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

Vince's Failed Audition at Club La Florita - His Acquaintance with Music Promoter Peggy:

As a parolee, Vince ventured to Club La Florita where he sat next to a pretty female at the bar, as they both watched a Striptease Woman (Gloria Pall) performing at the sleazy club - her shapely legs were highlighted as she walked across the stage in front of them. When Vince's bar-mate went over to the juke box to tally up the number of plays ("figures") of one of the 45 rpm records sung by one of her clients: "Crying to the Stars got 84 plays," she revealed that she was a brainy music talent agent.

At the bar counter, she was curious about Vince who was staring at her, and she asked:

Peggy: "Tell me what you see?"
Vince: "About five-four, weigh 115, pretty well stacked."
Peggy: "Well, I'm glad you find me pleasing."
Vince: (impudently and arrogantly) "I don't find you nothin'."

He pulled out his guitar and told her: "I'm a singer," and that he wasn't interested in her personally. She apologized: "Well, I'm afraid I misunderstood," but then offered: "If you buy me a fresh drink, I'll tell you about the figures." He refused: "Buy your own drink." She reprimanded him for his rude "backwoods" manners. When he inquired about her occupation, she introduced herself as an 'exploitative' music promoter and huckster - later identified by name as Peggy Van Alden (Judy Tyler):

"I'm an exploitation man in the record business. And I work for Mickey Alba, you've heard of him....Well, I plug his records with disc jockeys, jukeboxes, stores..."

Vince asked about his job recommendation from Hunk with Club La Florita owner Sam Brewster (Percy Helton), and was told he could start right away, not as a singer on stage but as a lowly bar boy ("make setups, bring ice"). Sam mocked Vince's intentions to sing professionally:

"What do you think I am, a mental case? This place is no hobby, you know....I'll save you some grief. So, uh, Hunk taught ya a couple of songs. Swell. Be the life of the next party you go to, but we don't have opportunity night here."

To prove himself as a singer to Hunk's friend, Vince noticed that the house band was taking a break, so he jumped on stage with his guitar for an impromptu, unpermitted singing of one chorus of the tender ballad: 'Young and Beautiful' (reprised). He began by acknowledging his unaffiliated status: "I'm not a part of this show so just, so just don't encourage me or pay me any mind at all. The man who owns this place - he thinks I can't sing, so I gotta prove it to him." During the song (directed partially at Peggy), he became hot-headed and frustrated when a nearby table of two dinner guests ignored his performance and rudely laughed and heckled at him. He took out his anger by smashing his recently-bought guitar on their table before storming out, followed closely by Peggy.

[Note: Pete Townshend of the British rock band The Who made it a regular practice to smash his guitar on stage at the end of the group's performances, beginning in 1964.]

She had immediately become smitten by him and impressed by his tremendous outburst and "temper tantrum." She very forwardly invited herself to join his company: "Why don't you get me off the streets, huh? I'm bushed," and they sat in her open convertible. Peggy didn't think very highly of his singing talent: "I didn't think you were very good, Vince," but he defended himself: "I'm no worse than a lot of 'em." She added: "And no better." Obviously, she was interested in helping to promote him, but he was suspicious of her and wondered about her motivations:

Vince: "OK, you're used to the top talent. What are you wasting your time working me over for?"
Peggy: "I like the way you swing a guitar." (They both laughed)
Vince: "Well, I guess I did get a lot of wrist action into it, didn't I? Well, that's all she wrote. My musical career started and ended with one song."
Peggy: "I don't know why. Not until you've given yourself every chance."
Vince: "But if they won't listen to me, I can't hold a gun on 'em."
Peggy: "Did you ever listen to yourself?"
Vince: "How can I listen to myself when I'm singing?"
Peggy: "Make a tape recording. Maybe when you hear yourself, you can discover what's wrong."

At the start of their on-again and off-again romance, he was persuaded to make a demo recording in a studio, at the cost of $20 dollars.

