50th Anniversary: Elvis Presley’s “Paradise, Hawaiian Style”

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.

Elvis takes a break between filming "Paradise, Hawaiian Style."

Elvis takes a break between filming “Paradise, Hawaiian Style.”

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" is Elvis' third film based in Hawaii. His other Hawaiian films are "Blue Hawaii" and "Girls! Girls! Girls!"

“Paradise, Hawaiian Style” is Elvis’ third film based in Hawaii. His other Hawaiian films are “Blue Hawaii” and “Girls! Girls! Girls!”

“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.

Elvis poses for a promotional photo with co-star Suzanna Leigh.

Elvis poses for a promotional photo with co-star Suzanna Leigh.

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.”

The "Paradise, Hawaiian Style" soundtrack includes songs like "Drums of the Island," "Scratch My Back," "House of Sand" and "Queenie Wahine's Papaya."

The “Paradise, Hawaiian Style” soundtrack includes songs like “Drums of the Island,” “Scratch My Back,” “House of Sand” and “Queenie Wahine’s Papaya.”

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.

Hawaii was one of Elvis' favorite destinations. He made three films there, wowed the world with "Aloha from Hawaii," and he also vacationed several times on the islands.

Hawaii was one of Elvis’ favorite destinations. He made three films there, wowed the world with “Aloha from Hawaii,” and he also vacationed several times on the islands.

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.


12 Comments

  1. irene england

    Would love to go to Graceland,I don’t think I ever will.Would be a dream come true.Love to follow everything on here.Drums of the Island, my favourite song from Paradise Hawaiian Style.Think I will just go to You Tube now for a listen.x

  2. Sharon ashmore

    Have never been to hawaii, but was thinking of it ,is there any specific part that has elvis tours etc

  3. Wonderful stuff! Love reading these behind the seens tid bits..

  4. Christine Wass

    Loved the music and loved the man my husband used to say he was the other man but used to laugh about it

  5. Christine Wass

    Just loved the man and his music and his films

  6. Roseann Kamerling

    Just love this movie, and all of Elvis’s movies.

  7. Roseann Kamerling

    Just loved this movie.

  8. Roseann Kamerling

    Loved this movie

  9. I met Jan Shepard at Elvis Week 2012,what a treat. I got her picture and her autograph.

  10. Having lived in Hawaii, and has a daughter who still lives there, I can easily see why Elvis loved Hawaii. His songs of Hawaii & the late “Don Ho” are probable the greatest you will ever hear.

  11. Andrea Stoeckle

    Wow, really it is 50 years….I have been to Hawaii many times, and Kauai many times also and have been through the tours of Coco Palms, that it amazing and what a feeling you get…too bad after storm and fires, all gone!!! But, have seen all of Elvis whereabouts in Hawaii and Kauai….Also, he love Don Ho, and who doesn’t, seen him and he had wonderful things to say about our man….well, he’s gone, Coco Palms is gone and so is Elvis. But, the memories still live on in Hawaii of Elvis, you can feel his spirit there… EPgirl

  12. Great guy !

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