Easy Come, Easy Go (1967)
Elvis Presley, Dodie Marshall, Pat Priest, Pat Harrington, Jr., Skip Ward, Frank McHugh and Elsa Lanchester
Director John Rich
Paramount Pictures (95 mins)
Frogman Ted Jackson (Presley) discovers what he thinks may be treasure on his last dive for the Navy. He investigates the wreck of the Port of Call by asking local salvage expert Captain Jack (McHugh) about it. The Captain turns Ted on to Jo Symington (Marshall), who’s father kept extensive records on wrecks. Jo is concerned that Ted is a fortune hunter but he assures her his pursuits are purely academic.
Out on the water, Ted and his beatnik friend, Judd (Harrington), encounter sexy Dina Bishop (Priest) and her boy toy, Gil (Ward). Dina and Gil get wind that Ted is diving for treasure and want to beat him to it. With Captain Jack and his essential diving equipment caught in the middle, Ted and his gang battle with Dina and Gil to get to the treasure first.
Easy Come, Easy Go is an acceptable second-tier Elvis film that is not without it’s charm. Elvis’ 23rd movie, it was released March 22, 1967 – two weeks before his next film, Double Trouble. This is a good example of the ridiculousness of the “Elvis Machine” in this period. The nautical theme, the wharf location and the underwater scenes make for an engaging – if flaccid – jaunt for King. The “beatnik” aspects of the plot fall flat and don’t really jibe with the Elvis mythos. The same can be said, actually, for the European flair of the following film, Double Trouble.
Director John Rich is a typical player in King Movies; typical in that he predominantly worked in television. Rich only directed six feature films including Elvis’ Roustabout (1964), Wives and Lovers (1963), the film who’s title song made an impression that the film did not and Boeing Boeing (1965) starring Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis. Rich won Emmys, Golden Globes and an NAACP Image award for directing most of the episodes of All in the Family.
Easy Come, Easy Go was one of nine films Presley made for Hal Wallis and Paramount. Writer Allan Weiss is one of my heroes in Elvis World because Blue Hawaii is based on a story of his. Weiss also wrote or co-wrote 5 other King Movies including Easy Come, Easy Go.
Mary Tyler Moore lookalike Dodie Marshall is in good shape and makes a fine presentation as Jo however she lacks a defined presence. Born in England, Marshall was the ripe old age of 33 when she appeared in Easy Come, Easy Go; 17 days OLDER than Elvis actually. She had previously appeared at the end of Elvis’ Spinout as the new “drummer” but she is one of the players in King Movies that has the fewest total credits; 7 in total with her Elvis movies being her only feature films. She’s apparently still with us.
Pat Priest strikes all the right notes playing the incredibly fit Dina Bishop. Priest, best known for portraying Marilyn Munster on The Munsters television series, only made 6 movies and in half of these she was uncredited. She is attractive in this film although they got her hair wrong. Another TV actor named “Pat”, Harrington, Jr. does well as the beatnik trumpet player, Judd. Like Priest, Harrington made only a handful of films and spent more time on the small screen, winning an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Schneider on One Day at a Time. Harrington – who had been an intelligence officer in the United States Air Force – died in 2016. Skip Ward (d. 2003) actually had a lengthy career in Hollywood. He had appeared in Run Silent, Run Deep, The Nutty Professor, The Night of the Iguana, Kiss Me, Stupid and Hombre before playing Gil in our film. Later, he would turn to producing on television, working on V and The Dukes of Hazzard. These three actors actually make for a good cast. They are professional and portray their characters with ease and a certain amount of charisma.
Easy Come, Easy Go is a typical King Movie in that the cast includes young television actors and older Hollywood veterans. Frank McHugh is comical as Capt. Jack in this his last feature film. McHugh is known to classic movie fans as a long-time crony of James Cagney and has over 170 credits to his name including the 1947 film Easy Come, Easy Go starring Barry Fitzgerald. Another veteran appearing here is Elsa Lanchester who hams it up as Madame Neherina, the yoga instructor. Lanchester took an immortal turn as the Bride of Frankenstein and appeared in notable films such as The Bishop’s Wife (1947). She was married once, to Charles Laughton, for 33 years until his death. Laughton was guest hosting The Ed Sullivan Show the first time Presley appeared on the show.
There is a striking looking girl that appears in the film as a yoga student and no one seems to be able to tell me who she is. She is more attractive and seems more at ease in front of the camera than many of Elvis’ leading ladies. Brand new set of Bragging Rights to anyone who can get me the skinny.
The Look: Elvis looks bored in this film. Besides that, though, his hair and wardrobe are quite unremarkable. His hair has the look of a helmet and his wardrobe is muted, perhaps to match the whole beatnik thing. Often he’s dressed in a uniform or a diving suit. He always looks good in a captain’s hat, though. As we all do.
