50th Anniversary: Elvis Presley’s “Paradise, Hawaiian Style”Posted by Elvis Presley's Graceland on Jun 24, 2016 | 12 comments
Elvis Presley’s colorful, musical comedy, “Paradise, Hawaiian Style,” turns 50 this summer.
This movie, in which Elvis plays a pilot named Rick, was Elvis’ 21st movie, and the third (and final) one made in Hawaii. If you need a dose of Hawaii this summer, this is the movie for you.
In “Paradise, Hawaiian Style,” Elvis plays Rick, a charming helicopter pilot who starts a charter service with his buddy Danny (James Shigeta). A misunderstanding leads to Rick temporarily losing his pilot license, but when Danny and his daughter become stranded on a desert island, Rick must decide if he should risk his career to save his friend.
There’s romance, too, of course, as Rick romances the glamorous “Friday” Judy Hudson (Suzanna Leigh). Rick also befriends a local girl, Jan (Donna Butterworth).
“Paradise, Hawaiian Style,” was filmed in Hawaii in the summer of 1965. A party was given at the Polynesian Cultural Center to celebrate the movie, and it was there that Herman’s Hermits singer Peter Noone interviewed Elvis, and the interview aired the following day on the radio.
While in Hawaii, Elvis, Elvis’ father Vernon and manager Col. Tom Parker visited the USS Arizona Memorial, which Elvis had helped raise money to build. They left a bell-shaped wreath of 1,177 carnations – one for each of the servicemen who died during the Pearl Harbor attack.
About the time that production was wrapping on “Paradise, Hawaiian Style,” Elvis met a few other musicians you may have heard of: Tom Jones, who visited the set, and The Beatles, who visited Elvis’ Bel Air home a few weeks after production was completed.
James Shigeta went on to star in many TV shows and films, including “Magnum, P.I.,” “Murder, She Wrote,” and Die Hard,” and he voiced General Li in Disney’s “Mulan.”
Suzanna Leigh, a native of England, also had starring roles in films like “Boeing, Boeing,” and a few classic Hammer films such as “Son of Dracula.”
Jan Shepard starred in “Paradise, Hawaiian Style” as Betty, and this was her second Elvis film. She played Mimi in “King Creole.”
Donna Butterworth, who stars as Jan, had a brief but fruitful film career, only starring in a handful of projects. She was nominated in 1966 for a Golden Globe Award for her role in “The Family Jewels.”
Michael D. Moore directed “Paradise, Hawaiian Style,” and he was an assistant director of six previous Elvis movies.
Love Elvis movies? Be sure to visit Graceland, where you can visit our latest exhibit, “Elvis in Hollywood: From Teen Idol to Leading Man.” Artifacts on display include Elvis’ scripts and contracts, as well as costumes and movie posters. Can’t make it to Memphis? Watch this “Elvis in Hollwyood” episode of our Gates of Graceland web series.