Legends: Marlyn Mason;
Marlyn with Elvis in The Trouble With Girls.
Marlyn Mason played the part of Sally Weldon in the
Ben Casey TV series during the mid-sixties, before making her
film debut, as Charlene (the role was originally intended for singer
Bobbie "Ode to Billy Joe" Gentry), in
The Trouble With Girls (And How To Get Into It).
When The Trouble With Girls came along, did
you go out for the role?
No. In my memory, I did not audition for it. I had
just come off of a Broadway musical. And I got a call from my agent
that they wanted me for this movie with Elvis Presley. And I have no
recollection of ever reading for it. I just went and met the
director, Peter Tewksbury and Lester Welsh, the producer. That, in
my memory, if I auditioned for it, I don't remember it. There are a
lot of things I don't remember.
When you did get there, tell us what happened.
Well, meeting them, I have no recollection of meeting
them, but I do remember very vividly the day I met Elvis. And that
was the first day of rehearsal. Jonathan Lucas was the
choreographer. And I walked in, and there were the two little kids
that were also in the musical with us. And here came Elvis ready to
work, couldn't have been nicer, couldn't have been more welcoming.
And it was like that for the next ten weeks. It was absolute bliss
working with him.
What was your relationship with Elvis like on the
We hit it off immediately. And from the very first
day, he called me Cap. I wore a little cap. And I always wore that
cap to work every day. And he just named me Cap. And he says, "Come
on, Cap. We're going to lunch." And we'd either go to his, like a
little apartment that they had on the lot. And we'd go there. The
guys would be there. I mean, it was always like a party going on. We
never went to the commissary. And I don't remember ever having lunch
anywhere else except those times with him that we'd go to his place,
because that's where his refrigerator was. That's where his yogurt
was. He was very slim, very handsome. Probably at the peak of his,
health-wise. I mean, he just looked great.
So, Elvis was eating smart.
Eating smart, yeah. He took care of himself then,
What was he eating at that time?
Just we were all eating yogurt. I was always battling
a weight problem. And I was 28 when we did the movie, and I was
having a slight weight problem. So, I was trying to do the yogurt
thing along with Elvis. But he looked great. He couldn't have been
in better shape.
How was it working with Elvis?
I was prepared not to like Elvis on that first day. I
thought, “Here's this fellow I've heard about with this music all
these years”, I was not prepared to like him. I mean, was prepared
not to like him. And I was so surprised when he was so sweet and so
down to earth. And he likes to rehearse. He loved to rehearse. He
always knew his dialogue. He was never unprepared. He was as
professional as anyone I'd ever worked with. And never, never in a
bad mood. Always feisty. He loved to light firecrackers. And you'd
be in the middle of a scene. And if he wasn't in it, and you'd hear
boomp off in the distance somewhere. And the director would say,
“Cut. Elvis, we're shooting.” And you’d hear laughter. But he loved
to do that.
How much did Elvis have his little pranks?
Oh, all the time. We were pranking all the time. Ten
weeks, that's all we'd do is... I remember we had, the first week, I
believe, we were doing a parade scene. And there were lots of helium
tanks around to fill up the balloons. So before we'd to a take, we'd
both suck up the helium and the director would yell, "Action." And
we'd start talking with that little high voice that the helium does
to you. And we would do things like that all the time. It was just
something always going on.
What did the director and everybody else say about
Oh, he set the tone. I was just talking to someone.
Elvis set the tone. I think all the leading actors do for whatever
show you're doing. They set the tone for how the crew is going to be
and the feeling on the set. And because Elvis was so dear, that show
was just ten weeks of happy.
What was your first scene with Elvis?
Oh, gee, I can remember rehearsing... It had to have
been outdoors, because we shot the parade scenes first. So, it would
have had to have been part of that whole parade sequence in the
Tell us a little bit about your character.
Oh, I screamed and yelled at him through the entire
movie. I was the union lady, and he was the manager of this troupe
called Chautauqua which is a real... In fact, I think they still
have it today. And it was the story... The purpose of Chautauqua was
to bring culture to the rural areas. And so he played the manager,
and I took care of all the little children. And I was this union
person. I was always screaming at him for this or for that, and
screamed at him through the whole movie. And of course, you could
tell we were both very much in love with each other. But we were
never going to tell each other that. And it was -- and I think it
comes through in the film.
So, there was no big romance with Elvis off screen.
Oh, no. He was married and had Lisa was about six
months old, I think. Because I remember him bringing a picture of
Priscilla and the baby. And she was on the floor with the baby. She
was kind of on her side like this. And the baby was laying right in
front of her. And I remember Lisa didn't have any clothes on. It was
a typical -- like just a beautiful mother and daughter picture. And
I couldn't get over how beautiful Priscilla was, because I'd always
seen her with the big hairdos. And her hair was just straight and
loose. And she was absolutely stunning. She was as beautiful as he
was handsome. And I thought what a couple they make. She never came
to the set however. I asked him one day, "Does Priscilla ever
visit?" And he said, "No."
