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Wild in the Country

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Wild in the Country
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPhilip Dunne
Screenplay byClifford Odets
Based onThe Lost Country
by J. R. Salamanca
Produced byJerry Wald
CinematographyWilliam C. Mellor
Edited byDorothy Spencer
Music byKenyon Hopkins
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release dates
Running time
114 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2.5 million[3]

Wild in the Country is a 1961 American musical-drama film directed by Philip Dunne and starring Elvis Presley, Hope Lange, Tuesday Weld, Millie Perkins, Rafer Johnson and John Ireland. Based on the 1958 novel The Lost Country by J. R. Salamanca, the screenplay concerns a troubled young man from a dysfunctional family who pursues a literary career. The screenplay was written by playwright Clifford Odets.


Glenn Tyler (Elvis Presley), a childish 25-year old, gets into a fight with and badly injures his drunken brother. A court releases him on probation into the care of his uncle in a small town, appointing Irene Sperry (Hope Lange) to give him psychological counselling. Marked as a trouble-maker, he is falsely suspected of various misdemeanors including an affair with Irene. Eventually shown to be innocent, he leaves to go to college and become a writer.




The film was based on the debut novel by J. R. Salamanca. He wrote it over seven years.[4]

Jerry Wald bought the screen rights to the novel in March 1958, before the book had been published.[5] He wanted Bradford Dillman and Margaret Leighton to play the lead.[6]

In August 1959, Wald said Joe Stephens was writing the script.[7]

Philip Dunne was approached to make the film by producer Jerry Wald when they were shooting In Love and War together. Wald always intended to cast Elvis Presley in the lead and originally wanted Simone Signoret to appear opposite him.

In August 1960, Clifford Odets signed to write the screenplay, with Dunne to direct. Filming was to start in November.[8] "It pained me to hear him rationalise writing the screenplay", said Odets' colleague Harold Clurman.[9]

Dunne says the studio came under the control of Bob Goldstein, who refused to meet Simone Signoret's salary demands, and insisted Dunne and Wald use someone under contract to the studio. At one stage Barbara Bel Geddes was cast.[10] They eventually cast Hope Lange, even though Wald and Dunne felt she was too young for the part. The studio then refused to keep paying Odets, firing him two weeks before filming.[11]

The film was Millie Perkins' second film under her contract at Fox. The first was The Diary of Anne Frank filmed two and a half years previously.[12]

Presley's fee was reportedly $300,000.[13]

Dunne says the studio fired Odets with the script only half written so he had to finish it himself. Dunne did not want to do this, but was persuaded otherwise.[14]


Wild in the Country started filming in November 1960. It was the last movie to shoot at the colonial mansion which had been on the studio backlot since 1934 – this was knocked down and sold after filming completed.

The movie was also shot on location in Napa Valley and in Hollywood Studios, although it is set in the Shenandoah Valley. The cast and crew created a public sensation in Napa for over two months of filming. The motel where many of the cast stayed, Casa Beliveau (renamed the Wine Valley Lodge, now supportive housing for the homeless), was so mobbed that Elvis had to be moved to the St. Helena home that was being used in the film as Irene Sperry's house, where Glenn Tyler went for counseling. Now a top-rated inn in Napa Valley and known as The Ink House, the room where Presley stayed for over two months can still be rented.

Other Napa Valley locations featured in the movie. The opening scene was filmed along portions of the Napa River. This section of the river is located at what is now the Casa Nuestra Winery, between Calistoga and St. Helena. Calistoga's downtown main street was used as the hometown of Glenn Tyler's uncle and his cousin. Other filming locations in Napa Valley include the Silverado Trail between Calistoga and St. Helena, the Cameo Cinema (then The Roxy), an old movie theater still in operation in downtown St. Helena where the dance hall scenes with Elvis and Tuesday Weld were filmed, and the hills and farmland behind what is now Whitehall Lane Winery just north of the town of Rutherford.

Dunne recalled, "For his love scenes with Hope Lange, he couldn't get the right tempo so, I had him listen to Bach's Fifth Brandenburg Concerto. Presley listened intently, then said, 'Hey, man, now I get it!' And he did the smooching very slowly, in one take."[15]

The Ink House was used as the house and backyard where a drunken Glenn Tyler tries to hose down Irene Sperry through the porch window, and the nearby 1885 barn is where Irene Sperry drives her DeSoto in to attempt suicide when she is so distraught over her suspected romance with Glenn and the scandal it has caused. In one scene, Betty Lee slaps Glenn. Millie Perkins suffered a broken arm while doing the scene, and before the film was released, the scene ended up being cut out of the movie.

