Tickle Me

A look at the movie "Tickle Me" - Part 1 of 3:

"Tickle Me" was Elvis's eighteenth film and was made for Allied Artists. This studio, formed in 1946, was in serious financial difficulty at the time and was hoping that they would make enough money from this movie to stay afloat for a while longer. Elvis's manager, Colonel Tom Parker agreed to a cut in Elvis's normal salary of $1,000,000 down to $750,000 plus 50% of the profits. Also in an effort to save money it was decided for the first time that a new soundtrack would not be cut. They would rely on songs previously recorded. The production did not go out on location for this film. It was shot on the studio back lot.

Two of the songs they used charted fairly well. "(Such An) Easy Question" written by Otis Blackwell and Winfield Scott stayed on the Hot 100 Chart for 8 weeks and peaked at #11. It hit #1 on the Easy Listening Chart and stayed there for two weeks. "I'm Yours" written by Don Robertson spent 11 weeks on the Hot 100 Chart, peaking at #11, and it made it to #1 during its three-week stay on the Easy Listening Chart.

This was producer Ben Swalb's last film. He had begun his career filming sports documentaries in the 1930s. Elvis was very comfortable working with the director Norman Taurog who would, in total, direct nine of his movies.

The script was written by Edward Bernds and Elwood Ullman. Mr. Bernds had 95 film credits as a director and 86 as a sound engineer, as well as 52 screenplays including his 1957 Academy Award nominated "High Society". He began in radio and quickly moved to "talkies' in the late 1920s. Elwood Ullman also shared in that Academy Award nomination for "High Society" and this Memphis native began writing for films in the 1930s.

Loyal Griggs was the cinematographer on "Tickle Me" as he had been for "G.I. Blues" and "Girls! Girls! Girls!" Starting his career in the mid 1920s in the special effects department of Paramount, he won an Academy Award in 1954 for "Shane." He went on to receive three more Oscar nominations over the years for his work in the movies "The Ten Commandments," "The Greatest Story Ever Told" and "In Harm's Way."

Arthur Lonergan was the art director. He became an Academy Award nominee in 1967 for his work on the movie "The Oscar." The designs of some of the ghost town sets were inspired by a real historical house in Los Angeles that had once belonged to Pio Pico, the last governor when California was under Mexican rule.

Elvis's eighteenth movie was at one time tentatively titled "Rodeo" and then "Isle of Paradise."  Eventually, "Tickle Me" was chosen. 

The film was set at a desert guest ranch owned by the character Vera Radford, who was played by Julie Adams.  Ms. Adams early roles were in 50s westerns.  One of her most notable roles was in the science fiction classic "The Creature From The Black Lagoon."  Later in her career, she would become well known for her recurring roles on TV series such as "General Hospital", "Captiol," "Code Red" and "Murder She Wrote." 

Elvis's leading lady was the British beauty Jocelyn Lane, who traveled Europe as a child and learned to speak several languages.  After studying ballet in London, she began her career in her teens as a popular British model then turned her attention to acting and making films in the 60s.  She retired from acting in the early 1970s and became a princess when she married a Spanish prince.

Jack Mullaney played Elvis' sside-kick Stanley and can also be seen as a bandmate with Elvis in the movie "Spinout."  He was known for his roles as the goofy, accident-prone nice guy on such shows as "The Ann Sothern Show,"  "Ensign O'Toole," "My Living Doll" and "It's About Time."

Edward Faulkner, who played Brad Bentley, was a favorite of John Wayne's and worked with him often in films such as "McLintock!," "The Green Berets," "Hellfighters," "Chisum"" and "Rio Lobo."

The villains in this film were played by Bill Williams (Deputy Sheriff), Louie Elias and Robert F. Hoy (gardeners Henry and Jerry) and John Dennis (chef Adolph).  They were all veteran character actors.  Bill Williams began his 46-year career in 1944 with the movie "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo."   Louie Elias is an actor and stuntman, often working as a stunt coordinator.  In addition to acting since the 1940s, Robert F. Hoy has been a stunt double for many actors. His latest project "Big Chuck, Little Chuck" is currently in post-production.  You might recognize John Dennis as the mail clerk in "Jailhouse Rock"  with Elvis.  Before his
death in March 2004, he had a thirty-year acting career in both movies and television.

Connie Gilchrist played Hilda the masseuse in Elvis's film "Tickle Me."  It was her second to last movie role and one of 77 since 1940 when she was signed with MGM at the age of 39.  She had already been performing on stage for 23 years when she made her film debut.  She might be best remembered for her TV roles in "The Adventures of Long John Silver" and "The Real McCoys."

In this movie devoted to a guest ranch where models, actresses and others came to diet and lose weight, one of the funniest characters was Estelle Penfield, who was always looking to smuggle forbidden food.  She was aptly played by Merry Anders who began modeling and acting while still in high school.  She began her acting career in 1951 and might be best remembered for her recurring roles  in the "Stu Erwin Show" "Gunsmoke" and "Dragnet."

Grady Sutton and Dorothy Konrad played Mr. and Mrs. Dabney, who couldn't quite keep their meal on their plates due to the antics of Mrs. Penfield.  Grady Sutton, a native of Tennessee, broke into movies in 1924, beginning a 55-year career that included over 200 movie roles.  He specialized in playing slightly befuddled Southerners.

In a movie about women one might expect a greater bevy of  beautiful ladies than in most Elvis movies.  "Tickle Me" had many who worked as uncredited extras.  One such actress was Barbara Werle, who was also in the Elvis films "Harum Scarum" and "Charro!"

Academy Award winner Leah Rhodes was the costume designer.  Her award was for her designs in the 1948 movie "Adventures of Don Juan."  Her wardrober was Shirlee Strahm, who would go on to costume for "Funny Lady," "The Goodbye Girl," "Nine To Five," "Steel Magnolias" and "Charlie's Angles" among others.  She was the head costume designer for the 1976 Barbra Streisand version of "A Star Is Born."

Principal photography began on October 12, 1964 and Elvis was released from the production on November 24, 1964.  The film previewed in Hollywood on May 13, 1965.  After the premiere in Atlanta on May 28th, it opened nationwide on July 7, 1965.  Although bashed by the critics, it was to date the third highest grossing film for the Allied Artists Studio and saved them from bankruptcy for a  while longer.  Ever the promoter,  Colonel Parker had RCA purchase from Elvis his customized gold-appointed white Cadillac limousine and it was sent on a tour of the country promoting this movie.  Other promotional items included feather pens and packages of "Tickle Me" colored feathers.

Elvis received a Golden Laurel Award for his performance.  The Golden Laurels were an industry award that had no ceremony and names of winners were published in the Motion Picture Exhibitor Magazine.