Sixties City presents a wide-ranging series of articles on all aspects of the Sixties, penned by the creator of the iconic 60s music paper Mersey Beat
Elvis Presley’s 19th movie was released by MGM in 1965. It was produced
by Sam Katzman, known as ‘the king of the quickies’, who ordered director
Gene Nelson to complete the film in 15 days. Scripted by Elwood Ullman
and Edward Bernds it was filmed entirely in California's Culver City.
Since it was set in the Middle East, sets from the silent Cecil B. De Mille 1924 version of ‘The King of Kings’ were re-modelled for the film and the costumes from the two versions of ‘Kismet’ (1944 and 1955 respectively) were worn by 100 extras.Known as ‘Harem Holiday' in Britain (this was one of its working titles, along with 'In The Harem'), the film opens with the scene of a girl staked out in front of a leopard. A young man knocks out the guards, using kung fu, and also gives a deadly chop to the leopard. He begins singing to the girl as the credits roll.
This is the end of ‘Sands of the Desert’, the latest film starring Johnny Tyrone (Elvis). The film has been premiered in Abulstan, a country in the Middle East, at the urging of the American government. The American ambassador asks Johnny to sing and then introduces him to Prince Dragna (Michael Ansara) and his companion Aishah (Fran Jeffries) and Johnny is invited to the kingdom of Lunacan beyond the Mountains of the Moon. The ambassador urges him to accept in order to improve relations with the Middle East.
During the journey they camp for the night and after the Prince retires Aishah drugs Johnny’s wine and his unconscious form is dragged away by black-robed men. He awakes in the Garden of Pleasure, surrounded by beautiful women, and sings to them. The black robed men reappear and take him before Sinan, king of the assassins (Theo Maruse), who is accompanied by Aishah. Sinan believes that Johnny is actually the character from his movies and is able to kill with a single blow of his hand. He offers him a fortune if he will agree to kill an ‘important person.’ Johnny refuses, saying he only uses Kung-Fu for defence. The guards overcome him and he is whipped.
Dragna arrives at the Royal Palace he reveals to his brother King Toranshah
(Philip Reed) that Johnny has been kidnapped by the assassins. He asks the
King to retreat to the summer palace for safety, but although the King agrees,
he will not move until after the Ramadan fast. However, he sends his daughter
Shalimar (Mary Ann Mobley) ahead of him. Johnny wakes up in the harem and
meets Zacha (Jay Novello) who agrees to help him to escape if the reward
is large enough. During the changing of the guard they escape and split
up to elude pursuit, arranging to meet at the Pool of Omar. Johnny scales
a castle wall and falls into a pool, he emerges to see Shalimar who tells
him she is a slave girl;. He reveals the story of Sinan and his kidnapping
and she agrees to help him and take him to the Pool of Omar. Johnny sings
to her and they kiss. When he tells her of the kidnap and what Sinan wants
him to do, she rides off to warn her father, believing him to be the ‘important
person’ Sinan wants dead.
Joined by Zacha, Johnny realises they must disguise themselves and join a band of musicians and dancers in order to avoid the assassins. In the meantime, Shalimar has warned her father, who orders Dragna to take the palace guard and seek the assassins. Baba, a member of the troupe, steals from the audience while entertainment takes place. He is discovered and the entire troupe has to flee to the Palace of the Jackals. Here, Johnny is introduced to some orphans who have also sought sanctuary. Zacha then leaves to seek Shalimar. After a night of entertainment Johnny is woken by Aishah and finds the assassins have taken control of the hideout. He is told that unless he agrees to kill the King, the assassins will murder the orphans.
The troupe and Johnny arrive at the Palace and Shalimar sees him and screams. He explains that he only wants to tell them something important but, before he can explain that Sinan intends to kill the orphans, he and the troupe are imprisoned. Baba helps them all to escape, but helps Johnny to find the King’s room where Johnny explains to the King and Shalimar about the orphans. The King agrees to help but says that there is a traitor in their midst as the Palace guard were unable to trace the assassins who must have had inside information.
