Filmsite Movie Review
Jailhouse Rock (1957)
Pages: (1) (2) (3)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

Hunk's Inopportune Return:

As she was departing out the apartment door, Vince's former cellmate and partner Hunk showed up - he had just been released from prison. He met Peggy, recalling her as "the gal that set up the record company with Vince." He reminded them of Vince's lowly beginnings and the crucial part he had played in their success: "I'm the bird got Vince started." Vince was uncertain how Hunk had kept up with his progress, and feared being reminded of their partnership deal:

Vince: "Hey, how'd you know about the record company?"
Hunk: "Oh, I got to keep up with the activities of a partner."
Peggy: "You've got more partners than a square dance."
Hunk: "Yeah, I taught the boy plenty."
Peggy: "You'll find out just how well you taught him. Good night."
Hunk: (as Peggy left) "That's a pretty little thing."

Vince offered Hunk a drink as he exalted: ("Sing it to me in the key of G") - Hunk was poured a glass of high-priced 12 year-old bourbon ("Uncle Matthew Bonded Bourbon") - and he swiftly drank it down: "Heaven's above...Ah, oh, that's like an angel dancing over the tip of your tongue. It seems a shame to even digest this bourbon." Hunk was hopeful that he could share in Vince's good fortune and score a comeback - by participating in the imminent NBC TV show in New York:

Hunk: "Well, you made it, huh boy? I've been readin' about it and I feel proud of ya."
Vince: "Yeah, I've been lucky so far."
Hunk: "Lucky? Talent. I knowed you had it the minute you opened up your mouth. Now you're goin' on the TV."
Vince: "You know everythng, don't ya?"
Hunk: "I feel good. What's your plans for me, boy?"
Vince: "Well, I ain't exactly got any, Hunk."
Hunk: (incredulously) "You got no plans for Hunk, your old partner?"
Vince: "Well, what do ya want to do?"
Hunk: "I want a spot on that TV show."

Vince was not eager to negotiate with Hunk to obtain a spot on the show, since his old-fashioned style of performing hillbilly country-western songs had gone out of fashion: "Times have changed. Styles have changed. You might fall flat on your face, boy." The fading star Hunk insisted that he deserved a shot: "I might get lucky like you, too." Vince confessed that Hunk's washed-up style had failed him: "I tried your style, just like you taught me. Boy, I laid a bomb," but Hunk pressed further: "But you ain't me." Vince reluctantly consented to see if he could provide Hunk with a break into show business by performing one song: ("Well, I guess I owe you that much, but I don't know how it's gonna work out, Hunk").

'Jailhouse Rock' TV Show Performance:

Before the performance of the film's title song 'Jailhouse Rock', Vince delivered an introductory prologue to the NBC-TV cameras in New York City to explain about his life in prison where he had first started singing:

"Ladies and gentlemen, a little while back, I had a kind of a vacation with a bunch of men in a big place way out yonder. And while I was there, well, these uh, these men, kind of guests, you might say, uh, we'd get together and horse around a little bit and sing and - 'cause we were havin' such a good time. And uh, we always had a lot of fun with this one: 'The Jailhouse Rock'."

The memorable title song and signature production number was wonderfully-choreographed - it was one of the earliest (if not first) music video prototypes. Rebellious, arrogant, ex-prison convict/rocker Vince Everett slid down a pole and performed hip-swiveling moves and sang before a backdrop of a two-story jail-cell block, with a chorus of musicians and dancers dressed in black leather jackets and striped prison uniforms:

Chorus: "One-two, one-two-two, one-two, one-two-two, one-two, one-two-two."

Vince: "The warden threw a party in the county jail,
The prison band was there and they began to wail,
The band was jumpin' and the joint began to swing,
You should've heard them knocked-out jailbirds sing,

Let's rock, everybody let's rock,
Everybody in the whole cell block,
Was dancin' to the Jailhouse Rock..."

One portion of the lyrics (the third verse), performed from one male jailbird to another, conveyed homoerotic overtones (although the words were probably innocently interpreted and received in the mid-20th century):

"Number 47 said to Number 3,
You're the cutest jailbird I ever did see
I sure would be delighted with your company
Come on and do the Jailhouse Rock with me."

