This is Elvis Presley‘s glorious third movie, after Love Me Tender (1956) and Loving You (1957), when the snarl and talent were, for once, harnessed to a suitable plot under the experienced direction of MGM veteran Richard Thorpe.
Presley plays Vince Everett, a young truck driver sent to prison for accidentally killing a man in a fistfight.
While behind bars he is taught to play guitar by his cellmate, a former singer called Hunk Houghton (Mickey Shaughnessy).
After an impressive appearance on a televised prison talent show, Vince signs a contract with Houghton to appear as a double-act after their release.
Everett finishes his sentence first and sets out on a solo singing career. His restrained crooning, however, does not go down well in the tough bar where he performs but, by coincidence, he attracts the attention of beautiful record company talent scout Peggy Van Alden (Judy Tyler) and the path to fame appears before him.
Peggy falls in love with Vince, but his new-found stardom blinds him to her affection, and their relationship is reduced to a business partnership.
When Hunk shows up with his crude contract, Vince tears it up and immediately hires him as a valet (for 10% of his earnings).
Finally, when Vince becomes infatuated with Sherry Wilson (Jennifer Holden) – the leading lady in his first Hollywood movie – and decides to sell his share of the record company he formed with Penny, Hunk’s disgust at Vince leads to a fight.
A chance blow from former cellmate Hunk lays Vince flat with a blow to his money-spinning larynx. It seems he will never sing again but, inspired by Peggy’s love and Hunk’s obvious remorse, he manages to recover his voice.
Elvis creates a most unlikeable character in Vince, at the same time revealing an acting talent on a par with that of James Dean, only previously hinted at in his first two movies.
In addition, Elvis himself choreographed the stunning title number (pictured above), making excellent use of the CinemaScope format, but it’s his open-air delivery of the Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller song Baby, I Don’t Care that really stirs the blood.
Leading lady Judy Tyler was tragically killed in a car crash soon after shooting was completed (this was only her second movie after starring on Broadway), and Elvis himself couldn’t bear to watch this film for that reason.
Peggy Van Alden