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Elvis Presley Movies

Frankie and Johnny

Elvis in Frankie and Johnnny
Elvis and Donna Douglas in period
costume in Frankie and Johnny.

A slight change of pace for Elvis Presley, Frankie and Johnny was a lighthearted musical based on the folk song, "Frankie and Johnny." In the original song, the title characters are lovers whose romance goes awry when red-headed Nellie Bly steals Johnny away from Frankie. Frankie gets revenge by shooting Johnny dead. The movie lightens the tone of the tale by adding a few details and changing the downbeat ending.

In the film, the song has been specially written for riverboat performers Frankie and Johnny, played by Donna Douglas and Elvis. Johnny is a gambler whose bad luck changes when dancer Nellie Bly, played by Nancy Kovack, joins the troupe aboard the riverboat. Each night, the three perform the number "Frankie and Johnny" onstage. As Johnny’s interest in Nellie increases, Frankie’s jealousy is piqued. One night, someone loads real bullets into Frankie’s prop gun, and Johnny is shot during the performance. As luck would have it, Johnny is saved by a charm that he wears around his neck.

Behind the Scenes of Frankie and Johnny

One of the few period pieces Elvis starred in during his film career, Frankie and Johnny was set during the Victorian Era and made full use of its colorful costumes and riverboat setting. The reviews were mixed regarding the film: Some critics felt the setting was a welcome change for a Presley picture, while others recognized the same old storyline under the period costumes.

Despite the nay-sayers, the film benefited from the juicy secondary roles played by a seasoned cast of character actors. Harry Morgan, who later gained recognition on the TV series "M*A*S*H," played Cully the piano player. Sue Ane Langdon portrayed Mitzi, the girl who is always edged out in the romance department. It was the type of role that had become Langdon’s specialty. Robert Strauss, the burly villain in many crime dramas, played Blackie, the boss’s stooge. Directed by Frederick de Cordova, who later became the director of "The Tonight Show," the film is notable for its good production values.

Cast of Frankie and Johnny
Elvis Presley
Donna Douglas
Harry Morgan
Sue Ane Langdon
Nellie Bly
Nancy Kovack
Audrey Christie
Robert Strauss
Anthony Eisley
Joyce Jameson
Joe Wilbur
Jerome Cowan
Proprietor of Costume Shop
James Milhollin
Princess Zolita
Naomi Stevens
Henry Corden
Pete the Bartender
Dave Willock
Man on the Street
Richard J. Reeves
George Klein

Songs Featured in Frankie and Johnny

  • Come Along
  • Petunia, the Gardener’s Daughter
  • Chesay
  • What Every Woman Lives For
  • Frankie and Johnny
  • Look Out, Broadway
  • Beginner’s Luck
  • Down by the Riverside/When the Saints Go Marching In
  • Shout It Out
  • Hard Luck
  • Please Don’t Stop Loving Me
  • Everybody Come Aboard

Credits for Frankie and Johnny

  • United Artists
  • Produced by Edward Small
  • Directed by Frederick de Cordova
  • Screenplay by Alex Gottlieb
  • Based on a story by Nat Perrin
  • Photographed in Technicolor by Jacques Marquette
  • Music by Fred Karger
  • Vocal accompaniment by The Jordanaires
  • Released March 31, 1966

To learn more about Elvis Presley, see: