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The 1961 musical romantic comedy Blue Hawaii starred Elvis Presley and Joan Blackman in a story about a recently discharged soldier returning home to Hawaii. If you’re wondering about Joan Blackman’s age when she played the role of teacher Maile Duval opposite Elvis, read on for a deep dive into this tropical romp and its stars.

Joan Blackman was 27 years old during the filming of Blue Hawaii in 1961. She portrayed the love interest of Elvis Presley’s character, who was 26 at the time.

The Making of Blue Hawaii

Overview and background of the film

Released in 1961, Blue Hawaii was an immensely popular musical romantic comedy film starring Elvis Presley. It told the story of Chad Gates, a former soldier returning home to Hawaii to work for his father’s fruit company.

Presley plays the role of Chad, while Joan Blackman stars as his love interest, teacher Maile Duval.

The film was Presley’s first big Hollywood production after his stint in the army. It featured beautiful Hawaiian scenery and several hit songs, including the iconic title track “Blue Hawaii.”

Made on a budget of just $1 million, Blue Hawaii would go on to gross over $20 million, making it one of the highest grossing films of 1961. Its success cemented Presley’s status as a major film star and set the template for several further “Elvis in paradise” musicals over the next few years.

Joan Blackman’s career leading up to her Blue Hawaii role

Prior to being cast as Chad’s love interest in Blue Hawaii, Joan Blackman already had over 50 screen credits to her name. She began acting as a teenager in the late 1950s, landing guest spots on popular TV shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents, 77 Sunset Strip, and Perry Mason.

Just before starring in Blue Hawaii, Blackman played supporting roles in a few fairly successful films. These included Kid Galahad (1962) with Elvis Presley, Good Day for a Hanging (1959), and the cult sci-fi/horror classic Village of the Damned (1960).

So while not yet a huge star, Blackman had built up a fairly impressive early filmography. According to a 1961 New York Times article, the Blue Hawaii director chose her because he wanted a leading lady who seemed natural and girl-next-door-ish rather than an established movie star.

Joan Blackman’s Age and Life When Filming Blue Hawaii

Joan’s birthdate and age in 1961

Joan Blackman was born on May 17, 1934 in San Francisco, California. In 1961, when she filmed Blue Hawaii with Elvis Presley, Joan would have been 27 years old. She was in the prime of her life and career at that point.

Specifically, when filming for Blue Hawaii began on March 8, 1961, Joan was 26 years, 9 months, and 19 days old. By the end of filming that year on April 27, she was just weeks away from her 27th birthday on May 17.

What Joan was doing career-wise at age 27

Professionally, Joan had been acting in films and television for over a decade when she made Blue Hawaii. Her first credited role was in 1951’s Two Tickets to Broadway at age 17. In the 1950s, Joan appeared in films like Good Morning, Miss Dove (1955) and Kid Monk Baroni (1952).

Just prior to filming Blue Hawaii, Joan had acted in the 1960 films Angel Baby opposite Sal Mineo and Kid Galahad with Elvis Presley. She and Elvis likely knew each other already when they reunited for Blue Hawaii.

Joan’s Age: 27 years old
Filming Dates: March 8, 1961 – April 27, 1961
Recent Films: Angel Baby (1960), Kid Galahad (1960)

So in 1961, Joan Blackman was an experienced 27-year-old actress when she played the role of teacher Maile Duval in Blue Hawaii opposite Elvis. She brought maturity, poise, and seasoned acting chops to the performance that perfectly balanced Elvis’ character.

Joan’s On-Screen Chemistry with Elvis

Playing love interests with a narrow age gap

When Joan Blackman starred opposite Elvis Presley in the 1961 musical film Blue Hawaii, she was 27 years old while Elvis was 26. The narrow one-year age difference allowed the pair to have strong on-screen chemistry as young love interests.

At the time, Elvis was fresh off his return from military service and still had his boyish charm, while Joan brought grace and maturity to her role as teacher Maile Duval.

