Let’s Talk About Elvis
August 2022 Issue
Reel Corner by Donne Paine
Let’s Talk About Elvis
Whether you think of Elvis Presley as the young, energetic singer with the dynamic good looks and gyrating hips that shook the music world in the 1950s, or the more mature Elvis with the long sideburns and sequined jumpsuits who performed regularly in Las Vegas, his career spanned decades. Music fans around the world were devastated by news of his death on August 16, 1977.
And yet, 45 years later, the man with the voice and style remains the King of Rock and Roll. Millions around the world still buy his music and hundreds of thousands visit Graceland every year to see where he lived, died and is buried. How has he stayed so deeply ingrained in our hearts, minds and culture, so many years after his passing?
Some say he not only changed the music scene, but directed the course of both popular music and popular culture of the ‘50s. The young man from Tupelo, Mississippi, burst onto the national scene in 1956 with a style all his own. He moved, looked and danced like no one else before him.
Unlike the mega-stars of today, who have managers, choreographers, stylists and people who are assigned for every aspect of what they do, Elvis largely made himself. It was his ideas for what he wore in Vegas, it was his ideas for the music and the moves. All of that creativity and explosive energy came from Elvis, even though he wrote very little of his own music.
Elvis made over 30 films, and 15 films have been made about him, including the current ELVIS at theaters today.
Austin Butler, Tom Hanks | Directed: Baz Luhrmann
ELVIS is a 2022 biographical musical film that follows the life of rock and roll icon singer, actor Elvis Presley and is told from the perspective of his long-time manager Colonel Tom Parker. Nursing a gambling addiction that has left him destitute, Parker looks back on how he first met the future King of Rock and Roll.
Raised mostly by doting mother Gladys, Elvis spent his childhood in the poorest parts of Mississippi. He found an escape in comic books and song, and had a fascination with the African American music of the times, mainly gospel and blues. Parker, a carnival huckster and agent for another country singer, immediately realizes Elvis’ crossover potential when he hears the artist in his words “singing black.” He tracks Elvis to a Louisiana performance, finding that he is not only a talented musician, but also has magnetic sex appeal. Parker persuades Elvis to let him take exclusive control of his career, beginning a meteoric ascent that sees the Presley family lifted out of poverty.
At that time in the South, ordinary Americans were divided as to their opinions on the singer, with conservative-minded citizens worried that his music would corrupt their children and calm racial hostility. After Elvis’ charged dance moves at a concert result in a threat of an arrest for indecent conduct, the singer finds himself facing a possible jail term. It is implied that Parker persuades the government to draft Elvis into the US Army as a way of avoiding any further legal entanglements.
Austin Butler did a great job as Elvis, beating out Harry Styles and several other notables for the role. Unfortunately, Tom Hanks disappointed…he just wasn’t that convincing as the villain Colonel Parker. Tom is just too nice!
ELVIS is another example of an incredibly talented artist, taken advantage of because of his vulnerability. There are many apparent villains who added to his early demise: the con artist Colonel Parker, Elvis’ weak father and financial manager, the unscrupulous doctor who inflated him with any and everything to get him on stage and his entourage that he supported financially. No one stepped in. The film is worth seeing but be prepared for the bloated, sweat-drenched, real footage of this beautifully talented artist’s last concert. Very sad indeed.
Elvis had recorded over 600 songs in his career and his style was so unique he is perhaps impersonated more than anyone on the planet. He broke down barriers that paved the way for future rock and rollers and lived one hell of a life in the process. There’s been no one like him before or since. Long live the King!
References: www.forbes.com, www.wiwpedia.com, www.rogerebert.com
Donne Paine, film enthusiast, once lived around the corner from the Orson Welles Theater in Cambridge Massachusetts, where her strong interest in films, especially independent ones, began. Supporter of the arts, especially films, she travels to local and national film festivals, including Sundance, Toronto and Tribeca. There is nothing like seeing a film on the big screen. She encourages film-goers to support Hilton Head local theaters; Coligny Theater, Park Plaza Theater and Northridge. To support her habit of frequent movie going, Donne is a travel medicine nurse consultant. See you at the movies!