In the fourth verse, the lyrics described one lone inmate who didn't join in the dancing: ("Sad Sack was sittin' on a block of stone, Way over in the corner weepin' all alone, The warden said, 'Hey buddy, don't you be no square, If you can't find a partner use a wooden chair'"). Some interpreted the last line as another hidden reference to more sexual shenanigans in prison, but it was only an innocent reference to the game of musical chairs. In the final set of lyrics, two of the dancing 'jailbird' inmates, Shifty Henry and Bugs decided that dancing to the 'Jailhouse Rock' was more fun (more "kicks") than freedom.

The Elimination of Hulk's Number:

After the exciting performance, the cameras were directed toward Hunk Houghton and his back-up band, who began to sing the country-western tune 'One More Day' - the number he had sung in prison to calm the other inmates. When the TV Studio Manager Mr. Barton (Robert Bice) objected to the slow-paced, awkward song, he was told by one of the other TV directors: "Some pal of Everett's...He came as part of the Everett deal." Barton abruptly cut the number in progress from the show: "Deal or no deal, he's off the show." The director ordered that the performance end immediately, using the excuse that the recording of the show was already running too long: "We're way over length. We're gonna have to trim about four minutes...Cut the hillbilly number."

Later with Hunk, Vince was exasperated by all the calls and wires from around the world about the show that was about to air, but with no response from Peggy: "I'll bet she doesn't even tune me in tonight." He vowed to not capitulate and call her: "OK, baby, you wait for me to call you? Well, it'll be a cold day in --- Yeah, that's what it'll be." And he also acted coldly toward Hunk, who was drinking to ease his hurt feelings: "I warned you, but you wouldn't listen....And don't ask for pity. You taught me that." The embittered Hunk was resentful of being ignored, and of being used. He blamed the 'circus-show' that Vince had deliberately staged to keep him from participating:

Hunk: "Don't worry about me, sonny. I'll get along...One flop ain't a man's whole life. How'd you expect me to follow that three ring circus you put on?"
Vince: "Ah, you couldn't have followed a juggler."
Hunk: "Naturally, I haven't got your talent."
Vince: "That's right. You haven't. So what are you gonna do?"
Hunk: "I don't see where that's any of your business."
Vince: "Now look, Hunk. I'm gonna be honest with ya. I'm not gonna put the breaks on my career now. I don't want you as part of my troupe. You're not good enough. It's been a long time, Hunk. Music changes every six months. You gotta change with it."
Hunk: "I was in show business when you were runnin' around in wet pants and I'll be in it when they can't even remember your name."
Vince: "Fine, but not with me."

To retaliate, Hunk reminded Vince of the 50/50 'good faith' contract that they had signed in prison together. Vince responded that he didn't feel compelled to honor the contract that his financial manager Mr. Shores had declared legally invalid: "It's not worth the ink it took to write it." Vince revealed that he knew that Hunk had dishonestly hidden his fan mail. But then Vince did acknowledge that Hunk had done him some favors, but had also robbed him of his profits - and he offered to give Hunk a job as his flunky assistant, for 10% of his proceeds:

"You started me out in music and then you tried to rob me. But I ain't forgettin' about the whippin' that you tried to buy me out of, so I'm gonna honor that contract, providin' I don't hear any more of that jazz about 'good faith.' I'm gonna honor it, Hunk, but not for no 50%...10."

He immediately began to order Hunk to be his 'go-fer' - to check about airline reservations. Hunk realized he had no alternative but to accept, and began speculating about what Vince's success might bring him: "A punk like you is liable to get lucky enough to make a million dollars a year....And 10% of a million is $100,000....You're gonna have the most expensive flunky in show business."

Vince at Climax Studios in Hollywood:

Mr. Shores again spoke into a dictaphone (off-screen) - during a brief montage of images of Las Vegas and other venues - and then described the increasing tensions between Peggy and Vince, mirroring a precipitous decline in recordings. There was no alternative other than a film-making deal on the West Coast. Vince served a short stint as a motion-picture actor and singer in Hollywood with Climax Studios:

(voice-over narration) "After the television show, the floodgates opened wide. We had engagements in all the best-paying recreation centers in America. Receipts doubled and re-doubled. Our tax situation became acute. The record business was neglected during this phase much to my regret. However, my hands were tied. There seemed to be emotional difficulties between the two principal stockholders. The 40% participant refused to telephone the 60% partner. [Note: The split was actually Shores at 9%, Vince at 51%, and Peggy at 40%.] It was an impasse and highly unbusinesslike. Finally, there was only one phase of the entertainment industry left. So, we went there. We signed a non-exclusive contract with Climax Studios."

