Jailhouse Rock (1957)

Jailhouse Rock (1957)

“That ain’t tactics, honey — it’s just the beast in me!”

After accidentally killing a man in a barfight, a construction worker (Elvis Presley) is sent to jail, where his cellmate (Mickey Shaughnessy) — a former country-and-western star — teaches him to play the guitar and offers him a chance to perform. Upon his release, Vince (Presley) connects with a beautiful juke box representative (Judy Tyler) and soon becomes a rising star — but will thirst for fame and money corrupt his humble beginnings?

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Aspiring Stars
  • Elvis Presley Films
  • Ex-Cons
  • Musicals
  • Prisoners
  • Rock ‘n Roll

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary argues that while Elvis Presley’s third film is “not on the high level of Flaming Star or King Creole“, it was “one of his biggest commercial successes” and “is still quite enjoyable”. He notes that “young Elvis is handsome and charismatic playing the troubled, misunderstood, quick-fisted character that best suited him in his movie career”; that “his singing is strong and smooth”; and “the Leiber-Stoller numbers… are first-rate”, with “the wildly choreographed ‘Jailhouse Rock’ production number” a true “classic”. He further adds that the film “benefits from the sweet presence of Judy Tyler, an actress who died young but is remembered fondly.” Peary’s assessment is fair but overly generous. The major themes of the storyline — show business is brutal, fame easily corrupts — aren’t unique or compelling, and it’s difficult to care too much about Presley’s “backwoods lad who trusts no one and carries a chip on his shoulder” (I don’t find him particularly charismatic). This flick will, of course, be of major interest to Presley fans — but all-purpose film fanatics can simply watch the title number on YouTube.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Fine musical numbers

Must See?
No, though the “Jailhouse Rock” number is certainly worth watching on its own.


One thought on “Jailhouse Rock (1957)

  1. Not must-see – and I’m rather in total agreement with the assessment here. I remember thinking something similar when I rewatched this entry sometime within the last 2 years: about all it has going for it is the ‘Jailhouse Rock’ number.

    When it comes to most of the Presley films, I don’t feel all that different from the way I feel about the Beach Party movies: it was a cash cow series that over-stayed its welcome and was gasping for breath the longer it continued.

    Yes, Presley has some genuine spark in the some of the better (i.e., earlier) ones. And we can’t deny the occasional camp/cult value – esp. of something like ‘Viva Las Vegas’. But, overall, these aren’t films that merit attention (and I think even Presley resented being hog-tied into them). They were mainly made to sell records – period.

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