Nightclub singer Elvis Presley (as Rusty Wells) is hired to chaperone sexy Shelley Fabares (as Valerie Frank), with predictable results... While it was not strong enough to have be trumpeted as a significant improvement at the time, "Girl Happy" is a cut above the (then) average Presley movie. Most importantly, director Boris Sagal, along with the writing team of Harvey Bullock and R.S. Allen, effectively make more of a situation comedy with Elvis music, than the more often used, and vacuously plotted, "Elvis travelogue" with tunes. The comedy is well-paced, nicely played, and includes some genuinely funny moments.
Ms. Fabares' innocent sexuality compliments Presley, and they play very well on screen together. Fabares was understandably invited to co-star in additional Presley movies (with mixed results, due to weakening material). Also very good are Elvis frantic band-mates Jimmy Hawkins (as Doc), Gary Crosby (Andy), and Joby Baker (Wilbur). Fabares and Mr. Hawkins had been a cute teenage couple on "The Donna Reed Show". Mr. Crosby was one of Bing's sons (which turned out to be less fortunate than you'd think). And, Mr. Baker was in a regrettably short-lived Dick Van Dyke-type comedy called "Good Morning World".
MGM wisely used RCA's soundtrack studio record takes for "Girl Happy" (for the most part). In the past, there were sometimes completely separate versions for film and record, with the lamer versions making the film. Presley recorded the "Girl Happy" songs in June 1964; in hindsight, these and the just completed "Roustabout" were the last gasp of Presley as a dependable pop soundtrack singer. Critics weren't enthusiastic about his 1960s film songs, but there were scattered gems throughout. Nothing herein approaches "Return to Sender", but there are no real dogs, either.
The speeded-up vocals evident on "Girl Happy" were not uncommon; recording stars and record companies routinely speeded-up recordings. In the 1960s, many radio stations speeded up every record they played; this way, they could play more records, and get in more commercials. Many old TV shows are speeded-up, also
but, back to Presley: His next film, "Tickle Me", featured no newly recorded soundtrack songs. After a long period of inactivity, he recorded "Harum Sacrum", the first wholly substandard soundtrack of his career. That was followed by "Frankie and Johnny". So, dig right in and "Do the Clam".
****** Girl Happy (3/27/65) Boris Sagal ~ Elvis Presley, Shelley Fabares, Jimmy Hawkins, Gary Crosby