King Moment: “Just what did you have in mind?” Ted jumps up from his chair, ready to pound Gil to a pulp before Dina intervenes. Also in this scene, Ted actually sips a martini; one of the few times King drinks in a movie.
The Music: “Easy Come, Easy Go”, “The Love Machine”, “Yoga is as Yoga Does”, “You Gotta Stop”, “Sing You Children”, “I’ll Take Love”
Elvis was disgusted with his movie songs by this point, even letting Red West sift through the pile and choose these six. It is a measure of Elvis’ pride and professionalism that even to dopiest songs come off OK in his hands. The title track is a good one, energetic with a fine vocal. “The Love Machine” is a lazy lope that features horns and the goofy line “she may be tall, she may be short, she may be wide”. But listen to him sing “lady luck, stop that wheel on 38-24-35. Step up!” “You Gotta Stop” and “I’ll Take Love” are what I’d call “typical” movie songs from this era; lightweight but endearing. I like them both. The former features guitar from Scotty Moore and the latter is a pleasant closer that was co-written by Dolores Fuller who was a girlfriend of Ed Wood’s and is portrayed by Sarah Jessica Parker in the film Ed Wood (1994).
The other two songs are what I would consider “plot devices” more than “songs”. “Yoga” may be the worst song he ever recorded in that there is nothing to redeem it. It’s used in the film only as a comment on the lifestyle of Jo and her friends. The pseudo-gospel “Sing You Children” is a pointless device used in a ridiculous scene. The recording sessions featured the Jordanaires, Charlie McCoy, DJ Fontana and Hal Blaine. I also see Elvis bassist Jerry Scheff listed as having played trumpet. Interesting.
The songs from Easy Come, Easy Go were released on an EP that performed poorly on the charts. It’s an indication of the obsolescence of the EP format – it was his last – and the depths to which he had sank. It did not chart and sold fewer than 30,000 units.
Meanwhile in Elvis World: Easy Come, Easy Go is the last film Elvis Presley made for Hal Wallis. Less than a third of the movies Presley made were Wallis productions but the films the two made together after Elvis’ return from the Army are what many people have come to consider “typical” Elvis Movies. It is well known in Elvis World that Hal Wallis felt there was only one way to present Elvis Presley on screen; in a sunny locale, surrounded by beautiful girls and singing as many songs as possible. This despite often promising Elvis that there would eventually be more serious fare in which singing was not required. It is also accepted that Wallis used the proceeds from Presley’s films to finance more serious works like Becket (1964). This practice of Wallis’ perhaps contributed more than anything else did to Elvis’ growing disillusionment with Hollywood and his career in general by 1967.
Aside from gambling in Las Vegas, I don’t think anything pleased Col. Tom Parker more than pitting his cornpone skullduggery against the polished business acumen of a Hollywood producer like Hal Wallis. This was a contentious and trying relationship although a lucrative one. But by 1967, all three parties – Presley/Parker and Wallis – were fed up. Easy Come, Easy Go was the last straw and from the outset it was doomed to be a lacklustre affair for everyone. Director John Rich sensed a negative attitude from Wallis concerning the picture and asked to be relieved of his duties. Wallis simply wanted the picture done quickly; “just put them through their paces”. “It was not my finest moment”, Rich has said.
Elvis, for his part, brought “an accumulation of resentment” to the picture. He also brought some excess weight and hair dyed so black that Wallis complained it looked like a wig. Elvis had been having his hair done for some time now by Larry Geller, a hairdresser who was also well-versed in Eastern mysticism. Much to the chagrin of Col. Parker – who distrusted Larry and anyone else who may get into Elvis’ head – Elvis and Larry would often have long talks about the religions of the East and a particularly ridiculous number in Easy Come, Easy Go sent up a red flag in Larry’s mind. According to Geller, when he suggested to Elvis that the farcical “Yoga is as Yoga Does” number was a “direct insult to Elvis’ (and Larry’s) beliefs”, Presley flew off the handle, raving that the Colonel had the writers insert the song into the film as a means to disrespect Elvis’ spiritual pursuits. It is illuminating to consider all these negative goings-on when you watch the finished film.
Added to this was Paramount’s unwillingness to spend money on promoting the film ahead of its release and, after Easy Come, Easy Go opened, correspondence between Wallis and an associate claiming “obviously the star is not as big an attraction as he was”. Wallis’ fears were confirmed with the film “failing even to recoup its costs”.
There was lots of negative energy swirling around in Elvis World when Easy Come, Easy Go was made and released but this movie does hold a place in the lower echelon of King Movies. While the film looks dull and perhaps needs a restoration, it does contain some of those intangibles that make Presley’s movies great to watch. This is one of those that is nice to watch maybe as a “midday matinée” on a gloomy afternoon when you’ve stayed home from school or work or as a “late, late show” that you enjoy while curled up in a blanket on the couch.