AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
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Jailhouse Rock
Director: Richard Thorpe (Dir)
Release Date:   Nov 1957
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 13 Nov 1957
Production Date:   early May--early Jun 1957
Duration (in mins):   96
Duration (in feet):   8,677
Duration (in reels):   5
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Cast:   Elvis Presley (Vince Everett)  
    Judy Tyler (Peggy Van Alden)  
    Mickey Shaughnessy (Hunk Houghton)  
    Vaugn Taylor (Mr. Shores)  
    Jennifer Holden (Sherry Wilson)  
    Dean Jones (Teddy Talbot)  
    Anne Neyland (Laury Jackson)  
    The Jordanaires    
    Hugh Sanders (Warden)  
    Percy Helton (Sam Brewster)  
    Peter Adams (Jack Lease)  
    William Forrest (Studio head)  
    Dan White (Paymaster)  
    George Cisar (Bartender)  
    Robin Raymond (Dotty)  
    John Day (Ken)  
    Ken L. Smith (Worker)  
    S. John Launer (Judgy)  
    Dick Rich (Guard)  
    Glenn Strange (Simpson)  
    John Dennis (Mail clerk)  
    Tom Mayton (Mail clerk)  
    Bob Stratton (Orderly)  
    Elizabeth Slifer (Cleaning woman)  
    Gloria Pall (Strip tease)  
    Fred Coby (Bartender)  
    Walter Johnson (Shorty)  
    Frank Kreig (Drunk)  
    Grandon Rhodes (August Van Alden)  
    Katharine Warren (Mrs. Van Alden)  
    Joan Dupuis (Record shop girl)  
    William Tannen (Record distributor)  
    Wilson Wood (Record engineer)  
    Joe McGuinn (Studio gate man)  
    Bob Hopkins (Announcer)  
    Tom McKee (Director)  
    Robert Bice (Bardeman)  
    Donald Kerr (Photographer)  
    Steve Warren (Assistant director)  
    Carl Milletaire (Drummond)  
    Don Burnett (Mickey Alba)  
    Francois Andre (Waiter)  
    Francis DeSales (Surgeon)  
    Harry Hines (Hotel clerk)  
    Bill Hale (Guard)  
    Tracey Morgan (Girl in booth)  
    Linda Williams (Girl in bathing suit)  
    Russ Whitney    
    Alyn Lockwood    
    Charles Postal    
    Jo Gilbert    
    Paula Trent    
    Orv Mohler    
    Jack Herrin    
    Sid Kane    
    Jack Shea    
    John Logan    
    Jack Younger    
    Matt Winston    

