G.I. Blues


1h 44m 1960

Brief Synopsis

An American stationed in Germany bets that he can make an icy entertainer fall for him.

Film Details

Also Known As
Café Europa, Christmas in Berlin
MPAA Rating
Genre
Romance
Drama
Musical
Release Date
Nov 1960
Premiere Information
New York opening: 4 Nov 1960; London opening: week of 14 Nov 1960; Los Angeles opening: 16 Nov 1960
Production Company
Hal Wallis Productions; Paramount Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Frankfurt,Germany; Rüdesheim,Germany; Walhalla,Germany; Wiesbaden,Germany

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 44m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Synopsis

In West Germany, Specialist Tulsa MacLean, a tank gunner with the U.S. Third Armored (Spearhead) Division, is on maneuvers when he and his buddies, Cookie, Jeeter and Rick, learn that they are being transferred to Frankfurt in the morning. Tulsa, Rick and Cookie, who intend to open a nightclub after they are discharged, have formed a musical group named The Three Blazes and are to make their debut that night at the rathskeller run by Papa Mueller. Although Tulsa would rather spend the evening saying farewell to his German girl friends, Cookie and Rick persuade him to perform, especially as they are being pressured to repay Sgt. McGraw, who loaned them the money to buy their instruments. Most of the audience loves their songs, but when one G.I. interrupts by playing the jukebox, a brawl breaks out and Tulsa is forced to pay Papa for the damages. The next day, Tulsa persuades McGraw to become a partner in the planned nightclub, but McGraw balks at giving him $300 for the club's lease. Desperate for the funds, Tulsa gambles all of their money on a bet lothario Sgt. "Dynamite" Bixby makes with his rival, Turk, that Dynamite will be able to spend the night alone with Lili, a German dancer at the Café Europa in Frankfurt. Although Turk warns Dynamite that Lili is "steam heat outside but an iceberg inside," Dynamite is confident that he can successfully date her. Before the men leave, however, Capt. Hobart tells them that due to the complaints he has received about Dynamite's behavior, the womanizer is being sent to Alaska. During the journey to Frankfurt, the men are discouraged until Cookie persuades a reluctant Tulsa to take Dynamite's place. At the base, while Tulsa is instructing his friends not to interfere with his pursuit of Lili, Rick searches for his former girl friend Marla, who had broken off with him abruptly more than a year earlier. When they reach the Europa, the G.I.s are thrilled by Lili's sultry performance, but worry when she pours beer over a groping admirer. Tulsa's attempts to talk to her are interrupted when Cookie pays the orchestra leader to call Tulsa up to perform a song to impress Lili. The dancer is indeed pleased by Tulsa's talent, but only sits with him afterward to escape her admirer, and when Tulsa escorts her outside, Lili attempts to brush him off. Charmed by his openness, however, Lili takes him to a bistro, where Tulsa again sings for her. Meanwhile, Cookie is romancing Tina, an Italian waitress from the Europa, who takes him to her apartment. Just as Cookie turns out the lights to kiss Tina, Lili and Tulsa walk in. Much to Tulsa and Cookie's chagrin, they learn that Tina and Lili are roommates, thereby jeopardizing Tulsa's chances of spending the night with Lili alone, as stipulated by the wager. The next day, Tulsa tricks McGraw into giving him, Rick and Cookie three-day passes so that they can participate in the Armed Forces Show. Tulsa then travels with Lili on a ferry to a nearby tourist area, and they spend the day watching a puppet show, riding a sky tram and falling in love. During the drive back to Frankfurt, however, Tulsa worries about his deepening feelings for Lili. Meanwhile, back in town, Rick cannot convince Mrs. Hagermann, Marla's landlady, to give him Marla's forwarding address. After he departs, however, Mrs. Hagermann sneaks up to Marla's apartment, where the younger woman declares that she will not see Rick, even though he has no idea that he is the father of her infant son. Shortly after, Cookie purchases an airplane ticket to Milan for Tina on the pretext of wanting to cure her homesickness, while really he wants to insure that Tulsa can be alone with Lili. That evening, while Lili prepares for her performance, Tulsa breaks their date for later, telling her that when a G.I. is in on temporary assignment and meets a girl he likes, one of them always ends up getting hurt. Although she is distraught, Lili admires Tulsa's principles and bids him goodbye. Tulsa then tells Cookie to call off the bet, but when Cookie questions Lili, he learns that she still cares for Tulsa and decides not to follow Tulsa's instructions. As the unknowing Tulsa leaves the club, he receives an urgent message to contact Rick. At Marla's apartment, the reunited couple reveals that Mrs. Hagermann "double-crossed" Marla by telling Rick of her presence in Frankfurt, and upon learning of his son's existence, Rick smoothed over his earlier misunderstanding with Marla. The couple now want to marry in nearby Heidelburg but need Tulsa to baby-sit. Although Tulsa protests that he knows nothing about babies, he remains with the infant, who begins to wail after his parents depart. Flustered, Tulsa breaks the baby's bottle and calls Lili for help. Delighted to hear from him, Lili tells Tulsa to meet her at her apartment, and the eavesdropping Cookie, not knowing what is really happening, assumes that a romantic rendezvous will ensue. Before Cookie can follow Lili, however, Tina arrives and tells him that she missed him too much to go to Milan. While Cookie takes Tina out on the town, three G.I.s station themselves in a coffeehouse opposite Lili's to observe Tulsa's progress. Tulsa and Lili spend the entire night tending to the baby, whom they nickname Tiger, and in the morning, the G.I.s watch as Tulsa kisses Lili goodbye and wins the bet. That afternoon, Lili and Tulsa meet at the rehearsals for the Armed Forces Show. As they reminisce about their pleasant evening with Tiger, they are interrupted by McGraw, who informs Tulsa that Hobart has learned about the bet. The infuriated and heartbroken Lili then refuses to listen to Tulsa's protests that their evening together had nothing to do with the wager, which he had ordered Cookie to cancel. After Lili storms off, she hears Tiger crying and meets Marla, who reveals that Tulsa really was baby-sitting. Lili then explains to Hobart that she and Tulsa were well-chaperoned during the night, and Hobart asks the relieved soldier to baby-sit his own children. When they are alone, Lili accepts Tulsa's marriage proposal and, embracing him, tells him that he may win his bet for real that night. After entertaining the cheering troops, the three friends then race backstage to kiss their waiting sweethearts.

