting career to raise her children and eventually became an executive with Hilton Hotels.

Gary Lockwood played Danny Burke. You also might remember him from his role in the 1961 Elvis movie 'Wild In The Country'. Mr. Lockwood also had roles in the movies 'Splendor In The Grass' and '2001: A Space Odyssey' among others. He had many roles on TV, including starring in 'The Lieutenant', but he might be best known for his role in the pilot episode of 'Star Trek'. Today, he still often makes guest appearances at 'Star Trek' conventions. Gary Lockwood was born John Gary Yusolfsky in California and began his career as a stunt man and a stand-in for Anthony Perkins. He was often one of the young Hollywood actors who joined Elvis and his entourage in friendly football games at De Neve Park in California.

Vicky Tui Cayetano was 6-1/2 years old when she played Sue-Lin in this film. She was a part of the talented Tui family of child performers. Her sisters Ginny and Elizabeth and her brother Alexander had parts in the Elvis movie 'Girls! Girls! Girls!'. The original plan was to cast Ginny as Sue-Lin, but she was already booked to play piano at the White House for President Kennedy, so her sister Vicky was given the role instead. Vicky was born in the Philippines and was the sixth of nine children. This was her only movie. She went on to attend Stanford University for two years then founded a travel agency. She moved to Hawaii in 1983 and was Hawaii's first lady from 1994 to 2002 while her husband Ben Cayetano was governor. She is mother to five children and she is President and CEO of a corporation she founded in 1990 that provides commercial laundry services to 30 hotels and 5 major health care facilities in Hawaii. She is active in many community service organizations. In a recent nterview she said she still has the big red stuffed animal from the movie and her copy of the script.

Elvis Presley and Vicky Tiu - It Happened at the World's Fair (1963)
Elvis Presley and Vicky Tiu - It Happened at the World's Fair (1963)

Kam Tong played Uncle Walter Ling. This California born actor began his movie career in the late 1930s and had a number of roles in the war movies of the 1940s. He also can be seen in films such as 'Love Is A Many Splendored Thing', Walk Like A Dragon' and 'Flower Drum Song'. He had roles on numerous TV series, including 'Have Gun Will Travel', in which he had a reoccurring role from 1957 to 1963.

Yvonne Craig and Elvis Presley
Yvonne Craig and Elvis Presley
Yvonne Craig played the part of Dorothy Johnson, the girl whose name Elvis' character Michael Edwards just can't quite get right. Ms. Craig might be best known for her role as Batgirl in the 'Batman' TV series, but she was also the girl that got Elvis in the 1964 film 'Kissin' Cousins', in which she played Azalea Tatum. She began her career as a ballet dancer in her teen years.

Appearing in the film and on the soundtrack with Elvis was a singing quartet called The Mello Men, which was comprised of Thurl Ravenscroft, Bill Lee, Bill Cole and Max Smith. They were not only singers, but also provided the voices for many beloved cartoon characters in such productions as 'Alice in Wonderland', Lady and the Tramp', Tom and Jerry', Yogi Bear', Peter Pan', Sleeping Beauty' and 'One Hundred and One Dalmations' among others. Thurl Ravenscroft indivual credits for cartoon voice work inlcude 'The Sword In The Stone', Mary Poppins', The Jungle Book', The Cat In The Hat', The Aristocats' and 'Winnie the Pooh'. His voice has also been used for many of the recorded voices in the attractions at Disneyland and Disney World.

Ted Richmond was the producer of 'It Happened at the World's Fair'. He began his career as a writer in the late 1930s, but he soon turned to producing. Most notable among his films could be 1973's 'Papillon'.

Actress/songwriter Dolores Fuller began her career as a child when she was an extra in the Clark Gable film 'It Happened One Night'. Although she never had a part in any of Elvis' films, she did write songs for a number of them including the song 'Beyond the Bend' for this movie. Often working with Ben Weisman and Fred Wise, she wrote music for 'Blue Hawaii', Kid Galahad', Fun In Acapulco', Kissin' Cousins', Roustabout', Girl Happy', Spinout', Easy Come, Easy Go' and 'Change of Habit'. She also wrote some songs for Elvis that were not movie-related. She also known for her one-time romance with producer/director Ed Wood, although she is said to have objected to Sarah Jessica Parker's depiction of her in the 1994 film about him.

Behind the Scenes of It Happened at the World's Fair

The transformation of Elvis from rock 'n' roller to handsome leading man that had begun after Elvis' discharge from the Army was complete by World's Fair. The change was indicated by the clothes Elvis wore for the film. Newspapers and news magazines ran articles about the specific attire designed for Elvis for the film, but fanzines constructed stories indicating that Elvis had completely changed his mode of dress, both on-screen and off. Sy Devore, a leading Hollywood tailor, was given the job of dressing Elvis for the film. He designed a series of conservative suits and ties to make Elvis 'look like a smart, well-dressed young businessman', according to producer Ted Richmond. Devore had to be especially careful about the trousers because Elvis supposedly wore no underwear during this period. The wardrobe, consisting of ten suits, four sports jackets, 30 shirts, 15 pairs of slacks, two cashmere coats, and 55 ties, cost about $10,000.


Elvis Presley Lyrics Beyond The Bend
Elvis Presley Lyrics Relax
Elvis Presley Lyrics Take Me To The Fair
Elvis Presley Lyrics They Remind Me Too Much Of You
Elvis Presley Lyrics One Broken Heart For Sale
Elvis Presley Lyrics I'm Falling In Love Tonight
Elvis Presley Lyrics Cotton Candy Land
Elvis Presley Lyrics A World Of Our Own
Elvis Presley Lyrics How Would You Like To Be
Elvis Presley Lyrics Happy Ending

Recorded at: Radio Recorders Studios, 7000 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood. September 1962

Musicians: Elvis Presley (vocals), Scotty Moore, Tiny Timbrell, Barney Kessel (guitars), Ray Siegel (bass), D.J Fontana, Hal Blaine, Bernie Mattinson (drums), Don Robertson (piano), Boots Randolph (sax), the Jordanaires and the Mello Men (vocals).

An album and a single 'One Broken Heart For Sale' were released with the picture but the single, backed with 'They Remind Me Too Much Of You', failed to reach the top ten.

It Happened At The World's Fair MGM 1963

Directed: Norman Taurog
Writing Credits: Si Rose, Seaman Jacobs
Producer: Ted Richmond
Music Score: Leith Stevens
Director of Photography: Joseph Ruttenberg A.S.C
Art Direction: George W Davis and Preston Ames
Technical Advisor: Colonel Tom Parker
Assistant Director: Al Jennings
Hair Styles: Sydney Guilaroff
Recording Supervisor: Franklin Milton
Musical numbers staged by: Jack Baker

Cast Overview: Elvis Presley .... Mike Edwards, Joan O'Brien .... Diane Warren, Gary Lockwood .... Danny Burke, Vicky Tiu .... Sue-Lin, H.M. Wynant .... Vince Bradley, Edith Atwater .... Head Nurse (Miss Steuben), Guy Raymond .... Barney Thatcher, Dorothy Green .... Miss Ettinger, Kam Tong .... Walter Ling, Yvonne Craig .... Dorothy Johnson.


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