Jailhouse Rock (1957) – Richard Thorpe

The Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book brings me back around the Musical genre, and this time around it features Elvis Presley himself.

The story, such as it is, follows Vince Everett (Presley) who is serving one year (!) for manslaughter. While in the joint he meets a former country singer, Hunk Houghton (Mickey Shaughnessy), who inspires Everett to pursue performing as a career when he gets out.

Things aren’t easy, and record deals are tough to get, unless you start your own company, and can turn yourself into an overnight success. But along the way, will Everett forget those who helped and supported him?

I really enjoyed this one. Sure it’s Hollywood musical melodrama, but Presley is incredibly charismatic. The film is filled with the promise of a relationship with his producing partner, Peggy (Judy Tyler) that you want to see come to fruition, and you see how his love of money pushes him too far, and it is his friends that pull him back, if a little violently.

The music is great, and it’s fun to see him built out familiar tunes, and even a couple I didn’t know. There is humour, a fairly good story (if a little too Hollywood) and overall, I was delighted with how much I enjoyed this one.

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It plays perfectly to Presley’s image, making him an ex-con adds to his rebellious image on the big screen and watching how he and Peggy go about getting their musical empire is fairly well done.

It was also fun to see Dean Jones pop up as a radio deejay, and it’s a little sad that he didn’t have a larger part, though he definitely serves to make Presley’s character jealous of his relationship with Peggy.

I did get a bit of a chuckle out of how the prison was portrayed. Well-mannered, and not unfriendly folk who only got really upset about the food, and got to put on talent shows for American television.  And then the fan mail Everett got – young women sending him their measurements, their phone numbers, and their fairly young ages in an effort to entice him – that’s not creepy.

The film glosses over the more questionable aspects of the story, like his prison sentence, the prison, his fellow prisoners, and the like, and keeps the story rolling in an entertaining way.

And of course, the music. The only downside is that most of the numbers are in fact ballads, when you really want to see Elvis tear it up in a rockabilly tune. That just makes the tile number, Jailhouse Rock, all the more enjoyable when it comes along.

Mindless, musical fun with a predictable if enjoyable story.

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