Thursday, August 13, 2009

Them Dang Elvis Pitchers

I stlll remember seeing Love Me Tender in a teen-packed theater on a Saturday afternoon. I wasn't quite sure why but I was embarrassed by most of it. I guess I thought Elvis was best heard not seen. I never got over that feeling. No matter what his screen role he was always ELVIS to me and I didn't like that. I had the same feeling with Dean Martin. I always had the sense that Martin was spoofing the crooner style and spoofing the acting style. Elvis didn't spoof acting but to me he was always self-conscious, as if he too was well aware he was ELVIS.

Now part of his difficulties was with most of the scripts the Colonel chose for him. In the seventies writer Dan Greenberg worked on an Elvis picture and wrote about the chore in Esquire. I remember him writing that the first act was plotted by the Colonel himself--he wanted two songs and a fight in the first act and so on. Apparently the Colonel had the final say on every picture. Songwriters Leiber and Stoller were approached at a NYC party once by Elia Kazan who asked them if they could arrange a meeting with Elvis. Kazan (I'm paraphrasing all this) said he thought Elvis could be a serious actor given the right screenplay and a good director. Leiber and Stoller went to the Colonel. They were excited. Elia Kazan! The Colonel told them that if they ever let Elvis know about this he'd see that they never worked in show business again, which was bullshit. They were much bigger stars than the Colonel. The Colonel wanted total control of his cash cow and he'd never get it with Kazan. Elvis was never told. Would've been interesting, though, with Kazan.

Today The Tainted Archive is running an interesting piece on Elvis movies:

"In 1956 Elvis himself told reporters that acting was his greatest ambition and that all his life he had wanted to be an actor, like his idols, Tony Curtis and James Dean.

"In fact much has been made of the young Elvis’ love of roots blues music and of him lugging a guitar about at Humes High School in Memphis, it was by Elvis’ own admission that as a child he dreamed of being Tony Curtis. He also claimed that when he became a cinema usher in 1951 it was not only for the much-needed money but also to see all the movies for free. Childhood friends of Elvis have said that the young singer was a huge fan of Rudolph Valentino who actually died some nine years before Elvis was born. Billy Smith, a cousin of Elvis’, said that the young Presley was fascinated with the way Valentino projected so many emotions with his eyes. And of course the teenage Elvis modelled his hairstyle on that of Tony Curtis. "

For the rest go here:


Anonymous said...

The freakin' SONG was even embarrassing, Ed! It was the first time I had an inkling of the concept of an artist selling out! We used to run around imitating him; "Vance! I thought you was dead!" Years later I read "Mystery Train" and I understood...
Terry Butler

RJR said...

I always thought--stilldo--that Dean martin was great in westerns--especially as the heavy in Rought Night in Jericho.


MP said...

I'll have to agree with RJR about Martin. Elvis had 2-3 great years at the beginning, but after that he was just a very lucrative joke, especially the movies. But Martin could really act, and not just in westerns. Watch him as the gambler 'Bama in "Some Came Running" from the James Jones novel. Good movie, excellent performance. It shows up pretty regularly on TCM and is available on DVD.

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Anonymous said...

Dean Martin was oddly powerful in Rio Bravo, and he wasn't spoofing anything.