3d Armored Division Co-Stars with Elvis
March 25, 2005
Shooting of the Hal B. Wallis production called G.I. Blues began August 17 (1959) at the division's training area near Frieburg, Germany, kicking off a scheduled 3 weeks of filming around the 3d Armored Division area.
About 100 of the division's soldiers are working as extras in the film being made by Paramount and a company of tanks from Presley's outfit is in the show, but Presley won't start work in the movie until he gets out of the Army in March (1960). Then Paramount and Wallis will resume where they leave off on this side of the Atlantic, and what's been filmed over there will be worked into the finished, Wallis explained.
The shooting schedule calls for work at the training area, scenes of the 3d Armored Division Kaserns, some in downtown Frankfurt, others in Wiesbaden, and some along the Rhine on a river boat.
None of the filming over here has a sound track, and all the extras-all on leave status for the duration of their part in the shooting- are used to make background footage for what will be completed in Hollywood, starting probably in April. The finished product should be released in the fall of 1960, Wallis added.
The first day of shooting found two tank platoons from the 32d Armor's Company B charging up and down hillsides near Frieburg as Paramount camera crews captured the rumbling monsters in Vista Vision. Subsequent footage will include a pair of M52 howitzers from Battery C of the 27th Arty, a demolition crew from the 23d Engineer Battalion's Company A, and some armored personnel carriers from Company C of the 52d Infantry.
Presley, meanwhile, continues his regular duties as a jeep driver with a scout platoon of the 32d Armor and won't even be around to watch any of the shooting over here. Weather held up part of the first day's shooting as 1st LT Andrew Bendaar, CO of the tank company, put his men through their paces for the cameras.
Two platoons of the clanking, roaring, monsters charged up a hill and almost into a camera into the cameras for one scene and later rumbled down a steep road, whammed into a rain-filled ditch at the bottom and roared by the cameras for another. The majority of the soldier extras who'll appear in the film will be just parts of the background worked into the finished picture, but for more specific footage, Wallis is using soldier stand-ins-one for Presley and other actors who'll get into the film when it gets into production in Hollywood.
PFC T.W. Creel of Laurel, Mississippi is Presley's double. A member of Company D of the 13th Cav, he was selected because Wallis says he'll look like Elvis from a distance. He has the same characteristic walk and mannerisms as Presley, Wallis pointed out. In other respects he's a dead ringer for Elvis.
Captain John J. Mawn, 3d Armored Division information officer who's been assigned as technical advisor for the film, said locating Creel was a stroke of luck. 'Somebody remembered going through basic training with Creel at Fort Hood, Texas', Mawn recalled, 'And he remembered how much Creel looked like Presley'.
So the 24-year old Creel was picked.
'I met Elvis only once', Creel says, 'and I figure him for a pretty nice guy'.
Creel, who worked on an oil-drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico before being drafted in the Army, is a tank driver and can't play the guitar, but as for rock and roll, he says: 'Cat I really dig that stuff'.
Other stand-ins who, like Creel, have no speaking parts and won't be seen close-up in the finished product, include only one soldier with acting experience. He's PFC Roland D'Auguste of the 3d Armored Division's honor guard, and a veteran of TV production back in his hometown of Los Angeles. 'I've had lead parts in a number of TV programs' he replied, 'including 'Navy Log', 'Annapolis', 'West Point' and 'Walter Winchel File''.
That was before he entered the Army.
He's also done summer-stock acting and plans to return to the stage when he gets out of the Army.
SP4 Sheridan Jouett of White Hall, Ill., and a member of the 143d Signal Battalion is a stand-in for a loader in a tank crew. Aside from high school dramatics, he's never done any acting.
His chief claim to fame, he noted, is that the other five stand-ins get promoted in the picture, while he appears as his own rank. PFC Frank P. Steele, of 3d Armored Division Headquarters plays a stand-in for a platoon sergeant, and PFC Norman Fair, of Company A, 143d Signal battalion stands in for a tank driver.
Steele is from Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Fair comes from Bastrop, La.
The movie started out as 'Cafe Europa', Wallis said, but later was changed to 'GI Blues'.
It's a comedy on the light side dealing with 3d Armored Division soldiers. There will be three or four girls, one French, one Italian and two Germans. The finished film will about three GI's or possibly four, Wallis explained. The show will include eight or nine songs, mostly ballads, and some rock 'n' roll.
The whole thing is being done at no cost to the Army, Mawn pointed out, explaining that the gas for the tanks and other assorted expenses come out of the film's budget. (Sources/References-Stars and Stripes Newspaper and Spearhead Newspaper/ from James Cunningham's collection of 3AD memorabilia.)
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