G.I. Blues (1960)

104 mins | Musical | November 1960

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HISTORY

The working titles of this film were Café Europa and Christmas in Berlin . The opening titles end with a written statement noting that the picture was produced with the full cooperation of the U.S. Army and Department of Defense. During the sequence in which a disgruntled G.I. interrupts the performance by “Tulsa MacLean,” “Rick” and “Cookie” in the rathskeller, the G.I. states that he wants to listen to “the original” and plays “Blue Suede Shoes,” one of Elvis Presley’s most popular songs, on the jukebox. At the end of the film, after singing “Didja’ Ever” at the Armed Forces Show, Tulsa rushes backstage to kiss “Lili.” After embracing her, Tulsa looks directly at the camera and asks, “Didja’ ever?” before kissing her again. Several contemporary and modern sources incorrectly list Tulsa’s last name as “McCauley” rather than MacLean. The Var and DV reviews give a running time of 115 minutes for a 14 Oct 1960 preview screening of the picture. The HR review, which appeared on the same day of the others, erroneously listed a running time of 97 minutes.
       The picture marked Presley’s return to the screen after a two-year stint in the U.S. Army, most of which he spent in West Germany as a tank gunner in the Third Armored (Spearhead) Division. As noted by contemporary news items, for Presley's first post-military picture, producer Hal Wallis and Presley’s longtime advisor, Col. Tom Parker, decided to capitalize on Presley’s service by depicting him as a soldier. From 17 Aug through 29 Aug 1959, Wallis accompanied a location crew filming scenes ... More Less

The working titles of this film were Café Europa and Christmas in Berlin . The opening titles end with a written statement noting that the picture was produced with the full cooperation of the U.S. Army and Department of Defense. During the sequence in which a disgruntled G.I. interrupts the performance by “Tulsa MacLean,” “Rick” and “Cookie” in the rathskeller, the G.I. states that he wants to listen to “the original” and plays “Blue Suede Shoes,” one of Elvis Presley’s most popular songs, on the jukebox. At the end of the film, after singing “Didja’ Ever” at the Armed Forces Show, Tulsa rushes backstage to kiss “Lili.” After embracing her, Tulsa looks directly at the camera and asks, “Didja’ ever?” before kissing her again. Several contemporary and modern sources incorrectly list Tulsa’s last name as “McCauley” rather than MacLean. The Var and DV reviews give a running time of 115 minutes for a 14 Oct 1960 preview screening of the picture. The HR review, which appeared on the same day of the others, erroneously listed a running time of 97 minutes.
       The picture marked Presley’s return to the screen after a two-year stint in the U.S. Army, most of which he spent in West Germany as a tank gunner in the Third Armored (Spearhead) Division. As noted by contemporary news items, for Presley's first post-military picture, producer Hal Wallis and Presley’s longtime advisor, Col. Tom Parker, decided to capitalize on Presley’s service by depicting him as a soldier. From 17 Aug through 29 Aug 1959, Wallis accompanied a location crew filming scenes in West Germany, where Presley was stationed, although as reported by modern sources, Presley expressly prohibited any filming of him while he was still on active duty. Footage of Presley’s battalion was obtained during manuevers and everyday activities. As noted by the film’s pressbook, Presley, who achieved the rank of sergeant before his discharge, was “demoted” to specialist fourth class for the picture.
       According to the Hal Wallis papers, located at the AMPAS Library, Michael Curtiz was originally set to direct the picture. It has not been determined why he left the project. In Nov 1959, LAEx reported that Wallis intended to cast “a native German girl” in the leading role opposite Presley. According to an Oct 1959 HR news item, Ursula Andress tested for a role, and the producer’s papers reveal that May Britt and Elke Sommer were considered for the role of Lili. A 20 Apr 1960 entry in HR ’s “Rambling Reporter” column asserted that Anna Maria Alberghetti had been set for a role, presumably that of “Tina.”
       Other “Rambling Reporter” items noted that Carleton Carpenter had been cast as “Cookie” but was replaced by Robert Ivers. According to the Wallis Papers, Frank Gorshin had been tested for Cookie, and Russ Tamblyn and Johnny Carson were also considered for the role but the filmmakers decided that they needed someone older than Presley who could be a “breezy conniver with the girls” in order for the character to be portrayed successfully. After his discharge from the army and return to the United States in Mar 1960, Presley traveled to Hollywood, although production on the film could not begin until the 7 Mar--18 Apr 1960 strike by the Screen Actors Guild was settled. According to Apr 1960 HR news items, pre-recording of the film’s songs was begun on 22 Apr.
