BLUE HAWAII (1961)
Director: Norman Taurog
Stars: Elvis Presley, Joan Blackman, Angela Lansbury, Nancy Walters
NOTHING illustrates the popularity of Hawaiiana in the early 1960s better than Blue Hawaii. The first of three Elvis movies to be filmed in the islands, it was one of his most successful, and the soundtrack spent 20 weeks at number one on the Billboard chart.
Presley plays Chadwick Gates, the heir to a pineapple fortune who returns to Honolulu after a stint in the US Army. While he’s happy surfing, singing and playing uke with his beach-boy buddies, Chad’s snooty parents don’t like it one bit and pressure him to join the family business. He refuses and instead becomes a tour guide, which leads to him working with a visiting high school teacher (Walters) and her four female students. Chad’s girlfriend Maile (Blackman) gets jealous of his relationship with the pretty teacher and some fairly predictable miscommunications form the basis of the comedy.
While it’s not high art by any means, Blue Hawaii is undeniably entertaining and the scenery is stunning. Much of the film was shot on location at the Coco Palms Resort on the east coast of the island of Kauai. Sadly, the resort, which was once a playground for the rich and famous, has been abandoned since it was hit by Hurricane Iniki in 1992.
The soundtrack was recorded at Radio Recorders in Hollywood before filming began, with Fred Tavares and Bernie Lewis playing the ukuleles. Elvis later gave a Martin uke used in the flick as a gift to famous session guitarist Hank ‘Sugarfoot’ Garland. Aside from the title track, notable songs include Rock-A-Hula Baby, Ku-u-ipo (Hawaiian Sweetheart) and Aloha ’Oe.
Surely a movie that features the King of Rock ’n’ Roll strumming four strings instead of six deserves a spot in any uke fan’s collection.