Kissin' Cousins : MGM 1964
March 7, 2005
When he visits the Tatums, Josh runs into his blond-haired double as well as two beautiful country cousins, Azalea and Selena. The two girls, played by Yvonne Craig and Pam Austin respectively, both vie for Josh's affections. Josh eventually chooses Azalea but not before pairing off Selena with his best friend. In the meantime, Jodie takes up with Midge, a beautiful but fiery WAG played by Cynthia Pepper. Josh persuades Pappy Tatum to sell one side of his mountain to the government as long as the military does not interfere with Pappy's moonshining on the other side.
On Monday, September 16, 1963 Elvis received the songs that the director Gene Nelson and the musical director Fred Karger had chosen for the movie. Fred Karger not only worked as a composer, arranger and musical director but was also at one time a vocal coach for Columbia Pictures, where one of his young students was Marilyn Monroe. He was married to actress Jane Wyman twice, from 1952 - 1954 and again from 1963 - 1965.
Wanting to get a feel for his new co-workers, on September 23rd, Elvis screened the movie 'Hootenanny Hoot', a musical comedy that Sam Katzman had produced, Gene Nelson had directed and for which Fred Karger had been the musical director. In an effort to save more production costs, on September 29th soundtrack recording began at RCA's Studio B in Nashville. However, Elvis had a cold and could not sing, so only the instrumental tracks were laid down. Elvis did stop by the studio to meet director Gene Nelson.
There were two different version of the song 'Kissin' Cousins',
The opening title song was written by Fred Wise and Randy Starr and it was this version that was released as a single, peaking at #12 on the pop singles chart. The movie-ending version (No. 2) was written by Bill Giant, Bernie Baum and Florence Kaye and was featured on the movie's soundtrack album. When, finally, on October 10, 1963, Elvis did record his vocals at the MGM sound stage in California, he was required to sing the ending song twice in two different voices, one with a little more country twang than the other, to achieve the effect of a duet between both of his characters, the more worldly Josh and the country boy Jodie.
Elvis Presley played, Jodie Tatum, a blond mountain man and Josh Morgan, a dark-haired air force officer.
Elvis was fitted at the studio for the blond wig that he would wear as Jodie Tatum. There are pictures that were taken on the set, of Elvis in his blond wig and his manager Colonel Tom Parker wearing the black wig that was used by Elvis' stand-in Lance LeGault in various scenes. Mr. LeGault was Elvis' stand-in and helped with fight and dance choreography in a number of Elvis' movies. For the movie 'Kissin' Cousins' Lance plays whichever of the two cousins Elvis is not playing in a particular scene and always has his back to the camera. Well....almost always. There are a few bloopers in the film when the camera caught him and Elvis turning too fast and so there were moments in the movie when you can see the faces of both Elvis and Lance at the same time. These mistakes were left in and it is fun to watch for them.
Lance can also be seen in Elvis' 1968 TV special playing the tambourine and offering general assistance to Elvis during the concert portions of the show and as a cast member in the big 'Guitar Man' production number . Lance maintains a busy career as a character actor in film and television and as a voice artist. One of his voice gigs is being the narrator for the Graceland Mansion audio tour.
On Sunday, October 13, 1963, Elvis and the film crew traveled to the Big Bear resort in the San Bernadino Mountains of California for location shooting. Elvis' accommodations were at the Cedar Lake Lodge. Location shooting began on the Monday the 14th and continued until Wednesday November 6, 1963 when the crew returned to the MGM studio in Hollywood.
It was then that his future wife Priscilla Beaulieu, who lived at his home, Graceland, in Memphis first got to be at the studio during the production of one of Elvis' movies. Her visit was cut short when a few days later Ann-Margret, whom Elvis had dated and who was his co-star in the then yet to be released 'Viva Las Vegas' shot earlier that year, was quoted from London saying that she was in love with Elvis. Colonel Parker worried that the press would inquire about Priscilla and Elvis' relationship, so Priscilla returned to Memphis.
Filming finished and Elvis was released after stills were shot on November 14, 1963. Only a week later Elvis and Ann-Margret would be watching the TV reports of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy at his Bel Air home. 'Kissin' Cousins' opened nationwide on Friday March 6, 1964. It reached #11 on the 'Variety' National Box Office Survey and was ranked #26 for the year. Some theater owners passed out candy kisses to patrons while other had charity sponsored 'kissing booths' in the lobby.
Actress Pamela Austin played Selena Tatum in 'Kissin' Cousins'. She also had a role in the Elvis movie 'Blue Hawaii' and dated Elvis for a time during that production. She would go on to marry Charles Britt, a Los Angles Ram's football player. She was also known as the 'Dodge Girl' as she often appeared in Dodge automobile commercials. Her career also included appearances on many TV series including 'The Wild, Wild, West', 'It Takes A Thief', 'Hawaiian Eye' and 'Laugh In' to name a few. She also starred as Pauline in the 1967 movie 'Perils of Pauline'.
