Elvis on Easter
And yet, some brilliant TCM programmer, deciding perhaps that they also needed to appeal to the pagan tradition of springtime fertility myths, has decided to give us a short break with Girl Happy—an Elvis film from 1965 starring Shelley Fabares, Mary Ann Mobley, and a breathtaking series of hard-working bikinis. In its own libidinous way, it’s a perfect match. Because Elvis really is a modern Christ figure in the sense that certain people with religious devotion to him believe he’s still alive afer death, and also because you get through an Elvis movie the same way you get through a particularly intense church service: you have to shut your brain down entirely or you’ll get migraines. (Example: as I write this, Elvis is singing “Do the Clam,” complete with hand motions. Ouch! It hurts us!)
In the film, Elvis and the boys are tasked to protect a mob boss’s daughter while she’s in Fort Lauderdale during Spring Break. So far the line that best sums up the film is when Shelley Fabares (the daughter) walks by in a bathing suit and one of Elvis’s friends says, “How are we supposed to keep the boys away from that? It’s like hiding Disneyland!” Although personally I don’t know why Shelley Fabares is considered gorgeous, because she’s wearing a flip so extreme that her head looks like a big brown top hat. (Also, a dubious distinction: in two movies close together—‘56's Rock, Pretty Baby and ‘58's Summer Love—she played characters named “Twinkie.”)
The real looker in the film is Mary Ann Mobley, Miss America 1959, who seems to be another great beauty from Biloxi (see my earlier post, The Best Thing About Biloxi), and one of only four Miss Americas who actually had a post-tiara career. She’s no Ann-Margret, but at 35-22-36 I guess she’ll do. In Girl Happy, she’s allegedly playing a ditz, so I feel obliged to point out that, according to the Internet Movie Database, her daughter is currently the senior vice president of MGM Television. Also, she was the first woman inducted into the University of Mississippi Hall of Fame, which puts her alongside William Faulkner, who was sort of a walking Spring Break himself. And I can’t resist quoting this last trivium:
During the 1959 'Miss America' contest, Mary Ann sang, for the talent portion, a highly formal, operatic rendition of Puccini's "Un Bel Di" that segued into a belt version of "There'll Be Some Changes Made" as she stripped down into something skimpier. She won the crown.
Some guy onscreen just said of his girlfried, “She doesn’t have much upstairs . . . but what a staircase!” And in the Elvis tradition of psychological realism, she giggled and kissed him for saying it. Owie! Ouchie! Make it stop!