Cast & Crew
One morning in New Orleans' French Quarter, Danny Fisher quarrels with his sister Mimi about their father, whom Danny considers a weakling and blames for their economic straits. When Mimi chides Danny about his job as a janitor in a strip club, Danny retorts that one man in the family has to work. Danny and Mimi resolve not to argue, however, as Danny is to graduate high school that day, an eagerly anticipated event because he was held back the previous year. Danny then goes to the Blue Shade Club, owned by gangster Maxie Fields, to clean and winds up rescuing Ronnie, Maxie's mistress, from two violent men whom Maxie had ordered Ronnie to "entertain." After climbing into a taxi, the drunken Ronnie insists on a kiss before Danny leaves, an incident witnessed by several students in front of the school. When one boy taunts Danny, the quick-tempered Danny slugs him and is sent to Mr. Evans, the principal. Mrs. Pearson, the teacher who held back Danny the previous year, is angered by his fighting and refuses to let him graduate. Evans tries to convince Danny to return to school the following year, but Danny explains that he must work. Danny also relates that after his mother's death three years earlier, his father sank into a depression, lost his drugstore and has been unable to hold a job. As Danny walks home, he is attacked by Shark, the older brother of the boy he hit, and Shark's minions, Dummy and Sal. Danny quickly disarms Shark, and the older boy, admiring the way Danny fights, invites him to join them for an upcoming job. Danny demurs and goes home, where Mr. Fisher assures him that he is proud of him, even though he has heard about his dismissal. Fisher promises Danny that he will get the job for which he is interviewing the next day and tries to make him promise that while he works, Danny will attend school, but Danny rejects his proposition. The next day, Danny returns to Shark's hangout and agrees to help them rob the neighborhood five and dime. Guitar in hand, Danny sings in the store and distracts the clerks and patrons while Shark and his men pilfer a large quantity of loot. Clerk Nellie spots the shoplifters and deduces that Danny is in on the scheme, but does not alert the manager because she is attracted to Danny. Meanwhile, Fisher goes to the pharmacy about the job, and after begging for a chance, is hired by pharmacist Primont. That night, at the Blue Shade, Danny incurs Maxie's wrath by his attentions to Ronnie, who states that she had heard the young man sing once and compliments his voice. Hoping to embarrass Danny, Maxie forces him to sing, but Danny wows the crowd with a dynamic performance. Charlie Le Grand, the owner of the King Creole nightclub, is impressed and offers Danny a job, but Danny, riled by the situation, leaves when Charlie and Maxie begin threatening each other over who will control Danny. Danny goes to pick up Nellie after she gets off work and, mistakenly assuming that she "knows the score" because she obviously likes him so much, takes her to a hotel. Nellie's confusion shames Danny, and after apologizing, he walks her home. In the morning, Danny goes to the pharmacy to wish his father good luck, and is revolted by Fisher's subservience to the overbearing Primont. Danny then approaches Charlie about the singing job and warns that he will have to convince his father to allow him to work. Charlie comes to dinner that night, and although Fisher remains adamant that Danny should not work, Charlie and Mimi begin a romance. After another argument with his father, Danny begins singing at the King Creole and is a big hit. Danny also dates Nellie, although he advises her not to fall in love with him, as he is not ready to settle down. Danny's fame grows throughout the French Quarter but when he goes to the pharmacy to reconcile with his father, he witnesses Primont humiliate Fisher again. As he is walking away, Shark, who now works for Maxie, insists that Danny accompany him to Maxie's. When Danny refuses, Shark offers to help with Primont. Danny agrees and goes to Maxie's apartment, where Maxie urges him to return to the Blue Shade. Danny storms out in disgust at Maxie's crude treatment of Ronnie, and so Maxie urges Shark to get something with which he can blackmail Danny. That night, Shark plans to rob Primont as he goes to the bank, but Danny, regretting his instigation of the crime, attempts to stop him. Shark talks Danny into letting him proceed, and Danny watches from a distance as Shark and Sal beat up Fisher, who is wearing Primont's coat and hat while running the errand