G.I. Blues (1960)
Utilizing what would become the standard Elvis Presley formula that sees the King of Rock ‘n Roll sing a song, kiss a girl and get into a fistfight, G.I. Blues remains an enjoyable farce that makes good use of Presley’s on screen talents at the time of this production. Joined by Juliet Prowse, Elvis will provide his legion of fans with a number of songs and comical escapades as he fronts for his military pals in a less than gentlemanly wager that will of course lead to romance and a lifetime of supposed happiness.
This time out Elvis is in the military and stationed in Germany. Not far from the truth considering he was in Germany sometime during his actual tour of duty in the armed forces between March of 1958 to March of 1960. While he may be stationed overseas with his musical pals, Robert Ivers and James Douglas, the trio have their mind set purely on a career in music and the local frauleins. A couple of quick tunes including the title track at a local coffeehouse and it’s time for that first fistfight when an in-joke is inserted into our movie from director Norman Taurog.
As the King is launching into a second number with hips swaying, a fellow soldier who isn’t so enamored of the trio starts up the jukebox by selecting Blue Suede Shoes by Elvis Presley off the menu list. And so begins the barroom brawl.
It’s when the boys are shipped to Frankfurt that a wager has been made and it’s far from noble. Jeremy Slate has challenged Elvis’ division to have any man spend the night with nightclub entertainer Miss Prowse. There’s plenty of money riding on this. It seems that Slate himself struck out with the exotic beauty noting she’s “steam hot outside – iceberg inside.” When the division’s lady killer is transferred out before their arrival in town Elvis is nominated by default to take over “Operation Lily.” While he succumbs to the pressure of the division, he’s not overly excited about the theme of the bet.
But then he meets Lily as played by Miss Prowse at The Europa club. Let the romance begin and what better way then to have The King give us some songs like an amusing rendition of Wooden Heart sung with a puppet show and Rainbows in a cable car. Always under the watchful eyes of the platoon, Elvis is getting sick to his stomach over the whole bet and when things get a little too serious with the long legged Prowse he calls it off like we knew he would.
Slapstick and screwball are sure to follow when Elvis ends up being called into to save the day serving as a babysitter for bandmate Douglas who needs to run off and marry his German gal. Yes I did say babysit which brings up the question of pre-marital sex in a major 1960 release. No that theme isn’t pursued but it’s there if you want to address it and I’m surprised it squeezed past the censors who were probably more concerned with just how much leg Miss Prowse was showing on the dancefloor and if indeed Elvis was going to engage in the same thing and drop her the following morning.
Anyway, back to the King and bottle formulas and diapers and …. well he needs a woman’s touch when it comes to this new assignment so who better than Miss Prowse could he call in to lend some Red Cross aide to a soldier in trouble. The romance reignites but what of the bet?
Costumes by Edith Head, Produced by Hal Wallis, Technical Advisor, Col. Tom Parker …. what the? Advisor to what? Yeah I’m one of those quiet Elvis fans who pretty much blames every bad thing that ever happened to Elvis on Parker so better I not get started. As a matter of fact I’m probably a bigger Elvis fan than many of you realize. Not nutty enough to have a shrine here in the vault but yes I do have all 31 films and have the Elvis channel from Graceland tuned to my car radio to see what’s coming in live from Graceland.
By no means is this a classic film of it’s type and the subject material is rather rude by today’s standards if you peel back the comedy but it’s a time capsule to the earlier years of Presley films when there was a little more care taken to entertain us by his handlers. Yeah that Parker guy again. While I do prefer The King’s other release of 1960, Flaming Star, over this film, the box office receipts apparently all but doomed more films of the Flaming Star variety when G.I. Blues far and away drew in more dollars. From here on out it was mostly the familiar Presley formula that would drive his pictures for the balance of the decade aside from a couple of off beat entries like Charro.
Easily one of the earliest movie memories of Elvis for me thanks to a station out of Buffalo New York while growing up in the 1970’s. They’d play a movie everyday after school at 4 PM and often feature a week of Elvis titles. G.I. Blues being one them that played frequently and it represents a fun look back to the earlier years of Elvis on screen. Just ignore the fact the Elvis and the other leads never once stepped foot in Germany but rather stuck to the Hollywood backlots acting in front of rear projection screens while a crew of second unit workers captured some German locations.
Now how about that title track…..