In the offices of a major movie producer, Vince was welcomed and encouraged to feel at home in the new environment. A publicity campaign was underway beginning with the taking of studio photographs. He was introduced to his leading lady co-star, a stuck-up blonde actress named Miss Sherry Wilson (Jennifer Holden in her film debut). The two were told that they would be coupled together for a full-day - for publicity purposes: "We want you to be seen together," and the uncooperative starlet was forced to agree - with reluctance: "A job's a job." Vince assured her: "You'll find I grow on ya." The studio forced them to spend a mostly uncomfortable day visiting some local sites:

  • Knott's Berry Farm amusement park (for activities including gold-panning, arcade shooting, and posing on a wagon for wild-west costume photos) (with rear-projected backgrounds)
  • Auto Speedway (with stock footage), where Sherry expressed her boredom: "Who's gonna see us here?" Vince: "I got my eye on you every minute."
  • The LA Zoo (in front of a monkey cage) - at a cheap hamburger stand picnic table, the spoiled Sherry further complained: "I thought we'd have lunch at Romanoff's." Vince preferred low-class fare: "You can only eat so much, you know."
  • Homes-of-the-Stars Bus Tour - Sherry suffered through a sight-seeing tour to view celebrity mansions (i.e., Jack Benny's mansion).

After a long day, Vince drove her back to her home in a white convertible, where she rudely declined his assistance:

Sherry: "Don't bother seeing me to the door."
Vince: "I could make it."
Sherry: "I asked for nothing, I expected nothing and I got nothing."
Vince: "What'd you expect for nothing?"

The next day, filming was about to commence in one of the studio sets. Vince was followed by his hanger-on flunky Hunk, walking his two beagle dogs on a leash. The disinterested Sherry had complained to the director Mr. Drummond (Carl Milletaire) about it being the very first scene to be shot:

"Mr. Drummond, do we have to do the love scene the very first shot?...I wanted to sort of work myself up to it. Making love to that rube won't be easy."

Vince was compelled to rehearse and act out a love scene with her. In the melodramatic sequence, Vince had just returned home to his wife Sherry after receiving "great news" about a promotion. He was supposed to be "bursting with happiness," but she was suffering from a bad headache and lying on the couch, and not feeling well. Vince was instructed to feel concern for his ailing sweetheart, kiss her, and then break the news. During the practice run-through, when he rubbed her temples and then convincingly kissed her on a couch, the frustrated film director Mr. Drummond tried to interrupt Vince: "No Vince, let's try it again. Vince!", but Vince ignored the director's commands and the kiss didn't end.

After the extended kiss, Vince asked Sherry: "How's your headache?" and she purred lovingly that she had been converted by his loving. She was melting, becoming impassioned and softening up to him: "I'm coming all unglued." They continued to kiss.

Shortly later in a swimming pool that evening - they became playful and better acquainted with each other - with more kisses:

Vince: "Do you know how to float?"
Sherry: "No."
Vince: "C'mon, I'll teach ya. There you go. Lay your head back. Move your arms. Kick your feet."

Vince suggested a pool party to celebrate with others.

The Studio Pool Party - 'You're So Square (Baby I Don't Care)' Performance:

Poolside in front of bikinied girls (including an admiring Sherry) during one afternoon, Vince performed 'You're So Square (Baby I Don't Care)' - with some hip-swiveling action:

You don't like crazy music,
You don't like rockin' bands,
You just wanna go to a movie show,
And sit their holdin' hands,
You're so square
Baby, I don't care

You don't like a hot-rod racin'
Or drivin' late at night
You just wanna park where it's nice and dark You just wanna hold me tight
You're so square
Baby, I don't care

You don't know any dance steps
That are new
And no one else can love me
Like you do, do, do, do

I don't know why my heart flips
I only know it does
I wonder why I love you, Baby
I guess it's just because
You're so square
Baby, I don't care

From the audience, one of the teen females in a bathing suit (Linda Williams) complimented Vince:

"Gee, Vince, when you sing it's really Gonesville."

The egotistical Vince commented on Hunk's quiet stupor, who was there watching and tending to his two dogs: "I didn't see you applauding. You didn't like me?" The embittered Hunk sharply answered: "You've come a long way since Cellblock 21.... You hardly haven't touched the ground at all...You walked most of the way on other people."

