Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fun on a Hollywood Film Set

A while ago Mike Edwards over at the Have A Clambake! blog wrote that it's been a long time since he took a look at an Elvis movie, and was gonna watch Spinout and write about it. As it was a long time since I saw one, too, I asked him to tell me which one I should watch, and then I would write about it.

Turned out he wanted to hear what I think of Fun In Acapulco, so this afternoon I sat down in front of the television, dimmed the lights and watched my DVD copy of the movie. It brought a lot of memories, as this was one of few Elvis movies shown on television when I was a kid.

Actually, I think it was Fun In Acapulco and Paradise, Hawaiian Style that was shown regularly in those days, so I guess the TV company (Sweden only had one back then!) had a deal going where they could screen these two quite often. "You know the one where he dives of that cliff" or "the one where he flies a helicopter full of dogs" were expressions that I remember using when describing what Elvis movie I'd seen.

You all know the story: Elvis plays Mike Windgren, a trapeze artist, who tries to forget a tragic accident where his brother was killed. In Acapulco he's a busy guy: he become friend with an orphaned Mexican kid who becomes his manager, he works as a singer during the night and as a lifeguard at night, and is attracted to two ladies.

In the end he dives from the highest cliff, thereby overcoming his morbid fear of heights. Along the way he also sorts out his love life (he's in love with Margarita (actress Ursula Andress, no less) and decides to move back to Florida where he will become a member of The Flying Windgrens family act again.

I enjoyed watching the movie, and though it's nothing like Jailhouse Rock (Richard Thorpe directed both of 'em) I think it works reasonably well for what it is: a lightweighted film with a lot of music, a lot of romance, and a lot of scenic color.

But, speaking of the scenery, the one thing I've never liked with Fun In Acapulco is the fact that a stand-in for Elvis was used in all the scenes shot in Acapulco. In fact, all of Elvis' scenes took place in Hollywood, while his co-stars seem to have visited Mexico for the film. This is painfully clear if you look at the stand-in who doesn't look at Elvis at all (check out the scene before the "(There's) No Room To Rhumba In A Sports Car" number, for example).

That brings me to the music, that, except for the above song, I've always liked. In fact I think it's one of the best soundtracks around (certainly from the 60's anyway). Or as Ernst Jorgensen puts it in his book A Life In Music:

From the energic opening cut of "Bossa Nova Baby," through the intoxicating Tijuana sweetness of the horn players on "Marguerita," to the Spanish flavor on cuts like "Guadalajara" and "The Bullfighter Was A Lady," the recordings are a triumph of sound and atmosphere.

So there you have it, my thoughts on Fun In Acapulco. If you want to dig deeper, you can read my earlier postings about the songs "Mexico" and "Guadalajara."

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