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King Creole

King Creole(1958)

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The working titles of this film were A Stone for Danny Fisher, Danny Fisher and Sing You Sinners. An off-Broadway play based on Harold Robbins' novel, written by Leonard Kantor, directed by Luther Adler and starring Phillip Pine as Danny, opened on October 21, 1954. In November 1953, Film Daily reported that Magnum Pictures had purchased the film rights to Robbins' novel, but Magnum's involvement with the completed project has not been determined. On February 27, 1955, New York Times announced that producer Hal Wallis had bought the screen rights to Robbins' novel for $25,000 and intended to produce it "as his first New York-filmed project, sometime next fall."
       A January 1957 Los Angeles Examiner article erroneously reported that the film, at that time called Sing You Sinners, was based on an original story by Oscar Saul "about a young man whose father is a religious man and objects strenously to his son's career." Although both Saul and James Lee are listed by memos in the Hal Wallis Collection at the AMPAS Library, as having worked on the screenplay, the extent of their contribution to the final film, if any, has not been determined. The Wallis papers reveal that Robbins himself prepared a screen treatment of his novel, but the extent of his contribution to the completed script has also not been determined.
       As noted by several reviews, some establishing details and characters in Robbins' novel were considerably changed for the film. In the book, "Danny Fisher" is a young Jewish boxer who lives in Brooklyn and becomes a gangster as he grows estranged from his father. The basic conflict between father and son was retained for the film, which was altered to showcase Elvis Presley's singing. Before the project was changed for Presley, Paul Newman, Ben Gazzara, Tony Curtis and John Cassavetes were considered for the role of Danny, with producer Hal Wallis especially hoping that Newman would accept, according to the Wallis papers. According to a November 1955 memo contained in the Wallis Collection, after Newman accepted the role of boxer Rocky Graziano for the 1956 M-G-M picture Somebody Up There Likes Me (see below), he decided against appearing in A Stone for Danny Fisher, as it was then called, because he felt the films would be too similar. According to items in Hollywood Reporter's "Rambling Reporter" column, Gerald O'Loughlin and Marlon Brando were also considered to play Danny. The Wallis files also reveal that in 1955, the company was contemplating asking Sidney Lumet to direct the project.
       In March 1956, Los Angeles Times reported that Lizabeth Scott was "still pegged" for a role in the picture. According to information in the Wallis Collection, Wallis was concerned about the cost of casting Dean Jagger as "Mr. Fisher" and instead considered hiring either John McIntire or Sidney Blackmer for the role. Although studio press releases and Hollywood Reporter news items include Franklyn Farnum, Minta Durfee Arbuckle and Joe Besser in the cast, their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed. Modern sources include Blanche Thomas in the cast. Carolyn Jones was borrowed from Warner Bros. for the production, which was partially filmed on location in New Orleans, LA.
       According to information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the screenplay for King Creole was rejected as unacceptable by the PCA in August 1955. The PCA deemed the story not suitable for filming due to "attempted teen-age sex relationships...a mistress relationship, completely justified because the girl in question had a crippled brother to support [in Robbins' novel, the "Ronnie" character had a handicapped brother and therefore prostituted herself to "Maxie" to support him]...[and] several unpunished murders." The PCA also rejected screenplay drafts in early November 1955 and early November 1957, largely for the reasons listed above, as well as a concern about too much "brutality," but the screenplay was finally accepted on November 25, 1957. The PCA file also reveals that the lyrics to the song "Banana," which is sung in the film by stripper "Forty Nina," had to be changed because the officials deemed that it "could not be delivered without being offensively sex suggestive and vulgar." According to the Wallis Collection, the song "Trouble" was originally titled "I'm Evil."
       King Creole, which was Presley's fourth film, was the last picture he made before entering the U.S. Army to serve for two years. Presley, who had been drafted and ordered to report on January 20, 1958, was given a sixty-day deferment in order to shoot the picture, on which Paramount had already spent approximately $350,000 in pre-production costs, according to modern sources. Presley's next film was the 1960 Paramount release G.I. Blues. King Creole received good reviews upon its release, with several critics commending Presley for his growing skill as an actor. The Los Angeles Times reviewer remarked: "...Elvis is the surprise of the day. He delivers his lines with good comic timing, considerable intelligence and even flashes of sensitivity. If he's been studying, it's paying off handsomely." The Daily Variety critic called King Creole "the best film showcase the young singer has yet had," a sentiment widely shared by modern sources. According to modern sources, Presley recorded the song "Danny" as the original title song. Although it was not used for the finished film, the song was included on later versions of the film's soundtrack.
       In November 1977, following Presley's death that Aug, Sidney Ginsberg of Rob-Rich Films announced in Variety that he had recently acquired the rights to seven of Presley's films, including King Creole and G.I. Blues, from Viacom, to which Wallis had sold them after "all theatrical and subsidiary rights had expired and reverted to the producer." Ginsberg planned a theatrical re-release of the films, beginning with a booking in New York, following by distribution in Nashville, Memphis, New Orleans and Dallas, but play dates have not been confirmed.
       In 1964, Hollywood Reporter noted that Bobby Darin was to star in a remake of the King Creole, which was never produced, while in 1968, Hollywood Reporter noted that Wallis was intending to star Paul Hampton in a new screen version of the novel. Wallis again announced plans to film the novel in April 1976, with the intention of remaining closer to the novel's story line, but again, his project was not produced. In 2002, producers Sean Daniel and Jim Jacks announced their intention to produce a remake of the picture, with a screenplay by Grant Morris, but as of mid-2005, the project had not been put into production.