‘Stay Away, Joe’ Turns 50

It’s the golden anniversary for Elvis’ high-spirited 26th movie, “Stay Away, Joe.”

In “Joe,” Elvis stars as the title character, Joe Lightcloud, a rodeo star who is trying to help his Native American family, who lives on a reservation. Between business dealings and bucking broncos, Joe also stays busy wooing girls – including Mamie, who has marriage on her mind.

“Joe” is based on Dan Cushman’s best-selling novel of the same name. Cushman, a Montana native, wrote more than 30 novels and won numerous awards. His “Stay Away Joe” book not only inspired Elvis’ movie but also a Broadway musical; both were praised for their comedy and criticized for the negative depiction of Native Americans.

“Stay Away, Joe” features five Elvis songs. Elvis recorded those tunes – the title track, “All I Needed Was the Rain,” “Lovely Mamie,”Stay Away” and “Dominick” – on October 1, 1967. No accompanying soundtrack album was released along with the film. “Stay Away” was recorded on January 16, 1968, and was released as a single with “U.S. Male” on the B side.

"Stay Away, Joe" was filmed in Arizona.

“Stay Away, Joe” was filmed in Arizona.

Filming began in Sedona and Cottonwood, Arizona, on October 9, 1967. Academy Award-winning cinematographer Fred J. Koenkamp worked on the movie and showed off the brilliant beauty of the area in the movie, and it remains a favorite location for the movie industry. A few other movies that have also been shot in the area include “3:10 to Yuma” (the 1957 version), “The Karate Kid” and “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”

The song "Stay Away," written by Sid Tepper and Roy C. Bennett, is based on the melody of "Greensleeves."

The song “Stay Away,” written by Sid Tepper and Roy C. Bennett, is based on the melody of “Greensleeves.”

If you’re a fan of movies, there is no doubt you’ve seen a few of Elvis’ co-stars in other movies.

Burgess Meredith played Joe’s father, Charlie Lightcloud. Meredith starred as the villainous Penguin in the “Batman” TV series in the 1960s, but he’s probably best known as trainer Mickey Goldmill in the “Rocky” films. He was nominated for many Academy and Emmy Awards.

Classic film star Joan Blondell starred as Mamie’s mama, the gun-toting Glenda Callahan. She was born into Vaudeville and toured with her parents, and later made her debut on the Ziegfeld Follies in New York. She starred with James Cagney in Broadway productions and in six films. She married actor Dick Powell, and the pair made 10 musicals together. She was nominated for her work in films like “The Blue Veil,” “The Cincinnati Kid” and “Opening Night.”

Quentin Dean played Mamie. She made her film debut just a year earlier in “In the Heat of the Night,” and she was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for her performance.

The screenplay for "Stay Away, Joe," was written by Burt Kennedy and Michael A. Hoey. Kennedy, a decorated World War II veteran, used his Army skills to become a stunt fencer in films. He eventually began writing for TV shows and movies, especially Westerns.

The screenplay for “Stay Away, Joe,” was written by Burt Kennedy and Michael A. Hoey. Kennedy, a decorated World War II veteran, used his Army skills to become a stunt fencer in films. He eventually began writing for TV shows and movies, especially Westerns.

Katy Jurado played Annie Lightcloud, Joe’s stepmother. Jurado won and was nominated for many acting awards in her native Mexico, and she was also nominated for Academy and Golden Globe Awards. She starred in many Westerns such as “High Noon,” “Broken Lance” and “Arrowhead.” She broke her foot shortly before production began on “Joe,” and she had her cast removed prematurely – that’s why she has a limp in the movie. Jurado wore her own jewelry in the film, and many of the pieces were gifts from her co-stars, such as Spencer Tracy, John Wayne, Helen Hayes and Gary Cooper.

The role of Grandpa was played by Thomas Gomez, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in “Ride the Pink Horse.”

One of the movie's taglines was, "Elvis goes West...and the West goes wild!"

One of the movie’s taglines was, “Elvis goes West…and the West goes wild!”

Anne Seymour played Mrs. Hawkins, the Lightcloud family’s guest. She was part of a seventh generation of actors in a theatrical family that began acting in Ireland in 1740. She acted on Broadway, on radio dramas and in film.

Joe’s sister, Mary Lightcloud, was played by Susan Trustman, who later starred as Pat Matthews on the soap opera “Another World.”

Dick Wilson stars briefly in the film as the car salesman stuck with Joe’s horse as a trade-in for a beautiful new convertible. He starred on many shows, like “Hogan’s Heroes,” “Betwitched” and “Ben Casey,” but many TV viewers probably know him best as Mr. Whipple in Charmin tissue commercials (a role he had for 25 years).

Elvis' character, Joe Lightcloud, is a Navajo. More than 100 Navajo extras were used in the movie.

Elvis’ character, Joe Lightcloud, is a Navajo. More than 100 Navajo extras were used in the movie.

“Stay Away, Joe” was directed by Peter Tewksbury, who would also later direct Elvis’ film “The Trouble with Girls.” He also directed TV shows like “My Three Sons” and “Father Knows Best.”

“Joe” was one of the rare movies that Elvis’ wife Priscilla and the wives of his entourage were on the movie set.

The movie was filmed in October and November 1967, and it wrapped on November 27 with a lunch Elvis had catered for the cast and crew.

“Stay Away, Joe,” was released on March 8, 1968 – 50 years ago! – and ranked #65 on Variety’s list of top-grossing films of ’68.

We’re watching each of Elvis’ movies in chronological order for our podcast, Starring Elvis Presley. Tune in to our latest episode – which is all about “Stay Away, Joe” – below:

Get closer to Elvis, the movie star (and Elvis, the entertainer – Elvis, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll – and Elvis, the man) when you visit Graceland! You’ll see everything from his famous Jungle Room to his jumpsuits to his movie props and costumes. Make your plans to visit Graceland today!


2 Comments

  1. Danny Pasatiempo

    . More than 100 Navajo extras were used in the movie.

  2. Jeremy

    Hi, actor Warren Vanders [portraying “Hike Bowers” in the film] is seen with a red shirted-Elvis and the unidentified girl in the second photo featured with this article. It’s a welcome sight every week when you compile these detailed Elvis film entries…keep them coming please!

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