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Re-evaluating G I Blues

Sun Jan 13, 2013 9:05 pm

It appears that G I Blues (Norman Taurog, 1960) gets a hard time these days. The first film that Elvis Presley made after his two-year stint in the army, it is really quite unlike any other film within the Presley canon. It neither fits with the rock n roll musicals of the 1950s, nor with the endless stream of beach movies that Presley made, starting with Blue Hawaii. Instead, it is the nearest Presley got to making a classic Hollywood musical of the style popular during the 1940s and early 1950s. There is relatively little that is “rock n roll” about the film and, in fact, one could quite easily imagine a young Sinatra or Gene Kelly in the title role of a narrative about a soldier who finds himself making a bet that he can’t get together with a dancer, but then regretting the bet as he falls in love with her.

The plot is old hat, and variants of it had been the basis of romantic comedies and musicals for years. The music, meanwhile, does include some rock n roll-light numbers, but the instrumentation within the film always reminds us of the 1940s musicals. Within the film (but not the soundtrack LP) horns and strings are overdubbed on the original Presley studio recordings, presumably to both give them a more adult sound and also to make them palatable to an older, Hollywood musical-style audience. Take the music played over the credits, for example: a swinging instrumental version of the title song. It’s more Nelson Riddle than Elvis Presley. Likewise, the music that Juliet Prowse dances to in the Cafe Europa is jazz and swing-based, with there being nothing rock n roll about it, other than the fact that much of it is built upon phrases from the Presley songs within the film. The adding of horns to the likes of “G I Blues” and “Shoppin’ Around” makes them sit in a weird place musically, and oddly resembles the ill-fated attempt to add a big band sound to “Heartbreak Hotel” on one of Presley’s appearance on the Dorsey Brothers TV show back in 1956.

This is also one of the very few Elvis films to allow the co-star to perform a couple of numbers as well. The casting of Juliet Prowse as Elvis’s love interest was a shrewd move. Her first film had been just six months before the release of G I Blues and had been Can-Can in which she starred alongside Frank Sinatra. She had also appeared on Sinatra’s TV show, and thus she was firmly associated in America with the “old school” of musical and not the new. And yet she had also provoked controversy (and thus linking herself with Presley’s previous rebellious, dangerous persona), when she had danced for Kruschev and he had declared her as “immoral”, and event that made newspaper headlines.

While many Elvis fans refer to the film as the one which started the never-ending series of bland musicals that Elvis made through the 1960s, it seems rather unfair to put the blame on G I Blues instead of the people behind the films that came after. 1960 was the year in which Elvis was marketed to a new and wider audience. His first single after the army, “Stuck on You” was a mellower shuffle sound, similar in style to the earlier “All Shook Up”. The album “Elvis Is Back” contained its fair share of rock n roll and blues, but it also contained some beautiful ballads and a cover of songs by both Johnny Ray and Peggy Lee. Presley also appeared on the Sinatra TV Show, even singing a duet with “The Chairman of the Board” himself. His first full-length gospel album was also released. Alongside all of these, G I Blues was marketed at both the teenaged fans as well as an audience beyond it.

As a film, it still holds up well. Presley shows a knack for comic delivery, and is remarkably charming in the lead role – and there is obvious chemistry between him and Prowse. The script is better than that for most Presley musicals of the 1960s. If the film falls down it is through Taurog’s rather bland direction, especially the unimaginative staging of the musical numbers, which often consist of Presley simply singing into the camera while holding on to his guitar. But these are relatively minor flaws for a film that was quite clearly attempting to do something different: in this case revive the struggling traditional Hollywood musical through Presley. The format was never to be repeated – the next musical, Blue Hawaii, was a beach movie, pure and simple, and one that was all about Elvis from start to finish, with no big-name co-star to detract from Presley himself. There was no big band instrumental over the credits this time, but Elvis singing the title number. There was to be no mistaking, this was an Elvis film and not a Hollywood musical.

Re: Re-evaluating G I Blues

Sun Jan 13, 2013 9:53 pm

Nice review. I believe this movie and its soundtrack are underrated.

Re: Re-evaluating G I Blues

Sun Jan 13, 2013 9:54 pm

I wrote many posts about G.I. Blues movie but I'll do it again: how a waste of time was this conventional, silly movie instead of the real Elvis Presley's story in the army! It could have been another King Creole or even better. If Elvis could play himself in G.I. Blues (the true story of the number one singer of the planet being drafted for 2 years, struglling with all the stress and worries if his carrer wasn't finished and after that making a tremendous comeback in the top of the world) that could be a very realistic and briliant movie. Instead, Hal Wallis made Elvis a joke here-Presley himself disliked very much this travelogue.

Re: Re-evaluating G I Blues

Sun Jan 13, 2013 10:13 pm

The movie is okay.