Cast

Elvis Presley

Specialist Tulsa MacLean

Juliet Prowse

Lili

Robert Ivers

Cookie

James Douglas

Rick

Leticia Roman

Tina

Sigrid Maier

Marla

Arch Johnson

Sgt. McGraw

Mickey Knox

Jeeter

John Hudson

Capt. Hobart

Ken Becker

Mac

Jeremy Slate

Turk

Beach Dickerson

Warren

Trent Dolan

Mickey

Carl Crow

Walt

Fred Essler

Papa Mueller

Ronald Starr

Harvey

Erika Peters

Trudy

Ludwig Stossel

Puppet show owner

Robert Boon

German guitarist leader

Edit Angold

Mrs. Hagermann

Dick Winslow

Orchestra leader

Ed Faulkner

Red

Edward Coch

Band leader

Fred Kruger

Herr Klugmann

Torben Meyer

Head waiter

Gene Roth

Businessman

Roy C. Wright

Businessman

Harper Carter

MP

Tip Mcclure

MP

Michael Sargent

MP

Walter Conrad

Chaplain

Edward Stroll

Sgt. "Dynamite" Bixby

William Kaufmann

Kaffeehouse manager

Karin Mann

Waitress

Hannerl Melcher

Strolling girl singer

Elisha Matthew Mott Jr.

Sergeant

Blaine Turner

Bartender

Judith Rawlins

Fritzie

Britta Ekman

Britta, the redhead

Marianna Gaba

Bargirl

Sally Todd

Bargirl

Marlyn Gladstone

Blonde

Liz Dubrock

Brunette

Robert Allison Baker Iii

Puppeteer

Donald G. Sahlin

Puppeteer

F. Alton Wood

Puppeteer

Donald Clark Wise

Rick and Marla's baby, "Tiger"

David Clark Wise

Rick and Marla's baby, "Tiger"

Kerry Ray

Rick and Marla's baby, "Tiger"

Terry Ray

Rick and Marla's baby, "Tiger"

Donald James Rankin

Rick and Marla's baby, "Tiger"

David Paul Rankin

Rick and Marla's baby, "Tiger"

Hugh Manning

Juggler

Bill Couch

Trampoline artist

Charles Couch

Trampoline artist

Waclaw Rekwart

Waiter

Joseph Paz

Doorman

Martin Sperzel

Singer

Wilson Cornell

Soldier

Bess Flowers

Café Europa patron

Trude Wyler

Cecile Rogers

Crew

Gene Acker

Painter

John A. Anderson

Wardrobe man

Jack Barry

Casting

Claire Behnke

Script Supervisor

Edmund Beloin

Writer

Roy C. Bennett

Composer

Hannelore Bierwerth

Loc Secretary

Richard Blaydon

Assistant prod Manager

Sam Comer

Set Decoration

James Cottrell

Props

Roland Dupree

Assistant Dance Director

Farciot Edouart

Process Photography

Sherman Edwards

Composer

John P. Fulton

Special Photography Effects

Henry Garson

Writer

Hubert H. Soldier Graham

Gaffer

James Grant

Assistant Camera

William W. Gray

Assistant prod Manager

Charles Grenzbach

Sound Recording

Joe Grey

Stunts

Loyal Griggs

Director of Photography

Helen Grotke

Child welfare worker

Grace Harris

Wardrobe woman

Joseph H. Hazen

Company

Edith Head

Costumes

Berthold Kampfert

Composer

James Knott

Camera Operator

Harold Lewis

Sound Recording

Joseph J. Lilley

Music scored and Conductor

Warren Low

Editing Supervisor

Mary Louise Lowe

Child welfare worker

Nellie Manley

Hairstyle Supervisor

Herbert Maris

2d unit unit Manager

Robert Mccrillis

Props

Richard Mcwhorter

2d unit prod Manager

Jack Mintz

Dial coach

Hedy Mjorud

Hairdresser

D. Michael Moore

2d unit Director/Assistant Director

Eddie Morse

Casting

Ray Moyer

Set Decoration

Richard Mueller

Technicolor Color Consultant

Paul Nathan

Associate Producer

Charles O'curran

Music numbers staged and choreographed by

Jacques Offenbach

Composer

Col. Tom Parker

Technical Advisor

Captain David S. Parkhurst

Military tech adv

Hal Pereira

Art Director

Sidney Perell

Makeup

Carl Perkins

Composer

Doc Pomus

Composer

William R. Poole

2d Assistant Director

Don Roberts

2d Assistant Director

Barney Schoeffel

Props

Aaron Schroeder

Composer

Dominic Seminerio

Grip

Mort Shuman

Composer

Abner Silver

Composer

Sid Tepper

Composer

The Jordanaires

Vocal accompaniment by

Kay Twomey

Composer

Walter Tyler

Art Director

Sid Wayne

Composer

Ben Weisman

Composer

Wally Westmore

Makeup Supervisor

Frank Winterstein

2d unit Assistant Director

Fred Wise

Composer

Film Details

Also Known As
Café Europa, Christmas in Berlin
MPAA Rating
Genre
Romance
Drama
Musical
Release Date
Nov 1960
Premiere Information
New York opening: 4 Nov 1960; London opening: week of 14 Nov 1960; Los Angeles opening: 16 Nov 1960
Production Company
Hal Wallis Productions; Paramount Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Frankfurt,Germany; Rüdesheim,Germany; Walhalla,Germany; Wiesbaden,Germany

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 44m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Articles

