Frankie and Johnny (1966)

Frankie and Johnny

Frankie and Johnny

“You were born just to be in my arms”

This movie is family favorite. (I honestly think my mom just loves all the clothing). Released March 31st, 1966, Frankie and Johnny is a musical directed by Frederick de Cordova who was also the director and producer of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. The budget for the film was $4.5 million but only made $2.75 million at the box office.  Ann Margaret was in discussion to play alongside Elvis once again, but Donna Douglas (Beverly Hillbillies) was cast as the lead.

During filming both Elvis and Donna Douglas realized they had a common interest in religion and philosophy. They had some heavy Christianity talks during lunches between takes. She fell in love with Elvis and managed to help him through his spiritual journey, but Elvis respected her in a professional way and would not jeopardize that.

Frankie and Johnny

Elvis stars as Johnny who is a riverboat gambler. Frankie was portrayed by Donna Douglas who was Johnny’s girlfriend. The movie is based on the folk song, Frankie and Johnny. The original song has Frankie and Johnny in a love, but red-headed Nellie Bly steals Johnny away and Frankie shoots Johnny dead. The movie is much more lighthearted than that. In the film, Frankie and Johnny are performers on a riverboat casino.

Petunia the Gardener’s Daughter

Because of his gambling problem, Johnny was in debt and had to continue to borrow money from Frankie. After writing a song about the two lovers, Cully was attempting to make a Broadway production. Johnny and his friend Cully (Harry Morgan) visit a gypsy camp to have their fortunes told. Believing in signs and fortunes, Johnny learns he will meet a redheaded woman that will be his good luck charm.


Once back on the riverboat, Johnny and Cully meet Nellie Bly (Nancy Kovack). Nellie Bly happens to be their boss’s Clint Braden’s (Anthony Eisley) on-again-off-again girlfriend. Nellie just encountered Braden flirting with a singer, Mitzi (Sue Ane Langdon). Of course, Nellie has red-hair and Johnny believes she is the girl the gypsy was referring to. After winning, he is convinced the gypsy was right. Frankie found and became jealous, as does their boss. Cully and Johnny hire Nellie Bly to be in their show as the “other woman”. During one of their performances, a Broadway recruiter says the couple should work in New York.

The boat lands in New Orleans and they all attend a masked ball. Frankie, Nellie, and Mitzi all rent the same costume and each guy has their own moments with the wrong women. Johnny ends up kissing Nellie who actually happens to be Frankie. Johnny won money and Frankie threw it all out the window.

Hard Luck

Please Don’t Stop Loving Me

Braden’s right-hand man, Blackie, hears of the issues because of Johnny with Nellie and decides to replace the blank with an actual bullet. Once he gets wind of what happens, Braden rushes to stop the scene, but it was too late. The gun was shot. Jonny was saved by a lucky cricket necklace that Frankie had given him. All the couples reunite and have a happy ending.

Frankie and Johnny

I remember watching this movie often with my mom. This was her favorite and we enjoyed talking about their costumes. Nellie also reminded our family for Frannie Farkels, which is an arcade we use to frequent during our trips to Gatlinburg, TN. This movie will always have a very special place in my heart from the memories of watching it with my mom. We loved it so much. I still think it is one of her absolute favorites and mine.

Until we meet again,

TCB and TCE,

Little Sister Signature


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