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Blu-ray Review A Few Words About A few words about…™ It Happened at the World's Fair – in Blu-ray (1 Viewer)

Robert Harris

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Just to be clear, "It Happened at the World's Fair" is not about the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904, which was more than adequately covered in an earlier M-G-M musical.

This one features a singer, turned actor, named Elvis, and it opens with a sequence involving a crop duster, not to be confused with another crop duster that appeared in another M-G-M production four years previous.

Something that I always found odd about this sequence is that the shots of the pilot and his co-hort in the cockpit show no real signs of wind, and they only don their goggles when they're about to spray the potato fields.

As directed by Norman Taurog, who was behind ten of Elvis Presley's 31 feature films, it survives beautifully in all it's Metro Color glory courtesy of Warner Archive.

It's a gorgeous Blu-ray that will find a welcome audience with fans of the genre.

Mr. Taurog began his career as a bit player in 1912, and made his directorial debut in 1920 for First National, in a Larry Semon short - School Days.

In 1929 he moved away from shorts to feature-length for Tiffany Productions, then back to shorts at Paramount before returning to features there.

In that decade he's probably best known for Skippy and Huckleberry Finn (both 1931), The Phantom President and sequences of If I had a Million (1932), followed by two Maurice Chevalier films, and productions featuring W. C. Fields, Bing Crosby, Eddie Cantor (for Goldwyn), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Selznick), Mad About Music (Deanna Durbin - Universal), and then to M-G-M, with Boys Town (1940).

In 1945 he directed the prologue for Ziegfeld Follies, as well as retakes. An interesting confluence of release events, as that film will be covered in a separate Few Words.

In the 1950s, he became a go-to director for Martin and Lewis, and later for Mr. Lewis.

In 1960, he linked with Mr. Presley (his fifth film) for their first production together, G.I. Blues, and things went on from there.

World's Fair is notable for its location photography, gorgeous color, as well as an appearance by a young Kurt Russell, who would go on to portray Elvis in John Carpenter's 1979 TV production.

When it came to numbers, Elvis apparently received a nice percentage of the gross, which he shared (per a handshake agreement) 50/50 with the colonel.

If lower budgets meant larger profits, it has been acknowledged that the colonel was all for it.

For me, Elvis' best non-concert work was Viva Las Vegas, Jailhouse Rock and King Creole (released recently via Paramount Presents.)


It is also noted that after Ann-Margret appeared with Elvis in Viva Las Vegas, and more than held her own in the acting department, that in the future there was a desire that Elvis should be the one to shine.

Image – 5

Audio – 5

Pass / Fail – Pass

Upgrade from DVD – Yes

Recommended

RAH
 
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roxy1927

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It is also noted that after Ann-Margret appeared with Elvis in Viva Las Vegas, and more than held her own in the acting department, that in the future there was a desire that Elvis should be the one to shine.

Ann-Margret was in Viva Las Vegas?
 

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ABritch

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It Happened at The World's Fair was Elvis's 12th film and the first under a new contract signed with MGM in January 1961. A “4 picture deal”, Elvis would receive $400,000 per picture plus $75,000 for expenses and $25,000 for musical expenses. The Colonel included a provision that once MGM recouped $500,000 then Elvis would receive 50% of the profits. The films made under this contract were; “It Happened At the World’s Fair (1963), Viva Las Vegas (1963), Kissin’ Cousins (1964), and Girl Happy (1965)”

It Happened At The World's Fair (1963) had a large budget, for a film starring Elvis Presley, $2,500,000(a). MGM had to be disappointed with the box office results, rentals initially were $2,250,000 and Variety estimated $2,500,000 by the end of 1963. Domestically it broke even when P&A isn't included. Foreign Box Office rentals aren't published but would certainly put the film into the black. I doubt profits exceeded $500,000 so it's doubtful Elvis received any money from profit participation.

Elvis's films from 1956-1962 all generated a profit domestically except Wild In The Country (1961) and It Happened At The World's Fair (1963). Wild in The Country (1961) lost $500,000 in North America but went into the black with its foreign rentals. This was due to it being the most expensive film Elvis made to this point, budgeted at $2,975,000(b).

The larger budgets of these two films and Elvis's next two; Fun In Acapulco (1963) and Viva Las Vegas (1964) forced Colonel Parker to seek out Producers willing to make cheaper films and maximize profit. This decision created Kissin' Cousins (1964), Harum Scarum and a host of others.

Its' interesting to note that Tickle Me (1965) had the highest profit margin in Elvis's film career. Production Cost was budgeted at $399,750 and went $6,650 over budget finishing at $406,400 plus Elvis' salary for a total budget of $1,156,400(c). This was less than Variety reported on July 27, 1965, $1,476,000. Domestic box office rentals of $3,400,000(d) and foreign rentals of $1,600,000 made a worldwide total of $5,000,000(e) and brought profits of around $3,800,000!

Tickle Me's profit alone was more than the average rentals Elvis's films were making at the box office up to that time (avg $3,300,000). But, quality suffered with the smaller budgets. Sets were cheap, many of the casts and crews worked on TV more than features - Elvis was contractually stuck on this assembly line and between 1965 and 1968 he churned out 10 features before a change was made.

Elvis's musicals since his return from the Army in 1960 (GI Blues, Blue Hawaii, Girls Girls Girls) returned healthy rentals (avg $4,100,000) it was the dramas and comedies with fewer songs that struggled (Flaming Star, Wild in The Country, Follow That Dream, Kid Galahad) only averaging $2,400,000. It Happened At The World's Fair's disappointing box office must have been a surprise.

Why did it not resonate with Elvis's audience or the wider movie-going public? It was a radical change from his previous image and I think it domesticated Elvis way too far. The soundtrack, as a whole, is weaker than his previous musicals and it is more of a musical drama, than a romantic musical comedy. Not what the public was expecting from the trailers an advertising.

I've always enjoyed the film, it is a little too long and could have done without the musical toys scene but Elvis aquits himself well as does the supporting cast. it is a well-filmed, good looking musical that looks great on Blu-ray.


(a) http://www.historylink.org/File/9363
Century 21: Seattle's September Days with Elvis Presley, 1962 by Peter Blecha posted May 8, 2010

(b) Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History by Aubrey Soloman - P.253 Appendix B Production Costs

(c)Pg. 285 Michael A. Hoey, Elvis' Favorite Director: The Amazing 52-Film Career of Norman Taurog, Bear Manor Media.

(d) "Big Rental Pictures of 1965", Variety, 5 January 1966 p 6

(e)Variety July 27, 1965
 

Stephen_J_H

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I have memories of seeing this on TV in a magenta-ish faded 16mm Metrocolor print with the opening and closing titles anamorphically squeezed. I don't remember much more than that.
 

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