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"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)



"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, a fundamental, primordial and unstoppable 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)


"It [rock & roll] was always about Elvis; not just because he was Elvis, but because he was the big star"

(Bono from U2)


"If they had let me on white radio stations back then, there never would have been an Elvis"

(Little Richard)


"Elvis loved opera, and he especially liked Mario Lanza. He would watch The Student Prince which was set in Heidelberg, over and over again. He loved the power of the big voices. And he loved big orchestras. He liked real dramatic things"

(Marty Lacker in 'Elvis and the Memphis Mafia')


"If life was fair, Elvis would be alive and all the impersonators would be dead"

(Johnny Carson)

Elvis' #1 Pop Singles on Cashbox, USA:

Heartbreak Hotel (1956)

Don't Be Cruel (1956)

Hound Dog (1956)

Love Me Tender (1956)

Too Much (1957)

All Shook Up (1957)

Teddy Bear (1957)

Jailhouse Rock (1957)

Don't (1958)

Stuck On You (1960)

It's Now Or Never (1960)

Are You Lonesome Tonight? (1960)

Surrender (1961)

Good Luck Charm (1962)

Return To Sender (1962)

In The Ghetto (1969)

Suspicious Minds (1969)

Burning Love (1972)

(The Cashbox chart is now defunct)

Elvis Facts:

Elvis was 5' 11" tall


Elvis' natural hair color was dark blond


Elvis' blood type was O Positive


Elvis' shoe size was 11D


One of Elvis'( maternal) ancestors, Morning White Dove (born 1800, died 1835), was a full-blooded Cherokee Indian


Elvis' uncle, Noah Presley, became Mayor of East Tupelo on January 7, 1936


The Presley family moved to Memphis on November 6, 1948


Elvis was issued a Social Security card in September 1950 with the # 409-52-2002


In 1954 some of the shows played by Elvis & The Blue Moon Boys were at the Overton Park Shell; the Bel-Air Club; Sleepy-Eyed John's Eagle's Nest Club and the Louisiana Hayride


Elvis' first manager was Scotty Moore, then Bob Neal, before signing with Colonel Tom Parker


The first DJ to play an Elvis record was Fred Cook (WREC), not Dewey Phillips (WHBQ). However, Dewey had the distinction of being the first DJ to play an Elvis record in its entirety


Elvis once dated famous stripper, Tempest Storm


Elvis was filmed from the waist up only during his 3rd and final appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show


In the 50s Elvis was friendly with rising stars, Natalie Wood, Robert Wagner and Ty (Bronco Lane) Hardin


Gladys Presley was 46 years old when she died, not 42, as many books suggest


The Roustabout album sold 450,000 copies on its initial release, 150,000 copies more than any of the preceding three soundtrack LPs. It was Elvis' last "soundtrack" album to reach #1 on the major album charts in the US


Elvis received $1m for filming Harum Scarum (aka Harum Holiday). The film grossed around $2m in the US


Elvis and Priscilla married on May 1, 1967


They were officially divorced on October 9, 1973


Elvis earns nearly $3.5m in 1968 and pays just over $1.4m in income tax


Elvis' return to live performing in Las Vegas on July 31, 1969 was in front of an "by invitation only" audience. Stars in attendance included Wayne Newton, Petula Clark, Shirley Bassey, Burt Bacharach and Angie Dickinson


On January 9, 1971, the national Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) announced Elvis as one of "The Top Ten Young Men of the Year". Elvis spoke at the official awards ceremony on January 16


"Elvis: Aloha From Hawai" made entertainment history on January 14, 1973, when it was beamed around the world by satellite. In the Philippines it drew 91% of the audience, in Hong Kong 70%. The viewing audience was estimated at more than 1 billion


For his 4 week Hilton Vegas season in August 1973 Elvis received $610,000

Sales of Elvis' 1973 album, Raised On Rock, were less than 200,000 units on its initial release


Elvis paid $2,959,000 in income tax in 1973


In December 1976 Elvis was sworn in as a special deputy sheriff of Shelby County (Memphis) by Sheriff Gene Barksdale


Elvis' final live concert was in Indianapolis on June 26, 1977

When Elvis died, he and his father Vernon, were embroiled in an FBI investigation called Operation Fountain Pen

More than 1,500 books have been published about The King in more than 30 languages


At Dec 2005 Elvis' biggest selling album in the US is the budget priced, Elvis' Christmas Album, with accredited sales of 9 million units (fingers crossed it reaches 10 million to give Elvis his first "Diamond" award)


By early2006, Sony BMG's "collectors label", Follow That Dream, had released more than 50 Elvis CDs


During the 1980s, tour guides at Graceland stated that Elvis' biggest selling album (globally) was Moody Blue, with sales exceeding 14 million


While Sony BMG estimates Elvis' global sales exceed 1 billion, the company is unable to substantiate this figure. Accredited sales worldwide are estimated to be less than 400 million
















































































































































































































































































'The Real Failure of Elvis' Movie Career'

- Harley Payette investigates what went wrong -

-By EIN contributor Harley Payette.

