Plot in Elvis Presley's "Follow That Dream"

by David Ferris

Elvis Presley wasn't just "The King of Rock 'n' Roll." He was also a movie star who took his larger-than-life stage presence and charisma to the silver screen. His ninth film, "Follow that Dream," debuted in 1962. In the film, Elvis plays Toby Kwimper, an itinerant wanderer who ends up in Florida with his family.


The Kwimper family consists of Pop, Toby (played by Elvis), and a handful of orphans. They wander from place to place until settling along a stretch of new highway. There, they open a fishing equipment store. Meanwhile, a social worker begins poking around the Kwimpers to see if the kids are being taken care of properly. She takes a liking to Toby, but he rebuffs her. In spite, she petitions a judge to remove custody of the children from Pop Kwimper. The movie culminates in a comic courtroom scene in which the Kwimpers triumph.

Male Leads

The film is anchored around male leads Presley and Arthur O'Connell. O'Connell plays Pop Kwimper. He is something of a good-natured swindler who tries to take advantage of government programs to help his foster family. As the patriarch of the family, he moves the plot along by keeping the Kwimpers literally on the move until they settle down in their adopted Florida home. He also handles a pair of bad-intentioned gamblers who try to take advantage of the family. Presley, in the role of Toby Kwimper, plays something of a foil to O'Connell's character. Toby is more sensible, and it is he who really helps keep the family afloat despite its adversity. For example, when the social worker begins interfering in the Kwimpers' home life, Elvis' character resists her romantic advances, and ultimately he helps the family win in court in the climactic scene.

Female Leads

Anne Helm plays Holly Jones, one of Toby's suitors and a rival of the female social worker. The character of Holly sweetens the film's plot by providing a love interest for Elvis' character Toby and a contrast to Alicia Claypoole. Alicia Claypoole, a self-serving social worker played by Joanna Moore, heightens the conflict of the narrative when her rejection by Toby results in her spiteful attempt to break up the Kwimper family. Appearing innocent at first, she becomes the main antagonist in the film.

"Pioneer, Go Home!"

The book on which the movie is based, Richard Powell's "Pioneer, Go Home!," has a similar plot. In the novel, the Kwimpers, who hail from New Jersey, try to set up shop along a Florida highway, claiming "squatters' rights." Mafia figures, "Big Gummint" and natural hazards test the family's ability to survive. Despite its serious themes, the book is satirical and injected with humor throughout.