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Elvis Presley Movies

Girl Happy

To take advantage of the popularity among college students of the Ft. Lauderdale Easter vacation, producer Joe Pasternak put together Girl Happy, a youth-oriented flick combining Elvis Presley, Ft. Lauderdale, bikini-clad girls, and wacky dance crazes. Elvis stars as struggling pop singer Rusty Wells, whose musical combo works for a tough Chicago nightclub owner known as Big Frank.

Big Frank’s big weakness is his only daughter Valerie, who insists on spending her Easter vacation in sunny, sinful Ft. Lauderdale. Frank sends Rusty and his friends to Florida to keep an eye on Valerie without her knowing about it. Rusty attempts to pursue a few college coeds of his own, but he is constantly interrupted by the need to rescue Valerie from various Ft. Lauderdale loverboys. Naturally, Valerie, played by Shelley Fabares in her first Elvis Presley musical, falls in love with the smooth-talking Rusty.

Elvis in Girl Happy
Girl Happy remained on Billboard’s
Top LPs chart far 31 weeks, peaking
at number eight.

Behind the Scenes of Girl Happy

After working on several musical vehicles back-to-back, Elvis began to tire of the same type of role over and over. He also complained of the endless succession of mediocre pop tunes that filled each soundtrack. Sensing his disillusionment, director Boris Sagal took Elvis aside and urged him to stop his grueling film schedule. Sagal suggested that Elvis take time off to study acting in New York, perhaps at the acclaimed Actors Studio or the famous Neighborhood Playhouse.

The director supposedly told Elvis, "Every actor studies his trade, even those as good as Marlon Brando." Elvis agreed, admitting that he looked forward to the day when he could do a film without any music. But Girl Happy would not be that film. This lively but formulaic spring vacation comedy contained 11 songs for Elvis -- about average for a Presley picture.

Girl Happy featured some familiar faces from other youth-oriented films, including Joby Baker, Jimmy Hawkins, and Gary Crosby as Elvis’ wacky musical trio. Of the three actors, only Crosby (the son of Bing Crosby) had any musical talent.

The film also costarred television actress Shelley Fabares, whose popularity with audiences was undoubtedly the result of her role as the eldest daughter on "The Donna Reed Show." No stranger to the pop music scene, she had recorded "Johnny Angel," a number-one hit in 1962. Her role opposite Elvis in Girl Happy proved quite successful, and she costarred in two subsequent Presley films, Spinout and Clambake. Elvis later declared her to be his favorite costar.

Of the dozen or so tunes in Girl Happy, two are particularly memorable -- the low-down and bluesy "Wolf Call" and the easy-sounding ballad "Puppet on a String." One song in the film is frequently mentioned as one of the worst tunes ever recorded by Elvis, though he should not have to shoulder the blame. "Do the Clam" was written as accompaniment for a dance called the clam that was specially created for the film by choreographer David Winters.

Winters, the dance director for the rock ‘n’ roll TV program "Hullabaloo," had also choreographed Viva Las Vegas. He was quite familiar with modern music, but the clam never caught on. During the mid-1960s, several dance crazes swept the nation, including the monkey, the pony, the swim, and countless others. Though the clam was not the success the film’s producers hoped it would be, it nonetheless reflected the era. When put in the context of the times, the song and the dance are not nearly so outrageous.

Cast of Girl Happy
Rusty WellsElvis Presley
Valerie Frank
Shelley Fabares
Mr. Frank
Harold J. Stone
Gary Crosby
Joby Baker
Sunny Daze
Nita Talbot
Deen Shepherd
Mary Ann Mobley
Fabrizio Mioni
Sergeant Benson
Jackie Coogan
Jimmy Hawkins
Brentwood Von DurgenfeldPeter Brooks
Mr. Penchill
John Fiedler
Chris Noel
Lyn Edgington
Gale Gilmore
Pamela Curran
Rusty Allen
Wolf Call O'Brien
Norman Grabowski
Dan Haggerty
Extra in Kit Kat Club
Red West

Songs Featured in Girl Happy

  • Girl Happy
  • Spring Fever
  • Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce
  • Startin’ Tonight
  • Wolf Call
  • Do Not Disturb
  • Cross My Heart and Hope to Die
  • The Meanest Girl in Town
  • Do the Clam
  • Puppet on a String
  • I’ve Got to Find My Baby
  • Read All About It (sung by Talbot’s and Fabares’ characters)

Credits for Girl Happy

  • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
  • Produced by Joe Pasternak
  • Directed by Boris Sagal
  • Screenplay by Harvey Bullock and R.S. Allen
  • Photographed in Metrocolor and Panavision by Philip H. Lathrop
  • Music by George Stoll
  • Music accompaniment by The Jordanaires
  • Released April 14, 1965

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