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In Elvis Presley's second film, Loving You (1957), which is closer to an autobiography than any other Elvis film, the rock 'n roll king is depicted as just a humble but extremely talented musician trying to keep a clear head while experiencing overnight success. MGM scrapped this nice guy image in his third outing - Jailhouse Rock (1957) - to create a rebel persona more in line with the James Dean character in Rebel Without a Cause (1955) or Marlon Brando in The Wild One (1954). True to form, Elvis gets slapped with a manslaughter charge and sent to the state penitentiary at the beginning of the film. Although he eventually becomes a singing sensation after making an appearance at his cellmate's prison revue, his rise to fame is not a pretty picture, revealing a darker side to the public performer which is never again explored in his movies.
Of all the Elvis films, Jailhouse Rock just might be his finest song showcase, featuring first rate rock 'n roll numbers by two masters of the form, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The real showstopper is the "Jailhouse Rock" production number, which Elvis choreographed himself, but there are other gems along the way like "(You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care," performed by an outdoor swimming pool, "Treat Me Nice," and "I Want to Be Free." One of Presley's most famous ballads, "Young and Beautiful," (written by Abner Silver and Aaron Schroeder), is also featured here in three different versions, strategically placed throughout the film to show the singer's development.
Tragically, Elvis's co-star Judy Tyler would die in an automobile accident with her husband shortly before the film was released. But several of her scenes with Elvis will live on in the "Hall of Fame for Immortal Movie Quotes", particularly the one where Presley puts the moves on her. "How do you think such cheap tactics would work on me?" Tyler asks, pushing him away. "That ain't cheap tactics honey. That's just the beast in me" is the classic Elvis response.
Producer: Pandro S. Berman, Kathryn Hereford
Director: Richard Thorpe
Screenplay: Nedrick Young (story), Guy Trosper
Cinematography: Robert J. Bronner
Editing: Ralph E. Winters
Art Direction: Randall Duell, William A. Horning
Original music: Roy C. Bennett, Jerry Leiber, Aaron Schroeder, Abner Silver, Mike Stoller, Sid Tepper, Ben Weisman
Cast: Elvis Presley (Vince Everett), Judy Tyler (Peggy Van Alden), Mickey Shaughnessy (Hunk Houghton), Jennifer Holden (Sherry Wilson), Dean Jones (Teddy Talbot), Anne Neyland (Laury Jackson), Vaughn Taylor (Mr. Shores).
BW-97m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. Descriptive Video.
by Jeff Stafford