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Roustabout


I should be up front about something here. I grew up on Elvis movies. My mom was a huge fan and I've been watching them all my life. So even though many of them are terrible, and most of them are corny, I love them. This one may in fact be the corniest of Elvis' movies, and it also happens to be one of my favorites. Elvis stars as Charlie, a singer who seems to only ever play one song per show and who also can't stop getting into fights. He has to run out of town very quickly after getting into a scrape with some local college boys at his latest gig. As he's travelling down the road on his motorcycle he tries to pass a Jeep. Joe, the driver of the Jeep runs him off the road. His passengers, his daughter Cathy and his boss Maggie, go to help Charlie. His guitar and his bike are smashed. Maggie offers him a place to stay and a temporary job with her carnival while she fixes the bike and replaces the guitar.



Charlie becomes a roustabout, helping set up the carnival. He tries to ingratiate himself to Cathy, while also fielding advances from Madame Minjou, the fortune teller. Joe doesn't take to Charlie, and doesn't want him hanging around his daughter. Maggie soon sees that Charlie is a gifted singer who can draw in the crowds. She convinces him to perform for the carnival, which Joe is set against. But the carnival is in a bad financial spot after Joe set up a ride while drunk, and a customer ended up dying as a result. There is a rival carnival, run by a man named Carver, that wants to buy Maggie out. Joe gets accused of stealing a customer's wallet, and when it's discovered that Charlie found the wallet but failed to turn it over he leaves to go to work for Carver.

After Cathy visits him to get him to come back, and Charlie realizes the bad situation Maggie's carnival is in, he decides to leave Carver and go back to Maggie. He returns, and at first no one is happy to see him. He then declares that he wants to help, and inexplicably everyone including Joe is super excited to have him back. It's honestly probably the most rushed ending to a movie I have ever seen. But you don't watch this movie for it's dramatic beats. You watch it to see Elvis' character sing cheesy songs about carnivals and do a dangerous motorcycle stunt. You watch it to see Elvis get the girl in the tight sweater to realize what a catch he is and fall for his charms. Mostly you watch it because it may be dumb, but it's also kind of fun.

This movie was the last one that Barbara Stanwyck (who plays Maggie) did in her career. It seems an odd swan song to a career like hers, but it could have been worse. At least she didn't resort to doing grindhouse movies with porno producers trying to go legit like Shelly Winters. The movie also has small appearances by names that later became pretty big. Billy Barty is in it. Raquel Welch is in a scene. Richard Kiel pops up. And Teri Garr shows up a couple of times. If you are looking for some highbrow cinema, obviously this isn't what you are after. If you're looking to kill a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon with some light hearted fare, this does just nicely in my opinion.

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