Elvis Technicolor in Black & White
Jean Marie Pouzenc
Elvis My Happiness, EC, 2020, Hardcover, 294 pages, Illustrated, Bonus 10” LP and CD, ISBN-13: 978-295671261
Reviewed by Nigel Patterson, December 2020
Elvis didn’t incarnate almost supernatural heroes, he was you and he was all of us. He played an everyday guy, an ordinary character with a job....(Jean-Marie Pouzenc)
Jean-Marie Pouzenc, the founding president of the long running French fan club, Elvis My Happiness, has been writing high quality Elvis books for more than two decades. His latest deluxe coffee table release, Elvis Technicolor in Black & White, focusing on Elvis’ film career in France, does not disappoint. He is to be congratulated on his considered, informative and interesting narrative.
The Narrative: The first thing to note is that the text is bi-lingual – French and English, giving the book a wider appeal. The English language translation was done by Martin Davies and he has done a great job. Generally, the respective texts are presented on a mirroring page format. Each of the entries includes a film synopsis, production details, and reviews from the time.
The first two-thirds of the book focuses on two of Elvis’ most colorful films, Blue Hawaii and Fun In Acapulco. In considering these, Jean-Marie adds significantly more detailed background information on location filming, production staff, Elvis’ co-stars and the recording sessions. The final third looks at the remainder of Elvis’ film career in France, with each film given four pages of information and photos.
As the author recounts, not all of Elvis’ films were given a cinema screening in France. The films not shown were Tickle Me, Harum Scarum/Harem Holiday, Double Trouble, Clambake, Stay Away Joe, Live A Little Love A Little, The Trouble With Girls, and Change of Habit.
In framing Elvis’ film career, Jean-Marie defers to author, W.A. Harbinson, who wrote in his book, Elvis An Illustrated Biography:
What people want is a nice travelogue with songs and sexy films, nothing that can upset them. In short they want escape.
Regarding Elvis’ film career in France, Jean-Marie’s comments are incisive:
It’s interesting to observe that as early as 1956, reviews in France would systematically denigrate the King, and Elvis the actor received no more plaudits from reviewers than Elvis the singer.
Apart from that controversy, one thing at least is certain: Elvis definitely counted in France’s film world despite all the disparaging criticism and the attempts to ostracise him.
Throughout the book, there is plenty to discover and learn. Interesting, often obscure, stories are found on each page:
The cameras rolled for Fun in Acapulco on January 28, 1963, at Paramount Studios in Hollywood. Hal Wallis was again the producer, while Elvis was for the second time under the director Richard Thorpe, having already filmed Jailhouse Rock with him six years previously. During that first collaboration the two men got on famously and things weren’t any different this time. As Thorpe suggested, “A documentary about Elvis and his buddies should have been made because it would definitely have been an excellent comedy.”
We also learn of what appears to be an interesting 17 minute French documentary, Elvis Presley au cinema released in 2018 and produced by Jean-Luc Legier and Stephane Michaux. It is also likely that until Elvis Technicolor in Black & White, most non-French fans had not come across the Elvis film, Strip-Teaseuse Effarouchee (aka Girl Happy). Other French titles for Elvis’ films are similarly interesting, for instance L’Amour en Quatrieme Vitesse (Viva Las Vegas), Une Rousee qui Porte Bonheur (Frankie and Johnny), 3 Gars, 2 Filles et...1 Treor (Easy Come, Easy Go) and A Plein Tube (Speedway). Some titles are easier to work out, particularly Parais Hawaien and the most obvious one, Charro!
Also, who knew that the French movie DSS 117 (released in 2009) included a tribute to Fun in Acapulco and used images from that film? And hands up those who know who dubbed Elvis’ voice in the French language versions of his films. The answer is Michael Roux, and the author devotes a page to his interesting career.
The author’s thoughtful approach to his work is further evidenced in his consideration of Elvis reinventing his film career. He appropriately posits:
But in reality, was it possible for Elvis to belong to another category in films? He was a category, all of his own. One can have regrets that he missed out on offers to make films like Midnight Cowboy in 1969, or A Star is Born in 1976 with Barbra Streisand. But once again, would the public have followed him? Would spectators have accepted to see Elvis in the role of an individual with little to recommend him, or maybe a loser? The question remained unanswered.