Vince's First Studio Recording:

Shortly later, they met up in a recording studio, where she had arranged to borrow a guitar for him and provide a back-up band. During the demo recording of 'Don't Leave Me Now' - he performed in a music room lined with publicity photos of some RCA label music legends: (l to r) The Ames Brothers (Joe, Gene, Vic & Ed), Jaye P. Morgan, Eddie Fisher, Dinah Shore, Tony Martin, Hugo Winterhalter, Lena Horne, and Harry Belafonte.

Don't leave me now
Now that I need you
How blue and lonely I'd be
If you should say we're through

Don't break my heart
This heart that loves you
There'd just be nothin' for me
If you should leave me now

What good is dreamin'
If I must dream all alone by myself
Without you darlin'
My arms would just gather dust
(Like a book on a shelf)
Come to these arms
These arms that need you
Don't close your eyes to my plea

Don't leave me now
Don't close your eyes to my plea
Oh, don't you leave me now

[Note: The song was recorded in a studio, using Elvis' own real-life back-up band (song-writer Mike Stoller stood in as the piano player).]

As the group listened to the playback, Vince was astounded by what he heard: "Man that's awful. Do I sound like that?...I sound like a million other singers." Vince was struggling to discover and find his own personal, unique and distinctive musical style. Peggy thought the tune was "nice" but agreed with his assessment, and then encouraged him to vary his approach: "Sing it how you feel it. Put your own emotions into the song. Make it fit you." Vince decided to try a second recording - this time without the guitar - and he goaded his band: "Burn me up this time. Let's see if we can get a little fire in it." He was encouraged by the new version, and was eager to cut a record and "cash in on some of the loot."

Marketing Vince's Recording to a Record Company:

Peggy explained that it wasn't that easy to produce a record: "You have to go to a record company and sell 'em on the idea." She decided to take his demo and exploitatively market it to the Geneva Record Company's manager Jack Lease (Peter Adams). During the meeting in Lease's office (decorated with a prominent poster of Geneva Records' Gold Record-winning lead singer, Mickey Alba), Peggy extolled the tape: "He's got a very distinctive style." However, Lease feigned disinterest in Vince's unique, authentic and youthful style, and explained how the company's program wasn't taking any chances on new sounds or artists:

"No experiments. We're sticking with the established record sellers."

He pointed to the wall poster of Mickey Alba as he made his point. Peggy made one last attempt to entice him: "Well, I guess we'll have to let MGM Records have it." At the last moment, he reluctantly asked her to leave the tape with him overnight, and promised to play it for his New York boss, but couldn't promise anything further. As they left the office, Vince admired Lease's fancy cuff links - a present from Mickey Alba.

The next day, Peggy phoned and informed Vince with "bad news" - his song had been rejected by Geneva's New York boss. She suggested: "Keep on trying other labels."

They met that evening at 7:00 pm at a restaurant, although Vince was impertinently 20 minutes late, without apology for his "backwoods" manners. She then revealed that she had sold his record to a smaller and new company, Deltona Records -- but he was reluctant to thank her or show happiness: "When the money starts rolling in, then I'll sound happy." Although she had secured a contract with the smaller label, Vince was dissatisfied by the paltry profits. Nonetheless, Peggy was optimistic about his prospects: "They're crazy about it, Vince. They say they're gonna push it real hard." She proposed celebrating with a nice meal and wine (steak and burgundy wine) that she would pay for (because he was "broke"), and then they would meet her upper middle-class parents:

Peggy: "Let's celebrate, huh, Vince? We'll have a bottle of wine and a nice meal and then after dinner, we'll drive out and see my father and mother."
Vince: (doubting her parentage) "I didn't know you had a father and mother."
Peggy: "Well, they didn't win me on a quiz show!"

Vince's Encounter with Peggy's Socialite Parents:

During an awkward visit to her socialite parent's home (Vince called it "a real crazy pad"), Vince met her father, Bertrand College Prof. August van Alden (Grandon Rhodes) and mother (Katherine Warren). She had told them all about the young singer, but Vince knew nothing about them: "She hasn't told me anything about you." When the professor asked how long Peggy's latest client had been in the music business, Vince responded: "About a week." Before that, he had served a sentence in the penitentiary - the rap was "1 to 10, I did 14 months." Already finding himself out of place as the only one ordering a beer, he also was miffed when Peggy's snobbish mother changed the subject and suggested putting on a jazz recording by Stubby Rightmire: ("I'm sure Mr. Everett is interested in jazz music. It's his profession!"). Peggy realized he was not a hit with them:

"That bomb kinda laid an egg, didn't it?...I'm afraid the shock value isn't worth very much."

