“Elvis swinging higher than the Space Needle with the gals, the songs and the famous World’s Fair!”
Elvis’ twelfth movie, “It Happened at the World’s Fair,” was released April 3, 1963, making this year its 55th anniversary. The musical comedy follows Mike (Elvis) and Danny (Gary Lockwood), crop duster pilots who travel to the World’s Fair in Seattle to pay off Danny’s gambling debts and to get their plane back from the local sheriff. Along the way, Danny plays poker to make some quick cash, and Mike woos a nurse, Diane (Joan O’Brien), and takes care of a little girl, Sue-Lin (Vicky Tiu), whose uncle has disappeared. "It Happened at the World's Fair" was directed by Norman Taurog.
Actress Joan O'Brien co-starred with many of Hollywood's top leading men, including Elvis, Cary Grant, Jerry Lewis and John Wayne.
The fair was called the Seattle Century 21 Exposition, so the name of the trailer park where Elvis’ character lived was called the “Center 21 Estates.” Many of the structures and buildings created for the fair are still used today in what’s now called the Seattle Center. The Space Needle, built in 1962 for the World’s Fair, is now a symbol for the city of Seattle, Washington. The 1962 World’s Fair drew millions of visitors from around the world.
Child actress Vicky Tiu played Sue-Lin, the little girl Mike befriends and takes care of in the film. This was Vicky’s only movie role; as an adult, she became the first lady of Hawaii while her husband, Ben Cayetano, was the state’s governor.
Vicky Tiu's siblings, Ginny Tiu, Elizabeth Tiu and Alexander Tiu, starred with Elvis in "Girls! Girls! Girls!"
Yvonne Craig stars in “World’s Fair” as Dorothy. She later starred as Elvis’ leading lady in “Kissin’ Cousins,” and TV fans will recognize her as Batgirl from the 1960s TV show “Batman.”
Actor Kurt Russell made his movie debut in “World’s Fair” as the “shin-kicker,” or “Boy Kicking Mike.” Russell was 10 at the time, and he’s featured in a small role where Mike asks him to kick him in the shins. Years later, he starred as Elvis in a TV movie biography.
Working titles for this movie included "Take Me Out to the Fair" and "Take Me to the Fair."
Elvis worked on the movie from late August through early November. Naturally, part of “It Happened at the World’s Fair” was filmed at the actual World’s Fair. Plenty of fans gathered near the film set to catch a glimpse of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. When he couldn’t make it outside, Elvis and his entourage stayed in their hotels and played pranks on the hotel staff. A favorite prank was to move all the furniture out of the room, and then call room service. When the bellboy delivered the food, he would find them sitting on the floor of a totally empty room. When the bellboy left to get a manager, the guys would move the furniture back to where it belonged.
This was actor Kurt Russell's first movie. He went on to star in movies such as "Silkwood," "Overboard," "Tombstone," "The Hateful Eight" and "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2."
Once location filming was over, Elvis and his manager, Col. Tom Parker, presented two Tennessee Hams to Washington Governor Albert Rosellini on behalf of Tennessee Governor Buford Ellington.
Parts of the movie were also filmed in Hollywood. When filming returned to California, Elvis gave an interview to columnist Lloyd Shearer. In that interview, Elvis discussed how much he loved to read and study philosophy, and that if he wasn’t an entertainer, he would have liked to become a doctor.
In November, Memphis Mayor Henry Loeb and Elvis’ father, Vernon, visited Elvis on the set to accept Elvis’ annual donation of $50,000 for Memphis-area charities.
Elvis worked with director Norman Taurog more than any other director. Taurog directed nine Presley pictures, including "G.I. Blues," "Blue Hawaii," "Girls! Girls! Girls!" "Tickle Me," "Spinout," "Double Trouble," "Speedway" and "Live a Little, Love a Little."
Elvis’ movies make up a huge part of Elvis’ career and legacy. Learn more about Elvis’ movies at Elvis: The Entertainer Career Museum at Elvis Presley’s Memphis at Graceland. You can check out his movie costumes, props, scripts and more. Start making your plans now to visit Graceland!
If you enjoy learning about Elvis’ movies, tune in to our Elvis movie podcast, Starring Elvis Presley.