[box cover]

The Trouble with Girls

The first thing to note about the Elvis Presley movie The Trouble with Girls — or as it is also known The Trouble with Girls (and how to get into it) — is how incongruous the title is. Released by MGM in 1969, it pleasantly shirks the majority of clichés that mark Presley's cinematic canon — one can almost picture it being a real movie — to be a period piece about a traveling infotainment group called The Chautauqua. Based on a real phenomenon of the late 1920s, Peter Tewsksbury's film is something of an incoherent text that never really settles on a genre; the screenplay seems revised specifically to include the King, or at least it feels that way. Presley stars as Walter Hale, the impresario of the group, who's usually dressed in a dapper white suit and smoking miniature cigars. He's hounded by right-hand man Johnny (Edward Andrews) about the show's fiscal needs, and by Charlene (Marlyn Mason) about the rights of the performers. As the film begins, it seems more about Nita Bix's daughter Carol (Anissa Jones) than Hale; much of the drama rests on her when she steals away the lead in the pageant from the mayor's daughter. The mayor then threatens to remove the town's support, mostly because of the pressure his wife is putting on him. In this first half, the film is often shot from the point of view of Carol and her best friend Willy (Pepe Brown) as they experience The Chautauqua and buy some illegal fireworks. But around the halfway point the story comes to be about a murder mystery which involves Nita (Sheree North), and Carol and Willy virtually disappear. But the mystery is never that intriguing, while there are all sorts of subplots and distractions throughout: Vincent Price and John Carradine cameo as Mr. Morality and Shakespearean actor Mr. Drewcolt — both providing comic moments — while Joyce Van Patten plays a flighty local who wants to join the troupe. Presley's romantic attentions are kept to just Charlene, as the two fight and occasionally smooch (one of the film's rare moments of poetry happens when real fireworks accidentally go off when the two kiss for the first time). But as can be guessed from the plot synopsis, there's not a lot of trouble with girls, nor much advice on how to get into it; it sounds like a title for a totally different crappy Elvis film. Even the Presley musical numbers are subdued — he only sings during a church meeting in the first half — though the King gets a flurry of numbers towards the end. The highlight of them is "Clean up Your Own Backyard," which — like Presley's perfectly coifed cowlick — is out of period for the film, but one of the better Presley soundtrack songs, period (the man sang lots of bad movie songs: For evidence, please consult this). It's actually one of the better Presley films qua films (many of his bad efforts offer a camp appeal), as the strange inconsistencies keep it from ever being boring, while the credit sequence and the editing during the musical numbers provide the only context to this having been made in 1969. Warner presents The Trouble with Girls in a strong anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) and monaural Dolby Digital audio. Extras consist of four trailers for Elvis films, including one for this title. Keep-case.
—DSH



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