In 'Kissin' Cousins' there is a group of lusty mountain maidens called The Kittyhawks, who are in search of men and descend upon Josh Morgan (Elvis) and the platoon of soldiers who accompany him to the Tatum's home on Big Smokey Mountain. The actress cast as the leader of this group was Maureen Reagan, daughter of the late President Ronald Reagan and actress Jane Wyman. She had made her movie debut in 1949 in 'It's A Great Feeling', which spoofed Hollywood and featured a cameo by her and her parents.
Another of the Kittyhawaks was was played by Beverly Powers, who would go on to have roles in the Elvis films 'Viva Las Vegas' and 'Speedway'. Jonesy was played by Joan Staley, who also played Marge in the Elvis film 'Roustabout'. She was the November 1958 Playboy Playmate of the Month.
Arthur O'Connell played the patriarch of the Tatum clan in 'Kissin' Cousins'. This was the second of his two movies with Elvis, having played the father of Elvis' character in 'Follow That Dream'. Mr. O'Connell was nominated twice for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor. One was in 1955 for the movie 'Picnic' , the other in 1960 for the movie 'Anatomy of a Murder'.
Glenda Farrell, who played Ma Tatum, began her career as a Warner Brothers contract player in the 1930s. She soon became known for a series of 'blonde' movies that she did based on the serial magazine character Torchy Blane. She also became known for her unique ability to speak fast, averaging 390 words a minute. In 1963 she won an Emmy in the 'Outstanding Performance in a Supporting Role' category for her work on the 'Ben Casey' television show. She died of cancer in 1971 and is buried in the West Point Military Academy Cemetery.
Glenda Farrell's son Tommy Farrell also had a role in 'Kissin' Cousins' as MSgt. William George Bailey.
Award winning actor Jack Albertson played Captain Robert Salbo in 'Kissin Cousins'. He also played Lou in Elvis' film 'Roustabout'. Jack Albertson is one of the few actors to have won a Tony Award, an Emmy Award and an Academy Award. He began his career in vaudeville and burlesque and then went on to Broadway where he won a Tony for 'The Subject Was Roses'. He reprised his role in the movie version and won a 1969 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. His movies include 'Miracle on 34th Street', 'Don't Go Near The Water', 'Teacher's Pet', 'Days of Wine and Roses', 'The Patsy' and 'Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory'.
Veteran actor and screen writer Robert Carson played General Sam Kruger. His film writing credits include 'A Star Is Born', 'Beau Geste', 'The Desperadoes' and 'Ain't Misbehavin' among others. In 1938 he was nominated for two Academy Awards, winning one of them for his writing of 'A Star Is Born'. His acting credits include many films such as 'The Ten Commandments', 'The Patsy', 'The Great Race' and 'The Greatest Show On Earth'. He has also had numerous guest roles on various TV series.
Donald Woods played General Alvin Donford/ Woods was a veteran actor with over 85 movie roles dating back to his first in the 1928 'Motorboat Mamas'. He also racked up many TV guest appearances.
Kent McCord had his film debut in an uncredited roll in 'Kissin' Cousins'. He would also have small roles in Elvis' films 'Viva Las Vegas' and 'Roustabout'. Although he would play a number of roles in his career, is best known as Officer Jim Reed on the TV series 'Adam-12'. He had a personal friendship with Elvis and often played football on weekends with Elvis and other young Hollywood performers.
The script was written by Gerald Drayson Adams and Gene Nelson. Nelson also directed the film. Together, Adams and Nelson received a 1965 nomination from the Writer's Guild of America for 'Kissin' Cousins' as the 'Best Written American Musical' of the year.
The multi-talented Gene Nelson was born Eugene Leander Berg in 1920. He was captivated by seeing Fred Astaire in the 1933 film 'Flying Down To Rio'. It was then that he decided to become a dancer. He toured with the Sonja Henie Ice Show before World War II prompted him to join the U.S. Army. After the war he returned to his dancing and acting career in both TV and film. You might remember him in such films as 'Tea For Two' and 'The Daughter of Rosie O'Grady' or his role of Will Parker in the movie 'Oklahoma!' He won a Golden Globe Award in 1951 as Most Promising Newcomer for his work with Doris Day in 'Tea For Two'.
The producer of the movie was Sam Katzman, known as the 'King of the Quickies' for having made many films quickly and cheaply. Elvis' manager Colonel Tom Parker was concerned as Elvis' lates movie 'Viva Las Vegas' had gone way over budget and cut into his and Elvis' portion of the profits. He was determined that wouldn't happen again. With Sam Katzman at the helm they wouldn't have any problems with budget.
