Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Elvis Presley Movies


Jailhouse Rock

Elvis in Jailhouse Rock
The single "Jailhouse Rock" was number
one on the pop charts for seven weeks.

Jailhouse Rock successfully capitalized on the rebellious side of Elvis Presley’s persona, which was an aspect of his image still making headlines at the time of the film’s release. As the embittered Vince Everett, Elvis portrayed the most volatile, as well as the most exciting, character of his film career.

After accidentally killing a man in a barroom brawl, Vince serves a manslaughter sentence in the state penitentiary, making him cynical and self-centered. While Vince is in prison, former country singer Hunk Houghton, played by character actor Mickey Shaughnessy, takes the young man under his wing and teaches him how to play the guitar. After his release, Vince stumbles onto a hot, new singing style. With the help of record promoter Peggy Van Alden, played by Judy Tyler, he takes the entertainment industry by storm.

Later, Hunk joins Vince’s entourage, which becomes larger as the ambitious young singer claws his way to the top. Unfortunately, Vince leaves Peggy behind, despite her love for him. Attempting to teach the arrogant lad a lesson, Hunk punches Vince in the throat, injuring his vocal cords. A repentant Vince then realizes his love for Peggy, and his voice is miraculously restored.

Behind the Scenes of Jailhouse Rock

If Loving You attempted to present Elvis as a sensitive, misunderstood young man, then Jailhouse Rock was meant to showcase Elvis Presley the rebel. Elvis’ character -- Vince Everett -- is self-centered, overly aggressive toward women, and somewhat greedy. Though Vince exhibits a change of heart during the movie, it is his unruly behavior and defiant attitude that many remember from the film. Nowhere is his brash behavior more evident than in the scene where he recklessly grabs Peggy to kiss her. "How dare you think such cheap tactics work with me," she chides, pushing him away. "Them ain’t tactics, honey, that’s just the beast in me," he drawls in a provocative delivery guaranteed to make every girl in the theater swoon.

Yet, Vince Everett was ultimately just a character that Elvis portrayed on-screen. Elvis’ behind-the-scenes behavior during the production of Jailhouse Rock belied the rebellious attitude of his on-screen persona.

More than once Elvis gallantly came to the rescue of his costars when they were caught in potentially dangerous circumstances. During the scene in which Peggy Van Alden, played by Judy Tyler, was supposed to run out the door of a small nightclub after an angry Vince, the young actress accidentally ran into the plate glass door, thrusting her arm through it. Elvis quickly turned back, caught Judy, and blocked the door before it swung back and hit her again. In another instance, Elvis and a property man were passing by Jennifer Holden’s dressing room when they heard her scream. An electric heater had shorted out, and her room caught on fire. Elvis and the prop man dashed into the dressing room and quickly doused the flames. Elvis carried the panicky starlet to safety.

Elvis and costar in Jailhouse Rock
Elvis snuggles with costar Judy Tyler,
who played Peggy Van Alden

Far from being greedy or selfish, Elvis was known throughout his life for his generosity toward friends, acquaintances, and even complete strangers. After the principle photography on Jailhouse Rock had been completed, Elvis decided to present each member of the crew with a small token of his gratitude. Each of the 250 crew hands received large envelopes inscribed with, "Thanks to the entire cast and crew." Inside each envelope was a personally autographed photo of Elvis, plus a small gift.

Elvis’ sensitivity was exposed to the entire country shortly after the production had wrapped. Elvis was devastated when costar Judy Tyler and Gregory Lafayette, her husband of only a few months, were killed in a gruesome car crash near Billy the Kid, Wyoming. When told of the accident, Elvis broke down and cried. His reaction was disclosed to a reporter who wrote about it for the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

Other papers around the country then picked up the incident. The article revealed a pensive young man, who murmured in an unguarded moment, "I remember the last night I saw them. They were leaving on a trip...All of us boys really loved that girl. She meant a lot to all of us. I don’t believe I can stand to see the movie we made together now..."

Cast of Jailhouse Rock
Character
Actor
Vince EverettElvis Presley
Peggy Van AldenJudy Tyler
Hunk HoughtonMickey Shaughnessy
Mr. ShoresVaughn Taylor
Sherry WilsonJennifer Holden
Teddy TalbotDean Jones
Laury JacksonAnne Neyland
WardenHugh Sanders
Sam BrewsterPercy Helton
Jack LeasePeter Adams
Studio HeadWilliam Forrest
PaymasterDan White
Jake the BartenderGeorge Cisar
DottyRobin Raymond
August Van Alden
Grandon Rhodes
Mrs. Van AldenKatharine Warren
Piano Player
Mike Stoller
Bass PlayerBill Black
DrummerD.J. Fontana

Songs Featured in Jailhouse Rock

  • Young and Beautiful
  • I Want to Be Free
  • Don’t Leave Me Now
  • Treat Me Nice
  • Jailhouse Rock
  • (You're So Square) Baby, I Don’t Care
  • One More Day (sung by Shaughnessy’s character)

Credits for Jailhouse Rock

  • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
  • Produced by Pandro S. Berman
  • Directed by Richard Thorpe
  • Screenplay by Guy Trosper
  • Based on a story by Ned Young
  • Photographed in CinemaScope by Robert Bronner
  • Music by Jeff Alexander
  • Most songs by Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber
  • Released October 17, 1957

To learn more about Elvis Presley, see: