Saturday, July 23, 2022

#2,788. King Creole (1958) - Elvis Presley Film Festival


Elvis Presley may have been the King of Rock and Roll, but as an actor he was average at best. Put him in a movie with a good story, however, and surround him with an all-star supporting cast, and he could sometimes surprise you.

That’s exactly what happened with 1958’s King Creole, a black-and-white drama / musical directed by the great Michael Curtiz (Casablanca, The Adventures of Robin Hood).

After getting into yet another scuffle at school, Danny Fisher (Presley) is told by his teacher that, for the second year in a row, he won’t be graduating. Ignoring the wishes of his father (Dean Jagger), who wants him to give school another chance, Danny decides he has had enough and follows his dreams of becoming a professional singer.

Quitting his job as a busboy, Danny agrees to perform nightly at the King Creole, a club owned by Charlie LeGrand (Paul Stewart). But LeGrand’s chief competitor, Maxie Fields (Walter Matthau), who controls most of New Orleans, wants Danny to work for him. When Danny refuses, Maxie first orders his steady girlfriend Ronnie (Carolyn Jones) to seduce Danny, and when that doesn’t work Maxie and his henchman Shark (Vic Morrow) start playing rough, threatening to reveal a secret to Danny’s father that could potentially tear his family apart.

Presley performs a number of toe-tapping tunes throughout King Creole, including the title song (which is my favorite), “New Orleans”, and “As Long as I Have You”. And while his performance as Danny wouldn’t have won him an Academy Award (his scenes with Delores Hart, who plays Danny’s new girlfriend Nellie, are hit and miss), Presley did impress me through much of the film, especially during the scenes in which Danny and his father butt heads (Danny is embarrassed that dear old dad won’t stick up for himself, and as a result vows to never let anyone push him around).

Solid in support are Jagger as Danny’s father, Matthau as the loathsome crime boss Maxie, and Vic Morrow – who made a career out of playing the heavy – as Maxie’s henchman, Shark. Standing head and shoulders above them all, however, is Carolyn Jones, who delivers what might be her greatest performance as Ronnie, the alcoholic former singer who eventually falls in love with Danny (her scenes are easily the best in the entire movie).

Presley was on record as saying that of all his films, King Creole was his favorite. Thanks to its solid performances, the crisp direction of Michael Curtiz, the catchy musical numbers, and the stunning cinematography of Russell Harlan (portions of the film were shot on-location in New Orleans), I’d have to say it’s my favorite Elvis Presley film as well.
Rating: 9 out of 10

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