Charro!

Sporting a beard and a tough demeanor, Elvis Presley stars as Jess Wade in Charro! an offbeat western that features no musical numbers. The minimal storyline finds Wade, a reformed badman, pitted against the members of his old gang. The gang is now led by Vince Hackett, played by character actor Victor French, who takes delight in terrorizing a small Mexican town.

The gang has stolen from the town a gold-plated cannon that was used by Emperor Maximilian in his ill-fated fight against popular Mexican leader Benito Juarez. The gang’s motive is to force a ransom from the town for the cannon, but the gang also uses the cannon to hold the townspeople at bay. Only Wade can save the people from his former gang. European star Ina Balin costars as Tracy Winters, a dance hall hostess in love with Wade.

Elvis in Charro!
Advertising emphasized that Charro!
represented a radical departure for Elvis.

Behind the Scenes of Charro!

With its gritty look, violent antihero, and cynical point of view, Charro! was obviously patterned after the grim Italian westerns of the 1960s. Elvis’ character, Jess Wade, is costumed similarly to Clint Eastwood’s notorious "Man with No Name" from Sergio Leone’s Italian westerns.

Both wore a scruffy beard and dust-covered western garb, and both kept a well-worn cigar in their mouths. The music in Charro! was scored by Hugo Montenegro, who was responsible for the memorable score of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Unfortunately, director Charles Marquis Warren was no match for Sergio Leone, and Charro! suffers from poor production values.

At the time, much was made about the absence of songs in the film, as though that fact proved Charro! was a serious effort. Advertisements for the film declared Charro! featured "a different kind of role...a different kind of man." Elvis granted more interviews and generated more publicity for Charro! than he had for any film in a long time. One interview quoted him as saying, "Charro! is the first movie I ever made without singing a song. I play a gunfighter, and I just couldn’t see a singing gunfighter." Eventually, Elvis did agree to sing the title tune, but there are no songs within the body of the film.

Charro! was filmed in the late summer of 1968 after Elvis’ comeback special had been shot for television, though the special would not air until December. Elvis seemed to have taken stock of his career that year: He recorded music that was not merely fodder for soundtrack albums, and he starred in a prestigious television special. Perhaps Elvis was hoping to upgrade his acting career as well by appearing in a completely different type of film. Unfortunately, the film was a dismal critical failure; much of the blame was placed at the feet of director Charles Marquis Warren.

Warren had been a writer, director, and producer for several western television series during the 1960s. Though he had not worked in the cinema since the 1950s, he chose to produce, direct, and write the screenplay for Charro!

Elvis seems to have gotten along well with Warren despite an incident that occurred on the set. One morning, Elvis was practicing his quick draw for an upcoming scene. Not realizing one of the guns was loaded with blanks, Elvis accidentally fired a gun into Warren’s face at a range of one yard.

Luckily, the gun had only a quarter-load blank charge, and the director received only minor powder burns and cracked glasses. After receiving first aid on the set, Warren returned to direct that day. According to witnesses, Elvis was much more upset than Warren about the accident, so Warren began joking with him. "Well, at least now I know what you think of your director," he kidded.

Fewer shenanigans involving Elvis and his buddy-bodyguards were reported from the set of Charro! than was typical for a Presley film. Many of the film’s crew and some members of the Memphis Mafia grew beards to match Elvis’ while the film was in production. Even Colonel Parker grew a beard, but he chose to shave his when he returned home to his wife, Marie.

Cast of Charro!
Character
Actor
Jess Wade Elvis Presley
Tracy Winters
Ina Balin
Vince Hackett
Victor French
Marcie
Lynn Kellogg
Sara Ramsey
Barbara Werle
Billy Roy Hackett
Solomon Sturges
Opie Keetch
Paul Brinegar
Gunner
James Sikking
Heff
Harry Landers
Lieutenant Rivera
Tony Young
Sheriff Dan Ramsey
James Almanzar
Mody
Charles H. Gray
Lige
Rodd Redwing
Martin Tilford
Garry Walberg
Gabe
Duane Grey
Henry Carter
J. Edward McKinley
Jerome Selby
John Pickard
Will Joslyn
Robert Luster
Christa
Christa Lang
Mexican Peon
Charlie Hodge

Songs Featured in Charro!

  • Charro

Credits for Charro!

  • National General Pictures
  • Produced by Harry Caplan and Charles Marquis Warren
  • Directed by Charles Marquis Warren
  • Screenplay by Charles Marquis Warren
  • Based on a story by Frederic Louis Fox
  • Photographed in Technicolor and Panavision by Ellsworth Fredericks
  • Music by Hugo Montenegro
  • Released March 13, 1969

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