Today (Jan. 8) is the birthday of the King of Rock ‘n Roll, old swivel-hips himself, Elvis Presley. If he were alive today he’d be in his mid-80’s. Wow. As a little girl I attended his movies, I think he churned out three a year back in the 60’s, with my older sister and my mom. Several generations of women swooning in a theater. Double wow, a sight never seen in this day and age. Despite his hip-swiveling, lip curling smile, those movies were family friendly – no cuss words, not even a hint at sex just mild smooching. There was lots of singing, sometimes some dancing, sometimes a fistfight or two, sometimes an auto race. More than a few took place in the beautiful state of Hawaii, a few in Las Vegas – the setting didn’t matter much since the movies were all about the singing and Elvis, for the most part, getting the girl. There were a few deviations from that theme “Love Me Tender” coming to mind immediately with “Change of Habit” hard on its heels. There were probably more – “Charro” for one --they all tend to blend a bit since there were so many similarities in the others.
Anyway, on Presley’s birthday I came home from work to find Elvis and the lovely Ann-Margret singing and dancing across the small screen in my living room. “Viva Las Vegas” finds Elvis needing money to fix his car so he can take part in an auto race. He lost his cash when A-M pushed him into a swimming pool so he’s forced to take a job as a waiter in a swank hotel to earn some coin. The pushing into the pool part was a sort of foreplay set to song. “The lady loves me, she just doesn’t know it yet.” There is much singing and dancing, an auto race and Elvis gets the girl with the wedding taking place in a Las Vegas chapel. Oh, the irony. Following that was “Spinout”, another race-type flick, with Elvis leading a band of free-wheeling musicians who are stopped in their tracks when spoiled rich girl Shelley Fabares wants them (him really) to sing for her birthday and daddy makes it happen by underhanded means. There are several girls gotten in this one, but Elvis escapes unscathed to romance another day, possibly with the band’s new drummer since the former got herself hitched to a police officer. Ah the plot lines.
It brought back memories. “Harum Scarum” with Elvis as some sort of sheik and the gal who played Mary Ann on “Gilligan’s Island” his love interest, that one weirded me out a bit. “Kissing Cousins”, where Elvis played twins, one blonde (his true hair color), one dark, one countrified, one citified, each get a girl in that silly romp. “Girls, Girls, Girls” is a Hawaiian treat that features some cute kiddos. “Blue Hawaii” has Elvis returning from military service to Hawaii, where his folks want him to become part of the family’s pineapple-growing business. He and his love interest have other plans. Lots of singing, a bit of intrigue and again, Elvis gets the girl. Those few and so many more, mostly fluff and Elvis singing, snapping that knee and those fingers. Good clean fun. I miss that.
It was a walk down Memory Lane for sure, watching those two flicks from a simpler time and remembering many others from back in the day. It left me a bit sad thinking how a talented young man who grew up poor in the south was marketed and molded, his talent traded on by those who were supposed to be attending to his interests with him in mind. (I’ll be interested to see how the very talented Tom Hanks plays Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis’ “handler” in an upcoming flick). Elvis’ return to TV special of, I believe 1968, maybe 1969, was truly phenomenal and showed off his myriad talents, not just the musical but the comedic as well. And while I wouldn’t expect him to be gyrating around the stage at age 85, just maybe there was more he could have contributed to the entertainment industry, or other areas, if he’d lived past the not so ripe young age of 42!
A favorite Elvis movie? Impossible. A favorite Elvis song? Just as tough. He spanned too many genres. I favor the gospel tunes and the fun-loving ones like “Teddy Bear” or “Hound Dog.” How ‘bout you?