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Elvis Presley Movies


King Creole
Elvis Presley received the best reviews of his career with his portrayal of Danny Fisher in King Creole, a musical drama set in New Orleans. Danny is dissatisfied with the financial situation of his poverty-stricken family and blames his father for their problems. He sweeps up at a nightclub to earn extra money -- a job that places the impressionable young man in the company of some shady characters. An encounter with Ronnie, a local gangster’s moll portrayed by Carolyn Jones, results in Danny’s expulsion from high school. On the job that night at the club, Danny runs into Ronnie and gangster Maxie Fields, played by Walter Matthau, who insist that Danny sing a song.

Danny’s natural talent attracts the attention of the owner of the King Creole night spot, who offers him a job. Danny is at a crossroads. He is torn between the love of good girl Nellie, played by Dolores Hart, and his attraction to the ill-fated Ronnie. Danny is also torn between his desire for a singing career and the temptation to join a street gang. A violent altercation with the gang’s leader, played by Vic Morrow, leaves Danny with a serious knife wound. After Ronnie nurses him back to health, a jealous Maxie shoots her in cold blood. Maxie in turn is shot by a gang member Danny had once befriended. Danny returns to singing at the King Creole, reconciled with his family and with Nellie.

Elvis in King Creole
Elvis Presley as Danny Fisher,
performing at the King Creole.

Behind the Scenes of King Creole

Generally considered Elvis’ best narrative film, King Creole benefited from the talents of several Hollywood notables. Producer Hal Wallis chose one of his closest associates, the well-respected Michael Curtiz, to direct the film. Best known as the director of Casablanca, Curtiz was an expert craftsman known for his deft handling of a wide variety of film genres during his 30-year career.

The tight control over the many twists and subplots of King Creole reflects Curtiz’s expertise. Other Hollywood veterans who made up the crew included cinematographer Russell Harlan, who photographed the film in a dark, moody lighting style that captured the seedy but seductive atmosphere of the French Quarter. The level of experience that Wallis, Curtiz, and Harlan brought to the production of King Creole would never be matched in another Presley feature.

Elvis’ supporting cast represented some of the finest Hollywood actors of the 1950s. Carolyn Jones, who appeared as Ronnie, had received an Oscar nomination the previous year for her brief but electrifying performance in The Bachelor Party. Such notable character actors as Paul Stewart (the butler in Citizen Kane), Dean Jagger (the retired general in White Christmas), and Vic Morrow (the juvenile delinquent in The Blackboard Jungle) helped maintain a high caliber of acting; thus, any rough edges in Elvis’ performance would go unnoticed. Though relatively unknown in 1958, Walter Matthau would go on to star in such classic comedies as The Odd Couple and The Sunshine Boys.

While on location in New Orleans, the crowds of curious onlookers and excited fans were so large that Wallis had to arrange for tighter security. The entire top floor of the Roosevelt Hotel was booked for the film’s cast. Pinkerton guards patrolled the floor, the elevators, and the staircase to keep overzealous fans from Elvis. As an added precaution, Wallis insisted that the elevator should not be allowed to run to the top floor to prevent any outsiders from getting onto Elvis’s floor. Simply returning to his hotel room at the end of the day proved difficult for Elvis because there were always large crowds waiting for him in the lobby. To avoid the crowds, Elvis entered an adjacent building, climbed out a window, crossed the roof, and entered his hotel via the fire escape.

In his autobiography, Wallis recalled a particularly sad moment for Elvis. Eager to try some of New Orleans’ famous cuisine, Elvis was disappointed to learn he could not dine at the legendary Antoine’s because no one could guarantee crowd control. During his stay in New Orleans, Elvis ordered room service. This isolation was part of the price Elvis paid for stardom, and by this point, it had begun to affect his lifestyle.

Cast of King Creole
Character
Actor
Danny FisherElvis Presley
RonnieCarolyn Jones
NellieDolores Hart
Mr. FisherDean Jagger
“Forty” NinaLiliane Montevecchi
Maxie FieldsWalter Matthau
Mimi FisherJan Shepard
Charlie LeGrandPaul Stewart
SharkVic Morrow
SalBrian Hutton
DummyJack Grinnage
Eddie BurtonDick Winslow
Mr. EvansRaymond Bailey
Mr. PrimontGavin Gordon
RalphVal Avery
Dr. PatrickAlexander Lockwood
Dr. Michael CabotSam Buffington
Hotel ClerkNed Glass
DoormanCandy Candido
Street VendorKitty White

Songs Featured in King Creole

  • Crawfish
  • Steadfast, Loyal and True
  • Lover Doll
  • Trouble
  • Dixieland Rock
  • Young Dreams
  • New Orleans
  • Hard Headed Woman
  • King Creole
  • Don’t Ask Me Why
  • As Long as I Have You
  • Turtles, Berries and Gumbo (sung by street vendors)
  • Banana (sung by Montevecchi’s character)

Credits for King Creole

  • Paramount Pictures
  • Produced by Hal B. Wallis
  • Directed by Michael Curtiz
  • Screenplay by Herbert Baker and Michael Vincente Gazzo
  • Based on the novel A Ston­e for Danny Fisher by Harold Robbins
  • Photographed by Russell Harlan
  • Music by Walter Scharf
  • Vocal accompaniment by The Jordanaires
  • Choreography by Charles O’Curran
  • Released July 2, 1958

To learn more about Elvis Presley, see: