Paradise, Hawaiian Style

A Look At the Movie "Paradise Hawaiian Style"

Elvis's twenty-first film was the 1966 Paramount release "Paradise, Hawaiian Style."

The script was written by the team of Anthony Lawrence and Allan Weiss, who had previously received accolades for the "Roustabout" script. They collaborated again on "Easy Come, Easy Go." Anthony Lawrence went on to write for many TV series as well as the 1979 television movie "Elvis," starring Kurt Russell.

"Paradise, Hawaiian Style" was directed by Michael D. Moore, who had been an assistant director on six previous Elvis films. He and his brother Pat began their careers as child actors in silent films in the 1920s. Michael has continued to direct films. One of his latest projects was working on the 2000 film "102 Dalmatians."

Elvis was ill for the first few days of preproduction for "Paradise, Hawaiian Style," so the instrumentals for the soundtrack were recorded without him the last week in July 1965. Elvis was well enough to report to the set on August 2, 1965 and he was assigned to Tony Curtis's former dressing room on the Paramount lot. He dubbed his vocals for the soundtrack, had costume fittings and had an insurance physical before the cast and crew flew to Hawaii for location shooting on August. 5, 1965. Elvis and his entourage stayed at the Ilikai Hotel.

The working title for this movie changed several times. Among them were "Polynesian Paradise," "Hawaiian Paradise" and "Polynesian Holiday." No matter the title, they were indeed in paradise. Filming took place in Honolulu at the Hanalei Plantation Resort in Kaui, the Maui Sheraton Hotel and on the Kona Coast. A number of scenes were filmed at the LDS Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu were Hawaiian customs, music and culture are preserved. It was there that Elvis's friend Jerry Schilling met his his future wife Sandy Kawelo, who was a student and one of the Center's dancers in the film.

The choreography was handled by Jack Regas who was also serving as the Center's choreographer. His career included a number of variety series such as the "Phyllis Diller Show" and "The Filp Wilson Show." He then went on to a career as a director.

Nelson Tyler was the helicopter photographer who provided all the breath-taking Hawaiian footage. Over the years he has received two Technical Academy Awards for his design and development of helicopter camera systems.

In "Paradise, Hawaiian Style," English actress Suzanna Leigh played assistant/"girl Friday" Judy Hudson.  She began her acting career as a young girl starring in both English and French productions.  Film producer Hal Wallis spotted her and brought her to the U.S. for the 1965 film "Boeing Boeing."  The actress now has a home and business in Memphis, Tennessee and has appeared at several Elvis fan events.

Golden Globe Award winner James Shigeta played Danny Kohana.  This Hawaiian-born actor was known for his romantic lead roles in such films as "Cry For Happy" and "Flower Drum Song."  He was the voice of General Li in the 1998 animated film "Mulan" and played Jimmy Chan in the 2002 movie "A Ribbon of Dreams."

Jan Shepard played Betty Kohana.  She worked with Elvis years earlier playing Mimi Fisher, the sister of Elvis's character, in his fourth film, "King Creole."

Donna Butterfield played the precocious child, Jan Kohana.  She received a 1966 Golden Globe nomination the 1965 film "The Family Jewels.  She made only three films before leaving the movie business.

The lovely ladies always willing to "scratch your back" were actress Marianna Hill as Lani, Irene Tsu as Pua, Linda Wong as Lehaua, and Julie Parrish as Joanna.

Marianna Hill had worked with Elvis in "Roustabout" and throughout her career has been known for many exotic roles of various ethnicities and for using various accents.  She played Deanna Corleone in the "The Godfather" film trilogy.

Irene Tsu was the 1961 winner of San Francisco's "Miss Chinatown."  She continues her successful acting career and she has taught yoga for over twenty years.

Korean born  Linda Wong moved to Hawaii in 1956 to study political science.  In Hawaii she won a beauty contest and was signed to a movie contract.

Julie Parrish's career included films as well as long-time roles in several TV series.  In recent years she was a regular guest at Elvis Week events in Memphis and became a special favorite of the Elvis fans and the Graceland/EPE staff.  Julie died suddenly in October 2003.

Character actor John Doucette played Donald Belden.  Known for his deep voice, his long career included 149 movie roles and over 147 TV guest appearances. 

Mary Treen played Mrs. Belden and also be seen in roles in Elvis's movies "Girls! Girls! Girls!" and "Fun In Acapulco."  She had roles in over 159 films as well as many on television.

Phillip Ahn played Moki Kaimana.  He had a long career in film and TV.  For many, his most recognized role was that of Master Kan in the 1970's television series "Kung-Fu." 

Veteran actress of stage, radio, film and TV, Doris Packer played the eccentric dog owner, Mrs. Barrington.  Throughout her career she was often cast as a wealthy or authoritative woman. 

Comedic actor Grady Sutton was the befuddled Mr. Cubberson with his alligator shoes.  During his career he appeared in over 200 films.

Much of the shooting for this film was done on location in Hawaii.  While there, Elvis, his father Vernon Presley and manager Colonel Tom Parker visited the U.S.S.. Arizona Memorial, which Elvis's benefit concert in 1961 had helped to build.  Together they laid a bell-saped wreath with 1,177 carnations - one for each serviceman lost there in December 1945 during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

A party was given on August 18, 1965 at the Polynesian Cultural Center in honor of the film. Singer Peter Noone of the
group Herman's Hermits interviewed Elvis there. The interview aired on radio the next day. 

Production on the film moved back to the mainland.  A few days later on August 27, 1965,  The Beatles visited with Elvis, their idol,
at his Bel Air home.  Only a small group of family and friends were on hand for this historic meeting that resulted in an impromptu jam session.  Unfortunately, no one turned on a tape recorder or a home movie camera!

Principal photography for "Paradise, Hawaiian Style" finished on September 30, 1965.  On the set that day Elvis met singer Tom Jones, with whom he would share a mutual respect. 

Elvis completed dubbing and publicity photos by October 4, 1965 and returned to Memphis.  There was a sneak preview of the movie in Memphis on June 9, 1966.  It premiered in New York a week later and it opened nationwide on July 6, 1966.  It ranked #40 for the year on Variety's list.