An in-depth look at the Movie “G.I. Blues,”
Not surprisingly, Elvis's fifth film, his first after serving two years of active duty in the U.S. Army, was was entitled “G.I. Blues” and was set in Germany. Elvis was discharged from active duty with the army in early March 1960 and began preproduction work for “G.I. Blues” in California on April 21. Filming began on May 2nd and was finished by June 29th. While Elvis was stationed in Germany, Producer Hal Wallis had visited with him in August of 1959. Wallis was there while the German countryside and U.S. military operations were shot for the film. Elvis did not appear in any of this filming, however, the U.S. Army did supply tanks and crews for these shots. The movie follows the romantic adventure of an American G.I., Tulsa McLean (Elvis), while stationed in Germany. “Cafe Europa” and “Christmas In Berlin” were briefly considered as titles for the film - the former being the name of a club featured prominently in the story.
This was the first of nine Elvis films directed by Norman Taurog, who began his career as a child actor in 1912, but turned to writing and directing in the 1920s. He won an Academy Award for his work in the 1931 movie “Skippy”“ and was nominated again in 1939 for “Boys Town.” One source states that his daughter Priscilla appeared in “G.I. Blues” as an uncredited extra in the children's puppet show scene. Taurog was also an uncle to actor Jackie Cooper.
The script was written by Edmund Beloin and Henry Garson. They were both nominated in 1961 by the Writers Guild of America for “G.I. Blues” as Best Written American Musical. Mr. Beloin's film work includes “Road To Rio,” “Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court,” “The Sad Sack” and others. He also was a regular writer for the TV series “My Three Sons.” Mr. Garson worked with Beloin on a number of projects including the “Don't Give Up The Ship” and the TV series “My Three Sons” and “Mona McCluskey” - the latter starring Juliet Prowse.
Elvis's leading lady in this movie was the dancer / actress Juliet Prowse. Ms. Prowse was born in India to South African parents and began studying dance at the age of four. As an adult, just under six feet tall, she was deemed too tall for ballet and she then pursued nightclub dancing and acting. At the time “G.I. Blues” was in production, she was engaged to Frank Sinatra. However, they never married. She was at one time married to John McCook, with whom she had a son. McCook was an actor known for the daytime TV series “The Bold and The Beautiful.” Ms. Prowse died of cancer in 1996.
During production Elvis was visited on the set by King Bumiphol and Queen Sirikit of Thailand, Princess Margaretha of Sweden, Princess Astrid of Norway, and Princess Margretha of Denmark. In his free time Elvis was visiting local nightclubs and seeing the shows of entertainers such as Bobby Darin and Sammy Davis Jr. He also attended a birthday party for Dean Martin on the Paramount lot. With his music and movie career taking off again and his having to travel so much, Elvis wrote to the U.S. Army and requested to be placed on standby reserve rather than active reserve. This was the status he then had until his full discharge in 1964.
Robert Ivers played Cookie, one of Tulsa's army buddies. Mr. Ivers had studied theater in school and was offered scholarships to study at the Pasadena Playhouse and the University of Arizona. Choosing the latter, located in an area where many movies were shot on location, he was able to secure roles in a number of movies. He was signed to a contract with Paramount in 1956 and had roles in such films as “The Delicate Delinquent”, “The Errand Boy”, and a role in the TV series “Mister Roberts.”
James Douglas played Rick, another buddy of Tulsa's. Mr. Douglas also had roles in a number of TV series including “Peyton Place,” “Another World,” “As The World Turns,” “The Doctors,” “One Life To Live” and others.
Arch Johnson, who played Sgt. McGraw, had been an Associated Press Correspondent in Europe prior to becoming an actor. He had a very active career playing roles on TV. Some of the shows were “Maverick,” “Hawaiian Eye,” “Bonanza,” and “The Rockford Files.”
Mickey Knox played Jeeter. Some of his other movie roles were in “The Longest Day” and “The Godfather: Part III.” He also worked as a dialogue coach for several foreign films.
Kenneth Becker played Mac. He also had roles in the Elvis films, “Loving You” “Girls! Girls! Girls!” and “Roustabout.”
Jeremy Slate played Turk. Later, he had a role in the Elvis film “Girls! Girls! Girls!.” Among his credits are the films “I'll Take Sweden,” “The Sons of Katie Elder,” and “True Grit.” In 1966, he won a Bronze Wrangler Award from the Western Heritage Awards for his work in the film “The Sons of Katie Elder.” He also had numerous roles in TV series such as “Have Gun Will Travel,” “Route 66,” “Gunsmoke,” and “Mission Impossible.”