       According to news items, three sets of twin boys, ranging from eight to twelve months old, were used to play “Tiger.” Studio publicity information stated that director Norman Taurog’s thirteen-year-old daughter Priscilla was among the children in the puppet show sequence, but her appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Also unconfirmed is the appearance of Bitsy Mott, one of Presley’s security guards, who had been cast in the film as a sergeant reprimanding Presley, according to a Jun 1960 HR news item. An Oct 1960 Cosmopolitan article reported that Juliet Prowse was borrowed from Twentieth Century-Fox for the production, and that during filming, Wallis was so impressed by her performance that he purchased part of her contract. Modern sources include in the cast D. J. Fontana and Scotty Moore, musicians who recorded with Presley for many years.
       The footage shot in Germany was often incorporated into the picture through process and rear-projection shots, which featured the footage in the background, behind the foreground action filmed at the Paramount Studios. Doubles for the main actors had been used on location. According to the Paramount Collection, also located at the AMPAS Library, German location sites included Wiesbaden, Walhalla, Frankfurt and Rüdesheim. While filming on the sky lift in Rüdesheim, director of photography Loyal Griggs fell out of a tram car, plunging thirty feet to the vineyards below, but was not seriously injured.
       According to information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the film briefly encountered censorship difficulties when PCA official Geoffrey I. Shurlock warned Wallis in Mar 1960 that the story contained elements that were unacceptable. Shurlock specifically referred to the bet between the G.I.s that first “Dynamite,” then Tulsa, would be able to “defrost” or “make out” with Lili, as “the meaning is too clearly sexual and therefore much of the subsequent dialogue and situations seem offensively suggestive.” Shurlock advised that the dialogue be changed so that the wager would revolve around the fact that the G.I.s could not “date Lili or make her fall in love with them,” which would then render the situation acceptable. Shurlock also counseled that it would be necessary to have “Rick express some regret for the fact that he has fathered an illegitimate child.”
       In response, associate producer Paul Nathan wrote to the PCA that in light of several recent movies containing “sexual implications,” such as “ Can-Can and The Fugitive Kind (see above), Wallis did not feel that he should be forced to change the film’s storyline. In a meeting with PCA officials on 27 Apr 1960, Nathan again expressed Wallis’ resistance to changing anything in the script, noting that he had “no intention of having Elvis, the idol of the teenagers, engaged in [a sexually charged] relationship with the girl." The PCA emphasized that the reactions of the other soldiers, as scripted, indicated that the object of the wager was seduction rather than romance, but the script and the final film were approved, and the picture was given a Code seal on 30 Jun 1960. Although some reviews commented that the storyline about an illegitimate child would make the picture inappropriate for younger viewers, the majority of them remarked on the innocuousness of the relationship between Tulsa and Lili.
       Modern sources report that Presley was displeased with the quality of the songs, especially after the songs “Tulsa’s Blues” and “Dog Face,” written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, were deleted before production began. Most reviews of the film were not impressed by the music, with the Var review noting that no composer was listed in the studio’s official billing sheets, declaring: “Considering the quality of these compositions, such anonymity is understandable.” Studio records add that a singing double was used for Prowse in the “Pocketful of Rainbows” number but do not specify who the double was.
       Because the song “Tonight Is So Right for Love” was based on Jacques Offenbach’s “Barcarolle” from the opera Tales of Hoffman , which was in the public domain in the United States but not in Europe, the song had to be replaced with another song for the European releases of the film and soundtrack. The song “Tonight’s All Right for Love,” based on a Johann Strauss melody but otherwise very similar to “Tonight Is So Right for Love,” was substituted. According to one modern source, the song “Whistling Blues” was recorded for the film, but no additional information has been found about the composition.
