When “The Beverly Hillbillies” crosses paths with “The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” then you have to take a minute and honor it.
Such was the case when, in 1966, Donna Douglas played opposite Elvis Presley in the film “Frankie and Johnny.” Obviously, Douglas played tom-boy Elly May on the classic CBS comedy.
In this movie, Presley plays Johnny and Douglas plays Frankie. They are entertainers on an old-time riverboat, which isn’t a good thing for a compulsive gambler like Johnny. He finds himself in debt, so something’s got to give.
Johnny goes with his friend Cully, played by “Dragnet” and “M*A*S*H” star Harry Morgan, to a gypsy camp and sees a fortune teller. He is told to go find himself a lucky redhead, something that doesn’t sit well with the blonde Frankie.
‘Frankie and Johnny’ Follows Elvis Presley Movie Format
The picture is pretty much along the Elvis Presley movie formula. In the end, Johnny gets shot by Frankie after his boss Clint Braden, played by Anthony Eisley, subs out a blank bullet for a real one.
Only in an Elvis picture could this ending come about. It turns out that Johnny does get shot. Frankie goes over, thinking that her love is dying. She forgives all the gambling problems. Then Johnny stands up, saved as the bullet hits a lucky medallion he has on him that Frankie gave him.
See, the movie has a happy ending. Elvis Presley lives. Everyone goes home happy. This movie received mixed reviews from critics. It also fell way short of breaking even with its $4.5 million budget. Box office receipts from the United States and Canada totaled up to $2,750,000.
Douglas Returns To Role On ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’
Douglas was still under contract to play Elly May on “The Beverly Hillbillies,” so the movie was made around her schedule.
Here’s another side note: The movie was directed by Fred de Cordova, who went on to become executive producer of “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”
Anyway, you might enjoy seeing Presley, Douglas, Morgan, and others in a few minutes from “Frankie and Johnny.” It never hurts Elvis fans to see him in any movie or TV special. In this case, it’s one of his big-screen escapades.