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Meet the Shropshire gran who starred alongside Elvis

By Mark Andrews | Telford | Music | Published: | Last Updated:

Just over half a century ago Annette Day was filming Double Trouble with the King of Rock 'n' Roll.

Elvis and Annette together in their 1967 film Double Trouble

They say everyone remembers where they were when they heard the news that Elvis Presley had died. That is certainly true of Annette Day, who has very vivid recollections.

"I was sitting at home, I lived at Beckenham in London then, and I heard it on the television news," she says.

"It was like a bolt from the blue, there had been no suggestion whatsoever that his life had been in danger, although there were comments that he had put on a bit of weight.

"I thought it was so terribly sad, he was a man of so many talents, who had so much more left to give."

And Annette, who now lives in Shropshire, knew about this better than most.

Because 10 years earlier, as a fresh-faced 19-year-old, Annette became the first and only English actress to star alongside Elvis on the big screen.

WATCH the Double Trouble film trailer:

Double Trouble Official Trailer #1 - Elvis Presley Movie (1967) HD

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The 69-year-old grandmother played Jill Conway, a rebellious British heiress who led the singer through all sorts of wild escapades across Europe, getting mixed up with spies, jewel thieves and madcap detectives along the way.

Off screen, the pair enjoyed a close, if brief, friendship with the King of Rock 'n' Roll, which even extended to him buying her a car as a treat.

It is 40 years today since Presley died in the bathroom of his Gracelands mansion in Memphis, Tennessee, after suffering from heart failure brought on by a drug overdose. He was just 42 years old and, if not at the height of his stardom, was still one of the biggest global stars having successfully reinvented himself for the glam rock era.

While there had been rumours about his health, particularly concerning his weight and dependency on prescription drugs, very few people were aware of the lonely, troubled individual behind the flamboyant jump-suited stage persona.

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Annette as she was in Double Trouble

Annette, who settled in Shropshire with husband Mike the year after Elvis's death, remembered the singer as being like a big brother to the innocent teenager who had been plucked out of obscurity after being spotted working on a market stall by film producer Judd Bernard.

"He had a terrific sense of humour, he was always playing games," she says.

"There were a couple of times, off-stage, when the light came on for me to go through the door onto the set, and he would grab my coat so I couldn't walk, and the crew would be calling for me. I had a ball, it was tremendous fun."

A scene from double Trouble, which was Elvis's 24th feature-film

And she got a first-taste of the star's legendary generosity at the end of filming, when she was making small talk about how youngsters back in Britain would have to save to buy their first car.

"After a day on set we were talking about how youngsters have to save every penny to buy a car after their graduation," she says.

"In the US, most youngsters were given a car, not so in the UK."

Then one day, in a car park, Elvis asked her to follow him, and asked her to close her eyes.

"At that moment I knew he had a surprise waiting for me, but never in my wildest dreams could I have thought of a sports car," she says.

"It was a white Mustang convertible. Elvis handed me the keys and said 'it's your's'.

"I couldn't believe it, but I think he did things like that quite often," she says. "I think if he was able to help somebody, he liked to do that."

Annette and Elvis off camera, while director Norman Taurog set up their scene

Double Trouble was Presley's 24th feature film, and it was reported that by this time he was getting quite weary of them, although he made seven more movies in the two years that followed.

It is said that when he found he would have to sing Old MacDonald Had A Farm for a scene in Double Trouble, Elvis screamed "It's come to this?", and Annette believes that he was definitely falling out of love with the movie industry.

"I think, more than anything, he wanted to be back out on stage to his fans," she says.

"I think he was quite pleased when the musicals had stopped. I think he would like to have got a more serious picture, he wanted to do more than just musicals. I think he could have been a very good actor, but the films he was in were all the same sort of thing, family films with a few more songs in between."

Annette, who worked as a secretary at Telford-based SMP Security before her retirement, was offered a seven-year contract by MGM Studios after Double Trouble, but decided acting wasn't for her. She rarely talks about her part in the film, and reckons many people have no idea about her previous career.

Annette, 30 years on from Double Trouble in 1997

"I don't watch the film very often, and when I do I don't think I was very good in it," she says.

"I went to be with my husband, and I've had my children and my grandchildren and I have no regrets about that at all. They say go out while you're at the top, I had great fun, but it was very hard work, you would be there on set at eight in the morning, and you could be there until 6.30 at night, nobody could go until everything was perfect."

She returned to the UK, not only leaving behind her brief film career, but also her Ford Mustang.

"I found it would cost rather a lot to bring it back to the UK," she says. Today, of course it would be worth a fortune as a treasured piece of movie and musical history, but she gave it to her brother who was living in the US at the time. He used it for a few years, and then sold it when it broke down.

It all begs the question of what would Elvis be doing if he were still alive today at the age of 82?

Annette does not think he would be performing today, although she say s he would also have found it very difficult to give it all up.

"It must be very hard for somebody who is at the top like that to walk away from it all," she says. And she has no doubt that if he had lived to a ripe old age, it would have done nothing to lessen the legacy of his work.

"He just had something about him," she says.

Mark Andrews

By Mark Andrews
@MAndrews_Star

Senior news writer for the Shropshire Star specialising in in-depth features and commentary, investigative reporting and political matters.

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