Summary: Convicted of manslaughter for beating a man to death while defending a woman, hot-tempered Vince Everrett is sentenced to up to ten years in the state penitentiary. His cellmate Hunk Houghton, is a grumpy old-timer who runs a prison racket using cigarettes as currency. On days when the inmates’ harsh living conditions breed animosity among the men, Hunk sings ballads on his guitar to calm them. After Vince shows interest in his musical skill, Hunk, an old country-western singer, helps the young man master the chords and rhythm. One day, the warden assigns Hunk to produce a nationally televised prison talent show to divert the attention of the state investigators visiting the prison. Hunk showcases Vince, whose performance inspires thousands of young viewers around the country to send letters to the prison. Surmising that Vince's appeal will lead to success upon his release from prison, Hunk pays off the mailroom clerks to keep the fan mail a secret and offers Vince a contract, which makes Hunk his manager and divides the profits 50/50 between them. Days later, Vince receives a flogging for getting into a brawl, but Hunk shows little sympathy and advises him to “do unto others as they would do unto you, but do it first.” When Vince's release date arrives, the warden hands him fifty-four dollars and, to Vince’s surprise, a large sack of fan mail. After taking a room at run-down hotel, Vince buys a guitar from a pawnshop and goes to club owner Sam Brewster, a friend of Hunk's, to ask for a job. When Sam offers him work as a busboy, Vince boldly performs a number without Sam’s permission. Although the patrons show little interest, Peggy Van Alden, who works in the exploitation division of a record company, becomes smitten with Vince and suggests that he record the song at a studio session to improve it. Days later at the studio, after a mediocre recording, Peggy encourages Vince to try the song again but “with a little fire.” Excited by the second recording, Peggy asks Geneva Records executive Jack Lease to release the song, and although Jack suggests the song is too experimental, he asks to keep the recording for the evening. When Peggy later secures a contract with a smaller label, a sullen Vince refuses to celebrate until he reaps some of the profit from his efforts. Wanting to introduce Vince to her father, a professor, and mother, Peggy takes Vince to her parents’ house for a party, but when the academic crowd tries to engage the young musician in a conversation about progressive jazz, insecure Vince insults her parents and leaves. As Peggy argues that his conduct is unforgivable, Vince’s kisses break her resolve. Days later, Peggy and Vince learn that Jack has recorded Vince's song using popular singer Mickey Alba and stolen Vince's arrangement. Undeterred, Vince suggests to Peggy that they start their own record label, Laurel Recordings, in which Vince will record his songs while Peggy promotes and distributes the product. Peggy agrees to a forty percent cut of the company’s profits; however, she is soon frustrated with Vince’s myopic drive for money and his lack of interest in furthering their romantic relationship. Finding it difficult to secure any airtime for Vince's first album, Peggy asks old friend and disc jockey Teddy Talbot to play a single from it. When the song is a smash hit, Vince quickly becomes a successful performer and playboy. One night, Peggy visits Vince at one of his many lavish parties and catches him kissing singer Laury Jackson. Peggy then brusquely agrees that their relationship should remain solely business and leaves. Soon after, Hunk, just released from prison, asks his old friend for a spot on an upcoming television show and Vince reluctantly consents. At the television recording, Vince sings the catchy "Jailhouse Rock" accompanied by dancers in prison fatigues, but Hunk’s old-fashioned country number is cut from the show. Vince's cold response to his friend’s disappointment prompts Hunk to pressure Vince with the contract written in prison. Reminding Hunk of his dishonorable scheme to hide the fan mail and then rob Vince of his profits, Vince instead offers Hunk ten percent in exchange for being his lackey. Soon after, Vince signs a contract to star in a Hollywood movie with actress Sherry Wilson. The established leading lady is not amused with Vince's common ruffian interests, but during their first love scene rehearsal, Vince's powerful kiss melts her and a romance develops. Days later at a party, after Vince sings a number about loving Sherry despite her "square" ways, then he tells Peggy about a profitable offer from Geneva Records to buy out Laurel Records. Vince’s greed and disregard for the company they built together leads Peggy to flee the party. Later, Vince orders Hunk to complete another menial task, humiliating his friend. When Peggy arrives at the apartment to discuss business, Vince’s thoughtlessness drives her to tears and causes a now drunk Hunk to take several punches at the star, accidentally hitting Vince's throat. After an emergency tracheotomy at the hospital, Vince is forced to recuperate in silence for several weeks, unsure of whether he will sing again. Weeks later, a healed Vince is scared of singing again, but with the support of his loyal friend Hunk and Peggy's love, he attempts an enchanting ballad for Peggy and discovers his unique voice is still intact.  