Considering Elvis' film career as a whole it's one of his best films so fans should rate it higher than they do.

I know people say it was a different Elvis and they like to compare it to the pre army films but it was different times.

All in all I think Elvis' first 10 films were decent.

Re: Re-evaluating G I Blues

Sun Jan 13, 2013 10:16 pm

jurasic1968 wrote:I wrote many posts about G.I. Blues movie but I'll do it again: how a waste of time was this conventional, silly movie instead of the real Elvis Presley's story in the army! It could have been another King Creole or even better. If Elvis could play himself in G.I. Blues (the true story of the number one singer of the planet being drafted for 2 years, struglling with all the stress and worries if his carrer wasn't finished and after that making a tremendous comeback in the top of the world) that could be a very realistic and briliant movie. Instead, Hal Wallis made Elvis a joke here-Presley himself disliked very much this travelogue.


Not a bad idea but Hal Wallis made the decision to go lighter for this picture.

If Wallis decided to keep doing serious pictures with Elvis your idea could very well have been the movie they made.

Re: Re-evaluating G I Blues

Sun Jan 13, 2013 10:19 pm

Nice review poormadpeter - Grt Job buddy -
really enjoyable ta read -
::rocks

Re: Re-evaluating G I Blues

Sun Jan 13, 2013 10:39 pm

jurasic1968 wrote:I wrote many posts about G.I. Blues movie but I'll do it again: how a waste of time was this conventional, silly movie instead of the real Elvis Presley's story in the army! It could have been another King Creole or even better. If Elvis could play himself in G.I. Blues (the true story of the number one singer of the planet being drafted for 2 years, struglling with all the stress and worries if his carrer wasn't finished and after that making a tremendous comeback in the top of the world) that could be a very realistic and briliant movie. Instead, Hal Wallis made Elvis a joke here-Presley himself disliked very much this travelogue.


No, it couldn't. Two years is a long time in the music world (and the film world), and it was a very different place in 1960 than in 1958. What's more Hollywood and realistic in 1960 were not two words that went together. There was not one true story filmed during this period that was anything like "true".

Re: Re-evaluating G I Blues

Sun Jan 13, 2013 11:02 pm

jurasic1968 wrote:I wrote many posts about G.I. Blues movie but I'll do it again: how a waste of time was this conventional, silly movie instead of the real Elvis Presley's story in the army! It could have been another King Creole or even better. If Elvis could play himself in G.I. Blues (the true story of the number one singer of the planet being drafted for 2 years, struggling with all the stress and worries if his career wasn't finished and after that making a tremendous comeback in the top of the world) that could be a very realistic and brilliant movie. Instead, Hal Wallis made Elvis a joke here-Presley himself disliked very much this travelogue.


Agreed. It is a fact that "G.I. Blues" as the first movie right out of the box for Elvis was a harbinger of his artistic slide. As long as the flick sold tickets and the soundtrack LP moved units, nothing else mattered. A fantasy account of his previous two years, "G.I. Blues" saw some of the worst songs of his career to date cut for the soundtrack, Leiber and Stoller removed from the project shortly before Elvis' army release, and the singer himself fret about the quality of the soundtrack submissions.

That said, Elvis did the best he could, such as on "Doin' The Best I Can." His vocals are superb on every take we have of this top-shelf ballad written by the legendary team of Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman. Elvis may be channeling Jackie Wilson. It's no surprise he included it in his 1961 concert set-list.

Still, who in 1956-57 could have imagined Elvis Presley cutting songs with an accordion in the mix just three years later?

Sad.
Last edited by drjohncarpenter on Sun Jan 13, 2013 11:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Re: Re-evaluating G I Blues

Sun Jan 13, 2013 11:04 pm

He had no idea ...


Elvis Union Station Mar 7 1960 Charles Nicholas.JPG
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Last edited by drjohncarpenter on Sun Jan 13, 2013 11:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Re: Re-evaluating G I Blues

Sun Jan 13, 2013 11:25 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote:Still, who in 1956-57 could have imagined Elvis Presley cutting songs with an accordion in the mix just three years later?

It wasn't the first time for a soundtrack recording to include an accordion. Elvis wasn't too thrilled with the songs for his first movie either.

Love Me Tender sessions (1956) -

Guitar: Vito Mumolo
Bass: Michael “Myer“ Rubin
Drums: Richard Cornell
Banjo: Luther Roundtree
* Accordion: Dom Frontieri
Backup Vocals: The Ken Darby Trio - Rad Robinson, Jon Dodson and Charles Prescott

Re: Re-evaluating G I Blues

Sun Jan 13, 2013 11:29 pm

poormadpeter wrote:
jurasic1968 wrote:I wrote many posts about G.I. Blues movie but I'll do it again: how a waste of time was this conventional, silly movie instead of the real Elvis Presley's story in the army! It could have been another King Creole or even better. If Elvis could play himself in G.I. Blues (the true story of the number one singer of the planet being drafted for 2 years, struglling with all the stress and worries if his carrer wasn't finished and after that making a tremendous comeback in the top of the world) that could be a very realistic and briliant movie. Instead, Hal Wallis made Elvis a joke here-Presley himself disliked very much this travelogue.