Sherry approached lovingly - in a skin-tight pair of pants and a skimpy top with a bare midriff:

Sherry: "Doll, where have you been?"
Vince: "Right in your little heart, Doll."
Sherry: "You didn't say a thing about my outfit."
Vince: "Flippy. Real flippy."

The Return of Peggy - Vince's Changed Personality:

As Vince nuzzled with Sherry, he looked over her shoulder - and from his POV, the camera panned up from the feet of another female to reveal Peggy in front of him. [Note: Suddenly for the remainder of the film, Sherry was never seen again.] He hugged Peggy - and was relieved after having missed her for many weeks: "I thought you'd never come back, Peg." She was observant of his fast moves, remembering the last time they had been together when she caught him kissing Laury Jackson: "Every time I see you, you're working a neck." He still admitted he had missed her presence: "I've just been waitin' and wondering if you missed me like I missed you." She suggested that he had many opportunities to contact her: "There was always the telephone, Vince," but he claimed he was too busy working.

She told him her real reason to see him was not for romance, but to talk about their record company business, and the need for him to make more records: "Isn't it about time you cut a few sides?...Nobody gets so big that they can ignore the records, Vince. Not even you." He agreed to cooperate if she set up a date, and then turned away. Both Hunk and Peggy agreed that the glamorous life of a movie star had a detrimental effect on Vince:

Peggy: "He has adapted very quickly."
Hunk: "Well, there's not much oxygen up there where he is, and a man gets light-headed."
Peggy: "Most actors when they become stars go through a brief period of being modest."
Hunk: "Not our boy. He became a heel overnight. What are you doing here today, Peg?"
Peggy: "I guess I like punishment." (she held up silverware in her hand - significantly a knife)
Hunk: "Well, you don't have to take it, ya know."
Peggy: "I'll learn."
Hunk: "Sure. You're too smart a gal to let him cut ya up."
Peggy: "Sure I am."

Vince was interrupted at the studio pool party by Mr. Shores with "startling news." He reported that they had received a generous and "impressive" proposal - the opportunity to sell off Laurel Records to Geneva Records for a tremendous profit, and the promise of Vince signing an "exclusive contract for recordings" - in exchange for 7 1/2% of the revenue of all records sold. Shores was amazed by the offer: "No artist has ever received an offer that big." It was Vince's intention to share the news with Peggy.

Vince's Proposed Sale of Laurel Records:

Some time later at the studio at the conclusion of another party, Vince was treating Hunk with more disrespect and giving him only menial tasks in order to humiliate him (i.e., walking his dogs). Hunk balked: "My contract says nothing about walking dogs," but then reluctantly agreed to obey, although he cautioned: "A man takes just so much, sonny. Keep that in mind." As the party broke up, Peggy arrived late (she claimed she had missed the streetcar), and he expressed an interest in talking to her about their co-owned record company Laurel Records.

Hunk appeared with the two dogs - after having exercised them: "I almost walked their feet off. I covered 8 miles and 4 saloons." Peggy insisted on knowing Vince's news about their record company. He took the opportunity to greedily brag about the lucrative offer to sell out to Geneva Records - the same company that had ripped him off earlier:

Vince: "Seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars of capital gain. That's $225,000 in cold cash for you, after taxes."
Peggy: "But Vince, I don't want to sell out."
Vince: "I'm afraid you have no choice, kid."

Vince decided to go ahead and close the deal, ignoring her opinion, since he owned a controlling interest of 51%: "That's the way the mop flops. You'd think I was tryin' to rob ya. After all, you're getting practically a quarter of a million dollars." But co-owner Peggy regarded it as a hostile mercenary move:

"Dollars? Dollars? Is that the beginning and the end of the world for you? Is there no emotion left in you but the lust for money?"

Vince tried to defiantly defend his urge to sell for the money - although she knew it would further detach them:

Vince: "Emotion? What emotion? It's strictly business between you and me. You said that."
Peggy: "I don't care what I said. We started this thing together. We nursed it and brought it up, you and I. It may be just a ledger page to you and Mr. Shores, but to me it's part of my life! Oh, go ahead and sell it! I don't care what you do!"
Vince: (shrugging) "Nothin' but a record company."
Hunk: "It's not just the record company that's botherin' her."

