Roustabout (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Rich
Screenplay by
  • Anthony Lawrence
  • Allan Weiss
Story byAllan Weiss
Produced byHal B. Wallis
CinematographyLucien Ballard
Edited by
Music byJoseph J. Lilley
Hal Wallis Productions
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • November 10, 1964 (1964-11-10) (USA)[1]
Running time
101 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$3,300,000 (US/ Canada rentals)[2]

Roustabout is a 1964 American musical feature film starring Elvis Presley as a singer who takes a job working with a struggling carnival. The film was produced by Hal Wallis and directed by John Rich from a screenplay by Anthony Lawrence and Allan Weiss. The screenplay was nominated for a Writers Guild of America award for best written American musical although Roustabout received a lukewarm review in Variety.[3] The film's soundtrack album was one of Elvis Presley's most successful, reaching no. 1 on the Billboard Album Chart.[4] It was filmed in Techniscope at Paramount Studios, with carnival sequences shot in Thousand Oaks, California. Filming began in March 1964.[5][6]


The Honda 305 Superhawk motorcycle used in the film

Musician Charlie Rogers is fired from a job at a teahouse after brawling with several college students in the parking lot. After a night in jail, Charlie hits the road on his Honda 305 Superhawk motorcycle. He spots Cathy Lean driving with her father Joe, and their employer, Maggie Morgan. When Charlie tries to become friendly with Cathy, Joe forces him off the road and the bike is wrecked after crashing into a wooden fence.

Maggie offers him a place to stay and a job with her struggling traveling carnival while the bike is being repaired. Charlie becomes a "carnie", a roustabout. Maggie recognizes his musical talents and promotes him to feature attraction. His act soon draws large crowds. Charlie romances Cathy, which creates animosity with Joe. After the two men repeatedly clash and Charlie is accused of holding back a customer's lost wallet that Joe was accused of stealing, Charlie leaves to star in the much better financed show of rival carnival producer Harry Carver.

Once again, he is a great success. However, when Charlie learns that Maggie is facing bankruptcy, he returns to her carnival. In the musical finale, he is happily reunited with Cathy.


Uncredited actors listed alphabetically:

Musical numbers[edit]

See also Roustabout (soundtrack)

All tunes in the film were sung by Presley.


Roustabout reached #8 nationally at the box office in 1964 based on the Variety survey. The film finished as #28 on the year-end list of the top-grossing movies of 1964 and earned $3 million at the box office.

The New York Times writer Howard Thompson complained about "little in the way of dramatic substance" and that the movie wasn't "nearly so trim a package" as Fun in Acapulco or Viva Las Vegas, but noted that Elvis was "perfectly cast" and "surprisingly convincing in his role."[7] Variety was lukewarm, faulting mainly a script "loaded with clichés", but noted the film would likely be a box-office hit based upon its star names, songs, and "Technicolor, Techniscope frame."[8] John L. Scott of the Los Angeles Times called the film "a trite, cliche-ridden story that has been thrown together to showcase Elvis Presley and his vocalizing. It serves its purpose well, and probably will prove a box office bonanza for producer Hal Wallis."[9] The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote, "Presley vehicles have sadly deteriorated since the days of Follow That Dream, and this amiable but uninspiring piece does nothing to halt the process, despite curiosity value provided by Barbara Stanwyck, back with Paramount for the first time in ten years."[10]

Quentin Tarantino called Roustabout one of Presley's most entertaining films and said that it had the best soundtrack of all of Presley's color films.[11]

Roustabout holds a 56% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on nine reviews.[12]

Awards and honors[edit]

The film's screenwriters, Anthony Lawrence and Allan Weiss, were nominated for the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Musical. The film generated a best-selling soundtrack album that went #1 on the Billboard charts. The soundtrack album would be Presley's final #1 soundtrack and last #1 album until 1969's From Elvis in Memphis, which topped the charts in the U.K.


  1. ^ "Roustabout - Details". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved July 25, 2018.
  2. ^ This figure consists of anticipated rentals accruing distributors in North America. See "Big Rental Pictures of 1965", Variety, 5 January 1966 p 6
  3. ^ Adam Victor. The Elvis Encyclopedia. Overlook, 2008.
  4. ^ Billboard Magazine.
  5. ^ Cotten, Lee (1987). The Elvis catalog: memorabilia, icons, and collectibles celebrating the king of rock 'n' roll. Doubleday. Page 115. ISBN 9780385237055.
  6. ^ DeNight, Bill and Sharon Fox (2003). Elvis: Commemorative Edition. Publications International, Limited. Page 186. ISBN 9780785348900.
  7. ^ Thompson, Howard (November 11, 1964). "Elvis Presley Stars in 'Roustabout,' a Movie About Carnivals". The New York Times. p. 38. Retrieved 2024-02-16.
  8. ^ "Roustabout". Variety: 6. November 11, 1964.
  9. ^ Scott, John L. (November 28, 1964). "Elvis Sells New Film Musical". Los Angeles Times: Part III p7.
  10. ^ "Roustabout". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 31 (371): 178. December 1964.
  11. ^ Tarantino, Quentin (March 7, 2020). "Carny - (1980)". The New Beverly. Archived from the original on 2020-04-01. Retrieved November 6, 2023.
  12. ^

External links[edit]