No, it couldn't. Two years is a long time in the music world (and the film world), and it was a very different place in 1960 than in 1958. What's more Hollywood and realistic in 1960 were not two words that went together. There was not one true story filmed during this period that was anything like "true".


Well, Hal Wallis produced Loving You and that movie was a drama based musical that was based on Elvis' rise to fame.

That's why i said if Hal Wallis had chosen to he could very well have done what Jurasic 1968 has suggested.

As often was the case Elvis would play variations of himself so Hal Wallis making a drama musical film about Elvis' feelings about being in the army and how the fans would accept him seemed plausible.

But obviously Hal Wallis wanted a lighter more family friendly picture and Gi Blues was just fine.

Re: Re-evaluating G I Blues

Sun Jan 13, 2013 11:43 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote:
Still, who in 1956-57 could have imagined Elvis Presley cutting songs with an accordion in the mix just three years later?

Accordions rock!

phpBB [video]

Re: Re-evaluating G I Blues

Sun Jan 13, 2013 11:50 pm

elvisalisellers wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:
Still, who in 1956-57 could have imagined Elvis Presley cutting songs with an accordion in the mix just three years later?

Accordions rock!

Yes, but they don't roll.

Re: Re-evaluating G I Blues

Sun Jan 13, 2013 11:53 pm

Loving You was as much a true story of Presley's rise to fame as G I Blues is about his time in the army.

Once again, the film is being viewed purely in relation to Elvis and not as a film in its own right, and also in light of what came after. The inclusion of Prowse as co-, and her musical numbers, proves that Presley was not intended to carry this film by himself.

Re: Re-evaluating G I Blues

Sun Jan 13, 2013 11:58 pm

Blue River wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:Still, who in 1956-57 could have imagined Elvis Presley cutting songs with an accordion in the mix just three years later?

It wasn't the first time for a soundtrack recording to include an accordion. Elvis wasn't too thrilled with the songs for his first movie either.

Love Me Tender sessions (1956) -

Guitar: Vito Mumolo
Bass: Michael “Myer“ Rubin
Drums: Richard Cornell
Banjo: Luther Roundtree
* Accordion: Dom Frontieri
Backup Vocals: The Ken Darby Trio - Rad Robinson, Jon Dodson and Charles Prescott

Quite right, Blue River.

The "Flaming Star" sessions gave us some other rockin' accordion tunes too! :lol:

Re: Re-evaluating G I Blues

Mon Jan 14, 2013 12:26 am

poormadpeter wrote:Loving You was as much a true story of Presley's rise to fame as G I Blues is about his time in the army.

Once again, the film is being viewed purely in relation to Elvis and not as a film in its own right, and also in light of what came after.


True. As Elvis once said, "The image is one thing and a human being is another.......it's very hard to live up to an image." Elvis created such an awesome image in the 50s that it was impossible to live up to it as time went on.

Re: Re-evaluating G I Blues

Mon Jan 14, 2013 12:34 am

showfan wrote:Elvis created such an awesome image in the 50s that it was impossible to live up to it as time went on.

True, but he came very close to living up to that image again from June 1968 - 1970.

Re: Re-evaluating G I Blues

Mon Jan 14, 2013 12:38 am

Blue River wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:Still, who in 1956-57 could have imagined Elvis Presley cutting songs with an accordion in the mix just three years later?

It wasn't the first time for a soundtrack recording to include an accordion. Elvis wasn't too thrilled with the songs for his first movie either.


Anyone should be able to tell that the difference is that the 1956 soundtrack was geared to the period: mid-19th century music. And Presley loved the title song, singing it on the phone to girlfriend June Juanico.

The 1960 soundtrack was ostensibly contemporary, and many of the songs and arrangements geared to put Elvis in the middle of a very bland road.

Re: Re-evaluating G I Blues

Mon Jan 14, 2013 12:39 am

showfan wrote:
poormadpeter wrote:Loving You was as much a true story of Presley's rise to fame as G I Blues is about his time in the army.

Once again, the film is being viewed purely in relation to Elvis and not as a film in its own right, and also in light of what came after.


True. As Elvis once said, "The image is one thing and a human being is another.......it's very hard to live up to an image." Elvis created such an awesome image in the 50s that it was impossible to live up to it as time went on.


It's for sure impossible when one doesn't even try.

