Film Review: G.I. Blues
In 1960, Norman Taurog released G.I. Blues, starring Elvis Presley, Juliet Prowse, Robert Ivers, James Douglas, Leticia Román, Sigrid Maier, Scotty Moore, D.J. Fontana, Arch Johnson, Kenneth Becker, Carl Crow, Beach Dickerson, Fred Essler, Mickey Knox, and The Jordanaires. The film grossed $4.3 million at the box office, reaching #2 on the Variety weekly national box office chart in 1960 as well as winning the 2nd place Laurel Award in the category of Top Musical of 1960. Screenwriters Edmund Beloin and Henry Garson were also nominated by the Writers Guild of America for the category of Best Written American Musical and the film itself was nominated for the Grammy Awards for Best Soundtrack, Album and Best Vocal Performance, Album, Male. The film shares a name with one of the quests found in the video game Fallout: New Vegas.
Tulsa McLean, US Army Specialist 5 serving with the 3rd Armored Division in West Germany is a tank crewman with a singing career and has dreams of running his own nightclub following his time in the army. Having formed a band with his friends, performing in various nightclubs, Tulsa makes a bet that his friend can spend the night with a club dancer to raise money for his dream. However, the friend he made the bet with soon gets transferred to Alaska and he must go through with it in his stead.
Though an entertaining film, G.I. Blues is only moderately decent and really too silly for its own good, showing that sometimes being self-aware really isn’t a good thing for a film. It’s got some good ideas, but has poor execution, such as the first nightclub scene, where Tulsa and his friends are singing. One person thinks it’s a good idea to turn on the jukebox, which will play over the performance. Initially, that would be a good idea to start some conflict, but it’s really the song choice, “Blue Suede Shoes,” that takes away the enjoyability of the scene. Though some of Presley’s other films had a bit of self-awareness about them, with his character rising to become a musical star, this one practically falls flat as it just seems like it was tailor made to star nobody but Presley and cater it specifically toward his time in the service. Those other films might have been the same, catered and written specifically for Presley, but they didn’t have that feeling, instead giving off a vibe of trying to tell a good story before it tried to show off its main star. The “Jailhouse Rock” sequence in the film of the same name was great, yes, but the sequence was after the story established itself.
There’s also incredibly obvious plot points, such as the films spending an inordinate amount of time on Lili’s first dancing scene, as if to tell the audience that the girl they’re watching is so integral to the story that they’re going to keep her dance going for as long as possible, even after it’s worn out its welcome. There’s also the bet. The ethical implications of placing a bet on whether or not a guy can get a girl to spend the night with him aside, the bet is made with Dynamite as the person who has to get her to spend the night with him. The film stars Presley and it’s blatantly clear that before the film is over, Dynamite is going to be taken out of the way in order for Presley to get the girl. Cue Dynamite getting transferred to Alaska. But at least Tulsa didn’t get the girl on his own, having to get help from two other characters’ baby son, Tiger.
In everything though, Presley does give a good acting performance, continuing to show growth from his theatrical debut back in Love Me Tender. It could be due to the fact that he’s back in his element, portraying a character with a singing career, but even so, he does a fine job. While the scene where someone puts one of his songs on the juke box is pretty silly for its own good, his bewilderment that someone would try and ruin their show comes off as very believable. And even though it’s an obvious turn of events that can be seen from the beginning of the bet, he acts well as someone who has apprehensions about taking over the bet after Dynamite is transferred, but decides to go through with it.
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