Do you remember Colonel Parker on the set?
Yeah. He was not an approachable person. I didn't
care for him, I guess. Because he was just different than everybody
else on that, you know, connected with the movie. He was very
stand-offish. And remember one day, I called him over. It was
Halloween, and I had brought in a little red wagon. And a friend of
mine had carved a pumpkin of Elvis' face that was -- I mean, it was
just spectacular. The teeth, he had little black... He used the
little pumpkin things for teeth, the seeds and had pipe cleaners for
the hair. But I mean, it looked -- the pumpkin looked like Elvis. It
was just magnificent. And I had filled it with cookies. And Elvis
thought it was great. And the Colonel happened to come on the set.
And I said, "Oh, Colonel, come over here." And Elvis very gently
leaned into me and said, "You don't call the Colonel over. You go to
the Colonel." I never liked the Colonel after that. But he was not
around much. I had no relationship with him at all.
You were recording with Elvis in the studio, right.
When did that take place?
That took place, oh gosh, it was a famous little
recording studio on Sunset Boulevard just east of Vine.
Was it Radio Recorders?
Oh, gosh, that's very familiar to me. And it could
have been. Probably was. And I remember Mac Davis was there. And we
just had a wonderful time. It was a silly little song that I
recorded. But it wasn't until years later from this man in England
wrote to me. And he said, "Did you know that you were one of four
women to record with Elvis?" I had no idea. I was in company -- good
company with, I think, it was Ann-Margret. You might know.
Ann-Margret, Nancy Sinatra, Shelley Fabares, I think, and myself.
Yeah. So, it's kind of nice.
What was the song, Signs Of
Signs Of The Zodiac. Yes. A little spiffy little
tune. Yes, I have a picture that I use for my fans that want one of
me and Elvis together. And I'm in his arms. He's behind me, and he
has his arms around me. And we're in the middle of the number. And I
always sign it, "In the arms of the King."
What was so unique about Elvis as opposed to other
I was not a fan of his music when I met him. And
after working with him and then seeing him sing just, you know,
amusing himself, I realized what a great voice he had. He had a
magnificent voice. I thought sometimes it sounded almost operatic.
And I thought why doesn't he ever use that? But the kind of music
that he did didn't call for that. I think the closest maybe he came
to it was doing My Way or in a couple of those songs where he
really goes to the high notes. I don't know what his uniqueness was.
I don't think that's answerable. When they say, He has it or she has
it, there's nobody can define, it. It's just something that draws
people to you. And he was like that. I mean, every day we would see
him, he'd come on the set and he -- I remember he had on a white
gabardine suit with that light blue silk shirt and that white
fedora. Oh, my God. You couldn't see enough of it. I mean, it was,
everyday it was like seeing it for the first time. And he was --
there was just something about him. And when he talked to you, he
looked right at you. And he was so polite. Mr. Tewksbury, the
director, was never Peter. He was always Mr. Tewksbury. It had that
There was that scene where he was hiding in the
closet, and you were searching for him, right?
Yes. That's one of my favourite scenes, yes.
There's also a little tension there. You could tell
you did care about each other.
Oh, yeah. That scene... Oh, the other actor that was
in that scene with us. I want to say. Oh, it's right on the tip of
my tongue, and I can see his face as plain as day. There were three
of us, and it was a real chatty, talkie scene, and I was at my peak.
And you can see Elvis. It's genuinely enjoying doing that scene. He
was always into it. But that was one of my favourite scenes in the
movie. We had a lot of fun doing that. And I'm trying to remember
that actor’s name, and I can't.
Tell us about the fireworks scene.
Oh, that was... I was a little afraid of that,
because I never liked being around stunts and anything where there
was any danger. And I had to make sure that I was going to be okay,
that I wasn't going to -- none of were going to get, you know, hit
with a missile. Because and when you see it in the movies, it looks
much more dangerous than it was. But it was lots of fun to shoot. I
don't recall, I think we shot it at night time. Yeah.
What did you and Elvis talk about?
We talked a lot. We talked music. In fact, the only
argument, which was a nice argument, was about music. The first two
weeks of shooting we did the parade scene, and then we went into
what was supposedly a big tent. And there was a big baby grand in
there. There was this piano. And Jonathan Rubenstein was one of the
kids in the movie. And he was a fine pianist. And so between shots,
he'd sit down at the piano and grind out these show tunes, and I'd
do my Ethel Merman bit. And Elvis didn't have anything to do with
musical comedy, had never performed it, as far as I know. And he
said, "Hey, Cap. Get in here." So, I went over to his dressing room
and said, "What do you want?" And he said, "What's all that Broadway
stuff you're singing?" And I said, "Well, that's the kind of music
that I come from." And so we started discussing it, and he was sort
of putting it down. And I said, "Well, what do you know about
musical comedy and Broadway?" I said, "that's part of American --
what is American music." And so, we got into a little heated... And
I said, "Let me tell you something." I said, "When I met you, I
didn't like your music, but since I've known you and heard you sing
a little bit of it," I said, "I'm starting to appreciate it. So,
maybe you'll start appreciating this music."