Food for thought.

Re: Re-evaluating G I Blues

Mon Jan 14, 2013 2:00 am

drjohncarpenter wrote:
showfan wrote:
poormadpeter wrote:Loving You was as much a true story of Presley's rise to fame as G I Blues is about his time in the army.

Once again, the film is being viewed purely in relation to Elvis and not as a film in its own right, and also in light of what came after.


True. As Elvis once said, "The image is one thing and a human being is another.......it's very hard to live up to an image." Elvis created such an awesome image in the 50s that it was impossible to live up to it as time went on.


It's for sure impossible when one doesn't even try.

Food for thought.


The suggestion here is that Elvis wanted to be regarded as a rock n roll singer and nothing else. G I Blues as a film provided him with the challenge of being a leading man in a romantic comedy, something he had not done before, and he handled that challenge remarkably well. The film also sits well amongst other films of the period that are in a similar vein. The only reason why G I Blues could possibly be viewed as failing Elvis in some way is because it was not a linear continuation of Elvis's 1950s image. But Elvis was getting older, and his performance in G I Blues showed maturity, depsite the lightweight content of the film. The problem was what came afterwards, but Blue Hawaii and others, as I have stated, were not continuations of the G I Blues style - instead of harking back to classical Hollywood as G I Blues does, they placed Elvis amongst Fabians and Gidgets. Fine for one film, but then repeated endlessly. As it happens, there was never an attempt to replicate the classic musical style of G I Blues within later Elvis films. Some might argue for Viva Las Vegas, but here the racing scenario, orchestrations and co-star were miles away from something which would have occured in classic MGM musicals.

Re: Re-evaluating G I Blues

Mon Jan 14, 2013 2:14 am

Blue River wrote:
showfan wrote:Elvis created such an awesome image in the 50s that it was impossible to live up to it as time went on.

True, but he came very close to living up to that image again from June 1968 - 1970.

i think 1971 counts to? Most of those concerts where as good as august 1970

Re: Re-evaluating G I Blues

Mon Jan 14, 2013 3:13 am

It's also worth noting that the film did exactly what it set out to do - win over the establishment. Even notoriously-difficult-to-please critic Bosley Crowther of the New York Times was not ripping the film to shreds - if you read between the lines, then you might even think he enjoyed it.

g i blues.JPG


Do you like your Elvis winning over the establishment? Well, that comes down to personal choice, and not to whether this is a good or bad film on its own merits. It's not a masterpiece, and was never going to win awards, but it was never intended to. As I have already said, the musical numbers are often filmed in a lazy way, and the running time could have been reduced by ten minutes to stop the film flagging a little in the middle - but as an exercise in creating a film in the old style, it works just fine.

But why was there a thought to even place Elvis in an old-fashioned musical? Where was the logic? The old-style musical had, after all, been dying rapidly as the 1950s wore on...until 1958 when Gigi practically came out of nowhere and won 9 Oscars. 1956 and 1957 had seen just a couple of old-school musicals released. 1958 saw South Pacific and Gigi released within just a few months of each other, with then saw a number of old-style musicals follow: Porgy and Bess, Lil Abner, The Five Pennies, The Gene Krupa Story and For The First Time in 1959, with 1960 catching the tail end of the mini-cycle with Can-can and Bells Are Ringing.

What wasn't known at the time was that the musical revival was to be short-lived, although the one in the mid-60s with MY Fair Lady, Sound of Music, Funny Girl etc would last longer and, in many ways, be the traditional screen musical's last hurrah. But it is clear that both Can Can and G I Blues were counting on riding the wave of the short-lived musical fad. It's no coincidence that Gigi, Can Can and G I Blues were all set in Europe, as were For The First Time and Seven Hills of Rome from the same period. It's also worth noting that those last two, both Mario Lanza films, are very similar in style and presentation to G I Blues. Of course, to todays audiences Gigi and G I Blues seem oceans apart in style, budget and accomplishments - and they are - but that doesn't mean that there wasn't a plan to make G I Blues appeal to fans of both Elvis and the traditional musical that was back in favour.
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Re: Re-evaluating G I Blues

Mon Jan 14, 2013 10:53 am

I like GI BLUES--unless I'm looking at KING CREOLE or VIVA LAS VEGAS. Then I don't even think of it.

Re: Re-evaluating G I Blues

Mon Jan 14, 2013 2:14 pm

It's not the worst of Elvis' movies. The soundtrack though is one of my favourites. Still like to listen to it! The FTD made it even better! :)

Re: Re-evaluating G I Blues

Mon Jan 14, 2013 2:48 pm

"Doin' the best I Can" was the best song (fantastic tune), in my opinion. Unfortunately in the movie it's ruined by the "Blue suede shoes" song played on the jubox.