Did Elvis Meet His Acting Potential?
Larry Geller, who was Elvis’ hair stylist and ultimately considered one of his closest friends and spiritual advisor wrote of Tom Parker, “that under his brilliant, skillful, cunning guidance, his one and only client, Elvis reached unimaginable heights. Elvis considered him a genius.” Geller also contended that while Elvis appreciated the financial success Parker secured them, he felt “trapped” by Parker’s Hollywood decisions. A Career-Making Role
One of the clearest examples of Parker’s ironclad dominance was regarding the film, “Bus Stop,” co-starring Marilyn Monroe. Marlon Brando had originally been cast for the male lead role, but when he changed his mind, Elvis was offered the part. Darwin Porter wrote in “Brando Unzipped”,
“It could have been a career-making move in Hollywood for Elvis. Many producers salivated at the prospect of Elvis and Marilyn Monroe in the same movie. However, his manager turned down the juicy role, preferring Elvis to remain in the exploitation films he selected for him.” Shattering Stereotypes
It appears that movie making was the most frustrating part of Elvis’ career. Lee Strassberg, the famous coach of James Dean, Marlon Brando, and many other celebrated talents of stage and screen told colleagues, “Elvis was a great talent going to waste.”
Geller also wrote, “…that while the music business had great respect for him and his talent, the rest of the industry saw him as uneducated and unsophisticated, nothing but a teen idol who got lucky.”
Elvis was quoted as saying, “I know I can be a great actor. It’s in me. All they have to do is give me a chance. Just give me a chance.”
PS. thanks to ZipAdz for the great Elvis write up.
Elvis Presley’s Movies
Elvis Presley acted in 31 films during his career. His manager Tom Parker, “The Colonel,” as he wanted to be called, was also known as “the master deal maker” who held very tight reins on Elvis’ filmmaking.
Elvis Presley signed his first film contract for a western drama in 1956 at Paramount. Initially titled “The Reno Brothers,” the producers changed the film title to “Love Me Tender,” because one of the songs recorded for the film had advanced sales that surpassed a million copies! The producers decided to take advantage of the publicity the hit single created. His Favorite Film
Of all his movies, Elvis liked “Blue Hawaii” the best maybe because he loved vacationing in Hawaii, possibly because it was his biggest commercial success, perhaps because the soundtrack of romantic tropical music spent 20 weeks as the number one album on Billboard and 14 of his songs were featured in the film. Alternatively, maybe because his beautiful co-star Joan Blackman dated him when he first arrived in Hollywood!
Made in 1961, it was directed by Norman Taurog, who directed nine Presley films. During that time, Taurog told the star that he saw “the emergence of a more professional Elvis.” Moreover, Elvis told a roomful of co-workers that Taurog gave him the biggest compliment of his life when he said I was “tapping into my potential.”
Parker negotiated with Hollywood producers to make Elvis the highest paid actor. Whereas other top actors were paid $1 million, Elvis earned $2 million plus 50% of profits!
As a child, Elvis had pictured himself as a movie star on the big screen, and his visualizations came true: fans couldn’t get enough of him!
Ultimately, Elvis missed the energy of his audiences during live performances, so he made his last film, “Change of Habit” in 1969.
Elvis Presley has a “Hall of Gold” at Graceland, which is actually an 80 foot long narrow room with almost overwhelming evidence of his professional accomplishments: Gold albums, platinum records, awards in several genres of music and achievements of his financially successful movie career. This golden hall is open to visitors at Graceland and also holds many international awards from musical organizations in such diverse countries as Australia, Canada, Norway and Yugoslavia!
In addition to the recognition from professional associations, Elvis sold millions of singles and albums, demonstrating he was a favorite of fans as well as people in the music industry.
Presley also earned numerous Grammy nominations including for “A Big Hunk of Love,” “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” “Blue Hawaii,” “Fool Such as I,” “GI Blues,” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” And he was nominated in such a wide diversity of categories such as Country, Best Performance by a Pop Artist, Best Vocal, Record of the Year, Best Soundtrack Album or Recording of Original Cast from Motion Picture or Television, Record of the Year, Best Sacred Performance and Best Sacred Performance!
However, there were only three Grammy awards he was bestowed and all three were for his Gospel music!
In 1967, his rendition of “How Great Thou Art” received a Grammy for Best Sacred Performance.
In 1972, he won again for Best Inspirational Performance for the hymn, “He Touched Me.”
And in 1974, he earned another Grammy for Best Inspirational Performance for “How Great Thou Art.”
Elvis Presley’s mother Gladys Love Smith was born in Mississippi on April 25, 1912. She was 21 when she eloped to marry Vernon Elvis Presley, who was only 17 and legally underage. Elaine Dundy, the author of Elvis and Gladys, wrote
“impetuosity and impulsiveness played a large part in Gladys’ makeup. She knew nothing of half measure, nor was there anything half hearted or self-protective about her.”
His Mother Was His “Number One Girl.”
Alanna Nash, one of Elvis’ biographers, wrote that he was “overly attached to his mother…” However, compelling conditions seemed to have pulled them together. His twin was still born. He and his mother were both in critical condition after his birth. She suffered from hemorrhaging, had to stay in the hospital for three weeks and was never able to conceive again. This may have led her to being overly protective and never letting Elvis out of her sight. Whatever the reason, Elvis Presley declared that is mother was his “number one girl” (in The Memphis Press Scimitar).
Poverty dominated the family in numerous ways: his father held many low-paying jobs; not being able to afford two beds, Elvis slept with his mother into his teen years; his father got arrested; they lost their home; and experienced more tragedies.
During the beginning of his career he called his mother every day. She refused to attend his concerts because she disdained how the teen girls threw their arms around her son. With his early earnings, Elvis bought his mother a pink Cadillac and the mansion Graceland for his parents to live in.
Gladys started to get sick just as his career was taking off. Her health worsened after he was drafted into the Army. On the eve of being dispatched to Germany, Elvis fought to get to visit his dying mother.
On August 14, 1958, Gladys passed at the age of 46. Both her husband and son were with her and became inconsolable – for days. At her gravesite, Elvis cried out “Good bye, Darling, good bye. I love you so much. You know how much I lived my whole life just for you.” Elvis was 22 when his mother died. Many close to him said that he never recovered.
Most American families in the 1950s sat around the television set on Sunday nights waiting for The Ed Sullivan Show. However, Americans almost did not get to see Elvis on that star-making stage!
After Elvis Presley’s first television appearance on The Milton Berle Show, American parents and conservative ministers were shocked by what they saw him do! Ranging from ecstatic delight to outright condemnation for being the “work of the devil,” the response to Elvis’s dance was never wishy-washy. Ultimately, Ed Sullivan made a wise business decision and invited Elvis, but ordered cameras not to film below his waist! Ed would roll over in his grave if he saw today’s music videos!
Elvis Was a Natural!
Due to his unique dance style, he was dubbed “Mr. Pelvis” and some called it “sensuous.” But his dance wasn’t his only endearing quality: He had that charming Southern drawl, that emotional voice that covered three octaves and his chiseled good looks! His boyish looks barely masked his manly sexuality.
He also had a natural instinct for connecting to his audience, taking command of any stage he occupied! In later years, he got lucrative deals in Las Vegas and started sporting his trademark sparkling skin-tight custom-designed outfits!
Has Truly Elvis Left the House?
Like Chubby Checker before him, Elvis broke boundaries of what rock and roll could look and sound like. They both changed the world of rock in a way that the clock could not turn back!
Is this why there are so many Elvis impersonators? Is it because Americans still aren’t ready to release the “King of Rock and Roll” to the realm of memories only?