Elvis Presley’s “Tickle Me” at 50

Yes, it’s Elvis – as a singin’, swingin’ cowboy! Elvis Presley’s “Tickle Me” turns 50 this month.

“Tickle Me” was released June 30, 1965, followed by a nationwide release on July 7. The movie, a musical-Western-romance-comedy, has fans LOL’ing with its sight gags and Elvis’ innate comedy timing.

“Tickle Me” was Elvis’ 18th movie. It was released between “Girl Happy” and “Harum Scarum.”

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Elvis, who was 29 when he filmed the movie, plays Lonnie Beale, a singing rodeo rider who moonlights between rodeos as a horseback-riding instructor at a weight-reducing dude ranch for wealthy women.

His co-stars include Julie Adams, Jack Mullaney, Jocelyn Lane and Merry Anders. His friend Red West also has a small, uncredited role.

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Though “Tickle Me” is fun from start to finish, its behind-the-scenes story is a bit more serious. The film was produced by Allied Artists Studio, which at the time was in deep financial trouble. Elvis’ manager, Col. Tom Parker, cut a deal to make everyone happy: He cut Elvis’ normal $1 million pay for 50% of the profits. He also saved money by releasing a soundtrack full of already-recorded songs, rather than recording a whole new soundtrack.

Another cost cut was made by filming the movie on a studio back lot instead of filming on location.

All of this cost cutting, plus the film’s success at the box office, saved Allied Artists Studio for a while longer.

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Elvis’ leading lady, Jocelyn Lane, stars in “Tickle Me” as Pam Meritt. She retired from acting in 1971 to become a real princess when she married a Spanish prince. Today, she designs jewelry.

Julie Adams, who stars as Vera, has enjoyed a decades-long career in Hollywood. Many movie fans know her from the classic horror flick “Creature from the Black Lagoon.”

Norman Taurog directed “Tickle Me” – in fact, he directed the most Elvis movies, with a total of nine. Norman also directed “G.I. Blues,” “Double Trouble,” “Girls! Girls! Girls!” “Blue Hawaii,” “It Happened at the World’s Fair,” “Speedway,” “Live a Little, Love a Little” and “Spinout.” Norman worked with many of Hollywood’s biggest stars, including Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Deborah Kerr, Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. He directed six Lewis and Martin films.

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The tag line for “Tickle Me” is everything any film-goer would want in a movie: “It’s Fun! It’s Girls! It’s Songs! It’s Color! It’s ELVIS!” Sounds like a winning combination.

Col Parker got RCA to purchase Elvis’ custom gold-appointed Cadillac, and it was sent out to promote the comedy. Another promotion was the sale of “Tickle Me” colored feathers and feather pens.

If you love Elvis’ movies, you’re in luck: Graceland has many Elvis movie artifacts on display. You’ll find scripts, costumes, promotional items and much more.

What do you say, Elvis fans? What’s your favorite scene in “Tickle Me”? Do you have a favorite song?

Share in the comments!

 


1 Comment

  1. Rick Fell

    Wow…Thanks for all this .This is priceless to me because it was my favorite Elvis movie.I remember as a high school sophomore. .trying to research where “Zuni Wells”Arizona was,as I wanted to actually visit the town. I went to the Canton Public Library, here in Ohio , looking for it.This is the movie that Elvis became my “mentor”.I even prayed to be just like him. I searched for all the western style clothes he wore in this movie..while others were into the British Envasion look.I was also secretly in love with ” Pam”…. I cried when the movie was over, but returned 7 more times to watch it again at the theatre.Rick Fell….

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