Stay Away, Joe

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Stay Away, Joe
Theatrical release poster by Robert McGinnis
Directed byPeter Tewksbury
Produced byDouglas Laurence
Written by
Based onStay Away, Joe
by Dan Cushman
Music byJack Marshall
CinematographyFred J. Koenekamp
Edited byGeorge W. Brooks
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • March 8, 1968 (1968-03-08) (US)
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1,500,000 (US/ Canada)[1]

Stay Away, Joe is a 1968 Western-comedy film, with musical interludes, set in modern times and starring Elvis Presley, Burgess Meredith, Katy Jurado and Joan Blondell. Directed by Peter Tewksbury, the film was based on the 1953 novel by Dan Cushman, a satirical farce. The film reached number 65 on the Variety weekly national box office chart in 1968.


Elvis Presley stars as Native American rodeo rider Joe Lightcloud, a Navajo whose family still lives on the reservation. He returns to the reservation in a white Cadillac convertible with which he proceeds to drive cattle.

Joe persuades his Congressman (Douglas Henderson) to give him 20 heifers and a prize bull so he and his father (Burgess Meredith) can prove that the Navajos can successfully raise cattle on the reservation. If their experiment is successful, then the government will help all the Navajo people. But Joe's friend, Bronc Hoverty (L.Q. Jones) accidentally barbecues the prize bull, while Joe sells the heifers to buy plumbing and other home improvements for his stepmother, Annie Lightcloud (Katy Jurado).

Joe is able to borrow a bull, Dominick, but the bull is lackadaisical and shows no interest in the heifers. Mamie Callahan (Quentin Dean), the daughter of shot gun-toting tavern owner Glenda Callahan (Joan Blondell) can't seem to stay away from the girl-chasing Joe. Joe also trades in his horse at a used car dealership for a red convertible automobile from which he sells the parts off to obtain cash from a salvage yard. After almost all of the usable car parts are sold, he rides around in a beat-up motorcycle.

In order to raise money, Joe organizes a contest in which riders have to stay on Dominick, the unresponsive bull he procured from his friend as a replacement. In addition, Joe himself has to ride Dominick and stay on in order to win the prize money. Joe wins the contest and receives the prize money. In a fight at his father's house, Joe and his friends are involved in a large fight that destroys the house they have been building.



Burt Kennedy was originally announced as director.[2]

Elvis was paid $850,000 plus 40% of the profits.[3]

The screenplay was adapted from the failed Broadway musical Whoop-Up, and retained many of the same plot devices and characters, including Joe's grandfather who refuses to live in a house, preferring his ancestral teepee.


For the first time since Wild in the Country, neither an LP album nor an extended play single was planned for a Presley film soundtrack. Three songs were written for the film by the stalwart team of Sid Wayne and Ben Weisman, who had already contributed close to 50 songs for various Elvis movies in the decade.[4]

Although released before Speedway, this film and its soundtrack were made after the first of Presley's last five films in the 1960s where musical numbers were kept to a minimum.[5] The recording session took place at RCA Studio B in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 1, 1967. At the end of this session, Presley made his record producer Felton Jarvis promise never to release the song written for him to sing to a bull in the movie, "Dominick." However, the song is actually sung to two women in the movie, and the bull is nowhere to be found throughout the entire song, making a rather strange scene.[5] "Dominick" would eventually make its first official CD appearance on the Kissin Cousins/Clambake/Stay Away, Joe soundtrack compilation in 1994 (long after the deaths of Presley and Jarvis); it had previously been released, unauthorized, as “Dominick the Impotent Bull” on the 1982 bootleg compilation Elvis' Greatest Shit. The other two songs, "Stay Away, Joe" and "All I Needed Was the Rain," wouldn't even be featured on a promotional single for the film premiere, but instead respectively appeared on the budget albums Let's Be Friends in 1970 and Elvis Sings Flaming Star in 1969.

Two additional songs related to the film were recorded at sessions on January 10 and 11, 1968, at the same studio. "Goin' Home" by Joy Byers would not be used, surfacing on the soundtrack to the next movie, while a different song entitled "Stay Away" rewritten from the tune of "Greensleeves" by Sid Tepper and Roy C. Bennett would appear as the b-side to the #28 hit single "U.S. Male."[6] Released as catalogue item 47-9465b on February 28, 1968, the B-side "Stay Away" would peak at #68 on the Billboard Hot 100 independently of "U.S. Male."[7] The producer in charge of the recordings for MGM was Jeff Alexander.[8]


Film music track listing[edit]

  1. "Stay Away" (Sid Tepper and Roy C. Bennett) (melody taken from "Greensleeves)"- heard over opening credits
  2. "Stay Away, Joe" (Sid Wayne and Ben Weisman)
  3. "All I Needed Was the Rain" (Sid Wayne and Ben Weisman)
  4. "Dominick" (Sid Wayne and Ben Weisman)


Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times wrote that the film "could scarcely seem more embarrassingly tasteless or ill-timed than right now. In an unintentionally patronizing way it projects an image of the Indian as happy-go-lucky, immoral and irresponsible just when the public is becoming aware of how truly tragic his plight is. No amount of good-naturedness—and 'Stay Away, Joe!' undeniably has plenty of that—can compensate for humor based on stereotypes so offensive to minority-group sensitivities." Thomas suggested, though, that if it had been made in a different time "it would seem a pretty good picture. It has plenty of bounce, a strong cast ... some spunky songs and good color photography of natural locales."[9]

A review in Variety reported "generally flat comedy" with "many forced slapstick situations," and echoed Thomas's review by stating that the story was "out of touch with latterday appreciation of some basic dignity in all human beings ... At best, film is a dim artistic accomplishment; at worst, it caters to outdated prejudice. Custer himself might be embarrassed — for the Indians."[10]

The Monthly Film Bulletin reported: "Meandering Elvis Presley comedy, rather short on invention except for an amiably hectic finale ... The musical offerings are if anything even less memorable than usual."[11]


  1. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1968" in Variety, 8 January 1969, p. 15. Please note this figure is a rental accruing to distributors.
  2. ^ Eva Renzie in 'Pink Jungle' Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 28 June 1967: e11.
  3. ^ Michael A. Hoey, Elvis' Favorite Director: The Amazing 52-Film Career of Norman Taurog, Bear Manor Media 2013
  4. ^ Jorgensen, Ernst. Elvis Presley A Life in Music: The Complete Recording Sessions. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998; p. 239.
  5. ^ a b Jorgensen, op. cit., pp. 229, 239.
  6. ^ Jorgensen, op. cit., pp. 241-242.
  7. ^ Jorgensen, op. cit., p. 418.
  8. ^ Jorgensen, op. cit., p. 239.
  9. ^ Thomas, Kevin. "Presley Film in Multiples". Los Angeles Times. April 24, 1968. Part V, p. 10.
  10. ^ "Stay Away, Joe". Variety: 24. March 13, 1968.
  11. ^ "Stay Away, Joe". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 36 (421): 35. February 1969.

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