'Fact vs. Fiction in the 2022 ELVIS Movie'
by Trina Young
Book Review by Nigel Patterson - July 2023
'Fact vs. Fiction in the 2022 ELVIS MOVIE: An Unauthorised Scene-by-Scene Analysis'
by Trina Young
Independently published, USA, 2023, Softcover, 211 pages, Illustrated (b&w), Notes, Selected Bibliography, About the Author, ISBN-13: 979-8399136974. Also available in Kindle format.
Reviewed by Nigel Patterson, July 2023
‘The art of compelling storytelling and filmmaking is in making the audience identify with the protagonist (Elvis) and to have someone to dislike, an antagonist (Colonel Parker).’
(From Chapter 5: The Legacy)
“Elvis was “not just another rock star. The things that happened in such a short lifetime are almost unimaginable.”
“In the film little of Elvis' inner life, the fire uniquely his, is communicated to the audience. It’s a film about a legend that keeps him just that: an idea, thrashing away at a distance.”
(From Chapter 3: Film critic for Vanity Fair, Richard Lawson)
Trina Young has previously written three books about Elvis: ELVIS: Behind the Legend; Elvis and The Beatles; and ELVIS: The Army Years Uncovered. Her latest Elvis book, Fact vs. Fiction in the 2022 Elvis Movie, is unusual in that it is a scene-by-scene analysis of reality and artistic license in Baz Luhrmann's visually and musically stunning film treatment of the Elvis story.
In her recent interview with EIN's Piers Beagley, Trina Young explained her reason for writing the book:
I believe most people understand that artistic license is necessary in a film to tell a person's life story in under 3 hours. If a movie covers a person's entire life from birth to death, people will probably assume it is a biopic. However, the label is not really important. In my opinion, it is not the fact that certain events or people in Presley's life were left out of the film. The issue for me is how significant are the things that were left out and how do they change the perception of Presley's history.
Readers familiar with Ms Young's earlier books will already know that she has a strong and effective writing style which elicits colorful imagery and challenges often long-held views on certain issues.
The book is well structured, the first three chapters covering:
- - The Backstory - a detailed record of the genesis for the film, discussions with Elvis Presley Enterprises and the Presley family, and surprisingly, the estrangement between Baz Luhrmann and Priscilla Presley during filming.
- - The Filming - including the global search for finding the "right" actor to play Elvis and the process for ensuring "every detail of the set was as historically accurate as possible”.
- - The Reception - the media and Presley family's reaction to the film and a very poignant account of the first time Austin Butler met Lisa Marie Presley.
Chapter 4 is the Scene-By-Scene Analysis and comprises two-thirds of the book.
A final chapter, The Legacy, assesses the influence of the film and other issues including a reflection on the portrayals of Elvis and Colonel Parker, awards (nominated and won) for ELVIS, and the truth of the four-hour Director's cut of the film. The latter includes:
By September 2022, Baz revealed how fans of the film were filling his social media accounts with comments demanding that he release the four-hour version.
“I think people are at my gates with pitchforks saying, ‘We want the four-hour version!’”
The scene-by-scene analysis
For the core section of the book, Ms Young rates each scene (numerically) based on four criteria. (Note that for each scene a film timestamp is included so the reader can easily find the relevant section.)
The “Truth” score is based on an average of the three factors: correct place, correct time and correct storyline.
The author provides narrative details for each of the last three criteria, the Storyline information often running to several pages.
For example (truncated excerpts):
SCENE 29 (39:09) – Elvis and Colonel Parker attend the rehearsal for The Steve Allen Show.
Truth score: 9.5/10
Place (10/10) – The scene matches actual photos of Elvis in the rehearsal room of The Steve Allen Show in New York City taken by photographer Alfred Wertheimer.
Time (10/10) – Elvis had a morning rehearsal for The Steve Allen Show on June 29, 1956.
Storyline (8.5/10) – The statement that Presley makes in the scene that he did not like being called “Elvis the Pelvis” is a true statement that Elvis said to a reporter on August 6, 1956 while backstage at his Lakeland, Florida concerts. (Storyline continues for another four paragraphs)
SCENE 48 (1:13:37) – Elvis meets director Steve Binder to discuss his upcoming TV special.
Truth score: 6.5/10
Place (2/10) – The film shows the meeting taking place at the Hollywood sign up in the hills of Los Angeles. However, the real meeting took place in Steve Binder’s office on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. But it makes for a very captivating scene!
Time (10/10) – The meeting took place in May 1968.
Storyline (7.5/10) – The scene shows that several people came to the meeting with Elvis….(Storyline continues for a further 1+ pages)
SCENE 76 (2:05:31) - Jerry tells Elvis that Colonel Parker was never going to set up an international tour because he can't leave the country.
