In August, 1959, Director Hal Wallis came to Germany with
a film crew of 40 people to shoot a large portion of the scenes
for Elvis Presley's first film since he was drafted into the
Army in 1958. It was to be called "Cafe Europa." Cameras
rolled in and around Frankfurt am Main, Friedberg, Wiesbaden,
and Idstein am Rhein. After remaining scenes were completed in
Hollywood in the summer of 1960, the final title of the film
became "G.I. Blues" - a far better choice.
Capt. John Mawn of the 3rd Armored Division PIO (Drake Kaserne,
Frankfurt) was assigned as technical advisor to the film's director.
Mawn had also been the Division's Press Officer assigned to Elvis'
activities from the day the singer/soldier arrived for duty in
October, 1958. Elvis served with the Division's 1st Battalion,
32nd Armor, at Ray Barracks in Friedberg until March, 1960, when
he returned to the States for discharge and to wrap up work on
It was a marked departure from his earlier films. G.I. Blues
was the beginning of Elvis' transition from the bad-boy rock
and roller of the late 1950's to the well-groomed balladeer that
he would come to be in the 1960's. Fearful that his fans had
forgotten him, Elvis sets out to capture a broader audience.
He agreed to retain his regulation Army haircut and dug out
his original khaki uniform for his role as Sp5 Tulsa McLean,
a G.I. stationed with the 3rd Armored in Frankfurt, who becomes
involved with Lili, a night-club dancer. Songs and many misunderstandings
followed, along with a somewhat awkward but inevitably happy
ending ("We can get hitched," Elvis tells an agreeable
Lilie, "Maybe this afternoon, if I can get the CO's permission.").
Recording techniques had improved enormously by the late 1950's.
Stereo, previously seldom used in popular music recordings or
movie soundtracks, was now a matter of course. Its greater fidelity
brought a more realistic sound to movies and allowed a more creative
approach to recording pop and rock.
Besides, during his Army time in Germany, Elvis had worked
hard on his voice at the house that he rented in Bad Nauheim,
leading to a larger range and smoother transitions. The sound-track
for G.I. Blues was recorded at the end of April and beginning
of May, 1960, just a few weeks after the recording sessions for
his first post-Army album "Elvis Is Back!".
The sound-track for G.I. Blues contains a mix of songs, from
soft ballads to more rocky tunes, sprinkled with European influences
to express the "local color" of the film. The movie's
unexpected big hit was "Wooden Heart", a number far
removed from the hard-driving rock of pre-Army days, and he sang
not to co-star Juliet Prowse but to a puppet.
Nevertheless, "Wooden Heart" sold two million copies
in Germany, where they obviously regarded him as an adopted son,
and reached number one the charts in Britain as well (LP 55 weeks
on the charts, 22 weeks on number 1). Approximately 7.500.000
LP's of the sound-track were sold and the movie reached number
2 in Variety's Box Office listing of 1960. In 1961 the movie
was a big hit in Europe.
-- Web Staff