"Elvis Presley is the greatest cultural force in the 20th century."

(Leonard Bernstein)


"If you're an Elvis fan, no explanation is necessary; If you're not an Elvis fan, no explanation is possible."

(George Klein)


"For a dead man, Elvis Presley is awfully noisy."

(Professor Gilbert B. Rodman)


"History has him as this good old country boy, Elvis is about as country as Bono!"

(Jerry Schilling)


"Absolute id crashed into absolute superego...as the uptightset man in America shook hands with just about the loosest."

(Mark Feeney on the 'Elvis meets Nixon' meeting)


"Elvis is everywhere"

(Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper)


"...especially in the South, they talk about Elvis and Jesus in the same breath"

(Michael Ventura, LA Weekly)


"The image is one thing and the human being is another...it's very hard to live up to an image"


(Elvis Presley, Madison Square Garden press conference, 1972)


"Elvis was a major hero of mine. I was actually stupid enough to believe that having the same birthday as him actually meant something"

(David Bowie)


"No-one, but no-one, is his equal, or ever will be. He was, and is supreme"

(Mick Jagger)


"I wasn't just a fan, I was his brother...there'll never be another like that soul brother"

(Soul legend, James Brown)


"Before Elvis there was nothing!"

(John Lennon)


"There were rock 'n' roll records before Heartbreak Hotel, but this was the one that didn't just open the door…it literally blasted the door off its rusted, rotten, anachronistic hinges…. producing....no propelling...an unstoppable, fundamental and primordial shift in not only musical... but social, political and cultural history"

(JNP, BBC website)


"Elvis, the musician, is largely a relic belonging to the baby boomer generation...Elvis, the icon, is arguably one of the most potent symbols of popular culture"

( Dr. John Walker)

















































































































































































































































































'Elvis' Best Performances'

- In the Movies -

- Spotlight by Harley Payette

-EIN contributor Harley Payette selects his favourite Elvis dramatic movie performances.

Click here for Elvis June 2006 'Film Month' on EIN

Click here for EIN's 'Celluloid Elvis'

Click here for EIN's 'A Fan's Guide To Elvis Movies'

Could it be possible that Elvis, the actor, really created something special in movies such as 'The Trouble With Girls' or 'Follow That Dream'?


Elvis expert Harley Payette chooses his favourite eight Elvis dramatic performances and wonders where it all went wrong.

I have always said that Elvis could act. Maybe that dooms me to fanaticism but I believe there is a large element of truth to that belief. The performances I've listed below I think prove my contention.

These are I believe Elvis's strongest moments on film. These are not the eight best Elvis films in my opinion but his best acting performances.

1. "Follow That Dream" This one is always overlooked when critics jump to Elvis' defense because comedy is underrated. Elvis here is very funny. His portrayal is not at all broad and he does a terrific job of convincing us that he is something that he definitely was not- a country bumpkin. Even more though he has to convince that his character is not a complete fool and not letting his naievete overshadow some cunning instincts. Aided immeasurably by a fine script, Elvis also delivers a convincing dramatic monologue to climax the movie.

1962's 'Follow That Dream' & the drama of 1958 and 'King Creole'

2. "King Creole" A conventional choice perhaps but Elvis hits all of his lines convincingly and a broad range of emotion. There's a level of introspection in Elvis character and he brings a level of natural ease to the role that he doesn't have even in "Jailhouse Rock" where his line readings are erratic although he is very convincing. The angry edge of his character is very exciting here. The only debit is his James Dean knockoff on the boat ("I'm all mixed up.")

3. "Stay Away Joe" Lost in one of Elvis' all-time worst movies, Elvis' great performance is lost even amongst die hard fans. Elvis is completely animated in a performance filled with energy. Arguably, his most physical performance and a performance where his reactions are completely in the moment and in some ways innovative. I have often commented on the scene where Elvis lights a cigar and reaches into LQ Jones pocket for a match. It's a spontaneous gesture that tells you all need to know about the relationship between the two characters. This choice is something that comes either from the actor or the director not the script. Either way it's a level of realism that is not reflected in many movie performances. 

