Elvis' most critically acclaimed performance as an actor was in what is considered ( rivaled only by “Jailhouse Rock” ) the best of all the films he starred in - “King Creole” (1958). The story was based upon the Harold Robbins novel “A Stone For Danny Fisher”. Elvis played the role of Danny. The film was directed by Michael Curtiz.
Harold Robbins was a successful author whose novels sold over 750,000,000 copies worldwide and most of them were made into movies. Robbins grew up in an orphanage as well as in several foster homes. He took his name from one of those foster families. His early jobs included a numbers runner and a futures buyer. He had made and lost a million dollars by age twenty. He became a writer after working his way up with Universal Pictures, starting as a shipping clerk. He specialized in novels about celebrity and Hollywood.
Michael Curtiz was born Mano´Kertesz Kaminer in Budapest, Hungary. He began his acting and directing career in Hungary in 1912. He moved to the United States in 1926, going to work for Warner Brothers and making such movies as :
“The Adventures of Robin Hood”, “Angels With Dirty Faces”, “Yankee Doodle Dandy”, “Casablanca”, “Mildred Pierce”, “Life With Father”, “Jim Thorpe - All-American”, “The Jazz Singer”, “White Christmas”, and the original 1937 version of “Kid Galahad”.
Curtiz was nominated for four Academy Awards as Best Director, winning in 1944 for the film “Casablanca”.
Elvis' movie “King Creole” co-starred Carolyn Jones, who is best known for her work in the TV show “The Addams Family”. However, long before the TV series, she appeared in a number of stage productions and in movies such as “East of Eden”, “The Seven Year Itch”, “The Tender Trap” and “The Man Who Knew Too Much”, as well as “The Bachelor Party”, for which she had her 1957 Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. She also won a Golden Globe award in 1958 as Most Promising Female Newcomer. Ms. Jones was born in Amarillo, Texas in 1929. For a time she was married to producer Aaron Spelling.
Also co-starring in “King Creole” was Walter Matthau, born Walter Matuschanskayasky in New York City. Matthau's parents were Russian Jewish immigrants. He served in the Army Air Corps during World War II as a radio cryptographer. After the war he began his movie career. His many film credits include: “The Kentuckian”, “Lonely Are The Brave”, “Charade”, “The Fortune Cookie”, “The Odd Couple”, “Cactus Flower”, “Kotch”, “The Sunshine Boys”, “The Bad News Bears”, “Dennis The Menace”, “Grumpy Old Men”, and “Grumpier Old Men” to name a few. Matthau was nominated for eight Golden Globe Awards, winning one in 1976 for Best Actor in “The Sunshine Boys”. He was nominated for three Academy Awards, winning one in 1967 as Best Supporting Actor in “The FortuneCookie”.
Co-starring with Elvis for a second time was Dolores Hart, daughter of actor Bert Hicks and niece of singer Mario Lanza. Dolores also starred with Elvis in his 1957 movie “Loving You”. She would go on the appear in several other films including “Where The Boys Are” and “Come Fly With Me”. Ms. Hart left her successful film career to become a nun in the cloistered Benedictine Monastery in Bethlehem, Connecticut, where, today, she a Mother Superior and still a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (The Oscars).
Dean Jagger played Elvis' father in “King Creole”. He began in vaudeville in the 1920s and went on to appear in films such as “Brigham Young - Frontiersman”, “The Robe”, “Elmer Gantry” and “White Christmas”, to name a few. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in “Twelve O'Clock High”.
Actor Vic Morrow played Shark in the movie with Elvis. Born in New York, he had dropped out of school to join the Navy. After serving in the Navy, he went to school to study pre-law. After a taste of acting in a school play, Morrow decided to change majors and went into acting. After graduation, he signed with MGM. His movie debut was in “Blackboard Jungle” as a street punk. He then became typecast as a heavy, which is what he also played in “King Creole”. In the 1960's he became well known for his role in the TV series “Combat!”, for which he received an Emmy nomination. He also took up directing. In 1983 he was killed in an accident on the set of the film “Twilight Zone: The Movie”. Today, his daughter, Jennifer Jason Leigh, is a successful actress.
Jan Shepard played Elvis' sister Mimi Fisher in “King Creole”. She also appeared in the 1966 Elvis movie “Paradise, Hawaiian Style” as Betty Kohana.
John Indrisano played an uncredited role as a collector in “King Creole”. He also appeared in an uncredited role as a card player in the 1963 Elvis movie “It Happened At The World's Fair”.