Girl Happy

A look at the movie "Girl Happy"  - Part 1 of 3:

Elvis Presley's seventeenth film was the 1965 MGM movie "Girl Happy," whose setting was the annual spring break festivities on the beaches of Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Elvis reported to Radio Recorders in Hollywood on June 10, 1964 for soundtrack recordings.  On June 11th, after 36 frustrating takes on the song "Do Not Disturb," Elvis left the studio disillusioned about the quality of the music. After these sessions he would not record again for eight months.

"Girl Happy" was produced by Joe Pasternak, who had started his career as a studio food service worker.  Working his way up to producer, he received three Academy Award nominations and 10 Golden Laurel nominations.  He had made the beach film "Where The Boys Are" about Ft. Lauderdale, FL and wanted the same setting for an Elvis movie.

Harvey Bullock and R. S. Allen were the screen writing team.  Together they had written for TV comedy series such as "The Andy Griffith Show," "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C."

The director was three-time Emmy nominee Boris Sagal.  Much of his career was spent working in television.  He was killed in 1982 in a helicopter accident while working on the TV film "World War III."

The choreographer David Winters had worked on "Viva Las Vegas" and was asked to choreograph a dance to the song "Do The Clam."  During this time period in American music "dance songs" were very popular.  There had been dances invented such as The Twist, The Mashed Potato, The Pony, The Jerk, The S-W-I-M, The Freddie, The Bird and The Monkey to name a few.  RCA and MGM were hoping to start a new dance craze with The Clam, but it didn't go over.  The song "Do the Clam" was on the charts for 8 weeks, peaking at #21, and the dance never caught on.

This was the first of three Elvis films in which Shelley Fabares would play Elvis's leading lady.  The two follow-ups, "Spinout" and "Clambake," came soon after.  She had been a regular as the daughter on the popular TV series "The Donna Reed Show" and had recorded the hit record "Johnny Angel," which was knocked out of the #1 spot in 1962 by Elvis's "Good Luck Charm." She went on to appear in many films and TV series, most notably co-staring in the 1990s TV series "Coach," for which she received two Emmy Award nominations. She is married to actor Mike Farrell and has been battling an auto-immune disease, for which she received a lifesaving liver transplant in 2000.

Emmy nominee Harold Stone, played Big Frank.  He had worked in the films "Spartacus" and "The Greatest Story Every Told" among others.  He continued to work through out the 80s in films and onsuch TV series as "I Spy," "Bridget Loves Bernie" and "The Wild McCullochs."

Gary Crosby, son of legendary singer Bing Crosby, played Andy.  He was named after his father's friend, actor Gary Cooper.  He went on to work in a number of TV shows including "Adam-12," and he wrote a tell-all book about life in the Crosby home, which, by his account, wasn't as idyllic as the public had believed.  He died of lung cancer in 1995.

Jimmy Hawkins played Doc in "Girl Happy" and worked again with Elvis and Shelley Fabares in "Spinout."  Hawkins began his career as a child actor.  He was in the classic 1946 film  "It's A Wonderful Life," starring James Stewart and Donna Reed, playing the role of their son Tommy.  Later, he was a regular on  "The Donna Reed Show,"  playing Shelley Fabares's  boyfriend.  He also had regular roles on the TV series "Annie Oakley" "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet."  He has gone on to producing while continuing to act.  He also authored two books on the film  "It's A Wonderful Life."

Native Mississippian Mary Ann Mobley played Deena.  She also co-starred with Elvis as the princess in "Harum Scarum."  The former Miss America (1959) won a Golden Globe Award in 1965 for Most Promising Newcomer and throughout the 60s and 70s appeared on many popular TV shows.  Married to performer Gary Collins since 1967, they have often worked together on stage and TV.  A sufferer of Crohn's Disease, she is a tireless advocate for this and many other humanitarian causes.

