Presley, Elvis - Roustabout
The Elvis formula was well in place by the time of 1964's Roustabout: a passel of undistinguished songs (anyone remember "Poison Ivy League"?), pretty girls, tight pants, a colorful setting, and a little bit of karate to prove that Elvis really had been studying his martial arts. With that understood, Roustabout is a better-than-average workout for the King--not as peppy as Viva Las Vegas, but a good deal livelier than the sleepwalking It Happened at the World's Fair. Elvis plays a bad-boy singer roaming the highways on his Japanese motorcycle; laid up after an accident, he joins a carnival owned by the feisty Barbara Stanwyck. ("This is not a circus, it's a carnival. There's a big difference.") The cast goes from high to low: both giant-sized future James Bond villain Richard Kiel and tiny Billy Barty are carny regulars, and Raquel Welch has a small role in the opening scene. Teri Garr is one of the carnival dancers behind Elvis. The legendary costume designer Edith Head puts Elvis in a series of snappy windbreakers, but thank goodness he's also in black leather a lot. As if that weren't enough to recommend it, the movie has a sequence involving Elvis riding a cycle inside the "Wall of Death," a huge wooden cylinder with high walls. This bit actually inspired an entire Irish film in 1986, Eat the Peach, in which friends build a similar contraption after they watch Roustabout on tape. --Robert Horton
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Unfortunately, the scriptwriters were less demanding of themselves, and the film suffers from banal dialogue and predictable plotting. Elvis stars as Charlie Rogers, a drifter with a chip on his shoulder who lands a job as a roustabout (handyman) with a down-and-out carnival operated by strong-willed Maggie Morgan, played by Stanwyke. When Charlie breaks into song on the midway one day, throngs of young people flock to hear him sing (which may be believable were they all penned by Lieber & Stoller). As news of his talent spreads, Maggie's carnival begins to turn a tidy profit. Charlie's good fortune continues as Cathy, a young and pretty carnival worker played by Joan Freeman, takes a romantic interest in him. However, after a misunderstanding involving a customer's missing wallet, Maggie and Cathy chide Charlie for his selfish attitudes. The embittered young Charlie quits Maggie's outfit to work for a rival carnival. When Maggie's carnival starts to go under, Charlie returns with enough money to ward off the creditors. His unselfish act wins Maggie's respect as well as Cathy's heart.
With a cast of big-name stars, including Barbara Stanwyke, Leif Erickson, and Jack Albertson, Roustabout was one of Elvis's better films from this period.
Elvis would later says that working with Stanwyke made him a better actor.
Elvis plays Charlie Rogers, a brooding loner (you can tell by his semi-comatose expression) eking out a living doing a bad impression of, well, himself at a dive called Mother's Tea House. (Look fast for Raquel Welch at one of the tables.) One night, he unwisely taunts some middle-aged college boys with a witty ditty called "Poison Ivy League," gets in a fight, loses his job and sputters off on his dinky motorbike. Happening upon a jeep, Charlie is run off the road by short-fused carny Joe Lean (Leif Erickson) for flirting with his virginal daughter Cathy (Joan Freeman, who, tellingly, later became a nun). Unhurt, Charlie signs on as a roustabout in their two-bit carnival, run by Barbara Stanwyck as Maggie Morgan, a woman of backbone and bite (sorry, wrong show), until his bike can be repaired. Maggie recognizes Charlie's teen appeal after his impromptu performance of "It's Carnival Time" causes a sensation on the midway. Soon Charlie is packin' 'em in, and the carnival begins to turn a profit. On top of the world, Charlie steps up his romancing of Cathy while fending off the advances of an amorous fortune teller (the usually fetching Sue Ane Langdon in a hideous black wig) until a fracas with a boorish customer causes him to get ants in his pants again. His cycle fixed, Charlie dons his outrageously tacky, must-be-compensating-for-something, foot-wide studded-leather belt and accepts the generous offer of the owner (Pat Buttram, the immortal flimflam man Mr. Haney from TV's "Green Acres") of a big-time rival carnival.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
This is probably the only elvis movie i really wanna get, the songs are good, his acting is ummm well lets not go there. Read morePublished on Feb. 13 2011 by Kevin W. Edwards
I won't bore you with a plot synopsis or my opinion of the borderline interesting story - this movie IS WORTH SEEING for one jaw-dropping sequence: For the rockingest song in the... Read morePublished on Jan. 20 2004 by Dharth Presley
Charlie Rodgers (Elvis Presley) is a coffee shop singer. As the movie opens, he is fired after a short fight is picked. Read morePublished on Aug. 12 2001 by Stephen Verhaeren
In one of his best movies, Elvis Presley plays a handsome, bonafide jerk who, on route to his next job, accidentally encounters Barbara Stanwyck, her even jerkier husband, and her... Read morePublished on May 18 2000 by Sean Orlosky
Since "Roustabout" debuted in 1965, I've become an expert on it. The cast includes a screen legend as well as recognizable supporting actors. Read morePublished on Feb. 19 2000 by ROY BRENNAN
"Roustabout" (1964) is a better-than-average Elvis Presley musical, with the added bonus of Barbara Stanwyck in one of her last films. Read morePublished on Sept. 13 1999 by Scott T. Rivers
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