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's Inc.)
  Avon Productions, Inc.  
Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.  
Director: Richard Thorpe (Dir)
  Robert E. Relyea (Asst dir)
Producer: Pandro S. Berman (Prod)
  Kathryn Hereford (Assoc prod)
Writer: Guy Trosper (Scr)
  Ned Young (Based on a story by)
Photography: Robert Bronner (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: William A. Horning (Art dir)
  Randall Duell (Art dir)
Film Editor: Ralph E. Winters (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Henry Grace (Set dec)
  Keogh Gleason (Set dec)
Music: Jeff Alexander (Mus supv)
Sound: Dr. Wesley C. Miller (Rec supv)
Special Effects: A. Arnold Gillespie (Spec eff)
Make Up: William Tuttle (Makeup)
Production Misc: Col. Tom Parker (Tech adv)
  J. Marchant (Prod mgr)
Country: United States
Language: English

Music: "One More Day," words and music by Sid Tepper and Roy C. Bennett; "Young and Beautiful," words and music by Abner Silver and Aaron Schroeder; "Don't Leave Me Now," words and music by Aaron Schroeder and Ben Weisman; "I Want to Be Free," "Treat Me Nice," "Jailhouse Rock" and "Baby, I Don't Care," words and music by Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber.
Composer: Roy C. Bennett
  Jerry Leiber
  Aaron Schroeder
  Abner Silver
  Mike Stoller
  Sid Tepper
  Ben Weisman
Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Loew's Inc. & Avon Productions, Inc. 1/10/1957 dd/mm/yyyy LP9122

PCA NO: 18684
Physical Properties: Sd: Perspecta Sound
  Widescreen/ratio: CinemaScope
  Lenses/Prints: Process lenses by Panavision

Genre: Musical
Sub-Genre: Show business
Subjects (Major): Celebrities
  Managers (Entertainment)
Subjects (Minor): Adolescents
  Disc jockeys
  Hollywood (CA)
  Music fans
  Recording industry
  Television programs
  Wounds and injuries

Note: The film’s opening credits read: “Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents, An Avon Production, Starring Elvis Presley in Jailhouse Rock .” Throughout the film Vaughn Taylor, as the lawyer “Mr. Shores” provides voice-over narration about the financial success of “Vincent Everett’s” business. As noted in the 16 Oct 1957 Var review, the film was producer Pandro S. Berman’s first as an independent producer. His company, which went on to produce a number of films, was called Avon Productions, Inc. A biography about Presley attributes the film’s initial idea to Berman’s wife, the film’s associate producer, Kathryn Hereford. The biography also credits the dance direction for the “Jailhouse Rock” stage sequence to Alex Romero and lists the following persons as the backup band during the first recording session scene in the film: Scotty Moore, Bill Blade, D. J. Fontana and composer Mike Stoller. Soon after completing work on Jailhouse Rock , Judy Tyler died in a car accident on 3 Jul 1957. The actress had only recently made her film debut in Bop Girl Goes Calypso , which was released in Jul 1957. Jennifer Holden also made her film debut in the film.
       Although 1950s legendary popular music entertainer Presley appeared in two film musicals previous to Jailhouse Rock , the film marked a departure in characterization for the star. Presley, as Vincent Everret, was a cunning entrepreneur whose success causes his own moral demise. According to a biography of the star, Presley disliked the film. A 4 Mar 1960 HR news item notes that M-G-M reissued Jailhouse Rock that year to capture the wave of publicity following Presley’s return from military service. The song "Jailhouse Rock" became one of the biggest hits of Presley's career. A 23 Mar 2001 DV article stated that screenwriters Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais were writing a stage musical adaptation of Jailhouse Rock . Producer Rene Sheridan had acquired the rights to the picture, but as of Jun 2005, the stage musical had not been produced. For more information about Presley please see the entry below for the 1956 film Love Me Tender

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   19 Oct 1957.   
Daily Variety   21 Feb 1957.   
Daily Variety   16 Oct 1957   p. 3.
Daily Variety   23 Mar 2001.   
The Exhibitor   30 Oct 1957.   
Film Daily   21 Oct 1957   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   10 May 1957   p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Jun 1957   p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Oct 1957   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   4 Mar 1960.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   19 Oct 1957   p. 570.
New York Times   14 Nov 1957   p. 41.
Tribune   14 Nov 1957.   
Time   4 Nov 1957.   
Variety   16 Oct 1957   p. 6.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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