G.I. Blues


In 1958 Elvis Presley became perhaps the most famous peacetime draftee in the history of the U.S. Military. There was much press at the time speculating that his stint could potentially end his career as a fickle public in the States focused on a new fad or trend. Elvis' manager, Col. Tom Parker, shifted into high gear during the two years that Elvis was stationed in Germany, making sure that his boy never left the headlines while planning for a distinct image shift upon his discharge. Always possessed with the subtlety of a flying mallet, Col. Parker ensured that the New Elvis image in motion pictures would have none of the unpredictably of "Deke Rivers" in Loving You (1957), the menace of "Vince Everett" in Jailhouse Rock (1957), or the cynicism of "Danny Fisher" in King Creole (1958). No, his "Tulsa McLean" in G.I. Blues (1960) is something else altogether; there can be no doubt of this by the time the character is singing a novelty song in a children's puppet show or crooning a lullaby while babysitting an infant.

In the film Tulsa MacLean (Presley) is a tank gunner for the Spearhead Division stationed in West Germany. With his buddies Rick (James Douglas) and Cookie (Robert Ivers), Tulsa has formed a band called The Three Blazes; they hope to open a nightclub back home after their stint in the service. The group performs at a restaurant owned by Papa Mueller (Fred Essler) in an effort to pay back money owed to their gruff Sgt. McGraw (Arch Johnson). Later, Tulsa finds that a division-wide bet hinges on his skills as a Romeo after another soldier drops out of the wager; Tulsa is to spend the night with Lili (Juliet Prowse), a dancer at a club in Frankfurt. Unfortunately, Lili has a reputation as an Ice Queen. At the Club Europa, Tulsa impresses Lili with his singing, but when he arrives with her at her apartment, he finds his friend Cookie there with Lili's roommate Tina (Leticia Roman). Tulsa later talks Sgt. McGraw into giving he and his buddies a 3-Day Pass from the base; this gives Tulsa more time to romance Lili on a ferry, a ski lift, and other scenic opportunities.

Elvis' movie contract was held by producer Hal Wallis, and he and Col. Parker were on the same page in regards to taking advantage of the image of the King of Rock 'n' Roll in uniform. In his book Hal Wallis: Producer to the Stars Bernard F. Dick writes, however, that "The Colonel had to be reminded that legally Wallis had the right to produce Elvis' first film after his discharge." A newly-minted four-year contract stipulated four pictures for Wallis but allowed for two outside pictures in the first and fourth years, and one each for the second and third years of the deal.

Elvis was discharged from active duty in March of 1960, but by that time his first post-service feature had been long planned and shooting had already begun. In August of 1959 producer Wallis had accompanied a 2nd Unit to West Germany to film background plates and incidental footage of the U.S. Third Armored Division, where Elvis was stationed. Although tank maneuvers were filmed, both the Army and Paramount were quick to point out that the studio received no special treatment and that Elvis himself was off limits to the camera while he was still on active duty. As Peter Guralnick writes in Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley, "Elvis was clear on his instructions – he was not to participate in filming in any way – but he did go to dinner with Wallis on several occasions and spoke excitedly about the upcoming production. He had put in a lot of time just preparing for this role, he declared, about seventeen months so far, and he thought he would have it just about right by the time he got out in March."

Wallis wanted to cast a German actress for the romantic lead, and tested Ursula Andress for the part. Ultimately, however, he cast professional dancer Juliet Prowse, who had just made her film debut in the Cole Porter adaptation Can-Can (1960). Born in India to South African parents, Prowse was engaged to Can-Can co-star Frank Sinatra during filming of G.I. Blues (although they never married).

Elvis' first order of business upon discharge was an official televised greeting from Sinatra, at the end of his TV Special called "Frank Sinatra's Welcome Home Party for Elvis Presley." Elvis sang a few solo songs and performed a duet with Frank to close the show. Col. Parker secured a $125,000 fee for his client – a record for a guest TV appearance. When aired in May, the show received an incredible 67.7 audience share. Col. Parker did not overlook any detail and the show contained a healthy plug for Elvis' return to movies with G.I. Blues .

Elvis was unhappy with the song selection in G.I. Blues , as well he might be, considering that the eventual soundtrack includes a lullaby and a puppet serenade ("Wooden Heart"). The great songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller had written several memorable rockers for Jailhouse Rock and penned two new songs, "Tulsa's Blues" and "Dog Face" for the new film. Col. Parker rejected the songs prior to production for "business reasons." (Parker insisted that his client receive a cut of all songwriter royalties, and the much-in-demand Leiber and Stoller were no doubt unwilling to give up any portion thereof). The inferior nature of the final song selection was all the more apparent following a scene early in the film when "Blue Suede Shoes" is played on a jukebox. (The version heard in the film is a new 1960 re-recording of the Carl Perkins classic, not Elvis' original cover from 1956).

The anemic soundtrack of G.I. Blues was part of Col. Parker's plan to soften Elvis' rebel image and broaden his boy's core fan base. As Guralnick writes, "the character that Elvis played was at odds not just with the characters that he had played in all his pre-army films but with the very image of rebellion that had always defined him. Far from being an outcast, this Elvis Presley was safe, 'social,' and cheerfully domesticated, a conventionally bland Hollywood stick figure whose principal conflict comes in the ethics of 'dating' a nightclub dancer in order to win a bet." Guralnick goes on to say that this wholesome fare "...did not even begin to suggest the complexity of either the real Elvis or the real world that Elvis had come to know, and his feelings of foolishness and humiliation were not helped by the guys smirking over some of the 'cute' bits he was given to do..."