All Elvis' movies made profit. Amongst the music-travelogues were some strong dramatic roles demonstrating Elvis' acting potential. So what went wrong?

Is The Colonel to blame or did Elvis misunderstand the demands of the film industry?

Elvis expert Harley Payette investigates whether Elvis really could have been 'a contender'.

As Elvis' movies were an important part of my indoctrination into Elvis, they carry a little more weight and importance to me than they do to some fans and I think about them seriously from time to time. As with most Elvis fans, the question is always "What went wrong?" How was this potentially great talent, a definite great musical talent, squandered? Just on screen presence alone, Elvis could have been one of THE great stars.

While I think there were a variety of factors combined to derail Elvis' career, in retrospect I see one that more than anything kept him from achieving his goal to become a serious actor and possibly shortened his life: He gave up too soon.

In 1969 when Elvis made his last movie, he was only 34-years old. This is really an age when most actors are just beginning to find themselves. Burt Lancaster was 33, only a year younger than Elvis' movie retirement age, when he made his FIRST movie. John Wayne was 32 and a veteran of grade B to Z movie serials when John Ford cast him in "Stage Coach" in 1939. Before that movie, Wayne was held in even less esteem in industry circles than Elvis was in 1968/1969. Had Elvis remained in the ballgame, perhaps a director may have championed him as John Ford did Wayne.

It's true that Elvis got his first break in movies very early and had a long career by 1969. However, he was far from burned out as a movie commodity. Many, many stars have gone through the kind of dues paying period that Elvis' 60s movie time should have been. Anthony Quinn, for instance was a constant presence in movies in small parts in mostly exploitation movies from the late 1930s on. He kept hanging around though and looking for opportunities and eventually when he replaced Marlon Brando in "Streetcar" on Broadway, he was finally given the chance to be a real movie star by studio execs. A primary reason for this was persistence. By staying at the table, he eventually got a chance to show what he could do. 

A big difference between Elvis and these actors is that Elvis had another career to fall back upon as a singer and that career was wildly successful. It may have been too wildly successful too soon for Elvis to realize the way things worked in the industry.

The most obvious comparisons to Elvis as a movie actor are of course Sinatra and Crosby. It's significant that both Sinatra and Crosby went through significant dues paying periods within their movie careers. Crosby when he was 41 years old when he got his first serious break as an actor in "Going My Way" and Sinatra was 37 when he landed the part in "From Here to Eternity". Both like Elvis had been type cast for many, many years as light musical stars before finally winning a big dramatic chance. Crosby's career in movies almost 15 years old when "Going My Way" hit theaters.

The big difference between Elvis and Sinatra and Crosby in terms of persistence may have been the haste with which Elvis ascended to the top of the music industry. Both Sinatra and Crosby were in the industry for several years before they reached the top moving up gradually bit by bit, level by level. Elvis had one of the most meteoric rises in the pre-American Idol industry. From the time Elvis' recorded his first PROFESSIONAL record, it took him about 21 months to become the biggest musical artist in the entire industry. Even on the way up he had known mostly unparalleled success. Within hours of his first recording sensation, he was a local sensation.

And while many writers have often gone to pains to paint the Opry appearance as a failure, it should be remembered that Elvis was appearing at the Opry on the strength of a single 45. (Even weird old Uncle Albert found that amazing.) Most artists worked their lives away to get a spot on the show. Elvis was in the recording studio once and made it. Even when he flopped on the show, he immediately landed a spot on the very popular Louisiana Hayride.

Elvis was not used to show business failure or even the concept of paying his dues. And in some respects, this spoiled his movie career creating unrealistic expectations. He had no sense of perspective. If you think about it, it was very unreasonable for Elvis to think that he wouldn't sing in "Love Me Tender". Not only was he the hottest singer in the nation and signed in large part because of that fact, but as an actor he was an extremely unproven commodity. Not only would there be questions about whether or not he could act, there were legitimate questions as to whether he could even do something simple like remember his lines. This is not a slam at Elvis' intelligence. It's a reflection of the fact that Elvis had never even been in a high school play.