Hunk's Brutal Lesson for Vince:

Enraged by Vince's thoughtless attitude, insensitivity, self-absorption and disloyalty to both of them, a now-drunken Hunk stood up and removed his jacket. He intended to humble Vince for making Peggy cry, and as he rolled up his sleeves, he readied himself for a fight:

"Trampin' on me is one thing, sonny. Hurtin' a little girl like Peggy is another...There comes a time when you gotta take a hand in things, and that time is now...I'm gonna beat hell out of you...You know you got it comin', son."

Hunk let loose with a vicious right hook to Vince's jaw, prompting Vince to ask what was wrong with him. The singer did not physically defend himself, but held back and controlled his anger. He begged Hunk to stop fighting with him. After Hunk struck him three more times, he accused him of being a coward ("Get up and fight ya yellow punk!"). One more serious punch caused serious injury when it accidentally struck Vince's larynx and voice-box. As Vince wheezed, coughed and choked on the floor (without being able to talk), Hunk tossed his worthless contract at him - and then realized he may have done serious damage. He yelled for someone to summon an ambulance.

Finale - Vince's Recuperation, and His Singing of 'Young and Beautiful' With Restored Love For Peggy and Hunk:

Vince was wheeled on a stretcher to an awaiting ambulance and rushed to a hospital. After examining him, the doctor reported to Hunk and Peggy that one of the blows had struck Vince's larynx (adam's apple) and cut off airflow to his windpipe. An emergency tracheotomy was performed to allow Vince to breathe - and it was uncertain whether he would ever sing again: ("A blow like that can change the whole structure of the voice-box"). If he was unable to sing, he would have to forego his main means of livelihood. Once the swelling decreased, it could be determined what the prognosis would be, and in the meantime, Vince was forbidden from using his voice.

During a period of silent recuperation at Vince's bedside, Hunk became penitent and sincerely apologized for hurting him:

"I want you to know I feel terrible, son. I can't hardly find the words to tell you how bad I do feel. It's an awful thing I did. If I could only take it back, I'd cut off both my arms up to the elbow, and that's no lie. I can't ask ya to forgive me. I just want ya to know, I don't think I'll ever forget it."

Vince wordlessly comforted his pal, and then listened as Peggy provided him with an optimistic assessment from the surgeon - that the operation was a success. She knew that during the fight, Vince had refused to fight back and hit Hunk, and she commended him: "I think it was wonderful, Vince. It was an act of true love. (Vince turned away) Yes, it was. Don't be afraid to love, Vince, because I love you." She kissed his cheek, with his head held between her hands. In a true conversion (although yet to be proven), he had resolved to reconcile with his two most loyal friends - he had forgiven Hunk, and also agreed to reunite and restore his love with Peggy.

After a week or two of healing, the doctor declared that his larynx injury was "completely healed" after the successful surgery. However, it was unclear whether his singing voice would sound the same as before, until he tried it - "It can only be determined by trying it." Vince was extremely nervous and agitated about singing: "Sure. I'll try it. Sayin' it's easy, but what if it's not there?" The doctor tried to convince Vince to be strong psychologically:

"These morbid fancies of yours are doing you no good. Unless you get hold of yourself, you'll be a psychological mute, musically speaking."

With more encouragement from both the doctor and Peggy: ("Give it a try. You got to find out sometime"), Vince remained fearful and used the excuse that he didn't have accompaniment. Peggy was prepared for his denials - she opened the door to his studio band. Although Vince claimed he had "stagefright" with such an audience, he agreed to sing with piano back-up only.

In the true Hollywood happy ending, he began to sing a sweet rendition of the love ballad 'Young and Beautiful' (it was the third time Presley sang the song in part or full), and was soon surrounded by the band members playing along with him. He delivered the final two verses to a beaming and smiling Peggy, who had become his true love and affectionately moved toward him to stand by his side. He proved reassuringly that he could still sing.

You're so young and beautiful
And I love you so
Your lips so rare,
Your eyes that shine
Shame the stars that glow

So fill these lonely arms of mine
And kiss me tenderly
Then you'll be forever young
And beautiful to me

You're so young and beautiful
You're everything I love
Your angel smile
Your gentle touch
Are all I'm dreaming of

Oh take this heart I offer you
And never set me free
Then you'll be forever young
And beautiful to me.

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