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STAY AWAY, JOE (director: Peter Tewksbury; screenwriters: Michael A. Hoey/Burt Kennedy/from the novel by Dan Cushman; cinematographer: Fred J. Koenekamp; editor: George W. Brooks; music: Jack Marshall; cast: Elvis Presley (Joe Lightcloud), Burgess Meredith (Charlie Lightcloud), Joan Blondell (Glenda Callahan), Katy Jurado (Annie Lightcloud), Thomas Gomez (Grandpa), L.Q. Jones (Bronc Hoverty), Quentin Dean (Mamie), Douglas Henderson (Congressman),Susan Trustman (Mary Lightfoot); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Douglas Laurence; MGM/UA Home Entertainment; 1968)
At the end of the day, Elvis still didn’t convince as an actor in this serious dramatic role that cuts down on his singing.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

One of Elvis’s stinkers, which means this musical western is really a bummer. Sitcom TV director Peter Tewksbury (“Sunday in New York”/”The Trouble With Girls”) is out of his element as a movie director. He bases Stay Away, Joe on the novel by Dan Cushman. Writers Michael A. Hoey and Burt Kennedy try to make it a sophisticated comedy vehicle (centered around life on an Indian reservation). At the end of the day, Elvis still didn’t convince as an actor in this serious dramatic role that cuts down on his singing.

Joe Lightcloud (Elvis Presley) is a womanizing bronco-riding rodeo champ, who is a half-Navajo. After persuading an Arizona congressman to give his struggling full-blooded Indian father Charlie (Burgess Meredith) 20 heifers and a young bull on loan to raise a cowherd, he returns to the reservation to help with the cowherd and to drink, brawl and chase after women. In one hard to fathom scene, Joe sings the love song “Dominick” while staring at his bull.Glenda Callahan (Joan Blondell)is the gun-toting tavern owner whose sheltered white daughter Mamie (Quentin Dean) is the object of Elvis’ attention, which greatly displeases her. Joe manages to get Glenda out of town and gives a wild party to romance Mamie. In his previous party, the drunken guests mistakenly ate his prize bull after roasting it. To replace it Joe borrows from the rodeo one of their bulls, but he has no interest in breeding.When Joe’s half sister Mary sells off the rest of the government herd to get money to redecorate the house, Charlie is in danger of being arrested for selling government property. Joe comes to his rescue by taking the borrowed bull to a rodeo, where the bull wins a big stake. Joe then uses the money to buy a new herd.

The film was so bad it was nominated for a Golden Turkey Award by writers Harry and Michael Medved.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”