G.I. Blues was previewed at a number of military bases around the country before it opened officially on November 23, 1960. In the New York Times Bosley Crowther took immediate note of the image-remaking at work and stated that "whatever else the Army has done for Elvis Presley, it has taken that indecent swivel out of his hips and turned him into a good, clean, trustworthy, upstanding American young man...Gone is that rock 'n' roll wriggle, that ludicrously lecherous leer, that precocious country-bumpkin swagger, that unruly mop of oily hair." Crowther practically endorses this new, more conservative Elvis, saying "...his hairbrush haircut is trim and tidy, his G.I. uniform is crisp and neat and his attitude is cheerful. Elvis is now a fellow you can almost stand." But the critic acknowledges that this new Elvis may not be for the better; "It's a question of how those squealing youngsters, Elvis' erstwhile fans, are going to take to a rock 'n' roll singer with honey in his veins instead of blood....It is nice to see that Elvis has become such a fine young man. But he doesn't have to overdo it. There are limits to everything." The reviewer for Variety noted the poor soundtrack, saying "responsibility for penning the 10 tunes is given to no one on Paramount's credit sheet. Considering the quality of these compositions, such anonymity is understandable."

G.I. Blues has its share of sloppiness; the pacing is poor, and the seemingly endless 2nd Unit footage does not mesh with the remainder shot on Hollywood soundstages. Elvis' handlers and producer Wallis intended to give his fans the treat of seeing Elvis on the big screen as a soldier in Germany, and yet the final product provides an unfortunate disconnect. For example, we see Elvis and Prowse walking awkwardly in front of a rear-projected German street scene, then a cut to a long shot of doubles for the two actors entering a building. Regardless, G.I. Blues was a box-office success, ensuring that future Elvis movies would stick to a similar formula. Unfortunately, Elvis Presley was never allowed to return to the musical drama genre of his early pre-service films.

Producer: Hal B. Wallis
Director: Norman Taurog
Screenplay: Edmund Beloin, Henry Garson
Cinematography: Loyal Griggs
Art Direction: Hal Pereira, Walter Tyler
Music: Joseph J. Lilley
Costume Design: Edith Head
Cast: Elvis Presley (Tulsa McLean), Juliet Prowse (Lili), Robert Ivers (Cookie), James Douglas (Rick), Leticia Roman (Tina), Sigrid Maier (Marla), Arch Johnson (Sgt. McGraw), Mickey Knox (Jeeter), John Hudson (Capt. Hobart), Ken Becker (Mac), Jeremy Slate (Turk), Beach Dickerson (Warren), Trent Dolan (Mickey), Carl Crow (Walt), Fred Essler (Papa Mueller), Ron Starr (Harvey), Erika Peters (Trudy), Ludwig Stossel (Owner, puppet show)
C-104m.