Overall Director Peter Tewksbury who did such a fine job on "Trouble with Girls" did a terrible job here. The decision to underline gags with goofy musical sound effects was disastrous. Also, Tewksbury's work with actors is off and on. Elvis, Katy Jurado, LQ Jones and Blondell are all terrific. Burgess Meredith though gives what is possibly the worst performance of his otherwise fine career. And the amateurs like Quentin Deand and Sonny West come off as amateurs. To be fair to Tewksbury, the script probably needed a few more tuneups before it hit the screen & nothing is really developed until the third act as the first two thirds of the movie consist of one long party.


Left, the drama of 'Flaming Star', versus the comedy of 'Stay Away, Joe'

4. "Flaming Star" This is the big one. Elvis is very exciting in a largely non-singing role. His facial expressions are marvelous, particularly the stunned look he gives at the general store when he is threatened by his former friend. He does many things right here. The dramatic monologue where he confesses his feelings towards the racism he has lived with for most of his life is flawless and heartrending. But the little touches are there as well, the slightly arched eyebrow when he tells his dad he didn't tell him about the new chief because he didn't ask. The trembling and nervous mumble when he tells the young girl he won't hurt her. And of course, his scenes of violent bravado, many stemming from his sense of inferiority.

This would be number one except for the fact that many of his scenes with the indians are marred by his stilted dialect as if he had to match their broken English. This may be a period flaw but it's a flaw nonetheless.

5. "The Trouble With Girls" This may be a surprising choice for some but I feel Elvis shows real growth here as an actor. To me it's one of my favorite performances because Elvis is trying to step outside himself and interpret the role in the way he would interpret a song. He's creating a character instead of occupying one and there's a real level of thoughtfulness in his portrayal. In many scenes he let's us see what's going on inside of the character's head. I especially like the scene where he pursues the murderress. He swings his arms with an air of false casualness, and his eyes are always on her reacting to her movements. There are several blink and you miss them gestures where Elvis is tipping us in on how his wheels are turning.
There is also one of my favorite bits of Elvis movie dialogue. Mason tells him about how she agrees with what he said about talent. Instead of saying "really" or agreeing or taking it as a compliment, Elvis asks "What'd I say?" This is a nice realistic touch in the screenplay.

I think Elvis' performance has suffered in the estimation of some fans because there are big dramatic scenes and Elvis is in the background for a large part of the movie. But he does well with what he has and I find it a very suggestive performance.


(Right: 'The Trouble With Girls')

6. "Wild in the Country" This one would rank higher but Clifford Odets' over the top speeches would wear down any actor. Still, Elvis is amazingly delicate, especially in his scenes with Hope Lange. I love the sly quality he brings to the scenes with Tuesday Weld and the guy who plays her father where he slowly reveals that he's a lot smarter than they think he is.

'Wild In The Country' left, & the iconic 'Jailhouse Rock'

7. "Jailhouse Rock" A few of his lines are tossed off but he is full of explosive charisma throughout the movie and it's probably his best expression of punk defiance on film. He is thoroughly convincing as a bad ass.

8. "Girl Happy" My final selection and another Elvis performance that gets dismissed because it was not a good movie. Elvis though is full of fun and is very expressive physically. Look at his reaction at Gary Crosby's question about why he cares so much about Shelly Fabares. Elvis has no dialogue and has to get it across with a look and does. Look at the genuine sense of fun he brings to the scene where he gets Romano kicked out of the hotel. Look at his stunned surprise when Harold J. Stone blows smoke in his face in the final scene.

My favorite though has to be his line readings in the scene where he's convincing Big Frank to send him and the boys down to Fort Lauderdale. "My father sent me down there... slight nervous pause- to bring my sister back." His timing is perfect.

It's actually the fact that "Girl Happy" is a bad movie that makes me put it ahead of other contenders like "Change of Habit" or "Loving You" as Elvis does something with nothing here. In those movies he had a semi-character to play. "Girl Happy" is fun to watch simply because Elvis engages us.