Film critics noted that the closeness in age made their beach romance and flirtatious exchanges feel natural. There was no uncomfortable sense that one was too old or too young for the other. Instead, viewers could get swept up in the tropical island courtship between the air pilot and school teacher.

The producers specifically wanted an actress in her mid to late twenties to match Elvis and cast Joan, who had the right balance of beauty, intelligence, and warmth to draw his interest on-screen. Their energetic dance numbers and tender dramatic moments crackled with chemistry and showed two young stars with vibrant screen presences playing off each other.

Critical reception of Joan’s performance

Joan’s performance as Elvis’ leading lady earned strong critical praise. Variety wrote that she gave a “warm and winning performance” while the Los Angeles Times described her as “a most attractive romantic interest.”

Even decades later, reviews of Blue Hawaii still highlight her as a standout and one of Elvis’ best love interests.

Critics specifically pointed to Joan’s beauty, charm, acting range, and on-screen rapport with Elvis as keys to the success of her performance. She could hold her own in dramatic moments but also had comedic timing in the film’s lighter scenes.

And she and Elvis made one of his most convincing on-screen couples. Her Hawaiian ancestry even allowed her a chance to showcase her hula dancing skills.

While Elvis understandably is the focal point of any of his films, Joan’s supporting turn earned Almost equal attention And helped ground the romantic storyline. Her reviews showed she could shine bright even next to one of Hollywood’s hottest stars at the height of his big screen popularity.

Where the Blue Hawaii Cast Is Now

The later careers and lives of Joan Blackman and Elvis Presley

Joan Blackman, who played the role of teacher Maile Duval opposite Elvis Presley in the 1961 hit film Blue Hawaii, went on to have a moderately successful acting career in the 1960s. Some of her most well-known roles after Blue Hawaii included parts in classic TV shows like Perry Mason and My Favorite Martian.

However, her career took a downturn in the late 1960s and she retired from acting in the 1970s.

In contrast, Elvis Presley continued his meteoric rise to fame over the 1960s with hit films like Girls! Girls! Girls! and chart-topping songs like “Suspicious Minds.” By the late 1960s, Elvis was considered one of the most famous entertainers in the world.

Tragically though, Elvis struggled with substance abuse issues and declining health in the 1970s. He passed away in 1977 at his Graceland estate at the very young age of 42.

While Joan Blackman lived a quiet life outside the public eye after retiring from acting, Elvis Presley’s legacy grew even stronger after his untimely death. More than four decades after his passing, Elvis remains an instantly recognizable pop culture icon.

Millions of fans still flock to Graceland each year to celebrate his enduring influence on music and film.

Legacy and influence of Blue Hawaii

Blue Hawaii was a landmark film for both Elvis Presley and the Hawaiian tourism industry. Released in 1961 at the peak era of Elvis’ early Hollywood success, it became one of the highest-grossing films of the year as well as Elvis’ most financially successful film at that point.

The colorful, escapist fun of Blue Hawaii inspired waves of tourists to book vacations to Hawaii soon after its release. And while parts of the film indulged in Hollywood stereotypes about Hawaii, it also featured many authentic locations like Waikiki Beach and scenes of beautiful Hawaiian scenery backed by Elvis’ gorgeous soundtrack songs.

Over 60 years later, Blue Hawaii is still considered a quintessential Elvis film by fans and critics. Its stunning Hawaiian backdrops and Elvis charm also made it one of the first major films to promote mass tourism to the islands.

In the years since its release, Hawaii has cemented its status as a top global vacation destination – and Blue Hawaii deserves at least a little thanks for helping kickstart that boom!

Some key references on the legacy of Blue Hawaii and its cast:


In summary, actress Joan Blackman was 27 years old while filming the 1961 hit film Blue Hawaii alongside 26-year-old Elvis Presley. Though there was not a large age difference between the lead actors, Joan brought poise and maturity to her role as Elvis’ love interest.

The youthfulness and energy of the Blue Hawaii cast no doubt added to the movie’s enduring popularity and status as an iconic Elvis film.

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