In the 1962 musical comedy Girls! Girls! Girls!, Elvis Presley sports a visible erection – but could it have been edited out? Presley is of course best known for his successful musical career, but he also turned his hand to acting, appearing in such films as Jailhouse Rock, Blue Hawaii, and – of course – Girls! Girls! Girls!. His films usually incorporated a musical element, giving Presley the scope to showcase his talent and transfer his widespread appeal to the big screen.
However, the revelation that Presley proudly sports his excitement during one particular number (‘The Walls Have Ears”) has prompted many to rewatch the scene in hopes of seeing the King’s member. According to Joe Esposito (Presley’s road manager, who will be played by Tom Hanks in the upcoming movie Elvis), the production was well aware of the issue. However, due to the complicated nature of the number – with objects crashing and falling from the walls while Presley danced with co-star Laurel Goodwin – the take was kept in, and Elvis’ unfortunate erection was immortalized in the film’s final cut.
According to Esposito, Presley blamed his wardrobe, saying his pants were rubbing him and that he couldn’t stop “feeling.” The King apparently wasn’t too concerned with the malfunction, but instead was more concerned with potentially having to reshoot the scene. It was assumed that Elvis Presley’s prominent package would be edited out somehow, and Esposito was amazed to see it survive in the finished film. Once you’re looking for it, it’s impossible to miss, and it makes for one of Hollywood’s biggest costume mistakes. Still, considering Girls! Girls! Girls! was released in 1962, removing a part of Elvis’ anatomy wouldn’t have been an easy feat, if it was even possible at all.
In the early ’60s, digital editing was – obviously – not a possibility. Film in the days of Girls! Girls! Girls! was a far more physical affair, and editing together a finished product was a matter of quite literally cutting and pasting the film. This would have presented a significant challenge for editing Presley’s erection out of Girls! Girls! Girls!, as the malfunction in question comes in the middle of a musical number, in which Elvis Presley’s singing voice can be heard as he dances with Goodwin. This would make editing out the frames in which his erection is displayed so prominently practically impossible to do without tampering with the scene’s rhythm, something that would have ruined the musical number.
This difficulty was compounded by the scene itself. While Girls! Girls! Girls! wasn’t unsuccessful in its day, it still wasn’t the most groundbreaking of films. However, the “Walls Have Ears” sequence involved a lot of moving parts, and this would have taken time to reset in order to reshoot the scene. Even to reshoot the part of the scene needed to edit the erection out would have taken time to reset and restart, something which Presley reportedly voiced that he didn’t want to do – and in film, time is money, with wasteful productions causing Hollywood’s biggest flops.
Technically speaking, it would have been possible to edit out Elvis’ erection, but the logistics of doing so could have potentially derailed the musical number. This wouldn’t have been a particularly good idea in one of the King of Rock’s musical movies, as it could have harmed his image as a musician. Ultimately, leaving the erection prominently displayed in Girls! Girls! Girls! was probably the right choice to make (not to mention the cheapest and easiest, too).