(Right: 'Girl Happy')

Click here for review of FTD Soundtrack 'Girl Happy'

Of course in other films there are also many great bits and signs that Elvis could have hit the mark as an actor. For instance in "Change of Habit" there's a scene I love where Elvis makes a quick come on to Mary Tyler Moore and gets rebuffed. He expresses his embarrassment by rapping his pen on the table. That's a nice little actor's bit.

Looking back at Elvis' film performances you have to wonder what happened to Hal Wallis between 1958 and 1960. In 1958, he cast Elvis in a gritty star-filled adaptation of a seedy novel. There was every reason to think he could be a musical James Dean. Two years later, he wanted a new Bing Crosby. Were "King Creole's" box office numbers that much of a drop-off from the first three films? The positive reviews alone should have been enough to merit more experiments. Perhaps he had negotiations with Parker about making Elvis the All-American Boy.

Parker must bear the ultimate blame though for Elvis' artistic demise. He was offered many, many interesting roles and Parker turned them all down including L&S's "Walk on the Wild Side" proposal (Elia Kazan and Bud Schulberg and an L&S score oh my gosh), "Midnight Cowboy", "West Side Story" and "The Defiant Ones".

Part of me thinks Parker wanted Elvis in bad movies because

A) He saw Elvis' public as cattle that wouldn't respond to a quality product or would respond equally to cheap junk as it would to quality

B) It made him look better as a manager.

After all if he was selling junk and it was selling big, he could take all the credit.


This Spotlight written by EIN contributor Harley Payette.
-Copyright, June 2006

Click to comment on this article.

Also check out Harley Payette's other fascinating spotlights.
Click here for . .

The Real Failure of Elvis' Movie Career

'Love Me Tender' Special Edition DVD review

'Blue Hawaii' the movie, an in-depth review

Elvis' Musical Legacy, A Complete Body Of Work

Elvis That's The Way It Is - the original vs the recut.

Burning Love - Classic or Parody?

The Schism Between Elvis' Stage & Studio work.

