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Elvis Presley Movies

Kissin' Cousins

Elvis Presley plays a dual role in Kissin’ Cousins, an extremely low-budget musical comedy set in the hills of Tennessee but mostly shot on Hollywood sets. As Air Force officer Josh Morgan, a dark-haired Elvis plays a responsible military man; as blond-haired Jodie Tatum, he appears as a girl-chasin’, guntotin’ mountain Romeo. Josh is assigned the task of persuading the Tatums, his distant relatives on his mother’s side, to sell their land for use as a missile site.

When he visits the Tatums, Josh runs into his blond-haired double as well as two beautiful country cousins, Azalea and Selena. The two girls, played by Yvonne Craig and Pam Austin respectively, both vie for Josh’s affections. Josh eventually chooses Azalea but not before pairing off Selena with his best friend. In the meantime, Jodie takes up with Midge, a beautiful but fiery WAG played by Cynthia Pepper. Josh persuades Pappy Tatum to sell one side of his mountain to the government as long as the military does not interfere with Pappy’s moonshining on the other side.

Elvis in Kissin' Cousins
Sam Katzman’s films were long on
corny musical numbers hut short
on production values.

Behind the Scenes of Kissin’ Cousins

Kissin’ Cousins, produced by Sam Katzman, is consistently singled out as Elvis’s worst film. Katzman had a notorious reputation for churning out low-budget films on short schedules. Estimates on how long it took to shoot Kissin’ Cousins vary from source to source, but all claim it was less than three weeks. The film was budgeted at $800,000, compared with the $4 million budget of Blue Hawaii.

To help control expenses, the songs were written in assembly-line fashion. Katzman decided that since the film had a “country” theme, the songs should be recorded in Nashville rather than Hollywood, where all Elvis’s previous soundtrack albums had been recorded. However, these mediocre tunes were only some songwriting hack’s misguided interpretation of what country-and-western music was like. The eight songs in the film, including "Barefoot Ballad," "Pappy, Won’t You Please Come Home," and the title tune, sounded nothing like the country music of the era.

The few exterior shots for the film were done at Big Bear Lake in California. When the location shooting was finished, Elvis was involved in what could have been a fatal accident. While driving down the mountain from Big Bear Lake in a mobile home, Elvis was shocked when the brakes on the vehicle completely gave out. A car carrying some of the film crew was traveling ahead of the huge vehicle lumbering down the mountain. The road was too narrow for Elvis to pass the car, and a sheer drop on one side made the speed they were traveling at quite dangerous. Elvis had to use the gears to maneuver down the mountain, while the car managed to stay just ahead of them. When the mobile home reached the bottom of the mountain, Elvis kept the vehicle running until it eventually slowed to a stop. Had Elvis not been such a competent driver, Kissin’ Cousins would have been his legacy to his fans.

Kissin’ Cousins marked a change in approach toward making Elvis’ films. It seemed to set a pattern in which the shooting schedules grew shorter and the budgets got lower. Some argue that Colonel Parker realized that Elvis’ popularity was starting to wane, so he began seeking out producers who could lower production costs, as well as seeking out resorts and hotels that would allow the casts and crews to stay for free. There is no actual proof of this. Perhaps the reverse was true. The decline in production values accompanying lower budgets and shorter schedules could have contributed to the decline in box-office receipts.

Cast of Kissin' Cousins
Josh Morgan Elvis Presley
Jodie Tatum
Elvis Presley
Pappy Tatum
Arthur O’Connell
Ma Tatum
Glenda Farrell
Capt. Robert Jason SalboJack Albertson
Selena Tatum
Pam Austin
Azalea Tatum
Yvonne Craig
Cpl. Midge RileyCynthia Pepper
Gen. Alvin Donford Donald Woods
M. Sgt. William George BaileyTommy Farrell
Beverly Powers
Dixie Cate
Hortense Petra
Gen. Donford's Aide
Robert Stone
Gen. Sam Kruger
Robert Carson
Joe Esposito
Hairy Willie
W.J. (Sailor) Vincent
Joan Staley
Lonni Lees

Songs Featured in Kissin’ Cousins

  • Kissin’ Cousins
  • Smokey Mountain Boy
  • One Boy, Two Little Girls
  • Catchin’ on Fast
  • Tender Feeling
  • Barefoot Ballad
  • Once Is Enough
  • Kissin’ Cousins (reprise)
  • Pappy, Won’t You Please Come Home (sung by Farrell’s character)

Credits for Kissin’ Cousins

  • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
  • Produced by Sam Katzman
  • Directed by Gene Nelson
  • Screenplay by Gerald Drayson Adams and Gene Nelson
  • Photographed in Metrocolor and Panavision by Ellis W. Carter
  • Music by Fred Karger
  • Released March 6, 1964

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