If the Century 21 Exposition, which took place in Seattle in 1962, was mainly aimed at promoting American scientific research and its leadership in spatial exploration, it was also the place for the shooting of a musical produced by Metro Goldwyn Mayer headlined by the famous actor and singer Elvis Presley. The plot of "It happened at the World's Fair" produced by Norman Taurog, takes place on the Seattle World Fair's site in a scenery which is both futuristic and very representative of the American 60's society. We follow the adventures of two friends, Danny and Mike, who decide to go to the World's Fair to find a job because of their debts.
The film crew arrived in Seattle on 5th September 1962, when the Expo had already been in full swing for five months. This date was not chosen randomly because it was precisely the start of the school year. The director wanted to avoid as much as possible scenes of massive hysteria caused by teenage fans of the "King". Unfortunately for him, young people from around tried by all means to come closer to their idol. Actually, there are numerous stories from fans: series of fainting, snatches of conversation with Elvis, or, for Sue Waters, an 18 year old lucky girl, four dates with the King.
Despite the excitement caused by Elvis, the shooting went ahead. We can see emblematic components from the Expo in the film. For instance, the character of Elvis takes the Monorail. Observant people may notice that the Monorail trip is much more longer than it is in reality: indeed, it was a way to let Elvis sing his song until the end! Another scene takes place in the Space Needle's panoramic restaurant. Here again, inconsistent elements can be spotted and demonstrate that the scene was shot in studios: windows are moving instead of the landscape in the background. The footage in which Elvis is strolling in the Gayway zone, a kind of funfair within the Expo, can also be mentioned.
Expos are inspiration for the cinema: "So long at the fair", "Meet me in St Louis" with Judy Garland or "Centennial Summer" directed by Otto Preminger are all movies in which the plot takes place in World Fairs. However, Seattle's World Fair in 1962 is an exception because it is the only one to host a fiction film shooting. Clearly, the attendance of the rock-star Elvis Presley was a boon for the Expo organizers who recorded a rise in the ticket sales during the shooting period. Nevertheless, it is mostly the film's testimonial role that is important. Watching this movie takes us back to Century 21 Exposition's atmosphere and more generally to the ambiance of the 60's in the United States.
Here is the official trailer for "It happened at the World Fair"
The Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) is the intergovernmental organisation in charge of overseeing and regulating World Expos, Specialised Expos, Horticultural Expos and the Triennale di Milano.