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Follow That Dream (1962)

Take a dash of Max Baer’s Jethro from The Beverly Hillbillies, a healthy dose of Percy Kilbride’s Pa Kettle teamed with Howard McNear’s Floyd the Barber wrapped around a simple feel good plot and voila….. you have Elvis Presley, Arthur O’Connell and that same Howard McNear joining in comedy and song for the legion of fans who all “Hail to the King, Baby.”

This lazy slice of life tale stars Elvis as the son of O’Connell who along with a collection of orphans seem to be living a leisurely paced lifestyle in Florida by means of welfare and checks Elvis receives after being compensated out of the U.S. Army. While on a Sunday drive in a barely running jalopy, the family runs out of gas along a Florida shoreline and quickly run afoul of the mean spirited Alan Hewitt as a “government man.” He wants them off the road way and to clear out of the beach line they’ve adopted for the afternoon as the state Governor is scheduled to be along the newly opened road shortly. O’Connell may be a Pa Kettle duplicate but he’s a man of honor and refuses to be pushed around. To Hewitt’s chagrin, O’Connell enacts some obscure law and along with Elvis and a pack of kids, they claim the land as their own.

Thankfully Elvis packed a guitar for the afternoon ride to squeeze in a couple of songs for the paying crowd. Far from a child , is adopted member of the O’Connell clan, Anne Helm who has her sights set on Elvis if she can only get him to notice she’s “all growed up.” Thankfully she is along as she’s the one with some business savvy. In no time at all the clan have some makeshift shacks set up and Anne decides the family fortune is in opening a roadside fishing shack where they can rent bait, tackle and boats. Now they just need a loan so it’s off to see McNear who I just can’t help referring to as Floyd the Barber (if you don’t know why, I can’t help you. Look it up). It’s a comical bit when Elvis is thought to be robbing the bank but thankfully they have a friend inside who works the bank and Floyd sees the goodness in the clan who offer little in the way of collateral.

Laid back comedy ensues when gangsters Simon Oakland and Jack Kruschen get wind of the loophole law that O’Connell has uncovered concerning nesters. Oakland quickly puts together a floating casino that sees a criminal element along the beach front that clashes with O’Connell’s firm family values. Not only does Oakland attempt to play tough with our judo expert, Elvis, but Joanna Moore will surface as a welfare officer who at the urging of Hewitt will attempt to take the children away from O’Connell which puts the peaceable loving family in the middle of a court battle.

If one looks past the Joanna Moore character who two minutes after meeting the slow witted Elvis on the beach front is pawing him and given another ten minutes might have raped the poor farm boy if it wasn’t for Miss Helm interrupting her molestation of the King with the film’s best scene, then you’ll find a soft hearted story here that sends the paying public home happy after Roland Winters presiding over the court case figures out just what is best for the orphans that O’Connell’s kindly caretaker has adopted.

A rather harmless entry in the list of Elvis films that plays far better than most if not all of his later films from 1965 on. I’m generally critical of the King’s films (aside from a few exceptions) and their recycling of the same pattern that I always refer to as the following….

Elvis sings a song….

Elvis kisses a girl

Elvis gets in a fistfight

over and over and over…….

But I do blame the Colonel for this like most of the King’s fans.

So considering this one doesn’t follow that same old pattern makes it worth a nostalgic look if you haven’t seen it before and hats off to both Elvis and O’Connell for delivering fun performances in this family oriented feature film directed by the prolific Gordon Douglas. Douglas worked in pretty much every genre with titles ranging from Them (Sci-Fi), The Big Land (Western), Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (Crime Drama), Robin and the 7 Hoods (Musical), In Like Flint (satire), Slaughter’s Big Rip Off (Blaxploitation) etc……

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