Elvis Presley’s “Wild in the Country” Turns 55

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" premiered in Memphis on June 15, but Elvis did not attend the premiere.

“Wild in the Country” premiered in Memphis on June 15, but Elvis did not attend the premiere.

“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.

Elvis toyed around with a drum set in between takes of "Wild in the Country."

Elvis toyed around with a drum set in between takes of “Wild in the Country.”

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.

Tuesday Weld also starred in films like "The Cincinnati Kid," "Play It As It Lays" and "Looking for Mr. Goodbar," for which she was nominated for an Academy Award.

Tuesday Weld also starred in films like “The Cincinnati Kid,” “Play It As It Lays” and “Looking for Mr. Goodbar,” for which she was nominated for an Academy Award.

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.

Elvis and manager Col. Tom Parker chat between scenes on the set of "Wild in the Country." Notice Col. Parker's Elvis shirt.

Elvis and manager Col. Tom Parker chat between scenes on the set of “Wild in the Country.” Notice Col. Parker’s Elvis shirt.

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:


24 Comments

  1. Jason Eberhardt

    This is a great blog! I can’t believe I’ve never read it before.

  2. joseph apichella

    Elvis will always be king. I have three outfits, the belts, the rings and my wife and I have Elvis shows in our home. It consists of Elvis Trivia, we sing 9 songs, and at the end I play a tribute to America on my keyboard. The tribute includes Trilogy, The Marine,Army, Navy and Air Force Hymns. Sorry don’t know the Coast Guard. The show was fantastic and we raised $5,000 for homeless children in our area donated through our church. We had 12 successful shows and people wanted a lot more. Our home is filled with Elvis Trivia and many things we got from Graceland and a Manikin of Elvis that talks and sings.I have an official pair of the white boots that Elvis were also. The King is still affecting peoples lives throughout the world and I am hoping contributing in heaven.

  3. Patricia Kennedy

    Have seen this before but enjoyed watching it again,

  4. Leslie J. Suli

    Absolutely brilliant documentary

  5. Dianne Miller

    Elvis is greatly missed. One day when I pass I will finally get to meet him in person. Always loved his music and movies. We had one thing in common. We both liked Peacocks. I have a Peacock and Butterfly tattoo on my arm in memory of Elvis and my Mother-in-law. Two of my favorite people. R.I.P Elvis and keep on rockin with your music in heaven.

  6. Sharon Belkà-Healy

    I am a quadriplegic and have been all my life. Elvis has always been my idol during my childhood and as an adult. His music and movies have given me comfort when I was down,he had a way of brightening my days. I am nearing seventy and his music still gives me comfort. I love you Elvis, thank you. Visiting Graceland has been on my bucket list I hope I can get their someday.

  7. Who can forget the love scene with Hope Lange when the rain lands them in a motel for the night? The best!
    Oh, and the Tuesday Weld scene by the bathtub, leaving us to use our imagination!

  8. Debra Young

    I loved his movie, Elvis at his finest!

  9. craig battuello

    I met Elvis, and the whole cast, when he was at our ranch in St. Helena, Ca. for 3 days filming for the Wild in the Country movie. We were told they found our place by flying over the Napa River, saw our swimming hole at the river and wanted to use it for a shooting of the film. Family members took many pictures, with Instantmatic cameras. Which my son enlarged to 8 x 10’s. I went to a garage sale at the Ink House where Elvis stayed on the third floor of a historic settlers house. He had to move there from the motel he was staying in because he was mobbed by fans, once they discovered he was there.There many many shots in the movie at the Ink House. It became a Bed & Breakfast later on, the owner featured top bedroom as the Elvis Room. Sold CD’s of the movie. I went to the garage sale when the owners changed hands. I bought what was left of a scrap book of pictures from the movie. I was surprised to see one of the pictures I bought was taken by 20 th. Century Fox. We had taken the same picture they did at the river. On the second day of filming, a neighbor, who was unaware that filming was going on, rode her horse up the river, right into the shooting, I was standing next to the sound room area, I noticed that the technician was making some un usual movements with his head, as he was listening to Elvis and Milly say their lines. He wore a large headset. He was hearing the noise from the hoofs of the horse coming up the river. They had to do a retake. Elvis drove his White 6 door Cad to our place each day and parked it in our yard.It had many phone numbers on it written with lipstick. I also met his cousin, Sony West, and many of the crew members. Our neighbors call the swimming area Elvis Rock. It is a large Lava rock out cropping, 50 feet long 20 feet high. In the movie Elvis is running away after the fight at the house, gets to the river, then rests in the water, hanging on to the edge of the rock. Many fond memories of those 3 days. I was 13 years old at the time,I will be 70 in Dec.

    • phyllis davis

      Wow that is fantastic. Sweet memories. If u ever want to sell copies of your pics please let me know. Elvis fan overcforty years. Pjdlibra@Yahoo.com. thankbyou Craig

  10. calvero

    Great interview. Keep on! Greetings from Sweden! TC

  11. Elvis could do just about anything he put his mind to and was good at it.

  12. Laraine Bashford.

    Just love these photos, Fabulous. Thank you.

  13. Pat Smith

    “Wild in the Country” was one of the better, more challenging, dramatic roles for Elvis. As time progressed, his roles all followed a repetitive script, and boredom set in.

  14. Elisabeth Rohrmoser

    Ist nice to learn so much about Elvis

  15. Debora

    Love Elvis from back as far as I can remember. .my step dad gave me the LP album of “DOUBLE TROUBLE” to take to “show and tell” at my school…..

  16. William F. Martin, Jr.

    Again you have done “well” sharing this with us. You are as devoted to Elvis as we are.

  17. colleen traynor

    Seeing Elvis s movies since 50 60 Just LOVE HIM Was a crazy fan till date My son is ELVIS TRAYNOR incidentally born 4th July 75

    Sad never got to see him Thats wishfull thinking though

    Colleen Traynor
    Mumbai//india

  18. Stephen

    Very good movie that could have been great if one watches it and skips the songs.

    • Stephen

      Next year is the 40th anniversary of Elvis’ death: might a fitting tribute be a two CD set of his final concerts along with the memorial service of his funeral at Graceland where there were gospel songs sung and people spoke at the service? it would make for a powerful CD with the music and service which it’s been reported was taped.

  19. Tissa de Alwis

    I think the song “Lonely man” was recorded for this film “Wild in the country” but was never used. Pity though, that song would have complimented the mood of the film.It is a great Elvis song, but was not popular with the masses.
    Tissa de Alwis

  20. Ed South

    Tom Brown is an excellent interviewer. Have enjoyed his work since the beginning. Interview here has so much information. Enjoy listening to Mr. Guralnick, his insight and opinions are appreciated..

  21. Mary Alice Pena-Lopez

    I can not wait for Elvis Week 2016! My husband
    Jaime and I were married across Graceland, and we love Elvis, the fans and all the wonderful friends we have met all these many years! I also
    love Elvis family and grandchildren! Elvis was
    truly a once in a lifetime talent, and a gift from our Heavenly father, now he’s gone home to sing to the angels, we miss you so much Elvis! Love, and Kisses,
    Mary Alice

  22. Valerie Bambace

    We are planning to come out to Graceland 4 of us in October of this year and take the VIP tour. I am a big fan of Elvis.
    My husband was in the army at the same time and was in the 2nd Armored Division as well.He met Elvis in Fort hood Texas. Elvis had just joined and my husband was ending this time. He told me that Elvis was a very nice person to speak with.

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