for him. Danny is heartbroken when he learns of his father's condition, especially when he requires an expensive operation and Maxie sends the needed, specialized physician. A month later, Danny, still at the King Creole, has been attempting to repay Maxie for the physician's services, and anticipates his father's return from the hospital. Maxie again sends for Danny but when Danny arrives, he finds Maxie passed out and Ronnie drunk. Ronnie informs Danny that Maxie has ordered her to "befriend" Danny, but Danny refuses to play along, even though Ronnie warns him that Maxie will punish her if she fails. Danny and Ronnie are interrupted by a revived Maxie, who threatens to reveal to Fisher his son's involvement in his beating if Danny does not return to the Blue Shade. Danny performs one last show at Charlie's then prepares to leave, telling Charlie and Mimi only that he received a better offer from Maxie. The next day, Danny is warned by Dummy that Fisher is with Maxie. At Maxie's, Fisher is attempting to persuade the gangster to release Danny when he recognizes Shark, and Maxie sadistically reveals Danny's part in the attack on him. Danny arrives as his father is exiting and, seeing the look on his face, rushes to Maxie's in a rage. Danny and Maxie engage in a fierce fistfight, with Danny leaving after he knocks out Maxie. Danny is then pursued by Shark and Sal and is injured in their subsequent brawl, although he manages to escape. Ronnie takes Danny to a remote shack, and after a few days, Danny recovers. The couple is enjoying a quiet day together when Dummy and Maxie arrive, and Maxie shoots Ronnie. After Maxie misses Danny, however, Dummy struggles with Maxie for the gun and kills Maxie. Ronnie then dies in Danny's arms, and later, Danny returns to the King Creole. As Danny sings before a packed house, which includes Mimi, Charlie and Nellie, he is gratified to see his father enter and smile at him.
Walter Anthony Merrill
D. Beit Jr.
John A. Anderson
Roy C. Bennett
Richard A. Blaydon
R. D. Cook
C. Kenneth Deland
John P Fulton
Michael Vincente Gazzo
William W. Gray
Joseph H. Hazen
Joseph Macmillan Johnson
D. Michael Moore
Col. Tom Parker
Based on the Harold Robbins novel A Stone for Danny Fisher, King Creole tells the story of a rebellious and complicated youth named Danny who is pulled in many directions. He struggles between loyalty for his often-disappointed father, his desire to sing rather than go to school and the need to survive in the rough and tumble corner of his New Orleans' world. Fisher also has a complicated love life and is pulled in two directions; on one side is his virtuous soda fountain crush, Nellie (Dolores Hart), and on the other is Ronnie (Carolyn Jones), a hard-drinking gangster moll. It's a dark, complex story and one that showcased Presley's emerging skill as a serious actor, much to the surprise of critics. Paul Dehn, film critic for the News Chronicle, a British daily, was initially a harsh critic of Elvis but said of King Creole: "Mr. Presley has a new admirer me!....(He) has suddenly learned to act very well indeed....which he does with new skill, a new restraint and a new charm....His very singing has actually improved with his other attainments."
In addition, the film's musical numbers stand on their own and make sense in the context of the story rather than appearing as poorly integrated musical interludes in the later Elvis vehicles. When Danny Fisher performs at the King Creole, it's easy to see why the crowds are coming to see him. Backed by his real-life band, with Scotty Moore on guitar and the Jordanaires providing backing vocals, Elvis performs with more abandon and seeming spontaneity then in many of his other films. As noted by Dehn, his voice during this period is especially impressive.
Many Elvis biographers divide his career into pre- and post-Army phases, with some of the entertainer's happiest personal days and best films coming before his time as an enlisted man. King Creole represents the closing chapter of the pre-Army period. Elvis' call to duty, however, nearly derailed the production schedule, but Paramount intervened. When Elvis was told that he needed to report for induction on January 20, 1958, the studio, which wanted to begin shooting that day, knew it would be out $350,000 if their star left the picture before March. Frank Freeman, studio production chief, sent a letter to the Memphis draft board asking for an eight-week extension of his report date. The draft board said they'd consider it if Elvis wrote them himself, which he did, and the extension was granted.
