A Tribute to Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley was a legend among his fans, who adored his singing and loved his movies. Music critics consider him the king of rock and roll, while film critics are less kind in regard to his acting. But with his powerful presence and obvious talent, he could have been a great actor, had he been given the opportunity. We’ll never know, of course, since he died on August 16, 1977.
I’ll leave it to others (see Part II) to describe Presley’s early years and his achievement of the pinnacle of musical fame. My primary concern here is with Elvis the actor. Born January 8, 1935, Elvis was already a rock star when he appeared in his first film, Love Me Tender (1956). He actually showed some promise as an actor. That film was followed by Loving You and Jailhouse Rock (both 1957), King Creole (1958) andFlaming Star (1960). Jailhouse Rock and King Creole are generally considered his best work by critics, though he was never nominated for any acting awards.
His service in the military was much-mourned at first and much-celebrated after, but when he came back from the service, his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, got together with the studio brass and made sure all the movies he made from then on were focused on making money rather than honing his acting craft.
While initial films such as G.I. Blues (1960), Blue Hawaii (1961), Viva Las Vegas (1964), and Roustabout (1964) did very well at the box office, attempts to duplicate their success only succeeded in eroding his image among critics and fans who weren’t Presley fanatics. It seemed to be the same thing, over and over, something that Presley’s own comments suggest he was quite aware of. Reportedly he wanted to fire Parker, but could never bring himself to do it in person. His movie career abruptly came to an end in 1969, after which he focused on his famous comeback as a live performer which began with a 1968 TV special. He had appeared in 32 theatrical films.
The final blow to his movie career probably came in 1976, when Col. Parker made him turn down the lead in the Barbra Streisand remake of A Star Is Born. Presley died of a heart attack the following year, most probably as a result of his drug use.
There are dozens and dozens of Web sites devoted to Elvis, but I have tried to focus primarily on Web content related to his film career. You’ll find it all in Parts II through IV.
Part I: Introduction
Part III: Movie Reviews & Where to Find His Movies
Part IV: Posters