1962 United Artists film was based on the 1957 novel ‘Pioneer Go Home'.
When author Richard P. Powell heard it was to be a vehicle for Elvis,
he wasn’t pleased. He said, “I was shocked. I didn’t think he’d do a
good job". Powell told director Gordon Douglas, “My only real fear
was that Presley would say to himself that this was a funny story and
that he would have to act funny. The humour in the book was character
humour, which had to be played straight, which he did and he did a very
based on the novel, was written by Charles Lederer. As none of the songwriters
commissioned to compose numbers for the movie could find a rhyme for
‘Pioneer’, the title was changed to ‘What A Wonderful Life’, then ‘It’s
A Beautiful Life’, next ‘Here Come the Kwimpers’ and finally ‘Follow
The film opened nationally in America on 23rd May 1962.
Elvis takes the role of Toby Kwimper, member of a family with
no set home who travel around America. The family car runs out
of petrol in Florida and, when an officious state supervisor from
the Florida Highway Department tries to run them off, an irate
Pa Klimper decides to dig in his heels and they set up camp alongside
There is a nice stretch of beach by the roadside and the Kwimper
family, who comprise Pa, Tony and orphans Holly Jones, Adriane
Pennington and the twins, Eddie and Teddy Bascombe, decide to
homestead the land, building a lean-to and digging for water.
They make money selling tackle and bait to fishermen and, spurred
on by their initial success, they go into business with their
own pier and a fleet of row boats. It’s not long before trailers
and homesteaders move into the area beside them.
Two gamblers find that the homestead is outside municipal and
county jurisdiction and make the Kwimpers an offer for their land,
which they refuse. The gambling operators then enlist the help
of the state supervisor H. Arthur King, who tells the Kwimpers
they are trespassing on state land. However, when the State Governor
sides with the Kwimpers, King feels humiliated and vows revenge.
Since the land the
Kwimpers have homesteaded is unincorporated and therefore not under
police jurisdiction, the pair of gangsters, Carmine and Nick, set up
a floating crap game in a trailer, attracting noisy undesirables. Toby
is elected sheriff and manages to fight the gangsters and cause them
to go, even innocently returning to them a package containing a bomb
which they had planted. King then attempts to convince social worker
Alisha Claypoole to prepare a report that Pa and Toby had never legally
adopted the children and that they are unfit to look after them.
When Toby rejects Alisha’s advances, she files a court order allowing
her to take the children away by citing Pa as a bad influence. Toby
and Pop go to court, defend themselves and the judge orders that the
children be returned to their care. Toby then realises he has fallen
cast were: Elvis Presley as Toby Kwimper; Arthur O’Connell as
Pop Kwimper; Anne Helm as Holly Jones (Elvis dated her during
the filming); Joanne Moore as Alicia Claypoole; Jack Kruschen
as Charlie; Simon Oakland as Nick; Gavin Koon as Eddy Bascombe;
Robin Koon as Teddy Bascombe; Pam Ogles as Adriane Pennington
and Alan Hewitt as H. Arthur King.
The soundtrack was recorded at RCA Studios in Nashville in July
1961. The musicians were: Elvis Presley, vocals; The Jordanaires,
backing vocals; Millie Kirkham, backing vocals; Scotty Moore,
Hank Garland, Neil Matthews Jr, guitar; Bob Moore, bass; Floyd
Cramer, piano; D.C. Fontana, Buddy Harman, drums.
An EP of the soundtrack was released on RCA EPA-4368 in May 1962
and reached No15 in the Billboard chart. The tracks were: Side
One: ‘Follow That Dream’, ‘Angel’. Side Two: ‘What A Wonderful
life’, ‘I’m Not The Marrying Kind’.
Tune’ was also recorded for the movie, but it was left out and
included in ‘Kid Galahad.’
Elvis disliked ‘Sound Advice’ and requested it be left off the
soundtrack. Tom Petty lived in the vicinity of the filming and
says that he was compelled to become a musician after watching
Elvis sing in the film. ‘What
A Wonderful Life’ (written by Sid Wayne and Jay Livingstone) was
sung over the opening credits; ‘I’m Not The Marrying Kind’ (was
written by Mack David and Sherman Edwards) and was sung to Anne
Helm on the beach; ‘Sound Advice’ (was written by Bill Giant,
Bernie Baum and Florence Kaye) and was sung in the Kwimpers cabin;
‘On Top Of Old Smokey’ (the composer is unknown) was sung to Joanna
Moore on the beach; ‘Follow That Dream’ (was written by Fred Wise
and Ben Weisman) and was sung to Joanna Moore in the beach; ‘Angel’
(was written by Sid Tepper and Roy C. Bennett) and was sung on
the porch of the Kwimpers cabin.