Philip Dunne says that 20th Century Fox insisted on the insertion of four songs for Elvis Presley.[16] Three were used in the film.

This was Elvis' last dramatic lead role until Charro!, as his next film, Blue Hawaii, was his first big budget musical-comedy and was a box office sensation. All his subsequent movies were largely formula musical-comedies which were quite lucrative but never gave him the chance to develop his potential as a serious actor that was very apparent in Wild in the Country. With the future formulaic musical-comedy routine in the making, Presley's fate had been sealed as a B-movie actor.

Presley began an off-screen romance with Hollywood "bad girl" Tuesday Weld but the relationship was short-lived after Elvis's manager, Colonel Tom Parker, warned him against his involvement, fearful it would harm his image. Elvis and Hope Lange also were quite taken with each other, but her separation from her husband did not result in a divorce until the next summer making her unavailable for a serious relationship. She was also involved in a relationship with Glenn Ford.

Other notable members in the cast included Jason Robards, Sr. (in his final role), Christina Crawford (daughter of Joan Crawford), Pat Buttram and the legendary Rudd Weatherwax who trained the animals used in the movie.


In the original script and rough cut of the film, Lange's character, Irene Sperry succeeds in her suicide attempt. However, preview audiences reacted negatively to it and the scene was redone in which Irene survives and sees Glenn off to college.[17]


Recording sessions took place on November 7 and 8, 1960, at Radio Recorders in Hollywood, California, under the supervision of producer Urban Thielmann. Five songs were recorded for the film, with "Lonely Man" and "Forget Me Never" left out of the film.

Since Wild in the Country showcased Presley the actor rather than the singing star, RCA elected to release neither a long-playing album nor an EP as the soundtrack for a Presley film. The Colonel promised 20th Century Fox to assist with promotion by releasing some songs on singles.[18]: 143  Despite being cut from the film, "Lonely Man" was actually the first song from the score to be released, appearing on February 7, 1961 as catalogue 47-7850b, the B-side of Presley's chart-topping hit single, "Surrender."[18]

The title track to the film, "Wild in the Country" (included in the film), was released on the very next single, catalogue 47-7880b on May 2, 1961, as the B-side of the No.5 hit "I Feel So Bad."[18] Both B-sides made the Billboard Hot 100 independently of their A-sides, "Lonely Man" peaking at No.32 and "Wild in the Country" at No.26.

The songs "In My Way" (included in the film) and "Forget Me Never" would be included on the 1965 anniversary compilation album Elvis for Everyone, while "I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell" (included in the film) appeared on the 1961 album Something for Everybody.

The soundtrack was re-released on the Follow that Dream collectors label with unreleased outtakes of all the songs.

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Wild in the Country" (George Weiss, Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore)
  2. "I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell" (Ben Weisman, Fred Wise)
  3. "In My Way" (Ben Weisman, Fred Wise)
  4. "Husky Dusky Day" (a cappella duet with Hope Lange) (unknown recording date and location)



The film received mixed to negative reviews from critics. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote: "Nonsense, that's all it is—sheer nonsense—and Mr. Presley, who did appear to be improving as an actor in his last picture, is as callow as ever in this. The few times he sings are painful—at least they are to our ears—and his appearance is waxy and flabby. Elvis has retrogressed. So have Jerry Wald, the producer; Philip Dunne, the director; and, alas, Mr. Odets."[19]

Variety wrote: "Dramatically, there simply isn't substance, novelty or spring to this wobbly and artificial tale ... It is difficult to accept the character as a 'potential literary genius' and, for that matter, the lovely and sophisticated Miss Lange as a lonely, learned widow with surprisingly few male admirers but a penchant for resurrecting lost, young, boyish souls. It's a credit to both that they do as well as they do."[20]

Harrison's Reports graded the film as "Fair", calling the screenplay "unsophisticated but well-paced."[21]

