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Welcome To ENN - Movie Of The Month - Change Of Habit

Change of Habit (1969)

Theatrical Release Date: November 10, 1969 (USA)

Running Time: 93 minutes


Technical Crew:

Director: William A. Graham
Producer: Joe Connelly

James Lee, Eric Bercovici and

S. S. Schweitzer

Cinematography: Russell Metty (Technicolor)
Musical Composer: Billy Goldenberg
Editor: Douglas Stewart
Production Designer: Alexander Golitzen
Set Decoration: John McCarthy Jr. and Ruby. R Levitt
Costume Design: Helen Colvig
Associate Producer: Irving Paley
Art Direction: Joe Alves
Hair Stylist: Larry Germain
Makeup Artist: Bud Westmore


 Based on a story by John Joseph and Richard Morris




Elvis Presley: Dr. John M. Carpenter
Mary Tyler Moore: Sister Michelle Gallagher
Barbara McNair: Sister Irene Hawkins
Jane Elliot: Sister Barbara Bennett
Leorna Dana: Mother Jospeh
Edward Asner: Lt.Moretti
Robert Emhart: The Banker
Regis Toomey: Father Gibbons
Doro Merande: Rose
Ruth McDevitt: Lily
Richard Carlson: Bishop Finley
Nefti Millet: Julio Hernandez
Laura Figuerosa: Desiree
Lorena Rich: Amanda
Rodolfo Hoyos: Mr. Hernandez
Virginia Vincent: Miss Parker
David Renard: Colom
Ji-Tu Cumbuka: Hawk
Bill Elliott: Robbie




1969 had already seen two Elvis Presley movies and in what would be his last feature film before the concert stage was calling again, Elvis starred as the character of Dr. John Carpenter. This film came along at a pivotal time for Elvis, Hollywood and the United States. "Change Of Habit" mentioned serious issues that are still relevant today - ethnic minorities, drug addiction, unwanted pregnancies, attempted rape and politics. There is more than the usual comic moment interjected to keep these dramatic plot points from becoming too heavy. There is no clear message or resolution to the problems it explores. In the end, no real statement has been made, but the existing social structure of the time is called into question. During the turbulent time of antiwar protests and a country’s waning trust in the government, director William Graham (who had at that time only done two movies) turned in a solid result with the big bonus that the movie is not structured around the soundtrack.



While Elvis is jamming "Rubberneckin" with a group of multi-racial teenagers, three Sisters change their habits for late '60s fashion and new coiffures. Their destination is, well wouldn't ya know it, the building where the rackety song rendition is being played. The Sisters meet Elvis and find out that he is Doctor John Carpenter. After assuming they have come from Park Avenue for abortions "All three of you? Just out of curiosity, was it the same guy?" he eventually understands they are new assistance to his free clinic on Washington Street, a inner city location of New York City. Here The Banker, a gangster in sunglasses who dives around in a big car, exploits the people for his own personal gain as well as the owner of the local Ajax Market, who shortchanges customers.

So what happens when three nuns decide to work incognito in this troubled area?

The local priest isn't any help for he has shut the doors of the church to the problems of the outside world. Sister Barbara uses her new identity to get men to help move furniture from the sidewalk in their new accommodation. Their neighbors think they are hookers.

Pretty young Desiree has a crush on Dr. Carpenter and is jealous of Sister Michelle, as she doesn’t know she’s a nun. Stuttering Julio Hernandez has a crush on Sister Michelle and attempts to rape her. Sister Barbara finds politics more important than religion and decides to leave the church to be a '60s activist. And two Black Panther members confront Sister Jane about her African-American origin.

And what about Doctor Carpenter?

He already has the street credibility that the nuns are seeking. The people trust him.

While renovating the apartment, dealing with The Banker who seems to be a "mob like character", treating an autistic child and a Sunday afternoon in the park with games and fun, John falls in love with Michelle, not yet knowing about her religious vocation. But as the movie comes to an end when he goes to her convent to propose marriage. "This place is not a prison. You can get a release, y'know." By this point Sister Jane has returned to the order and Sister Barbara has shaken off her habit. But what of Sister Michelle? She comes to hear Dr. Carpenter sing in church. As they eye each other the priest mutters "The Lord moves in mysterious ways." and the film ends.




 -Elvis whistles "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" walking down Washington Street.