Feeling detached, Vince was forced to listen to a dull but high-brow, academic conversation amongst male and female party guests standing at the fireplace, who were pontificating about modern progressive jazz recordings (of Dave Brubeck and his musical partner Paul Desmond, and jazz pianist Lennie Tristano). He heard them arguing about "altered chords," "atonality," and "dissonance" in some of the latest jazz pieces. Having heard enough, Vince insulted the entire elite group and one misguided woman in particular when asked his opinion about dissonance and modern jazz: "Lady, I don't know what the hell you're talkin' about" - before walking out the front door.

The surly Vince and offended Peggy (chasing after him in high heels) reconvened outdoors on the sidewalk where they got into a vicious argument:

Peggy: "Well, you finally got your sensation. I hope you're satisfied."
Vince: "Get off my back, kid. I ain't in the mood."
Peggy: "You insulted my father, my mother and me and that's just unforgivable!"
Vince: "Well, what do you expect? I come out, have a little beer, the first thing you know some old broad's pushin' me in the corner with some stupid question."
Peggy: "They were just trying to bring you into the conversation."
Vince: "They can shelve their conversation. I'm not even sure they were talkin' English."

He refused her offer to drive him back to his hotel, and she angrily told him that she didn't appreciate his 'cheap tactics':

Peggy: "I think I'm gonna just hate you."
Vince: (disagreeing) "Uh-uh, You ain't gonna hate me. I ain't gonna let you hate me." (he impulsively grabbed and kissed her)
Peggy: (complaining) "How dare you think such cheap tactics would work with me!" (he aggressively kissed her again)
Vince: "That ain't tactics, honey. It's just the beast in me."

The next time they met, Vince apologized for his brutish ways: "About the other night, I guess I did get out of line a foot or two. I got a pretty big mouth sometimes."

Confronting Exploitative Geneva Record Company Manager:

In a music shop, Vince and Peggy made a shocking discovery. After buying six recordings (at $1 dollar apiece) of his recently-released song: 'Don't Leave Me Now,' Peggy realized it had a Geneva Record Company label, and that the song had been recorded by the company's star Mickey Alba. She swore under her breath: "Of all the low and filthy..." In one of the music listening booths, they played Mickey Alba's recording (a blatant plagiaristic version of Vince's own distinctive singing style) and Vince reacted to the outright theft and exploitation of his talent:

"That lousy thief. He stole my style, my arrangement, my everything."

Peggy mentioned the obvious: "Lease copied your tape and gave it to him," and then pronounced the bad news about Vince's own original recording: "You can forget it. It's gone." But Vince wouldn't let it pass, and took matters into his own hands. An outraged Vince immediately ran off - to the Geneva Record Company. In Lease's office, he angrily confronted the disreputable manager - the one who had feigned not liking his recording or arrangement, but now was claiming there was no crime in recording it:

Lease: "Listen, sonny. You don't own that song. It's a published tune. Anyone can record it."
Vince: "You turned it down. You said you didn't like it."
Lease: "We simply didn't want to record it with an unknown."
Vince: "What about my arrangement?"
Lease: "See your lawyer. You can't copyright an arrangement."

Vince retaliated - he grabbed and slapped the manager across the face and threw him back into this chair:

"You're a thievin' rat!...Don't 'sonny' me, you louse! Crawl back under your rock, you snake!"

The Establishment of a Partnership and Independent Record Label:

Later in his hotel apartment room, Peggy expressed her concern that Vince had physically assaulted Lease: "I just don't want anything to happen to you, that's all." He told her that Hunk's advice to him in the penitentiary had come to pass: "He said, 'Watch out for the teeth, Sonny. It's a jungle.'" He drew a strong contrast between prison convicts and the unethical music industry - he believed that Jack Lease was more despicable and dishonorable than the thieving convicts with whom he had earlier been associated:

"On the inside, they're Cub Scouts compared to Jack Lease. If you make something, they might steal it from ya. But they'd be too honorable to go around sayin' they made it themselves."