Edward Faulkner played Red. Later, he had a role in the Elvis film “Tickle Me.” He was part of a group of actors whom John Wayne regularly used in his movies.
Let'cia Romin made her screen debut in “G.I. Blues” playing the role of Tina. She was the daughter of Academy Award winning set decorator Vittorio Novarese. She went on to play a number of roles in foreign films as well as on American TV shows such as “The Man From Uncle,” “I Spy,” and “Run For Your Life.”
Bess Flowers, the “queen of extras” as she was known, played a patron of the Cafe Europa. You might remember her from the earlier Elvis film “Loving You.”.
Among the many character actors who had roles in “G.I. Blues,” Elvis's fifth film, was Ludwig Stossel, who played the owner of the puppet show featured in a memorable scene. This was his last role after a long career in films and TV playing such films as “The Pride of the Yankees,” “Bluebeard,” “The Beginning or the End” and “No Time For Flowers.”. Three different sets of twins were used to play the role of the baby Tulsa (Elvis) was babysitting with Lili (Juliet Prowse).
Hannerl Melcher, Miss Austria of 1957 and a Las Vegas showgirl, had a role as an extra in this film. She can be seen as the strolling singer during one of Tulsa's dates with Lili. Ms. Melcher and Elvis were friends. She and roommate Kathy Gabriel spent Christmas with the Presley family at Graceland in 1958.
Sally Todd played a bargirl in “G.I. Blues.” She had been the “Playboy Playmate” for the February 1957 issue of “Playboy” magazine.
Elisha Mott played a sergeant in “G.I. Blues.” The following year, he played a state trooper in the Elvis film “Wild in the Country.”
Joe Gray had an uncredited role as a soldier. He also had roles in the Elvis movies “Loving You” and “Kid Galahad.” Mr. Gray, a former boxer, also worked as a stuntman.
Torben Meyer was played a headwaiter in “G.I.Blues”. Known for his heavy accent, Mr. Meyer made a long career with hundreds of roles that required such an accent.
Dick Winslow had played the role of Eddie Burton in Elvis's last film before going into the army, “King Creole” in 1958. He played an orchestra leader in “G.I. Blues” and later played a similar role in Elvis's 1966 film “Frankie and Johnny.”
Paul Nathan was the associate producer. He also had this responsibility in the Elvis films “Loving You,” “King Creole,” “Blue Hawaii,” “Girls! Girls! Girls!,” “Fun In Acapulco,” “Roustabout,” “Paradise, Hawaiian Style” and “Easy Come, Easy Go.”
The cinematographer for “G.I. Blues,” Loyal Griggs, later worked on the Elvis films “Girls! Girls! Girls!” and “Tickle Me.” Mr. Griggs received four Academy Award nominations for his work, winning one for the film “Shane.”
The art director, Hal Pereira, worked on nine of Elvis's films: “Loving You,” “King Creole,” “G.I. Blues”, “Blue Hawaii,” “Girls! Girls! Girls!,” “Fun In Acapulco,” “Roustabout”, “Paradise Hawaiian Style” and “Easy Come, Easy Go.” Mr. Pereira was nominated 23 times for Academy Awards, winning for his work on “The Rose Tattoo.”
The set decorator was Sam Comer, father of actress Anjanette Comer. He too worked on multiple Elvis films. He received 26 nominations for the Academy Award, winning for the films “The Rose Tattoo,” “Sunset Boulevard”, “Samson and Delilah” and “Frenchman's Creek.”
Another set decorator was Academy Award winner Ray Moyer, who worked through out his career with Sam Comer and Hal Pereira.
Nellie Manley was the hair stylist. She had her hands in that famous hair of Elvis's for the films “King Creole,” “Blue Hawaii,” “Girls! Girls! Girls!,” “Fun In Acapulco,” “Roustabout”, “Tickle Me,” “Paradise, Hawaiian Style” and “Easy Come, Easy Go”.
Jack Mintz was the dialogue coach and he also worked on the Elvis films “Blue Hawaii” and “Girls! Girls! Girls!.”
“G.I. Blues” had a sneak preview in Dallas, Texas on August 18, 1960. It also played on a number of military bases before it opened nationwide on November 23, 1960.
On November 15, 1960, there was a special showing of the film in Hollywood to benefit the Hemophilla Foundation. In attendance were Ronald Reagan, Juliet Prowse and Cesar Romero.
The film ranked #2 for the week on Variety's chart and was the fourteenth highest grossing film of the year.