Jailhouse Rock: Critical Reception of Elvis Presley Early Movie

Upon initial release, Jailhouse Rock earned mixed reviews from the critics.

Some felt it was scandalous because it portrayed Vince Everett as an antiheroic character, presented a convict as a hero, used the word “hell” as a profanity and included a scene with Presley in bed with Tyler.

The Parent-Teacher Association described the film as “a hackneyed, blown-up tale with cheap human values.”

The New York Times criticized Guy Trosper for writing a screenplay in which the secondary characters were “forced to hang on to the hero’s flying mane and ego for the entire picture.” Cue magazine called the film “[an] unpleasant, mediocre and tasteless drama.”

Some publications criticized Presley’s personality–onscreen. Time panned his onstage personality, while The Miami News compared the film with horror pictures and wrote, “Only Elvis Presley and his ‘Jailhouse Rock’ can keep pace with the movie debut of this ‘personality,’ the records show. In estimating the lasting appeal of their grotesque performer.”

Jazz magazine Down Beat wrote that Presley’s acting was “amateurish and bland.”

British magazine The Spectator described Presley’s evolution from his “silly” performance in Loving You to “dangerously near being repulsive.”

Other reviewers responded positively to the film.

Louise Boyca of The Schenectady Gazette wrote that “it’s dear Elvis that gets the soft-focus camera and the arty photography.” Boyca remarked on the low production costs of the film, and said that Presley was “in top singing and personality form.”

The Gadsden Times said, “Elvis Presley not only proves himself as a dramatic actor …  but also reveals his versatility by dancing on the screen for the first time. The movie … also contains Elvis’ unique style of singing.”

Look magazine favored the film, describing how one audience “registered, loud and often, its approval of what may accurately be described as the star’s first big dramatic singing role.”