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April 27, 2024

Elvis Presley and Carolyn Jones in “King Creole” (1958)

King Creole is a 1958 American musical drama film directed by Michael Curtiz and based on the 1952 novel A Stone for Danny Fisher by Harold Robbins. Produced by Hal B. Wallis, the film stars Elvis Presley, Carolyn Jones, Walter Matthau, Dolores Hart, Dean Jagger, and Vic Morrow, and follows a nineteen-year-old (Presley) who gets mixed up with crooks and involved with two women.

Hal Wallis acquired the rights to A Stone for Danny Fisher in February 1955 for $25,000, with the intention of giving the lead role of a New York boxer to either James Dean or Ben Gazzara. The role was originally written for Dean, but the project was cancelled after his death in 1955. In January 1957, following the success of an off-Broadway stage version of the story, Presley was suggested as a possible replacement. After negotiations were completed, the character of Fisher was changed from a boxer to a singer and the location was moved from New York to New Orleans.

Wallis selected Michael Curtiz, a noted director of the Hollywood studio system whose works included The Adventures of Robin Hood, Yankee Doodle Dandy and Casablanca. Curtiz decided to shoot the film in black and white for dramatic ambiance and to give the streets a film noir appearance. He also selected an experienced cast to support Presley, including Walther Matthau and Carolyn Jones, as well as Dolores Hart, Presley’s co-star in the 1957 film Loving You. Curtiz instructed a “taken aback” Presley to lose fifteen pounds and shave his sideburns for the role, both of which Presley did.

On December 20, 1957, a month before filming was due to begin, Presley received his draft notice. Presley and Paramount had to request special permission to defer Presley's enlistment to allow him to finish the film. Both pointed out to the draft board that a delay in filming would cost them a large sum of money invested in the pre-production of the film. On December 27, Presley received a 60-day deferment.

Filming took place between January 20 and March 10, 1958, mostly at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles, California, and on location in the French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana, while the scene of the bayou was filmed at Lake Pontchartrain. During filming, Presley was constantly moved to avoid the crowds of fans who came to see him on location, which delayed the film-making. Wallis had rented a house for Presley’s privacy, and a second one after one of his assistants noticed that the back of the houses in the block led to the back of the houses on the adjacent street. To escape from the crowds, Presley would climb to the roof of one house and cross over onto the roof of the other. After a fan discovered his path, he resided on the tenth floor of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, which was rented for the whole cast.

Before filming began, Curtiz was convinced that Presley would be a “conceited boy,” but after a few weeks of working together, he described Presley as a “lovely boy” who would go on to be a “wonderful actor.” Presley, after seeing an early copy of the finished film, thanked Curtiz for giving him the opportunity to show his potential as an actor; he would later cite Danny Fisher as his favorite role of his acting career. Fourteen days after the completion of King Creole, Presley was officially inducted into the U.S. Army.


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