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DVD Review: Live a Little, Love a Little

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Written by General Jabbo

Live a Little, Love a Little, finds Elvis Presley in a more “adult” role, moving away from the tired formula used in so many of his ’60s films. He stars as Greg Nolan, a photographer who meets a rich socialite on the beach named Bernice (Michelle Carey). She introduces herself to him as Alice though. She asks if he is married and then throws herself at him. He resists her advances and her dog Albert, a giant Great Dane, chases him into the ocean.

Nolan goes back to her home to change and dry off. A delivery boy comes to her house, calling her Suzie. Bernice says Nolan is burning up and gives him a pill, which knocks him out for several days, possibly weeks. Upon waking up, Nolan leaves, only to find that he has lost his job and his apartment due to his time away. Nolan returns to see Bernice and find out what has happened and she mentions that her husband Harry died from affliction of the liver, but then changes her story to whooping cough. Harry (Dick Sargent) shows up at her home, calling her Bernice. Nolan assumes this was her husband, who is clearly not dead, but Harry informs him he also wasn’t her husband either. Bernice says she has different names for different moods. The three have dinner, where Harry, in a nod to his TV show, suggests Nolan should get a job in an advertising agency. Later in private, Harry tells Nolan that Bernice is scared of life, love, and of being alone. He also tells Nolan to “run for the hills.” Nolan goes to sleep in Albert’s room, only to imagine Albert is talking to him and pushing him into an abyss where Nolan sings “Edge of Reality.” The scene has a trippy, psychedelic feel to it and is a rare moment of relevancy in a late 1960s Elvis movie.

Bernice feels guilty about what has happened to Nolan and buys him a new apartment, but it is expensive and he has to take two jobs to pay for it — one at a Playboy-style magazine called Classic Cat and the other for a much more conservative fashion magazine. Mike Lansdown (Don Porter) is the Hugh Hefner-esque publisher of Classic Cat who, after seeing some of the more risqué photos in Nolan’s portfolio, offers him a job. Lansdown is very casual though, insisting Nolan not wear a tie as it “cuts off the circulation,” while Penlow (Rudy Vallee) prefers the sharp dressed man. This leads to some amusing scenes of Presley changing in the stairwell as both jobs were in the same building. Later, Penlow catches Nolan shooting photographs for his rival, Lansdown, and fires him immediately. Lansdown on the other hand, loves that he was able to pull off two jobs without anyone noticing and offers to double his salary. Keen viewers will recognize Presley’s father Vernon as a model in one of the scenes.

Carey is great as the eccentric Bernice, placing a wooden divider on her bed so she and Nolan can sleep together and he can avoid her advances. He gives in eventually, throwing the divider out the window and she leaves him a note thanking him for making her a woman. Nolan goes to see Harry, thinking she may be with him and Harry says Nolan can’t marry Bernice because she’s asked Harry to take her back, something Bernice later denies. The movie ends as it began, only this time Nolan gets Albert to chase Bernice into the water, providing an interesting symmetry in the film.

Part of the Elvis: 75th Anniversary DVD Collection, Live a Little, Love a Little is now best known as the film that introduced “A Little Less Conversation,” which became a hit three decades later. It also was a much more adult feature than Presley had been making up until that point, with the occasional cursing, drug use and implied sex scenes. This was not Harum Scarum and could have pointed the direction of better things to come had Presley stayed in Hollywood.

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