Tickle Me

Tickle Me is a 1965 American musical comedy film directed by Norman Taurog and starring Elvis Presley as a champion rodeo bull-rider and bronco-buster.

Tickle Me
Theatrical release poster
Directed byNorman Taurog
Produced byBen Schwalb
Written by
Music byWalter Scharf
CinematographyLoyal Griggs
Edited byArchie Marshek
Distributed byAllied Artists Pictures
Release date
Running time
91 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$3,400,000 (US/ Canada rentals)[3]
$5,000,000 (worldwide)[2]

Presley won a 1966 Golden Laurel Award as best male actor in a musical film for this role. It is the only Elvis film released by Allied Artists Pictures and saved the studio from financial collapse, Tickle Me helping to avert bankruptcy thanks to a song from its recycled soundtrack, "(Such an) Easy Question", which was a Top 40 hit in the United States, peaking at #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and reaching #1 on the Billboard Easy Listening chart in July, 1965.[4] The film made $5 million at the box office.

For the first and only time in a Presley film, the soundtrack had no "new" material, utilizing album cuts dating back as early as 1960. Some of these tracks were overdubbed for the film. In one case, a different take was used ("I Feel That I've Known You Forever", featuring what appears to be a vocal done on the soundstage). In another case , a song was presented without the harmony vocal and narration of the original release ("I'm Yours"). The cost-cutting experiment of recycling older recordings would not be repeated by Elvis.

Julie Adams and Jocelyn Lane co-star. The screenplay was written by Elwood Ullman and Edward Bernds, who had written The Three Stooges film shorts and theatrical films as well as scripts for The Bowery Boys. They brought to the film a sizable quota of slapstick, sight gags and general silliness not found in any other Presley vehicle.

The film was first released in the VHS format in the early 1980s in a limited version from Allied Artists Home Video. It was issued again by CBS/Fox video in 1985, 1987 and 1992, and by Warner Home Video in 1997. In 2007, Tickle Me was released for the first time on DVD, in the wide-screen letterbox format.


Lonnie Beale (Elvis), an out-of-work rodeo star with a heart of gold, is trying to make ends meet until the season starts up again. He comes to the town of Zuni Wells (a fictional town somewhere in the American West) because a friend says Lonnie can get a job on a ranch, but his friend is nowhere to be found.

Having no other option, Lonnie begins singing in a local club, but he gets fired after a fight with one of the customers. Vera Radford (Adams) sees his performance and offers a job at a ranch she runs called the Circle-Z to take care of the horses. The Circle-Z is not what Lonnie expected, though; it is a guest ranch where actresses and models go to lose weight and to get in shape, a fitness salon, referred to as "Yogurt Gulch."

After upsetting the staff a few times by disrupting activities with his singing, Lonnie follows Pam Meritt (Lane) to the nearby ghost town of Silverado, where he learns that one of her relatives has hidden a treasure. They share a comical vision of what the town must have been like when it was still populated.

Back at the ranch, people keep trying to abduct Pam to find the location of the treasure. They want a letter in Pam's possession. Lonnie finds himself defending her more than once. Lonnie and Pam begin a relationship, but matters are complicated when Vera throws herself at him and Pam walks in on them.

There is a brief interlude where Western films are spoofed and parodied in a comedy sequence where Lonnie becomes the Panhandle Kid, a milk-drinking cowboy, with Pam Meritt and Stanley Potter (Mullaney) in costume as characters in the saloon.

When rodeo season starts, Lonnie goes on the circuit. But because things were left unresolved with Pam, he is unable to do his job well. Every time he tries to call, she hangs up on him, and when he writes to her, she sends it back, marked "Return to Sender" (an homage to a song that was a big hit for Elvis in 1962). Eventually, one of the ranch hands, Stanley, finds Lonnie on the circuit and talks him into confronting Pam.

When the two reach the Circle-Z, Pam is on her way to Silverado, so they follow her. A fierce storm begins, so the trio spends the night in a hotel that is not as deserted as they think. It seems to be haunted, as strange things keep happening to Pam and Stanley whenever Lonnie is not around. Eventually we learn that the ghosts and goblins in the hotel are actually masked men trying to get to Pam's treasure.

Finally, the men are unmasked, and the hiding place of the treasure is discovered. Lonnie and Pam get married, with a big reception at the Circle-Z. Stanley gets tangled up in the decorations behind their car. Lonnie sings to Pam as they drive off toward their honeymoon, dragging Stanley in a metal tub behind them.



Elvis Presley was in trouble with the IRS and needed an acting fee to cover his debts. Colonel Tom Parker, his manager, arranged a quick one-off deal with Allied Artists to make a movie.[2]

The film was originally called Isle of Paradise. It was written by Edward Bernds and Elwood Ullman, who had written for The Three Stooges and the Bowery Boys.[2]

Elvis was paid $600,000 plus $150,000 in expenses and 50% of the profits. The below-the-line costs were estimated at $399,750; it went $6,650 over budget and finished at $406,400. This made it the cheapest Elvis movie to date. Costs were minimised by the fact that the soundtrack consisted of previously released Elvis tracks rather than original songs, so no new music needed to be recorded other than some overdubbing.[2]

Although produced by Allied Artists, the movie was actually made at Paramount Pictures Studios, which Allied hired for the duration of the shoot. It was shot over 23 days in October—November 1964, plus two days of second unit photography.[2][1]


Howard Thompson of The New York Times called the film "the silliest, feeblest and dullest vehicle for the Memphis Wonder in a long time. And both Elvis and his sponsors, the time Allied Artists, should know better."[6] Variety noted that the screenplay was "wispy thin" but allowed Presley to "rock over nine numbers from past albums to good effect."[7] Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times wrote that the film had "lousy color, cheap sets, hunks of stock footage, painted scenery and unconvincing process work. But who's to quibble when the movie is so much fun?"[8] The Monthly Film Bulletin called it an "Exceptionally routine Presley vehicle" with "uninspired songs."[9]

The film was popular at the box office, making over $3 million in the US and $5 million worldwide. It became the third highest-grossing film in the history of Allied Artists and saved the studio from bankruptcy.[2]



Elvis Presley won a 1966 Golden Laurel Award for best male performance in a musical film. This was the only acting award that he received during his film career.

See also


  1. "Tickle Me - Details". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved July 25, 2018.
  2. Michael A. Hoey, Elvis' Favorite Director: The Amazing 52-Film Career of Norman Taurog, Bear Manor Media 2013
  3. This figure consists of anticipated rentals accruing distributors in North America. See "Big Rental Pictures of 1965", Variety, 5 January 1966 p 6
  4. Elvis in Hollywood broadcast of October 6, 2007, Elvis Radio; Sirius Radio Channel 13.
  5. Lisanti, Tom (1 January 2003). Drive-in Dream Girls: A Galaxy of B-movie Starlets of the Sixties. McFarland. p. 222. ISBN 978-0-7864-1575-5.
  6. Thompson, Howard (June 24, 1965). "Presley in 'Tickle Me'". The New York Times: 28.
  7. "Tickle Me". Variety: 6. June 16, 1965.
  8. Thomas, Kevin (July 16, 1965). "Elvis Shows Best Form in 'Tickle Me'". Los Angeles Times: Part IV p13.
  9. "Tickle Me". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 32 (379): 125. August 1965.
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