In his teens, Mr. Katzman started his show business career as a prop man and then worked his way up through all the phases of movie making to become a producer in 1935 at the age of 34. He then became known for movie serials featuring such characters as The East Side Kids, Brenda Star and Captain Video. He also produced teenage musicals such as 'Hootenanny Hoot', 'Rock Around The Clock' and 'Twist Around The Clock'. He made some 230 films in his career, including the Elvis movies 'Kissin' Cousins' and 'Harum Scarum'.
Behind the Scenes of Kissin' Cousins
Kissin' Cousins, produced by Sam Katzman, is consistently singled out as Elvis' worst film. Katzman had a notorious reputation for churning out low-budget films on short schedules. Estimates on how long it took to shoot Kissin' Cousins vary from source to source, but all claim it was less than three weeks. The film was budgeted at $800,000, compared with the $4 million budget of Blue Hawaii. To help control expenses, the songs were written in assembly-line fashion. Katzman decided that since the film had a 'country' theme, the songs should be recorded in Nashville rather than Hollywood, where all Elvis' previous soundtrack albums had been recorded. However, these mediocre tunes were only some songwriting hack's misguided interpretation of what country-and-western music was like. The eight songs in the film, including 'Barefoot Ballad', 'Pappy, Won't You Please Come Home', and the title tune, sounded nothing like the country music of the era.
The few exterior shots for the film were done at Big Bear Lake in California. When the location shooting was finished, Elvis was involved in what could have been a fatal accident. While driving down the mountain from Big Bear Lake in a mobile home, Elvis was shocked when the brakes on the vehicle completely gave out. A car carrying some of the film crew was traveling ahead of the huge vehicle lumbering down the mountain.
The road was too narrow for Elvis to pass the car, and a sheer drop on one side made the speed they were traveling at quite dangerous. Elvis had to use the gears to maneuver down the mountain, while the car managed to stay just ahead of them. When the mobile home reached the bottom of the mountain, Elvis kept the vehicle running until it eventually slowed to a stop. Had Elvis not been such a competent driver, Kissin' Cousins would have been his legacy to his fans.
Kissin' Cousins marked a change in approach toward making Elvis' films. It seemed to set a pattern in which the shooting schedules grew shorter and the budgets got lower. Some argue that Colonel Parker realized that Elvis' popularity was starting to wane, so he began seeking out producers who could lower production costs, as well as seeking out resorts and hotels that would allow the casts and crews to stay for free. There is no actual proof of this. Perhaps the reverse was true. The decline in production values accompanying lower budgets and shorter schedules could have contributed to the decline in box-office receipts.
Kissin' Cousins (No. 2)
Smokey Mountain Boy
There's Gold in the Mountains
One Boy, Two Little Girls
Catchin' On Fast
Anyone (Could Fall in Love With You)
Once Is Enough
Recorded at: RCA Studios, 17th Avenue, South Nashville. October 1963
Musicians: Elvis Presley (vocals), Scotty Moore, Grady Martin, Jerry Kennedy, Harold Bradley (guitars), Bob Moore (bass), D.J. Fontana, Buddy Harman (drums), Floyd Cramer (piano), Boots Randolph, Bill Justis (sax), the Jordanaires (vocals).
Directed: Gene Nelson
Writing Credits: Gerald Drayson Adams,Gene Nelson
Producer: Sam Katzman
Music Supervised and conducted by: Fred Karger
Choreographer: Hal Belfer
Assistant Director: Eli Dunn
Recording Supervisor: Franklin Milton
Technical Advisor: Colonel Tom Parker
Hair Styles: Sydney Guilaroff
Panavision and Metrocolor
Cast overview: Elvis Presley .... Josh Morgan & Jodie Tatum, Arthur O'Connell .... Pappy Tatum, Glenda Farrell .... Ma Tatum, Jack Albertson .... Captain Robert Jason Salbo, Pamela Austin .... Selena Tatum, Cynthia Pepper .... Corporal Midge Riley, Yvonne Craig .... Azalea Tatum, Donald Woods .... General Alvin Donford, Tommy Farrell .... Master Sergeant William George Bailey, Beverly Powers .... Trudy, Hortense Petra .... Dixie Cate, Robert Stone .... General's Aide, Rest of cast listed alphabetically Teri Garr, Beverly Hills, Maureen Reagan.
Buy Kissin' Cousin's : Elvis Presley DVD
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* Kissin' Cousins CD : Unavailable at this time
Also of interest, The Elvis Files series of book, seven volumes ...
Buy The Elvis Files Volume 1, 1953-1956
Buy The Elvis Files Volume 2, 1957-1959
Buy The Elvis Files Volume 3, 1960-1964
Buy The Elvis Files Volume 4, 1965-1968
Buy The Elvis Files Volume 5, 1969-1970
Buy The Elvis Files Volume 6, 1971-1973
Buy The Elvis Files Volume 7, 1974-1977
Plus the dedicated movie book series, Frame By Frame ...
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