So, the next day, Joe Esposito brought in a little
cassette. This is when the cassette first started coming out and a
little recording machine. And he said, "I want you to know this is
from Elvis." And he bought this himself. I never forgot. I wished
I'd saved those things. I didn't save anything that Elvis gave me.
But it was sort of his way of saying, "Okay, I'm sorry for coming
down hard on your music." I think that's what it -- that's how I
took it to mean.
Do you remember what the cassette was?
Oh, one of them was "Camelot". And there were several
other Broadway shows. But I just thought it was a very sweet thing
on his part to do. And I can't remember if I took him a book on
musical comedy. I think I did, but I'm not sure, a little history of
American musical theater.
But we talked a lot. And the one thing that is the
saddest thing he ever said to me. And it just was heart breaking. It
was a very serious moment. I don't know how we got into the
conversation. But he said, "I would like to make one good film,
because I know people in this town laugh at me." And I thought with
all his success, he wanted to make a movie that was apart from all
And, of course, that never happened, and we'll never know what his
potential was. Because I found him to be extremely talented, had
great comedic instincts, great timing, very... You could ad-lib with
him. We'd do a lot of that. If the director was doing a close-up on
Elvis, and he wanted a certain reaction, he would come to me, and
he'd say something like, "I don't care what you do, but this is the
reaction I need from him." So, I remember one time I was out of
camera, and it was a close-up of him. And I was supposed to be
seated, so his look was looking down at me. And I started slowly
unbuttoning his shirt and taking his belt off very quietly. And he
was just giving me these looks. Well, that was what the director
wanted. And he just responded. He didn't stop and say, "What is she
doing?" He just rolled with the punches. It was great. He was great
to work with.
Legends: Marlyn with Elvis; Marlyn
with Elvis and Edward Andrews.
So, you think given a dramatic role, he would have
I think he would have been fabulous, but we'll never
know. He might have been terrible. But I'd like to think he would
have been reached a level that he didn't even know he was capable
What type of things would Elvis do on the set? Would
he be listening to different recordings and things like that?
No, if we were on the set, there was a lot of
sitting... I remember sitting in his lap a lot, just hanging out
with him and his guys. But no, he would mingle. He was not aloof in
any way at all. But of course, he'd spend some time in his dressing
room. I remember once he called me in, "Cap, get in here." I'd go
in. "What do you want?" He said, "Pick out whatever you want here."
And he would have clothes brought in for himself. But he ordered a
bunch of scarves and hats. And he knew I liked to wear caps and
hats. So, he said, "Pick out whatever you want." I said, "Well, you
pick out for me." So, he picked out a little hat that he thought
looked good on me. And he picked out a scarf. I'd give anything to
have that hat and scarf now.
And then he signed a photograph to you as well.
Yes. Yes, I have the signed photograph. Yes.
Tell us the story about how that came about.
Well, it was funny. People talk about Elvis'
spirituality. We never got into any religious discussions at all.
I'm not a religious person. Our conversations never got into that.
But I think when you're in tune with somebody, it's like you get it.
You sense things. And I could be sitting 50 feet from him, and I'd
get a feeling, and I would turn. And he'd be looking at me. And
sometimes it would happen with him. I'd be watching him. And he
would turn and he'd... And we talked about it. And I said, "What is
that?" And he said, "It's da witness." So in the picture, the
autograph says, "Da witness knows." And I took it from there was
just that little knowing thing between us that was -- neither one of
us could explain it. I felt very close to him. And I can say that I
know that he liked me very much. And I liked him very much. There
was just -- it was a very sweet relationship. And I mean, it, you
know, will always be very dear to me.
When the film came out, did you keep in touch with
Never had a social contact with him at all.
called me once or twice after the movie, but I never saw Elvis
socially, never talked to him away from. If it was a weekend, I
didn't know from Elvis. Only that five days a week working. It would
have been interesting. I would have liked to see him in a social
situation. And because I have no idea who the private Elvis was. And
if he was... I mean, he couldn't have been... He had to be a fairly
decent person in his private life, because he was so wonderful to
work with. And I never felt that there was anything phony about him
in that niceness. And that has to carry over into your private life
I think. But live with, who would know. I don't know what he would
be like to live with.
When he was on the set, did he ever get into touch
football games or anything?
