Saturday, August 16, 2014

Elvis Presley: 5 films to watch on the 37th anniversary of his death

from latimes

Elvis Presley, who died on this date in 1977 at age 42, starred in 31 scripted motion pictures beginning with 1956's "Love Me Tender" and ending with a thud with 1969's "Change of Habit."

Because so many of his later films were so bad, including such turkeys as 1965's "Harum Scarum," 1966's "Frankie and Johnny" and 1969's "Charro!," Presley is often given short shrift as a film actor.

 'Elvis: That's The Way It Is'
'Elvis: That's The Way It Is'

Elvis Presley's last two films were concert documentaries -- 1970's "Elvis: That’s The Way It Is" (re-edited in 2001) and 1972's "Elvis on Tour." Both films show Presley at his full artistic maturity, highlighting the expansive, encompassing idea of American music that is inarguably his most...

'Viva Las Vegas'
"Viva Las Vegas" is the only Elvis movie that understands itself as being an "Elvis Movie." Directed by George Sidney, who also cast Ann-Margret, the star of his Elvis-parodying "Bye Bye Birdie," the film has a kicky self-awareness missing from any of Presley’s other pictures.

'Viva Las Vegas'
File photo
Presley with Ann-Marget in the 1964 film. Throughout the '60s, filming and soundtrack work often kept Presley from recording much additional music, so the main engine for his success began to slow.

'Kid Galahad'
Associated Press
This 1962 musical was a remake of a 1937 film of the same name. The conventional narrative of Presley's life begrudgingly allows for the Hollywood era, when he was making roughly three pictures a year from 1960 to 1969, as a necessary low to set the stage for his triumphant reemergence in music...

'Jailhouse Rock'
File photo
His last two films before entering the Army in 1958, "Jailhouse Rock" and "King Creole" (the latter said to be his favorite), go a long way toward making that goal a reality, ranking as his most complete and fulfilling efforts even among those who otherwise dismiss his work.
Though he never found the film that really stretched him as an actor, Presley acquitted himself quite nicely in several musicals and dramas working with such noted directors as Michael Curtiz ("King Creole"), Don Siegel ("Flaming Star"), George Sidney ("Viva Las Vegas"), Phil Karlson ("Blue Hawaii") and Philip Dunne ("Wild in the Country") and such performers as Barbara Stanwyck ("Roustabout"), Lizabeth Scott ("Lovin' You"), Mildred Dunnock ("Love Me Tender") and Walter Matthau ("King Creole").

To commemorate the anniversary of his death, why not revisit some of these Presley films?

"Love Me Tender" (1956)

This sentimental Civil War tale is far from a classic. And Presley certainly proved no threat to Marlon Brando. But it's worthwhile because the family drama was the young Presley's feature film debut.

Presley had been signed earlier by veteran producer Hal Wallis to a contract.  Wallis, who was at Paramount,  loaned Presley's services to 20th Century Fox for "Love Me Tender." It was the only time in his film career Presley received third billing. Four songs were added to the drama, including "Love Me Tender," which was a reworking of the Civil War song "Aura Lee." In fact, the tune was so popular after Presley sang it on "The Ed Sullivan Show" that the film was retitled from "The Reno Brothers" to "Love Me Tender."

Related: 5 Elvis Presley performances worth remembering
Randy Lewis

Some reviews were less than tender with Variety stating: "Appraising Presley as an actor, he ain't. Not that it makes much difference. There are four songs, and lotsa Presley wriggles thrown in for good measure."

"Jailhouse Rock" (1957)

Presley swiveled his hips over to MGM for one of his best flicks in a roll that was tailor-made to his strengths. Playing a bad boy with a heart, he sings, dances, spends time in prison, get to emote and even falls in love. And who can't resist such lines as "That ain't cheap tactics, honey. That's just the beast in me."


The film boasts a memorable score by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, including "(You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care," "Treat Me Nice" and the showstopping dance number "Jailhouse Rock." On a sad note, his costar Judy Tyler died in a car accident with her husband before the film opened. Veteran Richard Thorpe ("Ivanhoe") directed.

"King Creole" (1958)

Presley was drafted during the making of this musical drama based on the Harold Robbins' novel "A Stone for Danny Fisher." But the U.S. Army draft board gave him a 60-day extension.

Behind-the-scenes Clasic Hollywood | Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy
John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images
1928: Stan Laurel, with a blackened eye, and Oliver Hardy during a break in the filming of the silent short "The Finishing Touch," directed by Leo McCarey and Clyde Bruckman.

Deanna Durbin
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
1944: Canadian actress Deanna Durbin eating an early breakfast while sitting under a hairdryer on location for the filming of Universal's musical "Can't Help Singing."

George Sidney and Esther Williams
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
1955: Director George Sidney, left, wears a diving mask while directing American swimmer and actress Esther Williams on the set of his film "Jupiter's Darling." The cameraman is wearing scuba gear.

Ingrid Bergman
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
1948: Actress Ingrid Bergman sits next to the camera during a break in filming on the set of director Victor Fleming's film "Joan of Arc."

Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor
BIPS/Getty Images
February 1958: Montgomery Clift on location in Indiana with Elizabeth Taylor for the filming of "Raintree County."
Directed by "Casablanca" Oscar-winning director Curtiz, the film, set in New Orleans, finds him playing another troubled young man who is torn between two lovers — the virginal Dolores Hart (the actress later became a nun) and Carolyn Jones as a gangster's moll. Along the way he sings the title tune, "Hard Headed Woman" and "Trouble." Matthau and Dean Jagger also star.

"Viva Las Vegas" (1964)

This sprightly romantic comedy was Presley's best film since "Jailhouse Rock," and many of his fans think it is his final good one.  Directed by Sidney, who had helmed such classic musicals as 1945's "Anchors Aweigh" and the 1963 hit "Bye Bye Birdie," this film finds Presley turning on the charm as Lucky Jackson, a race car drive who has aspirations of winning the Las Vegas Grand Prix. Ann-Margret is perfectly cast as his love interest — they also had an off-camera romance — a swimming instructress name Rusty. Their sexy dance number "C'Mon Everybody" is the highlight of the film. Other songs include the zippy title tune, "What'd I Say" and even "The Yellow Rose of Texas."

"Elvis — That's The Way It Is" (1970)

Afer his final scripted film, Presley made two documentaries, including this well-received look at his summer apperance that year at the International Hotel in Las Vegas. Directed by Denis Sanders, the film was shot by Lucien Ballard, who used eight Panavision cameras to capture Presley in all his musical glory.

And in 2001, a new version produced by Rick Smidlin debuted on Turner Classic Movies that featured less documentary material and more performance footage.

Earlier this week, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment released Premium Digibook editions of "Elvis — That's The Way It Is" and "Viva Las Vegas." 

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

No comments:

Post a Comment