by John M. Miller

G.i. Blues

G.I. Blues

In 1958 Elvis Presley became perhaps the most famous peacetime draftee in the history of the U.S. Military. There was much press at the time speculating that his stint could potentially end his career as a fickle public in the States focused on a new fad or trend. Elvis' manager, Col. Tom Parker, shifted into high gear during the two years that Elvis was stationed in Germany, making sure that his boy never left the headlines while planning for a distinct image shift upon his discharge. Always possessed with the subtlety of a flying mallet, Col. Parker ensured that the New Elvis image in motion pictures would have none of the unpredictably of "Deke Rivers" in Loving You (1957), the menace of "Vince Everett" in Jailhouse Rock (1957), or the cynicism of "Danny Fisher" in King Creole (1958). No, his "Tulsa McLean" in G.I. Blues (1960) is something else altogether; there can be no doubt of this by the time the character is singing a novelty song in a children's puppet show or crooning a lullaby while babysitting an infant. In the film Tulsa MacLean (Presley) is a tank gunner for the Spearhead Division stationed in West Germany. With his buddies Rick (James Douglas) and Cookie (Robert Ivers), Tulsa has formed a band called The Three Blazes; they hope to open a nightclub back home after their stint in the service. The group performs at a restaurant owned by Papa Mueller (Fred Essler) in an effort to pay back money owed to their gruff Sgt. McGraw (Arch Johnson). Later, Tulsa finds that a division-wide bet hinges on his skills as a Romeo after another soldier drops out of the wager; Tulsa is to spend the night with Lili (Juliet Prowse), a dancer at a club in Frankfurt. Unfortunately, Lili has a reputation as an Ice Queen. At the Club Europa, Tulsa impresses Lili with his singing, but when he arrives with her at her apartment, he finds his friend Cookie there with Lili's roommate Tina (Leticia Roman). Tulsa later talks Sgt. McGraw into giving he and his buddies a 3-Day Pass from the base; this gives Tulsa more time to romance Lili on a ferry, a ski lift, and other scenic opportunities. Elvis' movie contract was held by producer Hal Wallis, and he and Col. Parker were on the same page in regards to taking advantage of the image of the King of Rock 'n' Roll in uniform. In his book Hal Wallis: Producer to the Stars Bernard F. Dick writes, however, that "The Colonel had to be reminded that legally Wallis had the right to produce Elvis' first film after his discharge." A newly-minted four-year contract stipulated four pictures for Wallis but allowed for two outside pictures in the first and fourth years, and one each for the second and third years of the deal. Elvis was discharged from active duty in March of 1960, but by that time his first post-service feature had been long planned and shooting had already begun. In August of 1959 producer Wallis had accompanied a 2nd Unit to West Germany to film background plates and incidental footage of the U.S. Third Armored Division, where Elvis was stationed. Although tank maneuvers were filmed, both the Army and Paramount were quick to point out that the studio received no special treatment and that Elvis himself was off limits to the camera while he was still on active duty. As Peter Guralnick writes in Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley, "Elvis was clear on his instructions – he was not to participate in filming in any way – but he did go to dinner with Wallis on several occasions and spoke excitedly about the upcoming production. He had put in a lot of time just preparing for this role, he declared, about seventeen months so far, and he thought he would have it just about right by the time he got out in March." Wallis wanted to cast a German actress for the romantic lead, and tested Ursula Andress for the part. Ultimately, however, he cast professional dancer Juliet Prowse, who had just made her film debut in the Cole Porter adaptation Can-Can (1960). Born in India to South African parents, Prowse was engaged to Can-Can co-star Frank Sinatra during filming of G.I. Blues (although they never married). Elvis' first order of business upon discharge was an official televised greeting from Sinatra, at the end of his TV Special called "Frank Sinatra's Welcome Home Party for Elvis Presley." Elvis sang a few solo songs and performed a duet with Frank to close the show. Col. Parker secured a $125,000 fee for his client – a record for a guest TV appearance. When aired in May, the show received an incredible 67.7 audience share. Col. Parker did not overlook any detail and the show contained a healthy plug for Elvis' return to movies with G.I. Blues . Elvis was unhappy with the song selection in G.I. Blues , as well he might be, considering that the eventual soundtrack includes a lullaby and a puppet serenade ("Wooden Heart"). The great songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller had written several memorable rockers for Jailhouse Rock and penned two new songs, "Tulsa's Blues" and "Dog Face" for the new film. Col. Parker rejected the songs prior to production for "business reasons." (Parker insisted that his client receive a cut of all songwriter royalties, and the much-in-demand Leiber and Stoller were no doubt unwilling to give up any portion thereof). The inferior nature of the final song selection was all the more apparent following a scene early in the film when "Blue Suede Shoes" is played on a jukebox. (The version heard in the film is a new 1960 re-recording of the Carl Perkins classic, not Elvis' original cover from 1956). The anemic soundtrack of G.I. Blues was part of Col. Parker's plan to soften Elvis' rebel image and broaden his boy's core fan base. As Guralnick writes, "the character that Elvis played was at odds not just with the characters that he had played in all his pre-army films but with the very image of rebellion that had always defined him. Far from being an outcast, this Elvis Presley was safe, 'social,' and cheerfully domesticated, a conventionally bland Hollywood stick figure whose principal conflict comes in the ethics of 'dating' a nightclub dancer in order to win a bet." Guralnick goes on to say that this wholesome fare "...did not even begin to suggest the complexity of either the real Elvis or the real world that Elvis had come to know, and his feelings of foolishness and humiliation were not helped by the guys smirking over some of the 'cute' bits he was given to do..." G.I. Blues was previewed at a number of military bases around the country before it opened officially on November 23, 1960. In the New York Times Bosley Crowther took immediate note of the image-remaking at work and stated that "whatever else the Army has done for Elvis Presley, it has taken that indecent swivel out of his hips and turned him into a good, clean, trustworthy, upstanding American young man...Gone is that rock 'n' roll wriggle, that ludicrously lecherous leer, that precocious country-bumpkin swagger, that unruly mop of oily hair." Crowther practically endorses this new, more conservative Elvis, saying "...his hairbrush haircut is trim and tidy, his G.I. uniform is crisp and neat and his attitude is cheerful. Elvis is now a fellow you can almost stand." But the critic acknowledges that this new Elvis may not be for the better; "It's a question of how those squealing youngsters, Elvis' erstwhile fans, are going to take to a rock 'n' roll singer with honey in his veins instead of blood....It is nice to see that Elvis has become such a fine young man. But he doesn't have to overdo it. There are limits to everything." The reviewer for Variety noted the poor soundtrack, saying "responsibility for penning the 10 tunes is given to no one on Paramount's credit sheet. Considering the quality of these compositions, such anonymity is understandable." G.I. Blues has its share of sloppiness; the pacing is poor, and the seemingly endless 2nd Unit footage does not mesh with the remainder shot on Hollywood soundstages. Elvis' handlers and producer Wallis intended to give his fans the treat of seeing Elvis on the big screen as a soldier in Germany, and yet the final product provides an unfortunate disconnect. For example, we see Elvis and Prowse walking awkwardly in front of a rear-projected German street scene, then a cut to a long shot of doubles for the two actors entering a building. Regardless, G.I. Blues was a box-office success, ensuring that future Elvis movies would stick to a similar formula. Unfortunately, Elvis Presley was never allowed to return to the musical drama genre of his early pre-service films. Producer: Hal B. Wallis Director: Norman Taurog Screenplay: Edmund Beloin, Henry Garson Cinematography: Loyal Griggs Art Direction: Hal Pereira, Walter Tyler Music: Joseph J. Lilley Costume Design: Edith Head Cast: Elvis Presley (Tulsa McLean), Juliet Prowse (Lili), Robert Ivers (Cookie), James Douglas (Rick), Leticia Roman (Tina), Sigrid Maier (Marla), Arch Johnson (Sgt. McGraw), Mickey Knox (Jeeter), John Hudson (Capt. Hobart), Ken Becker (Mac), Jeremy Slate (Turk), Beach Dickerson (Warren), Trent Dolan (Mickey), Carl Crow (Walt), Fred Essler (Papa Mueller), Ron Starr (Harvey), Erika Peters (Trudy), Ludwig Stossel (Owner, puppet show) C-104m. by John M. Miller

G.I. Blues - GI Blues on DVD


Elvis Presley's homecoming movie after two years in the U.S. Army set the standard for most of his 1960s musicals, in which he invariably played a loverboy wading through a dozen songs and as many hopeful females en route to Miss Right. Here the lucky lady is the lovely Juliet Prowse. A trifle with mostly forgettable music and a pitifully inane story, G.I. Blues will nevertheless be welcomed by the legions of Elvis fans.

Synopsis: Swingin' tank corpsman Tulsa McLean (Elvis Presley) can't wait to finish his military duty in Germany to get back to Oklahoma and his dream of starting a nightclub. The rest of his pals are more interested in pursuing fraüleins, and make a huge bet with a high-scoring wolf that Tulsa can "spend the night" with a particularly forbidding nightclub dancer, Lili (Juliet Prowse). Tulsa reluctantly agrees, but after he maneuvers into scoring position with the beautiful Lili he realizes he's in love and calls off the relationship. More complications ensue, but we know they'll eventually get together.

