‘Live a Little, Love a Little’ at 50

This blog could have been called “Kiss My Firm But Pliant Lips” at 50, but thank goodness, it’s not.

That was the original title to Elvis Presley’s 28th movie, “Live a Little, Love a Little.” Released in October 1968, the comedy just turned 50. In addition to plenty of laughs, the movie gave us one of Elvis’ biggest hits, “A Little Less Conversation.”

Let’s take a look back at this comedy, and say farewell to one of the king’s co-stars, on this week’s Graceland Blog.

Michele Carey stars as Bernice, Betty, Suzie and Alice - all the same woman - in "Live a Little, Love a Little."

Michele Carey stars as Bernice, Betty, Suzie and Alice – all the same woman – in “Live a Little, Love a Little.”

“Live a Little, Love a Little” is based on the novel “Kiss My Firm But Pliant Lips” by Dan Greenburg. Greenburg became a best-selling writer with his 1964 book “How to Be a Jewish Mother.” He adapted “Kiss My Firm But Pliant Lips” into a screenplay with Michael A. Hoey. Other working titles for the film include “Bumblebee Oh Bumblebee” and “Born Rich.” Greenburg also wrote for the TV show “Adam’s Rib.”

Hoey grew up around Hollywood movie studios, as his father was character actor Dennis Hoey. He worked with director Norman Taurog on several Elvis movies, including “Spinout,” “Stay Away Joe,” “Tickle Me” and “Live a Little, Love a Little.” He received two Emmy Award nods for his work on “Fame,” the TV show, and he produced several Emmy Award-winning shows.

“Live a Little, Love a Little” was directed by Norman Taurog, who directed nine Presley pictures – more than any other director. He directed “G.I. Blues,” “Blue Hawaii,” “Girls!Girls!Girls!” “It Happened at the World’s Fair,” “Tickle Me,” “Spinout,” “Double Trouble” and “Speedway.” “Live a Little, Love a Little” was not only his last Elvis movie to direct, but the last movie he directed at all – he retired from directing after making this film. He later taught at the University of California School of Cinema and remained a board member of the Director’s Guild.

In "Live a Little, Love a Little," Elvis stars as Greg Nolan, a photographer.

In “Live a Little, Love a Little,” Elvis stars as Greg Nolan, a photographer.

Elvis reported to MGM Studios on March 4, 1968, to begin pre-production. He worked with musical conductor and writer Billy Strange – who he collaborated with on several films and on the ’68 Special – and recorded the soundtrack on March 7. Filming began on March 13, and locations included the Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu, Marineland, the Hollywood Citizen News building, Los Angeles Music Center and the streets of Hollywood Hills.

In “Live a Little, Love a Little,” Elvis stars as photographer Greg Nolan. He’s working for two employers – played by Don Porter and Rudy Vallee – and it’s tough to make them both happy.

Rudy Vallee was a singer and bandleader in the ‘20s and ‘30s and was known for his trademark style of singing through a megaphone. He became an actor on the stage, screen and TV, and enjoyed a great career that spanned 60 years.

Don Porter began acting in the 1940s. He starred as Ann Sothern’s boss on both “Private Secretary” and “The Ann Sothern Show,” and as Sally Field’s father on the “Gidget” TV show.

Elvis and his co-stars go over their lines.

Elvis and his co-stars go over their lines.

Elvis’ eccentric love interest in the film, Bernice/Betty/Suzie/Alice, was played by Michele Carey. Carey was a top model for the Powers Agency and also starred in “El Dorado” and “Dirty Dingus Magee.”

Dick Sargent stars as Harry Baby in “Live a Little, Love a Little.” Sargent was first offered the role of Darrin Stephens in “Bewitched,” but the role ultimately went to Dick York. York played the role for several years until debilitating back pain forced him to leave the show, and Sargent took over for him. Sargent also had a bit part in Elvis’ first film, “Love Me Tender.”

Sterling Holloway stars as the Milkman. He began his movie career in silent films, but he later went on to become the voice of many animated movie characters. He was also the voice of Winnie the Pooh.

Eddie Hodges stars as Woodrow, the delivery boy. The Mississippi native played the title role in Michael Curtiz’ 1960 movie “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” appeared on stage in “The Music Man,” and had several hit records in the ‘60s. He gave up performing in 1969 to become a counselor in his home state.

The soundtrack featured four songs: "A Little Less Conversation," "Edge of Reality," "Almost in Love" and "Wonderful World."

The soundtrack featured four songs: “A Little Less Conversation,” “Edge of Reality,” “Almost in Love” and “Wonderful World.”

There are many models in the film, including Susan Henning, dressed as the mermaid in one of Greg’s photo sessions. She also starred in Elvis’ ’68 Special – she’s the blonde in the pink dress to whom he sings “Let Yourself Go.”

Speaking of familiar faces in the movie, be on the lookout for Elvis’ dad, Vernon. Vernon drove Elvis’ new Lincoln out to California for him and, while visiting his son on the set, was given a nonspeaking part in the movie. You can spot him in the scene in which Greg takes photos of a man sitting in a chair at a table – that man is Vernon Presley.

Celeste Yarnall stars as Ellen in "Live a Little, Love a Little."

Celeste Yarnall stars as Ellen in “Live a Little, Love a Little.”

Another of Elvis’ “Live a Little, Love a Love a Little” co-stars is Celeste Yarnall. In addition to working with Elvis, Yarnall shared the screen with the likes of Paul Newman,  Jack Lemmon, Jerry Lewis and Charles Bronson. Yarnall worked for more than 50 years in entertainment, and she also earned a Ph.D. in nutrition. She wrote several books on animal nutrition, bred and shown champion cats, managed screenwriters, owned a commercial real estate business and more. Celeste Yarnall passed away on October 8, 2018.

Elvis sings “A Little Less Conversation” to Yarnall’s character in the film. The song, written by Mac Davis and Billy Strange, enjoyed a second wave of success in 2002, when it was remixed by DJ JXL. The song hit the top of the charts and became yet another hit for the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Principal photography for “Live a Little, Love a Little,” ended on May 1, 1968 (which was also Elvis and Priscilla’s first wedding anniversary). The movie opened nationwide on October 23, 1968.

True or false? Elvis and Priscilla's dog Brutus stars in the movie as Albert the dog. False! Albert is played by a professionally trained dog.

True or false? Elvis and Priscilla’s dog Brutus stars in the movie as Albert the dog.
False! Albert is played by a professionally trained dog.

If you enjoy Elvis’ movies, check out our Starring Elvis Presley Podcast, which covers each of Elvis’ movies in chronological order. Tune in to the podcast.

And don’t forget to visit Graceland, where you can walk in the steps of the king at his beloved mansion and explore Elvis: The Entertainer Career Museum. There’s an entire section at the museum dedicated to the king’s movies. Plan your Graceland visit now!

Share your favorite scenes and songs from this movie in the comments!


1 Comment

  1. stephen stathis

    Almost in Love was a nice change of pace: more in the Sinatra style of singing. Unless EP had a meaty role (like Pacer in Flaming Star) it was hard to see him as someone other than Elvis. Edge of Reality was well staged. Hard to know why Elvis never pursued acting as he did singing.

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