Charles Stinson of the Los Angeles Times called the film a "fairly acceptable melodrama", crediting a "sharp and unpretentious script by Clifford Odets, who adapted it from a novel by J. R. Salamanca. But credit must also be given young Mr. Presley who, with every film, keeps on improving as a performer. 'Wild in the Country' will take no prizes but it proved a lot better than this reviewer was steeling himself for."[22]

The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote, "In view of the generally murky photography, art direction and acting and Philip Dunne's soporific direction, the film's one rewarding feature—Hope Lange's sensitive and (wherever possible) intelligent playing of the psychiatrist-literary agent—is nothing short of a miracle. Presley gives an unassuming, sub-sub-Brando performance—even a likeable one in the hotel love scene: but one can't help feeling he was infinitely better off in every way prior to this misguided bid for class."[23]

Phil Dunne later wrote that the film "fell between two stools. Audiences who might have liked a Clifford Odets drama wouldn't buy Elvis and his songs; Elvis's fans were disappointed in a Presley picture which departed so radically from his usual song-and-sex comedy formula. On both factions his fine performance was tragically wasted."[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Wild in the Country – Details". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  2. ^ Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p253
  3. ^ "1961 Rentals and Potential". Variety. 10 Jan 1961. p. 58.
  4. ^ Andrew D. Kopkind (Jan 30, 1959). "Book Luncheon to Hear Author's 7-Year Story". The Washington Post and Times-Herald. p. D8.
  5. ^ "A.F.L. UNIT HINTS BOYCOTT OF MOVIE: Council Protests Filming of 'John Paul Jones' in Spain -- Arnow Back at Columbia". New York Times. Mar 31, 1958. p. 19.
  6. ^ Hopper, Hedda (Sep 25, 1958). "Wald to Film Love Story of Teacher, Pupil". Chicago Daily Tribune. p. c7.
  7. ^ Scheuer, Philip K. (Aug 21, 1959). "McIntire Assigned to 'Elmer Gantry': 'Story on Page One' Up Next on Wald's $35 Million Slate". Los Angeles Times. p. 23.
  8. ^ "Of Local Origin". New York Times. Aug 18, 1960. p. 18.
  9. ^ Peary, Gerald. "Odets of Hollywood". Sight and Sound. Vol. 56, no. 1 (Winter 1986). London. p. 59.
  10. ^ Hopper, Hedda (Oct 29, 1960). "Millie Perkins Will Be Elvis' Costar: Tuesday Weld Also in Film; Chips Rafferty in 'Mutiny'". Los Angeles Times. p. B2.
  11. ^ Philip Dunne, Take Two: A Life in Movies and Politics, Limelight 1992, p 295-297
  12. ^ Alpert, Don (Feb 5, 1961). "What's Become of Millie Perkins?". Los Angeles Times. p. b4.
  13. ^ Dorothy Kilgallen (Apr 10, 1961). "'Wild' Is the Take, Too, for Elvis". The Washington Post and Times-Herald. p. A23.
  14. ^ Lee Server, Screenwriter: Words Become Pictures, 1987 p 109
  15. ^ Jim Bawden (Jan 27, 1990). "Philip Dunne looks back at movies' golden age". Toronto Star (SA2 ed.). p. G8.
  16. ^ Philip Dunne, Take Two: A Life in Movies and Politics, Limelight 1992, p 298
  17. ^ Hopper, Hedda (Feb 3, 1961). "Darin Wants Mrs. to Give Up Career: Ford to Do Fewer TV Specs; Metro Signs Italian Star". Los Angeles Times. p. A8.
  18. ^ a b c Jorgensen, Ernst (1998). Elvis Presley A Life in Music: The Complete Recording Sessions. New York: St. Martin's Press.
  19. ^ Crowther, Bosley (June 10, 1961). "Screen: Presley Is a Problem Again". The New York Times: 12.
  20. ^ "Wild in the Country". Variety: 6. June 14, 1961.
  21. ^ "Film Review: Wild in the Country". Harrison's Reports: 94. June 17, 1961.
  22. ^ Stinson, Charles (June 23, 1961). "'Wild in the Country' Proves Fairly Good Film". Los Angeles Times: Part III, p. 10.
  23. ^ "Wild in the Country". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 28 (331): 118. August 1961.
  24. ^ Philip Dunne, Take Two: A Life in Movies and Politics, Limelight 1992, p 299

External links[edit]