Elvis became a subject for sociologists early in his career. In the late 50s he got plenty of publicity with the overblown outcry against Rock 'n Roll that resulted in newsreel stunts such as the burning of phonograph records, etc. In truth, most of the country was always firmly behind the lad from Mississippi; the blunting of his career came not from conservatives but from his own handlers, who saw him as a money making phenomenon to be molded into a family-safe commodity. Elvis' peacetime drafting was exploited by the army as a recruitment tool, and G.I. Blues plays as if it were produced as a requirement of his mustering out.

The peacetime Army is pictured as being on a permanent vacation jaunt, with battalions of Yankee tank crews trashing the German countryside during the day and then partying all night. They have plenty of free time and the towns are overflowing with German girls of starlet caliber or better. Near the top of the cast list is Letícia Román of The Girl Who Knew Too Much as well as Erika Peters of Mister Sardonicus and Sally Todd of Frankenstein's Daughter. Their common purpose is to be dated by the American soldiers. Even better, there doesn't seem to be a single German male under the age of 40 or 50 around, leaving the G.I.s with a completely open field. Exactly how far these girls go is discussed mostly through baseball terminology, but it is implied that sex is there for the taking. Prowse is a dazzling beauty with a reputation for not cooperating, with Elvis a nice-guy Oklahoman too gentlemanly to take advantage. Between the frequent songs, one or two inconsequential misunderstandings stretch the show out to feature length.

To be fair, the film offers one married couple (James Douglas and Sigrid Maier) as an example of fraternization that works out the way it's supposed to. And there's the requisite scene where a nosy Captain-chaperone checks to make sure that Elvis and Juliet aren't really shacking up together. But the recruitment message is clear: No college degree? Can't find a girlfriend? The peacetime Army is where You belong, son.

G.I. Blues does have its fringe benefits. Juliet Prowse was famous for her amazing legs and snappy jazz dancing, and her moment in the spotlight is a good one. There is little feel for Germany beyond picture postcard scenery, but Prowse's nightclub act does remind somewhat of cabaret scenes from the then-popular German crime thrillers called krimi. Presley performs one rather charming song, "Wooden Heart," that received plenty of radio play. The uniformed Elvis takes the place of a broken gramophone and sings for a little puppet show in the park. The puppets in the play, of course, are an American soldier and a German girl who wants to kiss him a lot.

A few surprises are hidden in the otherwise colorless cast. Sergio Leone's English version producer Mickey Knox has a couple of lines as a soldier named Jeter, and Ronald Starr of Ride the High Country has an even smaller role. Familiar Roger Corman actor Beach Dickerson is in there too.

A higher percentage of listenable songs can be found in Blue Hawaii, and Viva Las Vegas! has the spectacle of a pneumatic, gyrating Ann-Margret, but G.I. Blues still fares better than most of what was to come for Elvis in the sixties. Empty groaners like Double Trouble and Harum Scarum had little to offer besides Presley in the leading role. In the pre-Army features, he played troubled young men and wild loners in need of taming. Starting with G.I. Blues, Elvis offered an establishment answer to juvenile delinquency, and his character was always a clean-cut guy at heart, no longer perceived as a sexual threat to American values. As the culture changed, Elvis (at least as a movie star) simply became irrelevant.

Paramount's DVD presents G.I. Blues in a beautiful sharp enhanced transfer and great color that makes the ample travelogue footage stand out. Audio tracks are offered in both the original mono and remixed for 5.1 as well. There are no extras.

The bright packaging text gives some historical context for 1960 along with an Elvis trivia question. Blue Suede Shoes is plugged as one of the film's songs even though it plays for only about ten seconds on a jukebox before a brawl starts. Two trailers are mentioned but Savant found only one.

Amazon.com doesn't have a new release date for G.I. Blues, which has been available on DVD since 2000. I believe it is being sent out as a screener now as part of a re-promotion.

For more information about G.I. Blues, visit Paramount Home Entertainment. To order G.I. Blues, go to TCM Shopping.

