Flippy, Real Flippy: ‘Jailhouse Rock’ at 60

One of Elvis’ earliest and most prolific pop culture-changing moments happened 60 years ago this month: “Jailhouse Rock” was released on November 8, 1957.

“Jailhouse Rock” was Elvis’ third movie, but thanks to the electrifying dance scene, Elvis’ leading man status and the iconic inmate costume, the film is one of the most famous Presley pictures. It’s more than a highlight of time in the movie business; it’s one of the most well-known and beloved moments of his entire career.

“Jailhouse Rock” premiered October 17, 1957 in Memphis, Tennessee. It opened nationwide in November.

“Jailhouse Rock” premiered October 17, 1957 in Memphis, Tennessee. It opened nationwide in November.

In “Jailhouse Rock,” Elvis stars as Vince Everett, a construction worker who is sentenced to jail after accidentally killing a man in a bar fight. After his release from prison, Vince becomes a singing sensation, thanks to his country star cellmate, Hunk (Mickey Shaughnessy) and Peggy (Judy Tyler) who helps manage his career. Elvis plays the part well, taking Vince from a young man with a hot temper to a rebellious rock star. Fans still swoon at Elvis’ most famous lines from the movie, like “It ain’t tactics honey – it’s just the beast in me.”

Elvis’ “Jailhouse Rock” character is Vince Everett, but other last names considered were Matthews, Jackwood, Ledway, Edmunds and Edwards.

Elvis’ “Jailhouse Rock” character is Vince Everett, but other last names considered were Matthews, Jackwood, Ledway, Edmunds and Edwards.

The famous dance scene is often considered the first “music video.” Choreographer Alex Romero had originally planned for the scene to be full of smooth, Fred Astair-type dancing, but of course, Elvis is Elvis – not Fred Astair. He asked Elvis to perform a few songs as if he was performing on stage at a concert. After watching Elvis’ natural dance moves, he redesigned the entire number.

That dance sequence would impact the film in more ways than one. While filming the number, Elvis aspirated a cap off one of his teeth, and it lodged in his lung. He was hospitalized, and his doctor had to part his vocal cords to retrieve it from his lung. Thankfully, Elvis’ golden voice was not harmed, but the incident did influence the movie – that’s why Vince suffers a throat injury toward the end of the film.

Actress Jennifer Holden made her film debut in "Jailhouse Rock."

Actress Jennifer Holden made her film debut in “Jailhouse Rock.”

Elvis was released from the hospital in California the same day as his parents moved into their new home: Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee.

When filming wrapped, Elvis boarded a train for Memphis. He was excited to see Graceland, so he left the train in Louisiana and rented a car to drive the rest of the way to Memphis. He spent his first night at Graceland on June 26, 1957.

Judy Tyler kicked off her acting career on the "Howdy Doody" show as a teenager.

Judy Tyler kicked off her acting career on the “Howdy Doody” show as a teenager.

Elvis’ “Jailhouse Rock” co-star Judy Tyler was killed in a car crash shortly after filming wrapped, on July 3, 1957. She was just 24, and her husband, who were newlywed, was also killed. Elvis devastated to hear the news and did not attend the movie’s premiere in Memphis on October 17.

“Jailhouse Rock” opened nationwide on November 8, 1957, and it peaked at No. 3 and would be the 14th most successful film of the year. By 1969, Variety reported its U.S. and Canadian earnings had reached $4 million, comparable to that of “The Wizard of Oz.”

"Jailhouse Rock" is on the Library of Congress' National Film Registry.

“Jailhouse Rock” is on the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.

If you love Elvis’ movies, check out Elvis: The Entertainer Career Museum at Elvis Presley’s Memphis at Graceland. It’s the world’s largest Elvis museum, and it contains artifacts from Elvis’ historic career, including jumpsuits, awards and more – including movie props, scripts and costumes. You can only experience the museum here at Graceland, so make plans to visit Graceland now.

And tell us – what are your favorite “Jailhouse Rock” scenes and songs?


12 Comments

  1. stephen stathis

    JR was so well done: weird to see his cousin and Klein and Fike in the movie: it was almost like it mirrored some of Elvis’s worries about Vernon’s past in prison when EP was a child. That was a haunting movie but so well acted.

  2. Laszlo Jakabfi

    The best scene of course is the Jailhouse Rock dance. Dynamic, unstoppable, great singing and dancing. A memorable scene even sixty years on. The singing is just as fresh today as when it was recorded. Shows Elvis at his very best in the fifties. A performance to remember.

  3. Karl Olsen

    “It ain’t tactics, baby, it’s just the beast in me.”

    “Lady, I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”

    Jennifer Holden: “I wanted nothing, I expected nothing, and I got nothing.”
    Elvis: “What do you want for nothing?”

    When Elvis slaps around the record mogul who steals his song.

    Elvis singing: “You’re so square, baby I don’t care.” Scotty Moore with and without sunglasses in the same song scene-a mistake in filming.

  4. Of course the jail dancing part is my favorite. But it seemed like he was more comfortable as a actor in this movie and was being himself. He finally figured out that he could loosen up and be himself.

  5. Terry Thomas

    I will never forget Elvis singing “Young and Beautiful” for the first attempt after his surgery. It was so beautiful and to this day is my favorite Elvis song

  6. Danny Pasatiempo

    Loved the Movie so much, I have one on VHS and one on CD.

  7. Joanne Rasmussen

    After leaving us 40 years ago we, the fans & more, still want more Elvis. I saw Elvis on the first Dorsey show and have loved him ever since. I love reading all of these.

  8. Maree Ann Peterson

    Sorry to hear Elvis wasn’t well, Love this Movie sad about his Co Star Judy, Maree A Peterson

  9. Linda Newsome

    This was one of my Favorite Elvis movie’s and I loved the song Jailhouse Rock. I loved all of Elvis’s music. I am 72 years young and I still listen to it almost every day.Infact I fell in love with him when I was 10 years old. went to see him in Atlanta Ga at the Lowes Grand theater some where around 1955-57

  10. johnnie jordan

    I rate the film from 1 to 10 I give it a 100 love the movie have seem it over and over if I needed to say how many time I would say 100+

  11. yoan Manuel Hernández

    the first video clip of the story is the prisoner of rock and roll was the second movie As main actor the soundtrack is very good

  12. George Tserotas

    As many times as I have watched this movie, it seems I discover something new each time. JR is timeless and like any Elvis fan, you just can’t get enough of the King.

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