       A Nov 1960 DV article reported that the film had been “heartily endorsed by the Pentagon for its depiction of Army life,” and was playing “the Army camp circuit prior to its regular theatrical release.” According to a LAT article, a “benefit preview” of the film was held on 15 Nov 1960, with the Hemophilia Foundation receiving the proceeds. A “twenty-man platoon of crack enlisted men from the U.S. Army Armor and Desert Training Center” was to attend the preview as a “tribute” to Presley, according to a 26 Oct 1960 HR news item.
       G.I. Blues marked the screen debuts of actresses Leticia Roman and Sigrid Maier, and was the only film in which Maier appeared. The picture also featured the last film appearance of longtime character actor Ludwig Stossel (1883—1973), although Stossel appeared in a long-running series of television commercials during the 1960s.
       G.I. Blues was the first in a long collaboration between Taurog and Presley. Taurog directed Presley in eight more films, ending with Live a Little, Love a Little in 1968 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70 ). Many critics consider G.I. Blues to be the first of the Presley "formula" films, which often featured Presley in a similar characterization as a good-natured but misunderstood charmer, had him interacting with children and presented several new songs.
       The picture, which did smash business at the box office, received mostly positive reviews, with critics applauding Presley’s more mature appearance. Several reviews commented on the picture's similarity in plot to other Paramount films that had been based on the 1933 play Sailor, Beware! by Kenyon Nicholson and Charles Robinson, the most recent of which, a Hal Wallis production, was the 1952 film Sailor Beware (see below). Although there is a passing resemblance in the films' plots, G.I. Blues was not based on Nicholson and Robinson's play, nor on any of the earlier films.
       HR news items noted that, due to G.I. Blues 's very successful run in Los Angeles, more theaters were added to the bookings a week after its release in “an unprecedented move,” and that the soundtrack album featuring the picture’s songs had gone over the “400,000 sales mark” by the end of Dec 1960. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
24 Oct 1960.
---
Cosmopolitan
Oct 1960
pp. 12-16.
Daily Variety
19 Oct 60
p. 3.
Daily Variety
10 Nov 1960
p. 4.
Film Daily
20 Oct 60
p. 6.
Filmfacts
1960
pp. 290-92.
Hollywood Citizen-News
28 Jun 1960.
---
Hollywood Citizen-News
16 Nov 1960
p. 18.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jul 1959
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Aug 1959
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Oct 1959
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Apr 1960
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Apr 1960
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Apr 1960
pp. 7-8.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Apr 1960
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Apr 1960
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
2 May 1960
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
6 May 1960
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jun 1960
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jun 1960
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Oct 60
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Oct 1960
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Nov 1960
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Nov 1960
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Nov 1960
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Nov 1960
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Dec 1960
p. 9.
LAMirror-News
18 May 1960
Section II, p. 7.
Life
10 Oct 1960
p. 121.
Limelight
8 Dec 1960.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
20 Nov 1959.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
17 Nov 1960
Section 2, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
16 Nov 1960.
---
Motion Picture Daily
19 Oct 1960.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
22 Oct 60
p. 892.
New York Times
5 Nov 60
p. 28.
Newsweek
14 Nov 1960.
---
Time
5 Dec 1960.
---
Variety
19 Oct 60
p. 16.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Roy C. Wright
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Hal Wallis' Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir/Asst dir
2d unit asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Asst cam
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Ed supv
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
Painter
COSTUMES
Cost
Ward man
Ward woman
MUSIC
Mus scored and cond
Vocal accompaniment by
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
DANCE
Mus numbers staged and choreographed by
Asst dance dir
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Makeup
Hairstyle supv
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Dial coach
Tech adv
Military tech adv
Asst prod mgr
Asst prod mgr
2d unit prod mgr
2d unit unit mgr
Casting
Casting
Scr supv
Child welfare worker
Child welfare worker
STAND INS
Stunts
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
MUSIC
"Crawfish" by Ben Weisman and Fred Wise.
