Musical Monday: It Happened at the World’s Fair (1963)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

fair1This week’s musical:
It Happened at the World’s Fair (1963)– Musical #547

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Norman Taurog

Starring:
Elvis Presley, Joan O’Brien, Gary Lockwood, Vicky Tiu, Yvonne Craig, Kam Tong, H.M. Wynant, Kurt Russell (uncredited)

Plot:
Mike (Elvis) and Danny (Lockwood) play two crop-duster pilots. Danny loses all of their pay gambling so the two are broke. While hitchhiking, they end up on Uncle Walter (Tong) and Sue-Lin’s (Tiu) truck to the Seattle World’s Fair. Uncle Walter isn’t able to take Sue-Lin to the fair, so Mike volunteers; giving him the opportunity to meet pretty nurse, Dianne (O’Brien).

Trivia:
-Shot on location during the Seattle, WA World’s Fair.
-Kurt Russell has an uncredited role as “Boy Kicking Mike.” Russell’s brief role is kicking Elvis in the shin. Kurt was reluctant to kick Elvis since he was a big fan. Kurt said in an interview that Elvis himself paid Kurt $5 to kick him.
-Elvis Presley described co-star Joan O’Brien as “very sweet, kind and gentle,” according to Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema by Tom Lisanti.
-Originally, Elizabeth Tiu was wanted to play Sue-Lin, but she was unavailable. Instead, Elizabeth’s younger sister Vicky Tiu was cast. This was Vicky’s only film.
-Joan O’Brien was a professional singer, but didn’t get to sing in the move, according to Lisanti’s book.

Elvis with Vicky Tiu in "It Happened at the World's Fair."

Elvis with Vicky Tiu in “It Happened at the World’s Fair.”

Highlights:
-Kurt Russell’s brief appearance kicking Elvis
-The Seattle World’s Fair location

Notable Songs:
-Take Me to the Fair performed by Elvis Presley
-Relax performed by Elvis Presley
-They Remind Me Too Much of You performed by Elvis Presley
-One Broken Heart for Sale performed by Elvis Presley
-How Would You Like to Be performed by Elvis Presley

My review:
Elvis Presley movies simply are fun. Sometimes I hear conversations criticizing their goofiness. I once even talked to an Elvis impersonator. When I asked which films he liked he said, “I don’t watch Elvis movies. He hated make them anyways.” (How can you be an Elvis impersonator if you ignore one of the largest parts of his career?!)

Joan O'Brein and Elvis Presley in "It Happened at the World's Fair" in the Space Needle.

Joan O’Brein and Elvis Presley in “It Happened at the World’s Fair” in the Space Needle.

In fact Joan O’Brien said in an interview that this film was before Elvis started to get disenchanted with film making. She speculated that some of it had to do with his trouble getting lines out, according to her interview in Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema by Tom Lisanti.

While Elvis’ films aren’t Academy Award winning dramas, they are song-filled joy. Maybe cheesy and occasionally eye-roll worthy, but joyful. “It Happened at the World’s Fair” isn’t any different. This particular film has two things going for it: filmed on location during the Seattle World’s Fair and an adorable 7-year-old tag-a-long, Sue Lin, played by Vicky Tiu.

This is the World’s Fair which brought the Space Needle to Seattle. What’s interesting is that the movie was filmed on location during the fair, causing a security nightmare for all the fans wanting to get a glimpse at Elvis.

While children can sometimes be irritating in films, Vicky Tiu is pretty cute, which gives audiences the novelty of a film with Elvis and a cute kid.

Elvis’s leading lady is Joan O’Brien, but she isn’t as large a part of the story as some of the female leads are in other movies.

There are 10 songs in the film, but none of them are catchy or memorable Elvis tunes. Other films like Viva Las Vegas and Fun in Acapulco have more toe tappers than this one.

I’ll admit that while watching this movie, I got it confused with “Girls! Girls! Girls!”, another film that leaves Elvis watching over a little girl.

At the end of the film, Elvis ends up filling out an application for NASA, which made me wonder: why was there never a film with Elvis as an astronaut? It seems like a missed opportunity.

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