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Of 27 movies, Elvis Presley made 3 in the islands

By John Berger


Elvis made an astounding 27 films between 1960, when he returned to Hollywood after completing his service in the Army, and the end of his "movie period" in 1969. Three of them included location work in Hawaii.

'BLUE HAWAII' (1961)

Elvis' first film here was a beautiful showcase for the new 50th state with location shoots in Waikiki, Ala Moana Beach Park, Hanauma Bay and Tantalus -- and that gorgeous Hawaiian wedding on the grounds of the Coco Palms Hotel that has drawn Elvis fans to Kauai for a half-century. "Blue Hawaii" is also generally rated as one of Presley's most successful films and produced one of his best soundtrack albums.


This is the last in a nine-day special series marking the 40th anniversary of the "Elvis: Aloha from Hawaii" concert, Jan. 14, 1973.

Tuesday: Read John Berger's review of the 40th anniversary screening of "Elvis: Aloha from Hawaii" at



» "'Elvis: Aloha from Hawaii' 40th Anniversary Screening": 7:30 p.m. today, Blaisdell Arena. Featuring a high-definition remastered video on multiple screens and enhanced audio. Tickets are $35 at Blaisdell Arena and through Ticketmaster outlets, 800-745-3000 or

» "Kaua'i Loves Elvis!": 5:30 p.m. Friday, Kauai Marriott Resort on Kalapaki Beach. A benefit for Kauai United Way with Presley tribute artist Tim Welch, prime rib buffet dinner and silent auction of Elvis memorabilia and other items and activities. Sponsored by Kaua'i Visitors Bureau, County of Kauai and Kaua'i Chamber of Commerce. Tuesday is the deadline to buy tickets: $65 ($85 for VIP seating). Call 245-3971 or email; tickets also available at The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas, Scotty's Music in Kalaheo and Kauai Marriott Resort.



Jan. 6: Hawaii and Elvis: a mutual love affair

Jan. 7: Fans share their burning love for the King

Jan. 8: Impersonators: It takes more than a white jumpsuit to become Elvis

Jan. 9: Eat like the King

Jan. 10: Alfred Shaheen's "Blue Hawaii" aloha shirt

Jan. 11: Graceland spotlights the isles

Jan. 12: Elvis merchandise for the next generation

Jan. 13: Where to find Elvis on Oahu


Plot: Chadwick "Chad" Gates (Presley) returns to Hawaii after two years in the Army. Chad's mother expects him to take an executive-in-training job working for his father at the Great Southern Hawaiian Fruit Co. and disapproves of his beachboy friends and his hapa haole girlfriend Maile Duval (Joan Blackman). Chad wants to make his own way in the world. When a job with his girlfriend's employer doesn't work out, the couple form their own tour escort company.

Soundtrack highlights: "Blue Hawaii," "Can't Help Falling in Love," "Rock-A-Hula Baby," "Ku-u-i-po (Hawaiian Sweetheart)" and "Moonlight Swim."

Hawaii-born Ralph "Hana" Hanalei, billed in the credits as Tiki Hanalei, had a major supporting role as one of the beachboys. His actual "day job" was with an aerospace firm in Southern California, and he worked weekends as a dancer in Polynesian-themed shows, a gig that got him television and film jobs. He was doing bit parts for Paramount when casting for "Blue Hawaii" started in Hollywood.

Hanalei's experience as a Polynesian dancer was used in the scene in which Presley asks if he is still "slap happy."

"That wasn't in the original script; it was sort of like a joke," Hanalei said. "(Elvis) knew I was an entertainer, and he said, 'Come on, Hana, let's see what you can do.'"

The beachboys -- Hanalei, Frank Atienza, Jose De Vega and Lani Kai -- were also featured prominently in the "Rock-A-Hula Baby" number and appeared in the beach party, nightclub fight and jail scenes. They also rode the double canoe for the Hawaiian wedding.

Hanalei describes himself as the "oddball" of the four. "All the other guys (also) played instruments but they didn't dance -- they didn't have anything odd that they did. I was the oddball. We talked about doing a (Samoan) fire dance, but somehow the script got changed."

He said the fight scene took several takes, but he never felt under pressure.

"El always said, 'Guess what, guys, no problem. All right, let's go.' He was that kind of guy. ... It was so special working with that guy and getting to know him as friend."


Despite location shots at Kewalo Basin and the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor, "Girls! Girls! Girls!" could have been set in New Orleans or anywhere in coastal Florida or Southern California.

Plot: Ross Carpenter (Presley), a deep-sea fishing guide, wants to buy the sailboat he made with his late father. He takes a job as a commercial fisherman working for Wesley Johnson (Jeremy Slate) to earn the money he needs to buy it. What follows is romantic entanglements, several run-ins with his devious new boss, and visits to a Chinese family that lives in a rustic cove he reaches by boat from the unnamed city.

Soundtrack highlight: "Return to Sender."

Ginny Tiu was 8 years old and her younger sister, Elizabeth, was 5 when they were cast as the Chinese children.

"I had been performing since I was 5," Tiu said. "Colonel Parker contacted my dad, who was my manager."

The Tiu sisters had a big scene with Presley singing a faux-Chinese song, "Earth Boy." Their brother, Alexander, had a nonspeaking role in the finale.

Tiu's most vivid memory of the filming is that Presley bought her perfume.

"I loved it, of course. I was thrilled: 'He thinks I'm an adult, too, who would like perfume.' I still have the bottle."

She said he was always very kind, "especially when I flubbed a line -- 'I'm so sorry! I'm so sorry!' and he was, like, 'Don't worry, honey. We all do it.'"

Tiu was also impressed by the way Presley treated people when the cameras weren't rolling.

"He was just really, really nice and super-generous. I was older already so he didn't pick me up as much as he picked up Liz, but he enjoyed picking us up and spending time with us. He never treated us like we were just kids.

"I remember him addressing my parents as 'yes, ma'am' and 'no, sir.' I didn't hear that too much, and especially to think that this is Elvis addressing my parents politely -- that really impressed me. I really enjoyed working with Elvis. That's why I was so disappointed and so upset when I couldn't do the second movie."

The second movie, "It Happened at the World's Fair," was the first of two Elvis did in 1963.

"It was a much bigger role (for me) and would have taken much longer to film ... but there were some other commitments that my dad said I couldn't back out of."

One of them was playing for President John F. Kennedy.

"My dad was very sharp, and he sent (my sister) Vicky and she did a fantastic job!"

Vicky Tiu went on to become Hawaii first lady Vicky Cayetano.


The last '60s musical Presley shot here was more formulaic than "Blue Hawaii" in terms of plot but was clearly set in Hawaii. Location shooting took place at the Maui Sheraton, the Hanalei Plantation Resort on Kauai, and on the Kona Coast and Windward Oahu. It concluded with a lengthy musical production number ("Drums of the Islands") at the Polynesian Cultural Center.

Plot: Rick Richards (Presley), a disgraced airline pilot, returns to Hawaii and persuades a married friend, Danny Kohana (James Shigeta), to be his partner in a helicopter charter business. The survival of the business is soon jeopardized by Rick's brazen womanizing, a woman's revenge and his ill-advised decision to fly several high-strung dogs to a dog show without securing them in travel carriers.

Soundtrack highlight: "Drums of the Islands."

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