SONGS
"G.I. Blues," music and lyrics by Sid Tepper and Roy C. Bennett
"What's She Really Like," music by Abner Silver, lyrics by Sid Wayne
"Doin' the Best I Can," music by Mort Shuman, lyrics by Doc Pomus
+
SONGS
"G.I. Blues," music and lyrics by Sid Tepper and Roy C. Bennett
"What's She Really Like," music by Abner Silver, lyrics by Sid Wayne
"Doin' the Best I Can," music by Mort Shuman, lyrics by Doc Pomus
"Blue Suede Shoes," music and lyrics by Carl Perkins
"Frankfort Special," "Big Boots" and "Didja' Ever," music by Sherman Edwards, lyrics by Sid Wayne
"Shoppin' Around," music and lyrics by Sid Tepper, Roy C. Bennett and Aaron Schroeder
"Tonight Is So Right for Love," based on "Barcarolle" from the opera Tales of Hoffman , music by Jacques Offenbach, adapted by and with new lyrics by Sid Wayne and Abner Silver
"Wooden Heart ( Muss I Denn Zum Stadtele Hinaus )," German folk song, new lyrics by Fred Wise, Ben Weisman, Kay Twomey and Berthold Kampfert
"Pocketful of Rainbows," music by Ben Weisman, lyrics by Fred Wise.
+
COMPOSERS
+
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Café Europa
Christmas in Berlin
Release Date:
November 1960
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 4 November 1960
London opening: week of 14 November 1960
Los Angeles opening: 16 November 1960
Production Date:
2 May--24 June 1960
Copyright Claimant:
Hal B. Wallis & Joseph H. Hazen
Copyright Date:
4 November 1960
Copyright Number:
LP17717
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex Recording System
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
104
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
19660
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In West Germany, Specialist Tulsa MacLean, a tank gunner with the U.S. Third Armored (Spearhead) Division, is on maneuvers when he and his buddies, Cookie, Jeeter and Rick, learn that they are being transferred to Frankfurt in the morning. Tulsa, Rick and Cookie, who intend to open a nightclub after they are discharged, have formed a musical group named The Three Blazes and are to make their debut that night at the rathskeller run by Papa Mueller. Although Tulsa would rather spend the evening saying farewell to his German girl friends, Cookie and Rick persuade him to perform, especially as they are being pressured to repay Sgt. McGraw, who loaned them the money to buy their instruments. Most of the audience loves their songs, but when one G.I. interrupts by playing the jukebox, a brawl breaks out and Tulsa is forced to pay Papa for the damages. The next day, Tulsa persuades McGraw to become a partner in the planned nightclub, but McGraw balks at giving him $300 for the club’s lease. Desperate for the funds, Tulsa gambles all of their money on a bet lothario Sgt. “Dynamite” Bixby makes with his rival, Turk, that Dynamite will be able to spend the night alone with Lili, a German dancer at the Café Europa in Frankfurt. Although Turk warns Dynamite that Lili is “steam heat outside but an iceberg inside,” Dynamite is confident that he can successfully date her. Before the men leave, however, Capt. Hobart tells them that due to the complaints he has received about Dynamite’s behavior, the womanizer is being sent to Alaska. During the journey to Frankfurt, the ... +


In West Germany, Specialist Tulsa MacLean, a tank gunner with the U.S. Third Armored (Spearhead) Division, is on maneuvers when he and his buddies, Cookie, Jeeter and Rick, learn that they are being transferred to Frankfurt in the morning. Tulsa, Rick and Cookie, who intend to open a nightclub after they are discharged, have formed a musical group named The Three Blazes and are to make their debut that night at the rathskeller run by Papa Mueller. Although Tulsa would rather spend the evening saying farewell to his German girl friends, Cookie and Rick persuade him to perform, especially as they are being pressured to repay Sgt. McGraw, who loaned them the money to buy their instruments. Most of the audience loves their songs, but when one G.I. interrupts by playing the jukebox, a brawl breaks out and Tulsa is forced to pay Papa for the damages. The next day, Tulsa persuades McGraw to become a partner in the planned nightclub, but McGraw balks at giving him $300 for the club’s lease. Desperate for the funds, Tulsa gambles all of their money on a bet lothario Sgt. “Dynamite” Bixby makes with his rival, Turk, that Dynamite will be able to spend the night alone with Lili, a German dancer at the Café Europa in Frankfurt. Although Turk warns Dynamite that Lili is “steam heat outside but an iceberg inside,” Dynamite is confident that he can successfully date her. Before the men leave, however, Capt. Hobart tells them that due to the complaints he has received about Dynamite’s behavior, the womanizer