Sometimes a job writing about movies follows a familiar trajectory, including writing about Marvel’s latest or how the box office fared over the weekend. Other times, I wake up to find out that one time Elvis got a little too, erm, excited while filming a dance sequence for his 1962 film Girls! Girls! Girls! The moment can still be seen in the final cut of the film, and thanks to a book about the singer and actor, we know the details about what happened.
The scene in question is from Girls! Girls! Girls! and features a youngish Elvis Presley dancing with his co-star Laurel Goodwin as part of a number called “The Walls Have Ears.” The two dance and knock on walls to see what the neighbors are up to, but when they are dancing together, they are dancing quite close. Elvis’ then road manager, Joe Esposito (not to be confused with the character Tom Hanks will play in the upcoming biopic), recalled in his memoir Good Rockin’ Tonight that Elvis was aware of the spontaneous erection when it happened, leading Elvis to wonder about reshoots. Elvis reportedly said:
If you’ve seen “The Walls Have Ears” number, you should know it’s pretty complex. Both Elvis Presley and Laurel Goodwin have to keep rhythm with their feet, there are complicated knocking effects with stuff falling off walls and, of course, there’s some very close dancing, to boot. Take a look.
The rough cuts showed the erection pretty blatantly, but Esposito really believed that the shots wouldn’t make the final cut of the film. He would be wrong, however. In fact, the number was so complicated that Joe Esposito also said in the memoir (via The Mirror) that ultimately the movie kept the take. He noted that when he finally saw the theatrical version of the film, the moments were there. It’s the type of thing that you can’t really unsee once you have seen.
It’s not as if this is the first time this has ever happened to an actor on the big (or small) screen. Samuel L. Jackson has a whole trick for how he handles the possibility of an erection during sex scenes. James McAvoy admitted to much the same thing while he was busy filming the British version of Shameless. And even reality TV isn’t immune to this sort thing, as Bachelorette contestant Tyler Cameron once admitted to having a “boner” on TV, though in his case, he wore it rather proudly.
I suppose it could be worse. Viola Davis once was actually injured during a sex scene on set, which is not something I’d wish on anyone. However, I’m still not sure if I was an actor if I’d be happy for an edit like the one found in Girls! Girls! Girls! to exist on film in perpetuity. The good news? There are plenty of other ways Elvis has been immortalized over the years.
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