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Frankie and Johnny



Shooting began May 25, 1965

World premiere at the Gordon Theater in Baton Rouge on  March 31, 1966

Character:  Johnny

Producer: Edward Small

Director: Frederick De Cordova



In the original song, the title characters are lovers whose romance goes astray when a red-headed Nellie Bly steals Johnny away from Frankie. Frankie gets revenge by shooting Johnny dead. The movie adds a few details and changes the ending. In the film, the song has been specially written for riverboat performers Frankie and Johnny. Johnny is a gambler whose bad luck changes when dancer Nellie Bly, joins the troupe aboard there riverboat. Each night, the three perform the number "Frankie and Johnny" onstage. As Johnny's interest in Nellie Bly increases, Frankie's jealousy is piqued. One night, someone loads real bullets into Frankie's prop gun and Johnny is shot during the performance. As luck would have it, Johnny is saved by a charm that he wears around his neck.



"Come Along"-Sung over the opening credits.

"Petunia, the Gardener's Daughter"-Sung on the dancehall stage of the Mississippi Queen in a duet with Donna Douglas.

"Chesay"-Sung at the Gypsy camp. The first four lines were sung by a Gypsy, the rest by Elvis. A few lines were sung by Harry Morgan and Gypsies.

"What Every Woman Lives For"-Sung to Nancy Kovack on the Mississippi Queen stage.

"Frankie and Johnny"-Sung at a piano after Harry Morgan sang a few lines. This was followed by a production number with a male chorus and Donna Douglas and Sue Ane Langdon. "Frankie and Johnny" was performed twice in the film.

"Look Out, Broadway"-Sung in the dressing room with Harry Morgan at the piano. Elvis, Donna Douglas, Harry Morgan, and Audrey Christie all sang the song.

"Beginner's Luck"-Sung in a dream sequence in which Elvis and Donna Douglas were on a picnic.

"Down by the Riverside/When the Saints Go Marching In"-Medley sung in a New Orleans parade with jazz band accompaniment.

"Shout It Out"-Sung at a Mardi Gras costume party.

"Hard Luck"-Sung on a New Orleans street after Donna Douglas had thrown Elvis's $10,000 gambling winnings out of a window. A black shoeshine boy accompanied Elvis on the harmonica.

"Please Don't Stop Loving Me"-Sung to Donna Douglas on the deck of the Mississippi Queen.

"Everybody Come Aboard"-Sung in a production number at the end of the film.



Johnny - Elvis Presley

Frankie - Donna Douglas

Cully - Harry Morgan

Mitzi - Sue Ane Langdon

Nellie Bly - Nancy Kovack

Peg - Audrey Christie

Blackie - Robert Strauss

Clint Raden - Anthony Eisley

Abigail - Joyce Jameson

Joe Wilbur - Jerome Cowan

Proprietor of the New Orleans Costume Shop - James Milhollin

Princess Zolita - Naomi Stevens

Gypsy - Henry Corden 

Pete, the Bartender - Dave Willock

Man on the Street - Richard J. Reeves

Earl Barton Dancers - Wilda Taylor, Larri Thomas, Dee Jay Mattis, Judy Chapman

Bit - George Klein


Production Notes:

Donna Douglas, Sue Ane Langdon and Nancy Kovack were in attendance for the world premiere of Frankie and Johnny.

The budget for the film was $4.5 million.

Murals of the legendary Frankie and Johnny by Thomas Hart Benton hang in the Missouri State Capitol building in Jefferson City. These murals were reproduced by MGM and displayed on the company's Culver City lot during the filming of Frankie and Johnny.

Several origins of the Frankie and Johnny folk song were discovered when the producers researched the legend. One story placed the song as far back as the War of 1812. When the Tennessee and Kentucky Long Rifles (who served under Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans) returned home from the war, they sang the song. Supposedly, they heard it in Crescent City, LA, a mostly French-speaking city, under the title, "Françoise et Jean."

Another story traced the origin to a hot summer night in St. Louis in 1888. Frankie (a woman) gunned down her boyfriend, Johnny, with a derringer she had hidden in her garter. She had just learned that Johnny had "done her wrong."

Thirty-one costumes were used by the ladies during the production.


SS Mississippi Queen was the riverboat on which Frankie and Johnny were featured performers.

Princess Zolita is the gypsy fortune teller to whom Johnny went for advice. In her tea leaves, Zolita saw a new woman-a redhead- coming into Johnny's life.

According to the film the song title "Chesay" meant "Gypsy good luck".

Singing Queen of the Riverboats was the billing of singer Nellie Bly (Kim Novack) when she appeared on the Broadway stage (where she bombed). In real life, Nellie Bly was the pseudonym used by 22-year-old reporter Elizabeth Cochrane, who was sent on a trip around the world by Joseph Pulitzer's newspaper The World. The idea was to improve upon Jules Verne's fictional story, Around the World in 80 days. The 118 pound Cochrane did it in 72 days, 6 hours and 11 minutes, finishing on January 21, 1890. She took the pseudonym Nellie Bly from the 1849 Stephen Foster song of the same name.

"Beautiful Dreamer" was the song played in the background as Cully and Johnny waited outside the ladies lounge for a redhead to walk by.

At the Mardi Gras costume party, Frankie, Nelly Bly, and Mitzi all wore Madame Pompadour costumes. Peg came dressed as Little Bo Peep and Cully as Father Time. The costume worn by Johnny was exactly like that worn by William Boyd in his Hopalong Cassidy movies. all costumes were rented from the New Orleans Costume Shop.

A cricket was on the medallion that saved Johnny's life. The special medallion was given to him by Frankie. Frankie loaded her gun with a real bullet, which when fired during the musical number, struck the medallion.


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