Written by General Jabbo
The Trouble With Girls was Elvis Presley’s penultimate film of the 1960s. Based on the novel Chautauqua by Day Keene and Dwight Vincent, the film is oddly titled and conjures up images of mid-1960s Elvis movies films with girls in bikinis. Nothing could be further from the truth here.
Presley stars as Chautauqua manager Walter Hale, who has traveled to small town Iowa 1927 for the Chautauqua fair. During the fair, he tries to prevent his pianist Charlene (Marlyn Mason) from organizing the Chautauqua employees into a union. Hale also learns firsthand about nepotism, as the local mayor puts pressure on his company to have his daughter be the lead in their play over the current lead, who is much more talented.
During the fair, sleazy local druggist Harrison Wilby (Dabney Coleman) is murdered. Charlene had earlier overheard him being abusive to his worker, Nita Bix (Sheree North) in his store. Initially, one of the Chautauqua members is accused of the murder, but Hale learns that it is not his employee, but rather Wilby’s employee, Bix who committed the crime. With the murder hanging over the Chautauqua, Hale gets Bix to agree to a live confession in front of a paying audience. Charlene is mortified by the idea of exploiting Bix, but Hale feels it is the only way she’d get a fair trial in the town.
Part of the Elvis: 75th Anniversary DVD Collection, The Trouble With Girls features very little singing and what is included fits the theme of the movie, such as when Hale sings “Swing Down Sweet Chariot” when their gospel singer is unavailable. Elvis fans should be on the lookout for uncredited appearances by Joe Esposito and Jerry Schilling while Brady Bunch fans should watch for a not-yet Cindy Brady Susan Olsen as one of the auditioning singers. Vincent Price makes a short, but fun cameo as Mr. Morality while Joyce Van Patten takes a weird turn as a swimmer during the Chautauqua.
As a period piece, The Trouble with Girls provides an interesting look at 1920s Iowa. Presley gets less screen time than usual, almost as a costar in his own movie, but the role is different for him and shows what might have been.