Change of Habit
Release Year: 1969
Director: William Graham
Writers: James Lee (screenplay), S.S. Schweitzer (screenplay), Eric Bercovici (screenplay), John Furia (story, as John Joseph), Richard Morris (story)
Starring: Elvis Presley, Mary Tyler Moore, Barbara McNair, Jane Elliot, Leora Dana, Ed Asner, Robert Emhardt, Regis Toomey
Three incognito nuns are sent to help doctor John Carpenter (Elvis Presley), who runs a free clinic in a rough neighbourhood. The sisters decide to do their bit to clean up the neighbourhood but at the same time one of them has begun to have feelings for doctor John.
The last film in Elvis Presley’s (King Creole, 1958) short but productive career is a sugar-sweet film about a good doctor and three undercover nuns cleaning up the ghetto. Presley as always brings his charm and a couple of catchy songs but is perhaps not the most convincing doctor. This is not so much his fault as the character is hardly very believable to begin and the moments in which he is on screen do sometimes feel a bit to much like a Hallmark TV movie. The three nuns lead by Mary Tyler Moore (Ordinary People, 1980) are feisty and fun and most importantly, remains true to their godly calling despite the ordinary lives their undercover assignment force them into and thus remain believable as nuns. The ghetto is filled with stereotypes, but not particularly offencive ones. They are more stereotypical of their times and gives the film a charming late 1960’s feel; from the black panther-esque brothers giving the black sister Irene (Barbara McNair) a hard time, over the nosy old ladies next door, to the sunglass-wearing smalltime gangster, the Banker (Robert Emhardt) who terrorises the neighbourhood. Speaking of sister Irene, she is feisty and brave, and absolutely wonderful, arguably the best of the bunch. Also worthy of mention is Ed Asner’s (Up, 2009) kind-hearted and good cop, Lt. Moretti. The plot is a bit contrived, and the cast of characters might be slightly stereotypical, but Change of Habit is a sweet and charming little film that will satisfy Elvis Presley fans and was a good, though hardly worthy, end to the king’s cinematic career.
NB: Trailer contains spoilers
Director William Graham said after making the film that Elvis Presley was the nicest man he had ever met.
Picture Copyright: Nordisk Film