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By the time Elvis Presley and producer Hal B. Wallis reteamed for Fun in Acapulco (1963), the fifth of their nine film collaborations, a solid formula had been established. With Elvis ensconced on the Paramount lot in Jerry Lewis' former dressing room (even Presley's manager, Colonel Tom Parker, had his own office), Wallis knew all he needed in order to turn a handsome profit at the box office was his star's name above the title, an exotic setting, and a roster of easy going pop songs for "the King" to sing and dance to. At this point in his movie career, the multiple gold and platinum record-selling triple-threat performer likely had few illusions in regard to his future as a movie star. Presley had made his first Hollywood screen test in 1956 (prophetically, on April Fool's Day) by lip-synching "Blue Suede Shoes" and reading a speech from Paramount's upcoming The Rainmaker. In a magazine interview granted at that time, Presley boasted that he would play Starbuck in the film. With that part going to Burt Lancaster, Presley wound up third-billed in 20th Century Fox's Love Me Tender (1956), in which he also sang the title song. (The project had been called The Reno Brothers in preproduction but was rechristened when sales of the unrelated single crossed the million dollar mark.) Posters for Love Me Tender promised "Mr. Rock and Roll in the story he was born to play!" The critics were cruel, the box office receipts were fat, and the die was cast.
Although Elvis Presley was likely on auto pilot through this period (at the Colonel's prodding, he made thirty-one movies in twelve years), he did warm to the prospect of making a picture in sunny Acapulco, even to the point of sporting a matador's cape by way of preparation. Sadly, travel south of the border for what would be his thirteenth film was nixed by "the Colonel" for reasons of security and the entirety of his performance was captured on the Paramount backlot. Some years earlier, a nasty rumor had circulated that misattributed anti-Mexican sentiments to Presley; when a 1960 screening of G.I. Blues caused a riot in Mexico City, Elvis movies were banned there. (His songs were already verboten on Mexican radio stations.) On the plus side, Fun in Acapulco afforded Elvis Presley the chance to star opposite Swiss bombshell Ursula Andress, fresh from her iconic turn as the first-ever Bond girl in Dr. No (1962). Although Andress was initially aloof (she had formed her opinion of Elvis from tabloid headlines), the pair got along well enough that gossip percolated about an alleged affair. As cameras rolled in January 1963, Presley was expecting to be reunited with his bride-to-be, Priscilla Beaulieu (whom he had met during his military service in Germany in 1959, when she was only fourteen years old), and he flatly denied the scuttlebutt. Nonetheless, he was reportedly so fearful of falling victim to Andress' singular charms that he forbade his entourage from abandoning him in her company.
Another perquisite of his involvement in Fun in Acapulco was the fun Presley had with many of its Latin-tinged production numbers. During this period, he went through a seldom discussed Latin phase and had even flavored some of the tunes on his 1962 RCA album "Pot Luck" with Latin rhythms. Although "Vino, Dinero y Amor," "You Can't Say No in Acapulco" and "(There's) No Room to Rumba in a Sports Car" are forgettable ditties and all too typical of the kind of drek he was made to sing in his movies, he scored a chart topper with his cover of "Bossa Nova Baby," which reached no. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 that year. During filming of the number "Marguerita," Elvis complained about having to wear an untucked short sleeve shirt as part of his costume but as compensation for breaking one of his own fashion taboos, the star was allowed to take home two black silk shirts and a flamenco outfit he'd worn onscreen.
Fun in Acapulco had its premiere in November 1964, where it did well and more than earned back its expenses. On their first American tour in the fall of 1964, the Beatles made it a point to catch Fun in Acapulco at a Miami drive-in near to where they were appearing. The Fab Four's manager, Brian Epstein, had once famously boasted that the Beatles were going to be "bigger than Elvis Presley" and Presley had made it a point to send a good will telegram when they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. In August of 1965, John, Paul, George and Ringo met Elvis in Hollywood and there was talk of them making a cameo appearance in one of his upcoming films a brainstorm that sadly never came to fruition.
Producer: Hal B. Wallis
Director: Richard Thorpe
Screenplay: Allan Weiss
Cinematography: Daniel L. Fapp
Art Direction: Hal Pereira, Walter Tyler
Music: Joseph J. Lilley
Film Editing: Stanley E. Johnson
Cast: Elvis Presley (Mike Windgren), Ursula Andress (Marguerita Dauphin), Elsa Cardenas (Dolores Gomez), Paul Lukas (Maximillian Dauphin), Larry Domasin (Raoul Almeido), Alejandro Rey (Moreno), Robert Carricart (Jose Garcia), Teri Hope (Janie Harkins), Marco Antonio (Bullfighter).
by Richard Harland Smith
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