A Kick Upwards for Elvis' Movies

Thoughts On Elvis in Vegas


CD: One Night Only
Book: Elvis In Munich
"Charro" Film Review
FTD: Made In Memphis
CD: 'Hail To The King' (MOJO)
Magazine: MOJO
Book: Elvis Through My Eyes (Denson)
DVD: Love Me Tender (Special Edition)
CD: Inspirational (genre album)
CD: Elvis Country (genre album)
DVD: Kraig Parker - 50th Anniversary Tribute
CD: Pieces Of My Life
CD: Elvis rock
DVD: Behind the Scenes at the Seattle World's Fair
DVD: The TCB Gang - The Way It Was
Book: Inside Loving You
FTD: Loving You
FTD: Southern Nights
DVD: Colonel Parker
Film: Elvis Killed My Brother
FTD: Summer Festival
Book: The Year the Music Changed
DVD: Born To Rock
Book: Elvis Aaron Presley: A Candle In The Wind
FTD: Too Much Monkey Business
Book: Desert Storm
Book: Elvis On Stamps
Photobook: A Tribute To The King
DVD: Lilo & Stitch 2
FTD: Elvis Today
Concert: Elvis Leaves His Mark
Book: Elvis-UFO Connection
Book: Behind The Image Vol. 2
Book: Elvis on Screen
DVD: Elvis & Me
FTD: All Shook Up
FTD: Tickle Me
CD: Elvis by the Presleys
Book: Warman's Elvis Field Guide
DVD: Why Elvis?
Book: Dewey and Elvis
CD: Black & White Elvis
CD: All Shook Up
Book: Rough Guide to Elvis
FTD: Rockin' Across Texas
FTD: Elvis Is Back
TV Special: "Elvis by the Presleys"
Book: Elvis by the Presleys
CD: Tom Green
FTD: Big Boss Man
DVD: Elvis 1st, 2nd & 4ever
Elvis helps bring peace to Afghanistan
Elvis & Tupelo
Act Naturally: Elvis, the Beatles and "rocksploitation"
Is Elvis alive?: Major investigation identifies flaw in 'Elvis DNA findings'
"David vs. Goliath": Sid Shaw's legal battle with EPE
Elvis' blackest day on stage
Elvis' musical legacy - 'A Complete Body Of Work
The Best Elvis CDs, Books & DVDs ever released!
Tribute to Charlie Hodge
The Top 10 Elvis releases of 2005
Wilson Pickett & Elvis
Elvis That's The Way It Is: 1970 vs. 2001
Graceland 2005
Elvis and Las Vegas
The man who bought Elvis (Robert Sillerman)
Presley Commission Report
Mario Lanza meets Elvis
A Kick Upwards For Elvis' Movies
How Mario Lanza influenced Elvis
Enduring economic power of Elvis
Graceland - the ultimate bachelor pad
Elvis was not a racist!
The Definitive Elvis "blues" album
Elvis on The Creative Edge - Part 2 - The CD
The importance of being Elvis
Elvis rules on television! (updated August 2005)
Tribute to Elvis (16 August 2005)
Elvis in the 50s - Maxine Brown
Meeting Elvis & Priscilla
How & where to sell your Elvis collection
Welcome to Gulag Graceland
The King and I
Elvis vs. Jerry Lee Lewis
Elvis was a racist? (#1)
Elvis making a killing
Elvis & the treasure chest of blood money
Priscilla - "no angel"
Elvis in the 1970s
More on Elvis on TV
How did Elvis die?
Charlie Hodge talks to EIN
Kevan Budd (BMG)
Ernst Jorgensen on Elvis' record sales
Billy Smith (Part 2)
Billy Smith (Part 1)
Peter Hardy (star of 'Elvis Killed My Brother')
Ernst Jorgensen (Sirius Radio)
Lamar Fike (Part 2)
Bernard Lansky
Albert Wertheimer
Priscilla Presley
Marshall Terrill
Lisa Presley on Larry King Show
Tony Joe White
Stanley Oberst
Bud Glass (part 2)
Red & Sonny West
Ed Bonja (Part 2)
Ernst Jorgensen
Phil Aitcheson (Presley Commission)
Candlelight Vigil 2005
Elvis On Tour (Hampton Roads) footage
Elvis On Tour
Elvis photo gallery #1
Elvis Week 2005 Photo Archives
EPE's multimedia Elvis gallery
Graceland cam
Listen to the Elvis "strung out" in Vegas audio
The "Real" Elvis off-stage
Unreleased Elvis audio now online
View EPE Graceland tourism ads
View video of "All Shook Up" opening night on Broadway
All about Elvis
All about Elvis tribute artists
All about Lisa Presley
All about Graceland
Elvis books 2005-07
Elvis film guide
Elvis Online Virtual Library
Elvis Presley Research Forum
Elvis was a racist? (archives)
Elvis Week 2005
How & where do I sell my Elvis collection?
Links to Elvis' family & friends
Online Elvis Symposium
Sale of EPE "Archives"
6th Elvis Website Survey
Spotlight on The King
"Wikipedia" Elvis bio

Quote:"Elvis Presley is the supreme socio-cultural icon in the history of pop culture"

(Dr. Gary Enders)

Quote:" Elvis is the 'glue' which holds our society together....which subconciously gives our world meaning"


Quote:"Eventually everybody has to die, except Elvis"

(humorist Dave Barry)

Quote:"He is the "Big Bang", and the universe he detonated is still expanding, the pieces are still flying"

(Greil Marcus, "Dead Elvis")

Quote:"I think Elvis Presley will never be solved"

(Nick Tosches)

Quote:"He was the most popular man that ever walked on this planet since Christ himself was here"

(Carl Perkins)

Quote:"When I first heard Elvis' voice I just knew I wasn't going to work for anybody...hearing him for the first time was like busting out of jail"

(Bob Dylan)

Quote:"When we were kids growing up in Liverpool, all we ever wanted was to be Elvis Presley"(Sir Paul McCartney)