Photographer Greg Nolan (Elvis Presley) speeds his dune-buggy across the beach, attracting the attention of sexy, swimsuit-clad Bernice (Michele Carey). She promptly invites him to make love to her. When Greg politely declines, she sets her dog Albert on him. Soaked wet after the mutt chases him into the sea, Greg spends the night on the couch at Bernice’s home. Come the morning, he encounters an array of male visitors, including her ex-lover Harry (Dick Sargent), who all refer to Bernice by different names. She claims she changes her name to suit her mood. By this point, Greg is convinced Bernice is a total loon. He gets the hell out of there but in rapid succession loses his job and his home then discovers Bernice has moved all his possessions into her house. Leaving Greg with no choice but to shack up with Bernice so he can get his life back on track, whilst evading her attempts to seduce him.
Among the most oddball of all Elvis movies, Live a Little, Love a Little was also the last film by veteran Norman Taurog who directing a string of vehicles for the King including It Happened at the World’s Fair (1963) and the infamous Tickle Me (1965), but whose career stretched back to classics like Boys Town (1938) and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938). Based on the novel “Kiss My Firm But Pliant Lips” (now there’s a potential Elvis song!) written by Dan Greenburg who co-wrote the screenplay, the plot seemingly aspires to Bringing Up Baby (1938) levels of screwball lunacy with a straight-laced gent drawn into a series of wacky adventures by a crazy dame with a zany and oversized pet. In fact Albert was played by Elvis’ own Great Dane, Brutus, who proves a pretty good canine actor.
While it is amusing to watch an amorous young woman pursue an increasingly hapless Elvis instead of the other way around, this frothy rom-com could easily be reinterpreted as a far scarier tale about a man eluding an obsessive stalker, given how some Bernice’s actions are borderline psychotic. A throwaway comment from Harry suggests Bernice is somewhat psychologically unbalanced as a result of some past trauma the film choses not to explore. Instead, things segue into a subplot wherein Greg juggles two jobs, working as a photographer for both Mike Lansdown (Don Porter), the Hugh Hefner-esque owner of a Playboy style men’s magazine complete with pussycat girls around the office, and straightlaced ad man Penlow (Rudy Vallee). Live a Little, Love a Little was a little racier than most would expect of an Elvis movie, with hints of topless nudity (though nothing really explicit) and a fairly candid attitude towards sex for an increasingly permissive age. Taurog also throws in an incongruous fist fight with some goons at a printing press that makes no narrative sense but was likely a concession to Elvis who always wanted to be an action star instead of a rom-com clown.
There remain only shreds of what was presumably a more complex and coherent story and what is left does not make a whole lot of sense on any level. Yet against the odds this remains a lively and sporadically amusing film, not least because it features arguably the strangest scene in any Elvis movie. That would be the dream sequence wherein the King shares a conversation with a man in a dog costume, falls through a trapdoor into a psychedelic void then sings “The Edge of Reality” surrounded by leggy dancers and surreal incarnations of all the characters he has met. Far out. Elvis is more energetic here than in previous outings while honey-voiced co-star Michele Carey ranks among his most charismatic leading ladies. There are also some interesting faces amongst the supporting cast, including former Thirties singer and band leader Rudy Vallee and Dick Sargent who went on to play the second Darren in enduring sitcom Bewitched. Exploitation fans should look out for women-in-prison star Phyllis Davis in a small role as a secretary while Celeste Yarnall, The Velvet Vampire (1971) herself, appears - looking fabulous - as the girl Elvis flirts with at a party. In fact he serenades her with the song “A Little Less Conversation”, the remix of which would top the charts three and half decades later. Thank-you-very-much!