‘King Creole’ at 60

Fans, critics and Elvis himself all agree on one thing: “King Creole” is one of the best movies he made.

Out of the 31 feature films Elvis made, he often said “King Creole” was his favorite. Both fans and critics say the movie features Elvis the actor at his best.

“King Creole” opened on July 2, 1958 – 60 years ago this month – and it was a huge hit. All these years later, it remains a fan favorite.

Danny (Elvis) romances Ronnie (Carolyn Jones) in the king's fourth film, "King Creole."

Danny (Elvis) romances Ronnie (Carolyn Jones) in the king’s fourth film, “King Creole.”

In “King Creole,” Elvis stars as Danny Fisher, a rebellious young man who is trying to support his father and sister, so he works at a night club to make ends meet. His boss, Maxie (Walter Matthau), also oversees his own local gang, and Danny becomes entangled Maxie’s web of lies, betrayal and criminal activity. Naturally, there is some romance, too – Danny woos both Ronnie (Carolyn Jones), his boss’ girlfriend, and the sweet Nellie (Dolores Hart).

“King Creole” was based on the Harold Robbins novel “A Stone for Danny Fisher,” which told the story of a New York boxer. After purchasing the movie rights in 1955, producer Hal Wallis changed the main character into a New Orleans singer.

Elvis signs autographs for fans on a break from filming.

Elvis signs autographs for fans on a break from filming.

The movie was filmed in the Big Easy, which proved difficult at times, as Elvis drew hundreds of fans. The entire 10th floor of the Roosevelt Hotel was reserved for the movie’s cast, complete with Pinkerton Guards guarding the halls. Security was strict, and there were orders given that the elevators could not stop on the 10th floor. One evening after filming, Elvis and his friends returned to the hotel after a long day of shooting. The elevator operator told him he couldn’t go to the 10th floor because Elvis Presley was staying there.

Elvis stopped to sign an autograph for this young fan.

Elvis stopped to sign an autograph for this young fan.

Dolores Hart, niece of singer Mario Lanza, starred as Elvis’ leading lady for the second time; she also starred in Elvis’ second movie, “Loving You.” She later left her acting career and became a nun. Today she is Mother Superior, but she is still a voting member of the Academy of Motion Pictures.

Carolyn Jones is known to classic TV fans as Morticia on “The Addams Family.” She also starred in films such as “The Seven Year Itch,” “House of Wax,” “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and “How the West was Won.”

Two working titles for "King Creole" were "Danny" and "Sing, You Sinners."

The “King Creole” soundtrack includes hit songs like “Hard Headed Woman,” “Trouble” and “Don’t Ask Me Why.”

Walter Matthau showed his dark side as the cold-hearted Maxie in “King Creole,” but he starred in many lighthearted comedies and musicals. He starred in the “The Odd Couple” and “Grumpy Old Men” films, as well as movies such as “Charade,” “The Fortune Cookie,” “The Sunshine Boys,” “The Bad News Bears,” and “Hello, Dolly!” During his career, he won Tony Awards, Academy Awards and Golden Globe Awards.

“King Creole” was directed by Michael Curtiz, who directed such films as “Casablanca,” “White Christmas,” “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex,” “Angels with Dirty Faces,” “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” “Mildred Pierce” and “The Story of Will Rogers.”

Elvis received his U.S. Army draft notice just before production began. He was granted special permission to make the already-contracted film and defer reporting for eight weeks until it was finished.

Working titles for "King Creole" include "Danny" and "Sing, You Sinners."

Working titles for “King Creole” include “Danny” and “Sing, You Sinners.”

If you enjoy Elvis’ movies, tune in to our Starring Elvis Presley Podcast to hear more about all of the king’s films! You can also check out props, movie costumes and more at Elvis: The Entertainer Career Museum at Elvis Presley’s Memphis at Graceland.

Talk back to us! Tell us your favorite scenes and songs in “King Creole.”


5 Comments

  1. stephen

    The songs along with movie were outstanding. He came a long way from LMTender to this one: Crawfish along with entire LP fit in. When I bought the LP there was a photo of EP in his Army uniform as a bonus. I returned the LP a few times to get a new one and got more pictures.

  2. Tony Brice

    My favorite scene is the one which features Elvis and Dolores Hart in the boat.

  3. Sharys Wheeler

    Back in 1958 when I was 13 years old and you could just stay in the theatre, my friend and I sat through King Creole over and over just to watch Elvis sing King Creole.

  4. Ruth Carroll

    There is nothing about the film that I didn’t like thought it was an excellent film. Elvis at his best I specially like the song Don’t ask me why and King Creole Elvis was Subperb in this film, outstanding!

  5. Rebecca Sampson

    When he is on stage, singing, “Trouble”, which, to this day, one of my favourite songs from one of my favourite movies.

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