by Glenn Erickson

G.I. Blues - GI Blues on DVD

Elvis Presley's homecoming movie after two years in the U.S. Army set the standard for most of his 1960s musicals, in which he invariably played a loverboy wading through a dozen songs and as many hopeful females en route to Miss Right. Here the lucky lady is the lovely Juliet Prowse. A trifle with mostly forgettable music and a pitifully inane story, G.I. Blues will nevertheless be welcomed by the legions of Elvis fans. Synopsis: Swingin' tank corpsman Tulsa McLean (Elvis Presley) can't wait to finish his military duty in Germany to get back to Oklahoma and his dream of starting a nightclub. The rest of his pals are more interested in pursuing fraüleins, and make a huge bet with a high-scoring wolf that Tulsa can "spend the night" with a particularly forbidding nightclub dancer, Lili (Juliet Prowse). Tulsa reluctantly agrees, but after he maneuvers into scoring position with the beautiful Lili he realizes he's in love and calls off the relationship. More complications ensue, but we know they'll eventually get together. Elvis became a subject for sociologists early in his career. In the late 50s he got plenty of publicity with the overblown outcry against Rock 'n Roll that resulted in newsreel stunts such as the burning of phonograph records, etc. In truth, most of the country was always firmly behind the lad from Mississippi; the blunting of his career came not from conservatives but from his own handlers, who saw him as a money making phenomenon to be molded into a family-safe commodity. Elvis' peacetime drafting was exploited by the army as a recruitment tool, and G.I. Blues plays as if it were produced as a requirement of his mustering out. The peacetime Army is pictured as being on a permanent vacation jaunt, with battalions of Yankee tank crews trashing the German countryside during the day and then partying all night. They have plenty of free time and the towns are overflowing with German girls of starlet caliber or better. Near the top of the cast list is Letícia Román of The Girl Who Knew Too Much as well as Erika Peters of Mister Sardonicus and Sally Todd of Frankenstein's Daughter. Their common purpose is to be dated by the American soldiers. Even better, there doesn't seem to be a single German male under the age of 40 or 50 around, leaving the G.I.s with a completely open field. Exactly how far these girls go is discussed mostly through baseball terminology, but it is implied that sex is there for the taking. Prowse is a dazzling beauty with a reputation for not cooperating, with Elvis a nice-guy Oklahoman too gentlemanly to take advantage. Between the frequent songs, one or two inconsequential misunderstandings stretch the show out to feature length. To be fair, the film offers one married couple (James Douglas and Sigrid Maier) as an example of fraternization that works out the way it's supposed to. And there's the requisite scene where a nosy Captain-chaperone checks to make sure that Elvis and Juliet aren't really shacking up together. But the recruitment message is clear: No college degree? Can't find a girlfriend? The peacetime Army is where You belong, son. G.I. Blues does have its fringe benefits. Juliet Prowse was famous for her amazing legs and snappy jazz dancing, and her moment in the spotlight is a good one. There is little feel for Germany beyond picture postcard scenery, but Prowse's nightclub act does remind somewhat of cabaret scenes from the then-popular German crime thrillers called krimi. Presley performs one rather charming song, "Wooden Heart," that received plenty of radio play. The uniformed Elvis takes the place of a broken gramophone and sings for a little puppet show in the park. The puppets in the play, of course, are an American soldier and a German girl who wants to kiss him a lot. A few surprises are hidden in the otherwise colorless cast. Sergio Leone's English version producer Mickey Knox has a couple of lines as a soldier named Jeter, and Ronald Starr of Ride the High Country has an even smaller role. Familiar Roger Corman actor Beach Dickerson is in there too. A higher percentage of listenable songs can be found in Blue Hawaii, and Viva Las Vegas! has the spectacle of a pneumatic, gyrating Ann-Margret, but G.I. Blues still fares better than most of what was to come for Elvis in the sixties. Empty groaners like Double Trouble and Harum Scarum had little to offer besides Presley in the leading role. In the pre-Army features, he played troubled young men and wild loners in need of taming. Starting with G.I. Blues, Elvis offered an establishment answer to juvenile delinquency, and his character was always a clean-cut guy at heart, no longer perceived as a sexual threat to American values. As the culture changed, Elvis (at least as a movie star) simply became irrelevant. Paramount's DVD presents G.I. Blues in a beautiful sharp enhanced transfer and great color that makes the ample travelogue footage stand out. Audio tracks are offered in both the original mono and remixed for 5.1 as well. There are no extras. The bright packaging text gives some historical context for 1960 along with an Elvis trivia question. Blue Suede Shoes is plugged as one of the film's songs even though it plays for only about ten seconds on a jukebox before a brawl starts. Two trailers are mentioned but Savant found only one. Amazon.com doesn't have a new release date for G.I. Blues, which has been available on DVD since 2000. I believe it is being sent out as a screener now as part of a re-promotion. For more information about G.I. Blues, visit Paramount Home Entertainment. To order G.I. Blues, go to TCM Shopping. by Glenn Erickson

Quotes

Trivia

The working title for this movie, "Cafe Europa", is also the title by which the movie is known in a number of European countries (Germany and Italy amongst others).

Despite the European locale, all of Presley's scenes were filmed in Hollywood.