Yes, there was a little football scene, I think, if
you remember in the movie. And they were playing then, not a lot,
but a little bit. Because we weren't -- once we moved in, there
wasn't... Once we left all the outdoor shooting, then we moved in,
there was no place to play football.
On the set with Elvis did you ever get in of his
little practical jokes?
Oh, gosh. We got into one that was something to do
with pies. I can't remember what it was. I remember they got a pie
for me, and I threw a pie in this guys face. But I can't remember
what the incident was. And I remember a fellow once shot some tear
gas into Elvis' dressing room as a joke. He didn't know I was in
there. I was sitting on the floor. Elvis was sitting on here, and a
couple of the guys were over here. And the door opened, and right
with the floor this little pop sound, and it was tear gas. And it
got me in the eyes. Oh, I was a mess for about two hours. They had
to do my make-up over. I was just a mess. And that was the kid
whoever did that, I have a picture of him with the pie. The next
day, I threw a pie in his face. Because I wanted him to know I
wasn't mad. Because he didn't mean to do it. But it scared him,
because he thought he'd, you know, done some damage to me. Well, he
had for a couple of hours. But Elvis handled all of that very well,
I mean, I never saw the man angry, ever.
Vincent Price was in the film as well.
I shared a dressing room with Vincent Price and John
Carradine. The first day of shooting, I did not work, but I was
being fitted for my wig. And so I went to work. And I was on the
sound stage, and I needed to put my purse and my script somewhere.
And I asked the AD, I said, "Where can I put my stuff?" And he said,
"Just a minute." And he said, "Oh, you can put it in Mr. Carradines
and Mr. Prices dressing room." So, I can say I shared a dressing
room with the two of them. But other than just meeting them, I never
had any conversation with them.
Do you remember them meeting Elvis?
No, no. I think they only worked one, maybe two days.
Because they had no scenes with Elvis.
No. No. No. They had to have met Elvis that day
though, because Elvis was on the set. I was on the set.
Do you have any memories of the little girl on the
She was very professional. She was not a little
temperamental brat at all. And it's sad how she ended up. She
overdosed, I believe. Yeah. She was a sweet little girl. Yeah, she
was in Signs Of The Zodia
number with us. Yeah. But she was
very professional. Everyone was.
Did you ever get to see Elvis perform live after the
No, but I think, if my memory serves me, that his
special came on.
The 68 special?
Yes. And I was stunned. I really fell in love with
him as a performer when I saw that. That was probably one of the all
time great specials, I think, ever for my taste anyway that was ever
seen. I mean, he was great. I remember all the people were around
him. He was on a small stage. And I think was also the same time he
came to work one day and said, "I signed to play Vegas." I don't
think he'd ever played Vegas. Is that true? He played Vegas after
68. And he was so thrilled. He was like a little kid. He was so...
"I'm going to play Vegas." You know, I mean, there was an innocence
to him that was... I think that was part of his it, the thing that
made him so charming, this, there was a vulnerability to him. And I
think that's part of... You kind of want to take care of and...
So, did you follow his career?
No, no. When he died, I was stunned. I knew he did
one film after mine. I think it was with
Mary Tyler Moore?
I think that was his last film. And, no, I didn't know what became
of him after that, other than seeing the pictures when he started to
get heavy and not looking so good. And I thought, oh, too bad and
wonder what's going on with him. And -- but whenever I saw those
pictures, I still remembered when I was with him.
So, could you elaborate on when you first saw the
Oh, I just remember I was just astounded at his
performance. I couldn't believe it. If you look at that, he is so
natural. He is so at home. I never felt that he was performing. He
was just doing something that he loved to do. And it came natural to
him. He knew how to -- it wasn't even knowing how to do it. He just
Where were you when you learned that Elvis had passed
You know, that I don't remember that. I know where
J.F.K. was. I mean, I know where I was when J.F.K. died. But I don't
-- I think I was home and probably heard it on television and it was
just sad. I almost couldn't believe it.
After a quarter of a century, why do you think Elvis
is as big as he ever or a lot bigger?
Why? Because he, again, it's unexplainable. He even
surpasses Monroe and Jimmy Dean. I mean, they've -- I mean, they
grow in stature in their deaths. But Elvis, there's just no... I
mean, he's just the king. There's only one Elvis. There's only one
Marilyn, there's only one Jimmy Dean. But Elvis, I think, the music
because people hear the music more. We don't visit the Monroe films
over and over and the Jimmy Dean films. But all of always hear Elvis
music somewhere. And it keeps him very much alive with us.
What does Elvis personally mean to you?
Oh, probably the best ten weeks of my career. I get
teary eyed. Yes, it was just a wonderful time. Yes. And it was a
great, a great privilege for me, and honour for me to have been with
him that time. And when he was in such good shape, too.