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BLUE HAWAII (director: Norman Taurog; screenwriters: Hal Kanter/from a story by Allan Weiss; cinematographer: Charles Lang, Jr.; editor: Terry Morse; music: Joseph J. Lilley; cast: Elvis Presley (Chad Gates), Joan Blackman (Maile Duval), Roland Winters (Fred Gates), Angela Lansbury (Sarah Lee Gates), Nancy Walters (Abigail Prentice), Jenny Maxwell (Ellie Corbett), Pamela Kirk (Selena ‘Sandy’ Emerson), Darlene Tompkins (Patsy Simon), Christian Kay (Beverly Martin), Howard McNear (Mr. Chapman), John Archer (Jack Kelman), Flora K. Hayes (Grandma Manaka); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Hal Wallis; Paramount; 1961)
“It’s the kind of film you would probably only watch if on a long-distance airplane flight.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Your typical crappy Elvis flick, that’s shot at a time when his manager Colonel Tom Parker signed him up to appear in such formulaic mediocre films that all were commercially successful but lacking any cred as far as creativity or depth. Therefore we will never never no know for sure if Elvis could have played in deeper roles. This is the fourth of nine films Elvis made for producer Hal Wallis, and was one of his biggest hits. Artistically it’s no worse than the others, and as a breezy vacation film it works fine as a mindless escapist film. The innocuous star vehicle is easy to take on the eyes, as the scenery of Oahu and Kauai is pretty, the beach gals in bikinis are pretty, Elvis is pretty, there’s some local culture laid on us that’s easy to take and there’s one decent song out of the fourteen Elvis sings—”Can’t Help Falling in Love.” The other fair to middling songs include: “Blue Hawaii,” “Almost Always True,” “Moonlight Swim,” “Ito Eats,” “Aloha Oe,” “Ku-U-I-Po,” “No More,” “Rock-a-Hula Baby,” “Slicin’ Sand,” “Hawaiian Sunset,” “Beach Boy Blues,” “Island of Love,” and “Hawaiian Wedding Song.” If you’re a fan, the music might motivate you to watch this inert film. Those not fans should probably steer clear of this romantic musical or proceed at your own risk. It’s the kind of film you would probably only watch if on a long-distance airplane flight.

Norman Taurog (“Spinout”/”Tickle Me”/”G.I. Blues”) directs as if he were making a touristy travelogue, while Hal Kanter’s screenplay is about as heavy as a postcard from a vacationer. The film was adapted from Allan Weiss’s short story “Beach Boy.”

Womanizing, polite and arrogant GI loner Chad Gates (Elvis Presley) returns to Honolulu, Hawaii and to civilian life after serving in Europe for two years in the peacetime army. He refuses to join his wealthy executive father (Roland Winters) in a cushy job at his prosperous giant pineapple plant, and instead wishes to be independent and do things for himself. Chad moves out of his parents’ home and hooks up again with local beauty Maile Duval (Joan Blackman), of French-Hawaiian descent, and the native beach boys she hangs with who are into playing local music. His possessive Southern mom (Angela Lansbury) wants him to live at home, follow his dad’s footsteps in business and marry a girl from his own upper-class. But the rebellious Chad gets a job as a tourist guide in the firm where Maile is the secretary, and takes a pretty schoolteacher (Nancy Walters) and the four teenage coeds she’s chaperoning on a tour of Hawaii. After an incident at a luau, where Chad gets into a fight with a drunken tourist who has made advances on one of the teens and lands overnight in jail, he quits when his dim-witted boss (Howard McNear) doesn’t back him and goes into business on his own. There’s a mixup when Maile thinks her man is involved with the teach, but she’s fallen for Chad’s father’s boss (John Archer). Therefore the misunderstanding is easily straightened out and things end happily with Chad and Maile opening their own tourist agency and him marrying Maile in a colorful native ceremony.

I don’t think things could have been more banal. It’s interesting to note that Elvis was 26 at the time and Lansbury, who played his mum, was 36. That probably indicates about how real this picture postcard film was meant to be.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”