The ex-convict's rise to stardom, after being initially disillusioned, was boosted by his idea to make another record - and form his own record label and company. He floated the proposition to Peggy:

Vince: "So, if they steal from ya, there's only one thing to do. Start your own record company...Certainly, what's the mystery? We can find out the details from a lawyer, or something, and, well, you don't have to own a factory. I found that out. You contract for the pressings."
Peggy: "But, you just don't go out and start your own record company just like that!"
Vince: "Well, why not? It's done every day. We're just as smart as those other birds. Look, I make the decisions now. I can't louse things up any worst than you did!"

With Peggy - who was easily persuaded to help him with "distribution" and "exploitation - that's your racket" - the two decided to become partners (in a 60/40 split) because he reasoned that he deserved the majority share of the profits ("I'm the artist, don't forget!"). She shook hands and promised to quit her current job at Alba the next day. Vince was already thinking of future wealth: "I smell the money already." As she had suggested earlier, she called for a celebration - and laid down on the bed next to him fully clothed. [Note: Although only mildly suggestive, this was highly unusual for a mid-1950s film.]

They both had different intentions - she was interested in personal romance while his priority was to establish a profitable business partnership:

Vince: "Do you know a lawyer?"
Peggy: "Do you know how to dance?"
Vince: "We need a good one. A guy with an eye to a buck."

Peggy suggested that they hire an attorney she knew named Mr. Shores, but she initially called him "a cold-blooded old fish." Vince was ready to endorse Shores because of his compatibility with Vince's own goal of making money - and to protect himself against a reoccurrence of song theft:

Vince: "Sounds like my man. Interested only in money."
Peggy: "Is that all you're interested in, Vince?"
Vince: "What else?"
Peggy: "Nothing."

That evening, they discussed the budding partnership with bespectacled attorney Mr. Shores (Vaughn Taylor). He reviewed the costs they would incur - Incorporation Papers ($100 dollars), and Trademark Registration ($25 dollars). Vince offered to hire him as a financial manager once he recorded another record and was making a profit: "I'm gonna make you rich."

Recording Session - 'Treat Me Nice':

For their new record label, Laurel Records, Vince made a studio recording of 'Treat Me Nice' - a song in which he demanded to be treated nice. It was an ironic title for a singer who was increasingly not treating others nicely:

When I walk through the door
Baby be polite
You're gonna make me sore
If you don't greet me right
Don't you ever kiss me once,
Kiss me twice
Treat me nice

I know that you've been told
It's not fair to tease
So if you come on cold
I'm really gonna freeze
If you don't want me to be
Cold as ice
Treat me nice

Make me feel at home
If you really care
Scratch my back and run your pretty
Fingers through my hair

You know I'd be your slave
If you ask me to
But if you don't behave
I'll walk right out on you
If you want my lovin'
Take my advice
Treat me nice

Vince's Rise in Popularity:

It was tough going and hard-work at first promoting their first song, and a montage sequence showed Peggy and Vince packing record sleeves into boxes to send to radio stations, driving on-the-road, and personally speaking with record store owners.

The song was not well-received until Peggy convinced her friend, disc jockey Teddy Talbot (Dean Jones) to do her a favor - to provide air-time for Vince's debut record.

[Note: Historically in the early 1960s, a major scandal was investigated by Congress involving the corrupt practice of DJs caught in a 'Payola' Scandal - some were bribed to play records on the air to artificially create hit records.]

The DJ read a dog-food commercial (composed of horse-meat) for Cy's Pet Shop, using the song as background music with the volume lowered. Afterwards, the DJ had to replay the song because so many listeners had called in to request it - as he explained on the air:

"Friends, I owe our listeners an apology. So many calls have come in complaining they couldn't hear all of the new Vince Everett record because of the commercial, that we're gonna play it again. We're doing it for Betty, Mary Jo, Linda, Julie, the gang down at Ray's Auto Upholstery and well, the list is too long. Apparently, just about everybody wants to hear this new platter. So, here he is, Vince Everett singing 'Treat Me Nice' on the new Laurel label."

