Elvis Presley’s “Wild in the Country” Turns 55Posted by Elvis Presley's Graceland on Jun 16, 2016 | 24 comments
Drama, romance and – of course – a little music, Elvis Presley’s “Wild in the Country” had it all.
“Wild in the Country” was released June 15, 1961, so in honor of the film’s 55th anniversary, let’s fill you in on some movie trivia.
“Wild in the Country” stars Elvis as Glenn, a young Southern man with a dysfunctional family. After getting into a fight with his brother, he’s forced to go on probation. He meets Irene (Hope Lange), a counselor who works with him to get his life in order – like many young Southern men, Glenn has dreams of becoming a writer. The pair run into problems when nosy neighbors claim Glenn is involved with Irene, even though he’s romanced ladies his own age, like Betty Lee (Millie Perkins).
Elvis flew to California for pre-production on November 6, 1960, and principal photography ended on January 1961.
The original plan for the movie was that it would not be a musical, but eventually the songs were written into the storyline. Elvis recorded six songs, but only four were used.
The “Wild in the Country” screen play was based on the novel “The Lost Country” by J.R. Salamanca. In the book, Elvis’ character, Glenn, is not an aspiring writer, but an artist, and Irene was a teacher, not a counselor.
Hope Lange stars in the film as Irene the counselor, but she was really only 13 months older than Elvis.
Millie Perkins, who stars as Betty Lee, later played the role of Elvis’ mother Gladys in the 1990 TV series, “Elvis.” Olympic decathlon champion Rafer Johnson stars in the film as Davis. “Wild in the Country” is the film debut of Christina Crawford, adopted daughter of Joan Crawford.
It was during the filming of this movie that Elvis and his manager Col. Tom Parker decided to help raise money for the USS Arizona memorial.
Elvis celebrated his 26th birthday while making this movie. The cast and crew threw him a birthday party, and he was given a plaque that read, “Happy Birthday, King Karate,” since he’d just received his first degree black belt in July 1960.
If you love Elvis movies, you’ll love the new VIP exhibit at Graceland. It’s “Elvis in Hollywood: From Teen Idol to Leading Man,” and it features everything from scripts to costumes. Check it out when you visit Graceland!
And check out our Gates of Graceland episode below which focuses on Elvis’ movie career: