' ' Cinema Romantico: Friday's Old Fashioned: Live A Little Love A Little (1968)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Friday's Old Fashioned: Live A Little Love A Little (1968)

An Elvis movie, of course, is not about making some sort of grand point. An Elvis movie is about, well, Elvis. It is about songs and dances and one dimensional characters and awful one liners and motivations born of nothing and pretty ladies who make eyes at Elvis because he’s, well, Elvis. They are the chili cheese fries of cinema. This is why I love them so.

“Live A Little Love A Little” was Elvis’s 28th movie – he did not have many left after – and dropped into theaters in October 1968 just a couple months before his infamous comeback special on NBC. And watching it with that knowledge in mind one can easily detect an Elvis determined to evolve. The majority of his films are known for their fake sets and backdrops, rear projection in cars, fluffy tunes, and star power substituting for story. This one, however, utilizes real locations, employs only three songs post-opening titles, bases its script off a book (by Dan Greenburg), and seems to really want to try and place The King in an honest-to-goodness screwball comedy.

As if insistent on calling attention to being truly on location right from the get-go, opens with Elvis carousing in a convertible along a Malibu beach, singin’ a song and encountering becoming Alice (Michele Carey, a performance I admit I enjoyed on an entirely frivolous level). Presley is Greg Nolan, a news photographer, apparently insistent on living a carefree and unattached life which is why he resists the forward charms of Alice who, feeling scorned, calls upon her faithful dog Albert to chase Greg into the cold water which leaves him stricken with a fever which causes Alice to take him to her oceanfront home and tend him back to health. Meet Cute? Well……

Turns out her name is not Alice. It’s Betty. We learn this when her Milkman (Sterling Holloway) shows up. Except it turns out her name is not Betty either. It’s Bernice. We learn this when Harry (Dick Sargent) shows up. Who’s Harry? He’s a guy Bernice used to date but who keeps showing up at her place because he thinks they are still dating or because she has not made it clear they are not dating or because she just likes the attention. Who knows? Long story short: she’s crazy. Greg finally gets back to work but then gets fired because, you know, he’s been AWOL for a few days and then goes home to cool his heels and formulate a plan only to find out his home has been rented out. Say again? That’s right, rented out, and the back rent paid and his belongings moved out by……Bernice. C.R.A.Z.Y.

Greg’s mad, sure, that she has schemed her way back into his life, but rather than run away he lands himself two jobs so he can provide for himself and pay her back for his back rent. Say what? So you know the game. Greg can’t stand her but Greg falls for her and meanwhile Greg is working as a photographer for two companies in the same building, one of which is a magazine for adults and one of which is an adult magazine. Hijinks ensue. Love blooms. So on. So forth.

I am describing the plot because that’s what the movie is – it lays out the plot and then just sort of leaves it laying there, never expanding much beyond a barebones synopsis. The charm in an Elvis movie, though, usually rests in the kitschy songs and general ludicrousness. But when you limit the songs (the soundtrack includes “A Little Less Conversation” which you probably know as the song later updated and remastered for a Greatest Hits package) and try to structure the ridiculousness, the charm is rendered mute.

“Live A Little Love A Little” admirably aims to be more Struges than Elvis. In the end, it’s neither. It’s just not much fun at all.

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