Eventually, Elvis' box office clout and the good work he did in movies like "King Creole" and "Follow That Dream" did earn him the right to ask for better. In some ways, it did come in "Flaming Star" and "Wild in the Country". Ultimately, these movies, for all their merit, had commercial and artistic flaws that made them false starts. However, Colonel Parker and Elvis should have realized that this was par for the course also. Wayne, for instance, was to have his big dramatic break in Raoul Walsh's "The Big Trail" almost ten years before "Stage Coach". It just wasn't the time however and the movie flopped and Wayne had to pay more dues. The relative failure of Elvis' dramatic turns meant the same for him. This is again where his lack of movie savvy comes back to hurt him. Had he had have more movie friends, he would have found that the modest box office PROFIT these two movies made was not bad for heavy movie drama. What Elvis didn't understand was that more chances would come if he hung around. 

This is where Elvis' refusal to socialize with the Hollywood set hurt him. While Elvis, somewhat admirably, probably thought of it as keeping allegiance with his class and old friends, it also kept him from learning about his new industry. Had Presley been in regular contact with industry figures, it would have been a chance for him to talk about acting and the industry. He would have known that much better about what to expect.

(Right: Elvis & Carolyn Jones on the set of 'King Creole' with producer Hal Wallis standing at back)

Millie Perkins told Peter Guralnick that what separated her from Elvis as an actor was the fact that she used her downtown as preparation for her role where Elvis used his for fun. Whether Ms. Perkins technique was valid or not is irrelevant. (Many of the great actors just hit the scene when they had to and went home.) But you can bet that the main reason that Elvis didn't use the technique was because he didn't know. 

I do feel that Elvis was serious in his way about becoming a good actor. You can hear it in the stories about him studying the great actors on the screen and trying to absorb their mechanisms. You can also hear it interviews with the man himself. It was important to him. If someone had exposed him to something that could have helped him realize that ambition, I think he would have used that. 

Perhaps Elvis' relatively easy defeat at the hands of Hollywood is an indication that it was not truly that important to him. I don't see that though.

I think in some ways part of the problem is that the movie industry is simply not that imaginative at its core. Typecasting has always been a huge issue because the industry underestimates the public's tastes. Even more when somebody breaks type, they do nothing to support it. Then when they come back chastened to type it's a cause for major celebration and publicity. I remember Julia Roberts in the mid-1990s made a string of quirky type movies. Many of them slipped under the radar and you had to really search them out. They were all commercial failures. They weren't what you would call great movies but their commercial failure was in large part due to the fact that they received little publicity. When Roberts came back to romantic comedy, the movie was excessively publicized. They let her make those odd movies but they only helped her when it came to their conventional fare. 

When Elvis said the industry's image of him was all wrong, I think he misunderstood the industry. To them everyone's a piece of meat. You have to stay around and LOOK for chances. 

While I do think that 1969 was way too early to quit, I don't think it was a bad time to take a break. No matter how much he always dreamed of being a movie star, he was musician before he was anything else. It was how he defined himself from his earliest days and in his most private moments. The need to be a musician, to make serious records, to tour and meet his public had to be satisfied. However, when that need was satiated I think movies could have played a part. After Aloha, that should have been the plan. Even more than a world tour,  I think a part in a really good movie with really good actors and a director would have provided that spark that was so often missing those final years. It could even have made his music career more exciting as absence makes the heart grow fonder.

I would be remiss if I did not point out that the other great killer in Elvis' movie career was Colonel Parker's management style. Parker hurt Elvis' options in not only his bottom line management style but also with the perverse aversion he had to any interesting projects proposed to Elvis like "West Side Story". If Frankie Avalon could land a part in the "Longest Day" or Bobby Darin could land a spot in "Captain Newman MD" with Gregory Peck and early Elvis hero Tony Curtis, Parker could have hooked Elvis a similar big fish. 
Exposure to a big time director could have invigorated Elvis. Working with Michael Curtiz in 1958 certainly did wonders for him. While Elvis worked with some good directors like Curtiz, Don Siegel, and Phil Karlson (I would add Peter Tewksbury as well) he never really worked with an actor's director like John Frankenheimer or Sidney Lumet. I think being exposed to their innovative style of working with actors could have invigorated Elvis. It could have been like learning music all over again. 