Soon after, the song became a smash hit and Vince found himself becoming a national star, with more appearances and signings at stores. Mr. Shores offered to join the partnership as Vince's financial manager, now more confident of his earnings potential. He agreed to 9% of Vince's share (leaving the singer with 51% of the company, a controlling interest) and 4% of his "personal take." Peggy was impressed: "He smelled the money from 400 miles away." Vince gloated: "I think I got it made."

His Growing Split From Business Partner Peggy:

On the road, Vince reported to Peggy that they had just sold 425 copies at a local record store, and he was now desirous of impressing her - and tempting her with his good fortune: "I'll put diamonds in your teeth." To show off his newfound wealth, he displayed new cuff links - a sign of success: "It's the mark of a man's success," but she was unimpressed by his ostentatiousness: "What do you intend doing with them, use them for a landing strip?" He touched her waist from behind and complimented her fancy dress:

"You look sexy tonight. You start the hammers to pounding in my skull."

They melted into each other's arms and kissed. He requested that they have a "real celebration" to commemorate their success: ("We'll send up rockets...soft music, loud champagne, we'll charge it to Laurel Records"), but she declined: "I like the idea, but not with you." She informed him of her date with DJ Teddy Talbot - "the record spinner that made a hit for you." Although Vince had made reservations for them at a local nightspot, she reminded him that she should have been contacted first: "You should have made reservations with me. I still have a life of my own, you know." The independent-minded Peggy had a change of heart about having a romantic relationship with him, and had already decided to date others. She was confused by how quickly Vince became upset - and reminded him how he had already coldly told her that money was his top priority:

"I don't understand why you're so upset. You told me yourself. I asked you if money was all you were interested in. And your answer was, and I quote, 'What else?'...Vince, I will not be subject to your beck and call."

When Ted arrived to pick up Peggy for their dinner date, he complimented her as "scrumptious." Vince (with his head down and appearing crestfallen) had to be prompted to shake hands with Ted and thank him for the record promotion.

The Corruptive Influences of the Music Industry:

The rise of notoriety, fame and fortune for Vince brought fancy parties, wild late-night carousing, increased spending on expensive luxuries, and tempting infidelity. During a montage of how life was changing for Vince due to his "good fortune," Mr. Shores recorded into a dictaphone to report news of increasing profits - he specifically spoke about Vince's ability to command better contracts, but was worried about his lavish spending and consumption of showy and extravagant products and materialistic services, including valet service and the purchase of a white convertible:

(narrated) "After the success of his initial record, Mr. Everett was enabled to command for advantageous contracts. I was told the adolescents found Mr. Everett's unique style of singing quite - titillating. Our expenses, however, increased with gross income. I found transportation costs to be particularly high. This, however, was a deductible item. Oh, his choice of color was white. I doubted I could convince the Internal Revenue Department that all of Mr. Everett's entertaining was for business purposes only. On the other hand, my client felt extremely elated over his latest good fortune. He's been invited by the National Broadcasting Company to participate in a nationwide television extravaganza."

One night, Peggy caught him affectionately kissing the neck of pretty singer Laury Jackson (Anne Neyland) at a late-night party when she arrived. Peggy then turned cold towards him and refused to hug or kiss him. The incident was the start of an enduring personal - and professional - rift between them as partners ("pards"):

Vince: "I want to introduce you to a new member of the troupe....Laury's a real cool little singer. I'm takin' her to New York with me."
Peggy: "Oh! In that case, I don't think I'll go."
Vince: "Oh! Were you planning to go? What for?"
Peggy: "No reason I can think of now."
Vince: "Got nothin' to do with the record business."
Peggy: "Of course not."
Vince: "It's just like you said that night in Joplin - 'You and me, it's strictly business.'"
Peggy: "Let's keep it that way. (she paused, then turned back with a scoffing jab) Let me know when you want to cut another record, Pard."

She abruptly agreed with him that their relationship would - from then on - be entirely platonic and business-oriented. Vince had wanted to split from her anyway, and was planning on dating other starlets, although he was more interested in signing onto and obtaining a bigger and more lucrative record label.

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