Former child star Jackie Coogan played Sgt. Benson in "Girl Happy."  Born into a vaudeville family, he began performing at age 4.  After being discovered by Charlie Chaplin, he became one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood during his childhood.  As an adult he sued his mother and stepfather for the $4 million he had earned as a child but had not received due to his parents' control of his income.  After Coogan was awarded a mere $126,000, California passed The Child Actors Bill to protect the rights and earnings of child actors.  As an adult his career waned until he was cast as Uncle Fester on "The Addams Family," and from then until his death in 1984 he worked steadily in film and television.

John Fiedler played Mr. Penchill.   Throughout his long career as a character actor he has had roles in many films, including "12 Angry Men," "A Raisin In The Sun," "That Touch of Mink" and "The World of Henry Orient," as well as roles in such TV series as "The Odd Couple" and "The Bob Newhart Show" to name just a few.  However. it may be for his voice that he is most recognized. Since 1968 he has provided the voice of Piglet in Disney's animated "Winnie the Pooh" programs.

Florida-born Chris Noel played Betsy.  Her career progressed as that of many blonde beauties in show business of the 1960s - cheerleader, model and beauty queen turned "beach party" movie actress.  Avisit to a veterans hospital in 1965 changed her life forever.  She soon auditioned for the Armed Forces Radio Network and became America's answer to "Hanoi Hanna" during the
Vietnam War with her popular show "A Date With Chris."  Twice, her helicopter was shot down while touring to entertain the troops and she received the Distinguished Vietnam Veteran award from the Veterans Network in 1984.  Today, she runs a shelter for homeless veterans in Florida.

Joby Baker played Wilbur.  At one time he was married to Joan Blackman, who was Elvis's leading lady in "Blue Hawaii" and "Kid Galahad."

Gail Gilmore played Nancy and was also Sapphire in "Harum Scarum."

Bevery Adams played an uncredited extra and she was Cora in "Roustabout".   She was at one time married famed hairdresser Vidal Sassoon.

George Cisar played the bartender at the Kit Kat Club.  He also had roles in "Jailhouse Rock," "It Happened at The World's Fair,"  "Viva Las Vegas" and "Speedway."

Mike De Anda played the bartender at the Sandbar Club and he was a guard at La Perla in "Fun In Acapulco."

Nancy Czar was a blonde on the beach and also played a beauty queen in "Spinout."

Tommy Farrell, son of Glenda Farrell (Ma Tatum in "Kissin' Cousins"),  played Louie.  In "Kissin' Cousins" Tommy played MSgt. William George Bailey.

Norman Grabowski played 'Wolf Call' O'Brien.  Earlier, he was Sam in "Roustabout."  He is an award winning custom car designer.

Dan Haggerty, who became famous in the 1970s for his title role in the "Grizzly Adams" TV series, played Charlie.  He began his acting career with the role of a bodybuilder in the film  "Muscle Beach Party."  He has worked as an animal trainer, stunt man, custom motorcycle builder and restaurateur.

Hank Jones played an uncredited role in "Girl Happy."  His movie career in the 60s and 70s included a number of Disney films. Today, he is a much published world renowned genealogist specializing in the Irish-German Palatine Families.

This was the last of four Elvis films in which actor Kent McCord had uncredited roles as an extra.  He became famous after being cast as a lead in the "Adam-12" television series.  He has been actively involved in, and served on the board of directors of, The Screen Actors Guild.

Richard Reeves, the ever patient Officer Wilkins, also had roles in the Elvis films "Tickle Me," "Harum Scarum," "Frankie and Johnny" and, perhaps most notably, as the soulful harmonica playing convict in "Blue Hawaii."

Principal photography began on June 22, 1964 and visitors to the set included George Hamilton and his then girlfriend Lynda Bird Johnson, daughter of President Lyndon Johnson.  George Hamilton had just finished shooting "Your Cheating Heart" a movie about Hank Williams. 

On the June 23, 1964 there was an early celebration on the set for Colonel Parker's 55th birthday, which was June 26, 1964.   The party was attended by actor Nick Adams among others. 

Principal photography wrapped on August 3, 1964 and the studio released Elvis on August 12, 1964.  The movie opened in April 1965 and ranked #25 for the year.   The soundtrack LP peaked at #8 on the charts.