is being sent to Alaska. During the journey to Frankfurt, the men are discouraged until Cookie persuades a reluctant Tulsa to take Dynamite’s place. At the base, while Tulsa is instructing his friends not to interfere with his pursuit of Lili, Rick searches for his former girl friend Marla, who had broken off with him abruptly more than a year earlier. When they reach the Europa, the G.I.s are thrilled by Lili’s sultry performance, but worry when she pours beer over a groping admirer. Tulsa’s attempts to talk to her are interrupted when Cookie pays the orchestra leader to call Tulsa up to perform a song to impress Lili. The dancer is indeed pleased by Tulsa’s talent, but only sits with him afterward to escape her admirer, and when Tulsa escorts her outside, Lili attempts to brush him off. Charmed by his openness, however, Lili takes him to a bistro, where Tulsa again sings for her. Meanwhile, Cookie is romancing Tina, an Italian waitress from the Europa, who takes him to her apartment. Just as Cookie turns out the lights to kiss Tina, Lili and Tulsa walk in. Much to Tulsa and Cookie’s chagrin, they learn that Tina and Lili are roommates, thereby jeopardizing Tulsa’s chances of spending the night with Lili alone, as stipulated by the wager. The next day, Tulsa tricks McGraw into giving him, Rick and Cookie three-day passes so that they can participate in the Armed Forces Show. Tulsa then travels with Lili on a ferry to a nearby tourist area, and they spend the day watching a puppet show, riding a sky tram and falling in love. During the drive back to Frankfurt, however, Tulsa worries about his deepening feelings for Lili. Meanwhile, back in town, Rick cannot convince Mrs. Hagermann, Marla’s landlady, to give him Marla’s forwarding address. After he departs, however, Mrs. Hagermann sneaks up to Marla’s apartment, where the younger woman declares that she will not see Rick, even though he has no idea that he is the father of her infant son. Shortly after, Cookie purchases an airplane ticket to Milan for Tina on the pretext of wanting to cure her homesickness, while really he wants to insure that Tulsa can be alone with Lili. That evening, while Lili prepares for her performance, Tulsa breaks their date for later, telling her that when a G.I. is in on temporary assignment and meets a girl he likes, one of them always ends up getting hurt. Although she is distraught, Lili admires Tulsa’s principles and bids him goodbye. Tulsa then tells Cookie to call off the bet, but when Cookie questions Lili, he learns that she still cares for Tulsa and decides not to follow Tulsa’s instructions. As the unknowing Tulsa leaves the club, he receives an urgent message to contact Rick. At Marla’s apartment, the reunited couple reveals that Mrs. Hagermann “double-crossed” Marla by telling Rick of her presence in Frankfurt, and upon learning of his son’s existence, Rick smoothed over his earlier misunderstanding with Marla. The couple now want to marry in nearby Heidelburg but need Tulsa to baby-sit. Although Tulsa protests that he knows nothing about babies, he remains with the infant, who begins to wail after his parents depart. Flustered, Tulsa breaks the baby’s bottle and calls Lili for help. Delighted to hear from him, Lili tells Tulsa to meet her at her apartment, and the eavesdropping Cookie, not knowing what is really happening, assumes that a romantic rendezvous will ensue. Before Cookie can follow Lili, however, Tina arrives and tells him that she missed him too much to go to Milan. While Cookie takes Tina out on the town, three G.I.s station themselves in a coffeehouse opposite Lili’s to observe Tulsa’s progress. Tulsa and Lili spend the entire night tending to the baby, whom they nickname Tiger, and in the morning, the G.I.s watch as Tulsa kisses Lili goodbye and wins the bet. That afternoon, Lili and Tulsa meet at the rehearsals for the Armed Forces Show. As they reminisce about their pleasant evening with Tiger, they are interrupted by McGraw, who informs Tulsa that Hobart has learned about the bet. The infuriated and heartbroken Lili then refuses to listen to Tulsa’s protests that their evening together had nothing to do with the wager, which he had ordered Cookie to cancel. After Lili storms off, she hears Tiger crying and meets Marla, who reveals that Tulsa really was baby-sitting. Lili then explains to Hobart that she and Tulsa were well-chaperoned during the night, and Hobart asks the relieved soldier to baby-sit his own children. When they are alone, Lili accepts Tulsa’s marriage proposal and, embracing him, tells him that he may win his bet for real that night. After entertaining the cheering troops, the three friends then race backstage to kiss their waiting sweethearts. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.