Johnny, Shalimar and the King sneak out of the Palace after leaving blood on the King’s bed. The Captain of the guard informs Dragna that the King is missing and Dragna says he will search the city for him. At the Palace of the Jackals, Sinan has captured the troupe. When news comes that the King is dead, he demands payment from the person who ordered it. Dragna then appears and says he will pay him. Sinan tells Dragna that he will only be a puppet ruler and has to obey his orders, then sends him back to the Royal palace in the company of Aishah.
Sinan orders his assassins to kill the troupe but Johnny sneaks up and holds the assassin in a stranglehold, telling him to release everyone. He bundles Sinan into a cart and Zacha organises all the thieves to battle the assassins in the main square, during which Sinan is killed and the assassins defeated.
At the Palace they find the King playing chess with his brother. Despite the treachery he cannot kill him, but will banish both Dragna and Aishah.
The film ends in Las Vegas where Shalimar, the King, the orphans and Zasha and the entire troupe have come to see Johnny perform. As he finishes the show, he kisses Shalimar.
soundtrack was recorded at the RCA Studios in Nashville during February
1965 and the musicians were Elvis, vocals; Scotty Moore, Grady Martin, Charlie
McCoy, guitar; Henry Strzeleck, bass; D. J. Fontana, Ken Buttney, drums;
Floyd Cramer, piano; the Jordanaires, vocals.
The album reached No.8 in the Billboard charts and spent 23 weeks in the chart. The tracks were:
‘Harum Holiday’ (Peter Andredi and Vince Poncia) sung over the credits and at the end of the film at the Galaxy Hotel
‘My Desert Serenade’, sung to an Arabian girl in a scene from the film (Stanley J. Gelber)
‘Go East Young Man’, sung to the audience after the screening of the film premier (Bill Grant, Bernie Baum, Florence Kaye)
‘Mirage’, sung to the slave girls in the Garden of Paradise (Joe Byers)
‘Kismet’, sung to Princess Shalimar at the Pool of Omar (Sid Tepper, Roy C. Bennett)
‘Shake That Tambourine’ sung in a courtyard (Bill Grant, Bernie Baum, Florence Kaye)
‘Hey Little Girl’ sung to the slave girl Sari during a dance routine (Bill Grant, Bernie Baum, Florence Kaye);
‘Golden Coins’ sung to Princess Shalimar as she sees Johnny’s image in a pool (Bill Grant, Bernie Baum, Florence Kaye)
‘So Close, Yet So Far (From Paradise)’ sung in a jail cell. (Joe Byers)
‘Animal Instinct’ (Bill Grant, Bernie Baum, Florence Kaye) and ‘Wisdom Of The Ages’ (Bill Grant, Bernie Baum, Florence Kaye) were cut from the film and ‘Please Don’t Stop Loving Me’ and ‘Let Yourself Go’ were songs rejected for the movie.
|Bill Harry attended the Liverpool College of Art with Stuart Sutcliffe and John Lennon and made the arrangements for Brian Epstein to visit The Cavern, where he saw The Beatles for the first time. Bill was a member of 'The Dissenters' and the founder and editor of 'Mersey Beat', the iconic weekly music newspaper that documented the early Sixties music scene in the Liverpool area and is possibly best known for being the first periodical to feature a local band called 'The Beatles'. He has worked as a high powered publicist, doing PR for acts such as Suzi Quatro, Free, The Arrows and Hot Chocolate and has managed press campaigns for record labels such as CBS, EMI, Polydor. Bill is the critically acclaimed author of a large number of books about The Beatles and the 60s era including 'The Beatles Who's Who', 'The Best Years of the Beatles' and the Fab Four's 'Encyclopedia' series. He has appeared on 'Good Morning America' and has received a Gold Award from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.|
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