Follow TV Tropes


Film / Jailhouse Rock

Go To

"Warden threw a party in the county jail
The prison band was there an' they began to wail
The band was jumpin' an' the joint began to swing
You shoulda heard those knocked-out jailbirds sing!
Let's rock!
Everybody let's rock!
Everybody in the whole cell-block...
Was dancin' to the Jailhouse Rock!

Jailhouse Rock is a 1957 film directed by Richard Thorpe, starring the King, Elvis Presley.

Vince Everett (Elvis) is a cheerful, happy-go-lucky construction worker who becomes less happy-go-lucky when he accidentally kills a man in a bar fight. Vince is convicted of manslaughter and sent to prison. There he becomes cellmates with Hunk Houghton, a former minor country music star serving a stretch for bank robbery. Hunk teaches Vince to play guitar and, when a national TV network conveniently decides to broadcast a jailhouse talent show, Hunk gets Vince a place in the program.

Vince gets out of jail and tries unsuccessfully to get a singing gig at a nightclub Hunk told him to seek out. The job doesn't work out, but luckily for Vince, while there he meets lovely Peggy Van Alden (Judy Tyler), a music promoter. Peggy thinks Vince has potential as a recording artist. With Peggy's help, Vince climbs the ladder of showbiz success, but not without some hiccups along the way.

Famed songwriting duo Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller wrote the famous theme song, "Jailhouse Rock", which became one of Elvis's biggest hits and one of the most iconic songs of the 1950s. They wrote three other Elvis songs for the film as well: "Baby I Don't Care", "I Want to Be Free", and "Treat Me Nice".

Judy Tyler, who played female lead Peggy, was killed in a car wreck at the age of 24 just sixteen days after production wrapped on Jailhouse Rock. A grief-stricken Elvis skipped the film's premiere, and apparently never did watch the movie.


  • Asshole Victim: The guy Vince kills in the bar was a violent wife-beater.
    Vince: (sarcastically) You scare me. Women beaters always scare me.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Between Vince and Sherry the actress. Sherry the snob does not care for Vince the country hick, and isn't amused when their studio-instructed dates involve Vince taking her to Knott's Berry Farm and on a homes-of-the-stars bus tour. But when Vince has to kiss her for a movie scene, she melts, and they start an affair.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • Mike Stoller is the piano player in the studio recording scene.
    • The other musicians with Vince are Elvis Presley's Real Life band.
  • Hard-Work Montage: Once scene has Peggy and Vince doing grunt work for their fledgling music production company, stuff going to radio stations to get "Treat Me Nice" and putting copies of their single in the record sleeves by hand.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: "Making love to that rube won't be easy.". Sherry's talking about her kissing scene in the movie with Vince.
  • Practical Currency: Hunk has a whole trunk full of cigarettes that he uses as prison currency.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • After several of Mr. Van Alden's guests have a faux-sophisticated dialogue about dissonant phrasing in jazz, one woman turns to Vince and asks his opinion. Vince, feeling condescended to, bluntly responds, "Lady, I don't know what the hell you're talkin' about," and storms out.note  The remark makes Vince look like a complete boor and embarrasses himself, the woman, and Peggy.
    • The H-word returns during Vince and Hunk's climatic face-off, when Hunk threatens to "beat hell" out of him.
  • Prison: How did you guess? Latter-day viewers might be surprised to find that Vince's stay in prison is barely a quarter of the film, the rest of which follows him in his music career.
  • Prisoner Performance: When a national TV network conveniently decides to broadcast a jailhouse talent show, Vince gets a place in the program. His successful performance sets him up for other music opportunities once he gets out of jail.
  • Romantic False Lead: Sherry, the actress that Vince is paired with when he starts a movie career. They're an item for a while, but when Peggy shows up again Vince goes over and embraces her and Sherry disappears from the movie.
  • Sexy Sweater Girl: Peggy, being the Betty to Sherry's Veronica in this scenario, goes for a more demure form of Fanservice with the typical snug 1950s tops.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Did they really flog prisoners in the 1950s? They do in this movie at least, as Vince gets five lashes for his role in a jail cafeteria riot.
  • Weird Currency: Cigarettes are money in prison, and Hunk has amassed many cartons.
  • While You Were in Diapers: Hunk, pissed when Vince candidly tells him that his act is too old-fashioned, shoots back that "I was in show business when you were in short pants." Eventually he gives in and accepts a job as Vince's flunky.
  • White-Dwarf Starlet: A male example in Hunk, who clings to his modest prior success in the country music scene and doesn't deal well with the idea that it's passed him by.