Unlike so many of the post-Army Elvis vehicles, King Creole allows Elvis to play a believable character - one with human flaws, strengths and natural talent. He treats the good girl like a tramp and the bad girl like high society. He tries to graduate twice and fails; tries to help his father and nearly has him killed. Nearly everything and everyone that Danny Fisher touches in this film disintegrates, at least temporarily. He's the sort of working class character it would be hard to imagine Presley playing in his later movies.
King Creole brought together a pool of impressive talent, including director Michael Curtiz (born Mihaly Kertesz in then-Austria-Hungary), who helmed such titles as Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), Casablanca (1942) and Mildred Pierce (1945). Although King Creole was shot just a few years before his death at the age of 74, much of the style that marked Curtiz's apex is still intact, including the heavy noir aspect of King Creole, both in its telling and its look.
Carolyn Jones (Ronnie) went on to receive great fame on television in her role as Morticia in The Addams Family (1964). She gives a tragic performance as the kept woman of mobster Maxie Fields, played by Walter Matthau, who delivers a notably sinister performance that is far removed from his usual comic persona. Dolores Hart, the chaste but willing-to-learn Nellie, gave up her career in the mid-sixties to become a nun.
King Creole was in good company with the other youth films of the era - Blackboard Jungle (1955) and Rebel Without a Cause (1955) - with a main character caught between an uncertain future and the day-to-day struggle to survive. King Creole also brought together two individuals who had worked together in Blackboard Jungle: Vic Morrow (Shark), who made his debut in that film, and cinematographer Russell Harlan (Run Silent, Run Deep (1958), To Kill a Mockingbird (1962).
Producer: Hal B. Wallis
Director: Michael Curtiz
Screenplay: Herbert Baker, Michael Vincent Gazzo; Harold Robbins (novel "A Stone for Danny Fisher")
Cinematography: Russell Harlan
Art Direction: Joseph MacMillan Johnson, Hal Pereira
Music: Walter Scharf
Cast: Elvis Presley (Danny Fisher), Carolyn Jones (Ronnie), Walter Matthau (Maxie Fields), Dolores Hart (Nellie), Dean Jagger (Mr. Fisher), Liliane Montevecchi (Forty Nina), Vic Morrow (Shark), Paul Stewart (Charlie LeGrand), Jan Shepard (Mimi Fisher), Brian Hutton (Sal), Jack Grinnage (Dummy), Dick Winslow (Eddie Burton), Raymond Bailey (Mr. Evans), Gavin Gordon (Mr. Primont, Druggist).
BW-116m. Letterboxed. Closed Captioning.
by Emily Soares
Maybe we'll meet some place by accident.- Ronnie
Will you tell me where you think the accident will take place and I'll make sure I'm there.- Danny Fisher
You keep speaking of Danny having a profession. Singing is a profession. Well alright, so he's starting in the sewer. Sewers can't be ignored. They run under the best cities. And some of them lead to the fanciest plumbing at the Ritz.- Charlie LeGrand
What room is the party in?- Danny Fisher
I beg your pardon, what party?- Hotel Desk Clerk
You know, the PARTY the fellas are having!- Danny Fisher
Oh! Oh! It's up in room #205.- Hotel Desk Clerk
Elvis Presley got a 60-day extension from his draft board to finish filming this movie before he was inducted into the U.S. Army.
'James Dean' was at one point in the running for the role that, several years later, would be played by Elvis.
Originally titled A Stone for Danny Fisher, Elvis recorded a song called "Danny" which was scrapped when the title was changed. Elvis' recording wouldn't be released for 20 years.
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.
Released in United States October 1996
Released in United States Summer June 1958
Released in United States Summer June 1958
Released in United States October 1996 (Shown in New York City (American Museum of the Moving Image) as part of program "Hollywood Independents: Wallis-Hazen Productions" October 12-27, 1996.)