Monday, 2 January 2012

Elvis - Blue Hawaii (1961)

Blue Hawaii - Paramount 1961
Elvis Presley's eighth film was 'Blue Hawaii', filmed in the tropical paradise of the Hawaiian islands of Oahu and Kauai. 'Blue Hawaii' was Elvis' biggest commercial success. With 14 songs, more than any other Elvis film, the soundtrack album spent a total of 79 weeks on Billboard's pop album chart, with 20 of those weeks at No1. Blue Hawaii, a musical comedy originally tided Beach Boy, became the most successful film of Elvis Presley's career. Elvis stars as Chad Gates, whose wealthy family owns a successful pineapple plantation in Hawaii, At the beginning of the film, Chad has just returned from the Army, and his family is eager for him to pursue the family business. Instead, Chad lands a job as a guide in the tourist agency where girlfriend Maile, played by Joan Blackman, also works.
Hal Wallis and Elvis Presley during filing of- Blue Hawaii
His new vocation not only allows him to use his knowledge of the Islands' most beautiful sites but also affords him enough time to cavort on the beach with his native Hawaiian buddies. Tension mounts as Chad's blue-blooded mother, played by Angela Lansbury, objects to his job, his girlfriend, and his beach-loving friends. Chad eventually proves a success in the tourist business, and he finally wins the approval of his family by marrying Maile and making plans to open his own tourist agency. Filming for 'Blue Hawaii' began on March 27, 1961 in the lush islands of Hawaii. Location shooting took place on the islands of Oahu and Kauai and was finished by April 17th. The cast and crew then returned to Hollywood where filming continued until May 23rd.

The original working title of the film was 'Hawaiian Beach Boy'. The famous wedding scene was shot on Kauai at the Coco Palms Resort Hotel which had been in operation since 1953. Unfortunately, the resort closed after Kauai was hit with devastating Hurricane Iniki in September 1992. In the 1800s, the land where the Coco Palms is located was the ancestral home of Kauai's last reigning queen, Queen Deborah Kapule. The 'Call to Feast' featured in the film with its ceremonial torch lighting had taken place there every night at 7:30 PM for 40 years until Iniki hit. Elvis loved Hawaii. It was one of his favorite places to vacation and this movie provides us with a glimpse into the beauty of these islands. That combined with the romantic tropical music Elvis sings creates within us all the desire to visit 'Blue Hawaii'.

Elvis Presley and Joan Blackman in Blue Hawaii - 'Rock-A-Hula Baby

Elvis' leading lady in 'Blue Hawaii' was Joan Blackman, who played Maile Duval. The following year she played Elvis' love interest in 'Kid Galahad'. Elvis had dated the actress when he first came to Hollywood in 1956.

Joan Blackman and Elvis Presley in Blue Hawaii - 'Can't Help Falling In Love'

Roland Winters played Elvis' father Fred Gates. Like Lansbury, he was a respected character actor with many films to his credit. One career highlight was his portrayal of detective Charlie Chan in several of the'Charlie Chan' movies from 1947 to 1950, the third actor to take on that role in these films. He can also be seen portraying a judge in Elvis' 1962 movie 'Follow that Dream'. You might also recognize him from the 1973 remake of the movie 'Miracle on 34th. Street' in which he played Mr. Gimbel.

Angela Lansbury played the role of Elvis' ditzy mother even though she was only 35 years old at the time and Elvis was 26. She began her career in 1944 in a movie called 'Gaslight', which quickly earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. She would go on to achieve great fame and numerous accolades in film and television and on Broadway. She has starred in such films as 'National Velvet', 'The Picture of Dorian Gray', 'The Harvey Girls', 'The Manchurian Candidate', 'The Greatest Story Ever Told', 'Harlow', 'Bedknobs and Broomsticks', 'Mrs. Santa Claus' and 'Beauty and the Beast' (voice for animation). She is probably best known for her role as mystery writer and sleuth Jessica Fletcher in the 'Murder, She Wrote'television series. To name just a few of her accolades, she has received three Academy Award nominations, thirteen Emmy nominations, six Golden Globe wins out of fourteen nominations, four Tony Awards and the Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award.

Elvis Presley and cast in Blue Hawaii

Much of Blue Hawaii was filmed on location in Hawaii, which had only joined the union in 1959. The new state of Hawaii was as eager for the exposure in a major Hollywood film as the producers and actors were to shoot there. Such beautiful Hawaiian locations as Waikiki Beach, Ala Moana Park, Lydgate Park, and the Coco Palms Resort Hotel were used in the film; also used were such unglamorous locations as the Honolulu jail.

Elvis at the Coco Palms Resort, 1961

Despite working primarily on location, the producers experienced only minor problems. The first occurred just prior to shooting. Juliet Prowse, who had been Elvis' costar in the successful G.I. Blues, was cast opposite Elvis in the role of Maile Duval. She was loaned to Paramount from Twentieth Century-Fox for the film. Eleven days before filming was to begin in Hawaii, Prowse declared that she was not going to report to work until three demands were met. Prowse wanted her Fox makeup man to do her makeup, she wanted the traveling expenses of her secretary to be paid by the producers, and she wanted a change made in her contract regarding her billing. Wallis replaced Prowse with the lesser known Joan Blackman.

Shooting on location was always a problem when Elvis was the star of a film because increased security was necessary to protect him from fans. When Elvis arrived in Honolulu, thousands of fans nearly broke down the barricades before the singer was whisked to his hotel.

Since mobs waited around his hotel daily, security guards were on duty around the clock.

Elvis was disappointed that he could not visit the sites, and he often looked out his window to watch others strolling along the beach. One morning he saw a heartfelt message written in the sand by the very fans he needed to be protected from. Elvis was touched by the simple message: 'We love you, Elvis!' One minor incident that caused an unnecessary delay was actually the fault of Colonel Parker. Rain moved in on the location one day, causing the crew to wait hours for a break in the weather. The rain finally stopped, and just as director Taurog was able to roll camera on Elvis running out of the surf, Parker rushed in front of the camera yelling, 'Cut, cut!' Proper etiquette on the set maintains that only the director can stop the action. Hal Wallis and Taurog were furious and demanded to know what could be important enough for Parker to halt the shot.


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