Top critical review
Frankie and Johnny
on August 3, 2002
Elvis appeared in this lighthearted musical based on the folk song, "Frankie and Johnny". In the original song, the title characters are lovers whose romance goes awry when red-headed Nellie Bly steals Johnny away from Frankie. Frankie gets revenge by shooting Johnny dead. The movie lightens the tone of the tale by adding a few details and changing the downbeat ending. In the film, the song has been especially written for riverboat performers Frankie and Johnny, played by Donna Douglas (The Beverly Hillbillies) and Elvis Presley. Johnny is a gambler whose bad luck changes when dancer Nellie Bly, played by Nancy Kovak, joins the troupe aboard the riverboat. Each night, the three perform the number "Frankie and Johnny" onstage. As Johnny's interest in Nellie increases, so does Frankie's jealousy. One night, someone loads real bullets into Frankie's prop gun, and Johnny is shot during the performance. As luck would have it, Johnny is saved by a charm that he wears around his neck.
The film did benefit from the juicy secondary roles played by a seasoned cast of character actors which keep the film from being any less interesting. Harry Morgan, who later gained recognition on the TV series M*A*S*H played Cully the piano player. Robert Strauss, the burly villain in many crime dramas, played Blackie, the boss's stooge and Sue Ane Langdon portrayed Mitzi, the girl who is always edged out in the romance department.
Produced for United Artists by Edward Small. Released March 31, 1966. Color.