Next month, TCM has scheduled an Elvis Presley Day as part of Summer Under the Stars. On August 16, which is the anniversary of Presley’s death and the high point of Elvis Presley Week in Memphis, TCM will air 14 of the King’s films. This represents almost half of his 33-film career. One of the selections is a documentary (Elvis on Tour); another is a signature film that includes some of his best songs (Jailhouse Rock); some films represent the best of his musical comedies (Viva, Las Vegas; Girl Happy); others are prime examples of those much-maligned “Presley Travelogues” (Harum Scarum; Double Trouble; Speedway; Spinout; and more.)
Elvis’s movies are brutally criticized especially by rock ‘n’ roll historians who still blame his film career for his shift to pop music. And, many biographers and pop culture historians are convinced that if it weren’t for Colonel Tom Parker, then Presley would have been a really good actor. These are the most prevalent perspectives on his movie career, and these two (mis)assumptions or over-simplifications tend to overshadow any fun facts, unusual aspects, or noteworthy observations about his decade in Hollywood. In my years of writing about Elvis Presley, I have collected hundreds of newspaper, fanzine, and magazine articles that chronicle his career as it unfolded. These articles are filled with tasty tidbits, ridiculous opinions by columnists, humorous quotes by actors and celebrities, and insight into how popular movies were promoted in another era. To celebrate Elvis Presley Day, I offer a two-part series: Today’s post is devoted to titillating and tantalizing tidbits; next week, I will offer quotes, opinions, and perspectives on Elvis from columnists, reviewers, and stars.