The Visuals: Elvis Technicolor in Black & White features more than 1,000 images including several hundred rare or previously unpublished photos. There are also rare and interesting archival documents (posters, magazine and record covers, press ads, etc). They are quality images and blend well with the text to create a visually appealing look. Whether it is stills from the movie, publicity images or Elvis relaxing on the set between takes, the visuals please. The many highlights include:
- full page publicity still of a very handsome Elvis (p31)
- full page color publicity still of Elvis balanced on a surfboard with make believe (painted) ocean around him (p45)
- an interesting image of Elvis and Joan Blackman frolicking in the water in Hawaii juxtaposed with the two young Hawaiian children they have befriended (p51)
- full page reproduction of I’Dole d Acapulco film poster (p99)
- color image of Elvis dressed only in swimming trunks getting ready to do his cliff dive in Fun in Acapulco (p147)
- unusual long shot of Elvis and his co-stars filmed from up high (p167)
- full page long shot showing Elvis surrounded by production staff during the filming of Jailhouse Rock (p174)
- Elvis behind the camera on the set of Clambake (p271)
The last 12 pages of the book offer a wonderful collection of full color and intriguing Elvis film posters from Belgium with French, and one Flemish, titles. With names such as Le Cavalier du Crepsucule (Love Me Tender), Le Rock du Bagne (Jailhouse Rock), L'amour en Quatrième Vitesse (Viva Las Vegas) and Mic-Mac au Montana (Stay Away, Joe), they make for great viewing.
Unlike some Elvis books, which involve countless pages of repetitive images, Elvis Technicolor in Black & White offers the reader something new and interesting on each page.
Design: The sturdy hardback contains tightly bound quality gloss paper stock. The page design is strong, with good use of white space allowing both the narrative and visual elements to shine. The font size is easy on the eye and the images well placed.
Bonus extras: A 10” LP (securely housed in a pocket in the inside front cover) features eight eclectic tracks from We’re Gonna Move (from Love Me Tender) to King of the Whole Wide World (Kid Galahad). For vinyl collectors this is a real treat. The CD (inside back cover) offers an aurally pleasing selection of 29 film tracks (alternate takes 1956 to 1963) including Jailhouse Rock, Don’t Leave Me Now, King Creole, Black Star, Beach Boy Blues, Can’t Help Falling in Love (Blue Hawaii), Summer Kisses Winter Tears, Girls! Girls! Girls!, and the underrated Lonely Man (cut from Wild In the Country). There are also two “bonus” tracks....”solo” recordings of Let Me and Summer Kisses, Winter Tears.
Verdict: With its attractive design, thoughtful narrative and strong visual and aural elements, Elvis Technicolor in Black & White offers a wonderful reflection and important record of Elvis’ film career in France. It is a high quality release fans will appreciate - one that you will revisit time and time again.
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Book Review by Nigel Patterson.
-Copyright EIN December 2020
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Order Elvis Technicolor in Black & White
See below for EIN's exclusive interview with Jean-Marie Pouzenc,
Elvis My Happiness website
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Books by Jean-Marie Pouzenc:
Elvis Technicolor in Black & White
Elvis un homme, toute la musique (Elvis a man, all the music) – two volumes
Elvis in Paris (60 th Anniversary Edition)
50 ans avec Elvis (50 years with Elvis).
Le Jour ou Elvis a chante a Paris (novel)
Elvis a Paris
Elvis La discographie francaise
Jean-Marie Pouzenc Interview: Jean-Marie Pouzenc is one of Europe's most well-known identities in the Elvis fan world. He is the founder and long-time president of the celebrated Elvis My Happiness fan club and publishes one of the best Elvis magazines in the world.
Jean-Marie has also written a number of acclaimed Elvis books including his latest coffee table release, Elvis Technicolor in Black & White.
In this fascinating interview Jean-Marie Pouzenc, now 77 years old, discusses...
- How and when he became an Elvis fan
- What changes he has noticed in the Elvis world since 1956
- Elvis' popularity in France
- His new publication 'Elvis Technicolor in Black & White'
- Elvis in Paris
. . . . and much, much more
Go here - EIN's Nigel Patterson ask the questions