Notes

The working titles of this film were Café Europa and Christmas in Berlin. The opening titles end with a written statement noting that the picture was produced with the full cooperation of the U.S. Army and Department of Defense. During the sequence in which a disgruntled G.I. interrupts the performance by "Tulsa MacLean," "Rick" and "Cookie" in the rathskeller, the G.I. states that he wants to listen to "the original" and plays "Blue Suede Shoes," one of Elvis Presley's most popular songs, on the jukebox. At the end of the film, after singing "Didja' Ever" at the Armed Forces Show, Tulsa rushes backstage to kiss "Lili." After embracing her, Tulsa looks directly at the camera and asks, "Didja' ever?" before kissing her again. Several contemporary and modern sources incorrectly list Tulsa's last name as "McCauley" rather than MacLean. The Variety and Daily Variety reviews give a running time of 115 minutes for a October 14, 1960 preview screening of the picture. The Hollywood Reporter review, which appeared on the same day of the others, erroneously listed a running time of 97 minutes.
       The picture marked Presley's return to the screen after a two-year stint in the U.S. Army, most of which he spent in West Germany as a tank gunner in the Third Armored (Spearhead) Division. As noted by contemporary news items, for Presley's first post-military picture, producer Hal Wallis and Presley's longtime advisor, Col. Tom Parker, decided to capitalize on Presley's service by depicting him as a soldier. From 17 August through August 29, 1959, Wallis accompanied a location crew filming scenes in West Germany, where Presley was stationed, although as reported by modern sources, Presley expressly prohibited any filming of him while he was still on active duty. Footage of Presley's battalion was obtained during manuevers and everyday activities. As noted by the film's pressbook, Presley, who achieved the rank of sergeant before his discharge, was "demoted" to specialist fourth class for the picture.
       According to the Hal Wallis papers, located at the AMPAS Library, Michael Curtiz was originally set to direct the picture. It has not been determined why he left the project. In November 1959, Los Angeles Examiner reported that Wallis intended to cast "a native German girl" in the leading role opposite Presley. According to an October 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item, Ursula Andress tested for a role, and the producer's papers reveal that May Britt and Elke Sommer were considered for the role of Lili. A April 20, 1960 entry in Hollywood Reporter's "Rambling Reporter" column asserted that Anna Maria Alberghetti had been set for a role, presumably that of "Tina."
       Other "Rambling Reporter" items noted that Carleton Carpenter had been cast as "Cookie" but was replaced by Robert Ivers. According to the Wallis Papers, Frank Gorshin had been tested for Cookie, and Russ Tamblyn and Johnny Carson were also considered for the role but the filmmakers decided that they needed someone older than Presley who could be a "breezy conniver with the girls" in order for the character to be portrayed successfully. After his discharge from the army and return to the United States in March 1960, Presley traveled to Hollywood, although production on the film could not begin until the 7 March-April 18, 1960 strike by the Screen Actors Guild was settled. According to April 1960 Hollywood Reporter news items, pre-recording of the film's songs was begun on 22 Apr.
       According to news items, three sets of twin boys, ranging from eight to twelve months old, were used to play "Tiger." Studio publicity information stated that director Norman Taurog's thirteen-year-old daughter Priscilla was among the children in the puppet show sequence, but her appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Also unconfirmed is the appearance of Bitsy Mott, one of Presley's security guards, who had been cast in the film as a sergeant reprimanding Presley, according to a June 1960 Hollywood Reporter news item. An October 1960 Cosmopolitan article reported that Juliet Prowse was borrowed from Twentieth Century-Fox for the production, and that during filming, Wallis was so impressed by her performance that he purchased part of her contract. Modern sources include in the cast D. J. Fontana and Scotty Moore, musicians who recorded with Presley for many years.
       The footage shot in Germany was often incorporated into the picture through process and rear-projection shots, which featured the footage in the background, behind the foreground action filmed at the Paramount Studios. Doubles for the main actors had been used on location. According to the Paramount Collection, also located at the AMPAS Library, German location sites included Wiesbaden, Walhalla, Frankfurt and Rüdesheim. While filming on the sky lift in Rüdesheim, director of photography Loyal Griggs fell out of a tram car, plunging thirty feet to the vineyards below, but was not seriously injured.
       According to information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the film briefly encountered censorship difficulties when PCA official Geoffrey I. Shurlock warned Wallis in March 1960 that the story contained elements that were unacceptable. Shurlock specifically referred to the bet between the G.I.s that first "Dynamite," then Tulsa, would be able to "defrost" or "make out" with Lili, as "the meaning is too clearly sexual and therefore much of the subsequent dialogue and situations seem offensively suggestive." Shurlock advised that the dialogue be changed so that the wager would revolve around the fact that the G.I.s could not "date Lili or make her fall in love with them," which would then render the situation acceptable. Shurlock also counseled that it would be necessary to have "Rick express some regret for the fact that he has fathered an illegitimate child."
       In response, associate producer Paul Nathan wrote to the PCA that in light of several recent movies containing "sexual implications," such as "Can-Can and The Fugitive Kind, Wallis did not feel that he should be forced to change the film's storyline. In a meeting with PCA officials on April 27, 1960, Nathan again expressed Wallis' resistance to changing anything in the script, noting that he had "no intention of having Elvis, the idol of the teenagers, engaged in [a sexually charged] relationship with the girl." The PCA emphasized that the reactions of the other soldiers, as scripted, indicated that the object of the wager was seduction rather than romance, but the script and the final film were approved, and the picture was given a Code seal on June 30, 1960. Although some reviews commented that the storyline about an illegitimate child would make the picture inappropriate for younger viewers, the majority of them remarked on the innocuousness of the relationship between Tulsa and Lili.
       Modern sources report that Presley was displeased with the quality of the songs, especially after the songs "Tulsa's Blues" and "Dog Face," written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, were deleted before production began. Most reviews of the film were not impressed by the music, with the Variety review noting that no composer was listed in the studio's official billing sheets, declaring: "Considering the quality of these compositions, such anonymity is understandable." Studio records add that a singing double was used for Prowse in the "Pocketful of Rainbows" number but do not specify who the double was.
       Because the song "Tonight Is So Right for Love" was based on Jacques Offenbach's "Barcarolle" from the opera Tales of Hoffman, which was in the public domain in the United States but not in Europe, the song had to be replaced with another song for the European releases of the film and soundtrack. The song "Tonight's All Right for Love," based on a Johann Strauss melody but otherwise very similar to "Tonight Is So Right for Love," was substituted. According to one modern source, the song "Whistling Blues" was recorded for the film, but no additional information has been found about the composition.
       A November 1960 Daily Variety article reported that the film had been "heartily endorsed by the Pentagon for its depiction of Army life," and was playing "the Army camp circuit prior to its regular theatrical release." According to a Los Angeles Times article, a "benefit preview" of the film was held on November 15, 1960, with the Hemophilia Foundation receiving the proceeds. A "twenty-man platoon of crack enlisted men from the U.S. Army Armor and Desert Training Center" was to attend the preview as a "tribute" to Presley, according to a October 26, 1960 Hollywood Reporter news item.
       G.I. Blues marked the screen debuts of actresses Leticia Roman and Sigrid Maier, and was the only film in which Maier appeared. The picture also featured the last film appearance of longtime character actor Ludwig Stossel (1883-1973), although Stossel appeared in a long-running series of television commercials during the 1960s.
       G.I. Blues was the first in a long collaboration between Taurog and Presley. Taurog directed Presley in eight more films, ending with Live a Little, Love a Little in 1968 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70). Many critics consider G.I. Blues to be the first of the Presley "formula" films, which often featured Presley in a similar characterization as a good-natured but misunderstood charmer, had him interacting with children and presented several new songs.
       The picture, which did smash business at the box office, received mostly positive reviews, with critics applauding Presley's more mature appearance. Several reviews commented on the picture's similarity in plot to other Paramount films that had been based on the 1933 play Sailor, Beware! by Kenyon Nicholson and Charles Robinson, the most recent of which, a Hal Wallis production, was the 1952 film Sailor Beware (see below). Although there is a passing resemblance in the films' plots, G.I. Blues was not based on Nicholson and Robinson's play, nor on any of the earlier films.
       Hollywood Reporter news items noted that, due to G.I. Blues's very successful run in Los Angeles, more theaters were added to the bookings a week after its release in "an unprecedented move," and that the soundtrack album featuring the picture's songs had gone over the "400,000 sales mark" by the end of December 1960.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Fall October 1960

Re-released in United States on Video October 28, 1997

Elvis' first film after returning from military service.

Released in United States Fall October 1960

Re-released in United States on Video October 28, 1997