-An instrumental version of the same song plays during the park scenes.


-The Street Fiesta is Saturday - August 5


- Diploma on the wall is to John M. Carpenter


-Elvis dressed like no other doctor before or since.


- He has a never before seen haircut.












-Wears a Memphis State Sweater during the touch football and park scenes.















-Gets to sing a gospel song in a church during the concluding scene.


-"Change Of Habit" is the movie element of the NBC deal.


-NBC co produced with Universal Pictures


-Billy Goldenberg, musical director of the 1968 Television Special, participated at Elvis request.


-Because of his own ambitions he later declined to accompany Elvis in Las Vegas.


-Work started on March 5, 1969 in Hollywood, California.


-Start of preproduction on Monday the 10th


-Principal photography began on Wednesday the 12th.


-Most of the movie and almost all of Elvis scenes were shot on Stage D at Universal City.



-Additional footage was filmed in and around Los Angeles.


-Sunday afternoon scenes at Griffith Park, Hollywood.


-Elvis is dismissed from work Tuesday 4/29/69.


-The name Carpenter carries associations of another "carpenter", also a "King" who helped heal the poor. "John Carpenter" also happens to be the name of the director of Halloween (1977) and "The Thing" (1983).


-Elvis frequently booked flights under this name to ensure privacy.




-He dubbed movie vocals alone in the studio for the last time ever.


-The film was originally to have been directed by Evangelist Billy Graham but for some reason he pulled out of the picture.






-Ms. Moore was between her gig on the "Dick Van Dyke Show" and her "Mary Tyler Moore Show".


-Appearance by Ed Asner as a police detective, one of the earliest pairings of the Moore-Asner team that made the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" a TV classic.


-Jane Elliot later starred as Tracy Quartermaine on the "General Hospital" TV show



Musical Soundtrack


"Change of Habit"

Written by Florence Kaye & Ben Weisman


Released on the RCA Camden LP Lets Be Friends (1970). Later on the Double Feature "Live A Little Love A Little/The Trouble With Girls/Change Of Habit/Charro" (1993).



Written by Corey Jones & Bunny Warren


Energetic rocker from the Memphis sessions with wailing horns, heavy bass and female backing. Released as a single with "Don't Cry Daddy" on the flip side (1969). Later on the LP's "Almost In Love" (1973) and "Double Dynamite" (1976). Also on the Double Features "Live A Little Love A Little/The Trouble With Girls/Change Of Habit/Charro" (1993), "Suspicious Minds" (1999), worldwide Single (2003 Remix) and the compilation album "Second To None" (2003)


"Have A Happy"

Written by Ben Weisman, Florence Kaye & Dolores Fuller


Released on the RCA Camden LP "Lets Be Friends" (1970). Later on the Double Feature "Live A Little Love A Little/The Trouble With Girls/Change Of Habit/Charro" (1993).


"Change Of Habit/Let Us Pray" (2 versions)

Arranged by Elvis Presley, Performed by Elvis Presley


Pop spiritual. Released on the LP "You'll Never Walk Alone" (1971). Later on "Live A Little Love A Little/The Trouble With Girls/Change Of Habit/Charro" (1993).


Recorded at Decca Recording Studios, Universal City, Los Angeles. March 1969


"Rubberneckin'" recorded at American Sound Studios, Memphis, TN January 1969.








Elvis Presley (vocals)

Dennis Budimer

Howard Roberts

Mike Deasy

Roger Kellaway (piano)

Robert Bain (guitars)

Mello Men (vocals)

Joe Mondragon (bass)

Carl O'Brien (drums)







Background Information:

In the late '60s Hollywood saw a turbulent time. Trapped in what appeared to be a never-ending downward spiral, many of the studios were in dire economic straits and were being bought up for the first time by large conglomerates. In many ways, Hollywood had lost its sense of identity, as the blockbuster formulas that had worked so well in the early '60s no longer held sway with the newly segmented youth generation and edgier, adult-themed foreign films and independent productions by

no-name upstarts like Mike Nichols (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?), Robert Altman (M*A*S*H), and Arthur Penn (Bonnie and Clyde) were hot at the box office. It was an era of growing pains, as Hollywood finally shifted away from its classical origins, arriving at the dawn of what would become known as "The New Hollywood."

By: Melanie Ley

Copyright 2003-2006