(Right: King Creole. Elvis with Walter Matthau)

What's more even though Elvis worked with many, many fine character actors like Burgess Meredith, Arthur O'Connell, and Jack Albertson, as well as some stars before their time like Walter Matthau, imagine if Elvis got to work with superstars like Peck or Wayne or Brando. Their presence would have done a lot to inspire the eager to please, eager to show 'em Elvis of the early days. 

It's debatable how much impact, Parker's management, finally had on this element of Elvis' movie career. If you look at Elvis' final films, Parker was seemingly open to allowing a greater diversity of roles. 

(Left: Elvis had the potential for the lead role in 1961's 'West Side Story' co-staring his friend Natalie Wood)


(Right: Elvis in 'Flaming Star' 1960)


Where Colonel Parker I think deserves the most blame is in either his lack of belief in Elvis, or the fact that he thought it better that some question remain about Elvis' artistic ability. Rock and roll to him and many of his generation was some sort of freak-show. Acting success carried a more legitimate cultural air of success. Perhaps Parker simply wanted the world to view Elvis as his creation. Were he a successful artist, it would make his contributions as a manager less. I propose this because of the fact that with the exception of FS and WITC and some of the later movies Parker killed nearly every  interesting idea to come Elvis' way from "Walk on the Wild Side" to "West Side Story" (above) to "Midnight Cowboy" to "A Star is Born".

(Elvis in 1969's 'Change Of Habit')

This is what in many ways is frustrating because in "Trouble With Girls", "Stay Away Joe", "Change of Habit" you can see Elvis start to grow as an actor. He's not all the way there yet but you can see him consciously working to create a sense of character outside of himself in all these parts. Coupled with a good director and the naturalistic emotionalism he showed in "Flaming Star" and "King Creole", the sense of danger and violence in nearly all his roles, he could have been something really interesting.


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

See related Book Review: Elvis Cinema & Popular Culture
See related Spotlight: Elvis vs Bing - Who is the King

Click to comment on this article.

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

Burning Love - a classic or self parody?

Elvis' Best movie performances

'Love Me Tender' Special Edition DVD review

Elvis' Musical Legacy, A Complete Body Of Work

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

Thoughts On Elvis in Vegas

The Schism Between Elvis' Stage & Studio work.

A Kick Upwards for Elvis' Movies

(Left: Elvis & The Colonel on the set of 'Stay Away Joe'. Did The Colonel care about anyting but profit?)


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

(Dr. Gary Enders)


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



"Eventually everybody has to die, except Elvis"

(humorist Dave Barry)


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

(Greil Marcus, "Dead Elvis")


"I think Elvis Presley will never be solved"

(Nick Tosches)


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

(Carl Perkins)


"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)


"When we were kids growing up in Liverpool, all we ever wanted was to be Elvis Presley"

(Sir Paul McCartney)


"You can't say enough good things about Elvis. He was one of a kind"

(Johnny Cash)


"And don't think for one moment he's just a passing fancy....he's got enough of it to keep him on top for a long time"

(R. Fred Arnold, Fury magazine, Aug 1957)


"It isn't enough to say that Elvis is kind to his parents, sends money home, and is the same unspoiled kid he was before all the commotion began. That still isn't a free ticket to behave like a sex maniac in public"

(Eddie Condon, Cosmopolitan)

Elvis records reaching #2 & #3 on the Cashbox Pop Singles chart:

#2: A Fool Such As I (1959)

#2: A Big Hunk Of Love (1959)

#3: Hard Headed Woman (1958)

#3: One Night (1958)

#3: (You're The Devil) In Disguise (1963)

Elvis Facts:

Tickets for Elvis' show on March 29, 1957 in St. Louis cost $2.00 to $2.50

While in Germany Elvis was hospitalised with tonsillitis in October 1959

Despite being an illegal immigrant, photographic evidence shows Colonel Tom Parker traveled to Canada with Elvis in 1957

Elvis strongly believed there weren't enough good songs in King Creole to justify releasing a soundtrack album. RCA initially agreed, releasing two very successful EPs from the movie. A soundtrack LP eventually followed

During the 1960s Elvis had his own football team, Elvis Presley Enterprises, which played in the Memphis touch football league. In the 1962 final, EPE narrowly lost to Delta Automatic Transmission, 6-13

In Clambake, (Elvis) Scott Hayward's driving licence shows February 23, 1940...taking 5 years off Elvis' real age

In the 1970s Elvis was offered $5m to stage a concert in front of the Pyramids in Egypt. When the Colonel declined the offer, Saudi billionaires raised the offer to $10m