Truth score: 3/10
Place (1/10) - This conversation never took place.
Time (1/10) - This conversation never took place.
Storyline (7/10) - In real life, Jerry Schilling did approach Colonel Parker about having Elvis tour overseas. As described in....(Storyline continues for a further 4.5 pages)
There is an overall tally of the scores and an overall rating for historical accuracy (truth). You will have to read the book to find out what these are.
As there are several scenes where the truth may never be known (predominately because the players involved are no longer alive), the author considers what we already know about people and incidents, in giving her view of what likely happened. Regarding SCENE 30:
Elvis performs on The Steve Allen Show with a basset hound and expresses his anger afterwards:
After the performance, the scene depicts Elvis and Scotty Moore expressing anger for the performance. However, it is highly doubtful that Scotty Moore would have openly expressed any frustration about this since he was quiet and reserved, and would have never complained to Elvis like that.
On the issue of artistic license in the film, Ms. Young quotes noted author, Alanna Nash:
"The [artistic] liberties are essentially fair - except to Parker. In making him such an antagonist, they have robbed him of his many accomplishments with his client."
In her interview with EIN, Ms. Young also commented:
The attention to detail throughout the film in wardrobe and scenery by Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin and their staff was incredible! Using "Trouble" was a great dramatic moment in the film. But the narrative that Elvis caused a riot and Colonel Parker ordered him off the stage bothered me. As Barbara Hearn said: "The concert at Russwood Park was absolutely nothing like it was portrayed in the movie - not even near accurate - and no awful riot as shown."
Sadly there are no fact vs fiction comparison photos included. While this is no doubt due to copyright issues a few inclusions would have been welcomed.
There is no question that reading the book benefits from being able to spool through a copy of the movie to check each section. However if you buy the book we suspect that you will already own a copy of the movie.
Fact vs. Fiction in the 2022 ELVIS Movie also contains a detailed Notes section - which is an excellent reference section with great sources for fact checking - plus Selected bibliography, and notes about the Author.
As most long-time fans realise, there are many factual inaccuracies in ELVIS. They range between minor details to major omissions and revisionist history. From the director’s viewpoint, all are convenient to allow flow in the storytelling. It is likely individual readers will have different views on the necessity and importance of various instances of Luhrmann’s narrative reinvention.
What else is in the book?
There is much information in the book that readers may not know or have forgotten. And given the context in which it is written, a scene-by-scene analysis of the film, it has a freshness often missing when reading a standard biography about Elvis. The eclectic range of information includes:
- where Elvis signed his contract with RCA;
- the issue of Gladys Presley and alcohol (Barbara Hearn Smith and Billy Smith's comments are especially interesting);
- the author’s view on why Elvis never left the Colonel;
- the dilemma of Elvis' global record sales;
- Austin Butler's surprising thoughts on what Elvis' “stares” looked like;
- Butler’s technique for mimicking Elvis’ on-stage movements;
- how many scenes are in ELVIS; and
- what Baz Luhrmann regards the film to be actually about.
Also, Austin Butler's preparation for his role as Elvis is fascinating, for instance:
"I lived right on the beach in Australia, and I'd walk down the beach for hours with a headphone in, laughing as Elvis...... So it looked like this man was just absolutely out of his mind. Surfers looking at me, going, 'what's happening?'"
As a lover of the film production process, I found this passage striking and illustrative of the amazing craftwork of Baz Luhrmann and his production team:
In February 2021, video footage shot from the air of the movie set in Australia started circulating on the internet. It showed four city blocks of Beale Street in Memphis recreated for the film which included detailed storefronts and buildings, and dozens of period cars.
One of the interesting questions raised in the book is whether ELVIS is too downbeat about Elvis? Elvis' cousin, Billy Smith had concerns about how Elvis was portrayed and offered advice to the younger generation:
“To see somebody that depressed and that controlled, to hear these people [the filmmakers] tell it, that’s not leaving much of an impression on young fans to me.”
"Don't take it that Elvis Presley was completely miserable or unhappy.”
About the impact of the Luhrmann film, the author includes:
The ELVIS movie, to a degree, has also revitalized Presley's reputation among mainstream culture. Angie Marchese, Vice President of Archives and Exhibits at Graceland, said the social media presence of Elvis has quadrupled since the movie came out. Hopefully, the new generation of fans will take it upon themselves to delve further into Presley's life and dig deeper into the history presented in the ELVIS film.
Fittingly, the author closes the narrative element of Fact vs. Fiction in the 2022 ELVIS Movie with words from Lisa Marie Presley, noting that they ‘seem all the more poignant after her untimely death’.
Verdict: For those (both fans and the general public) wanting to know the truth of Baz Luhrmann's ELVIS, Trina Young's book is a wonderful and informative read where her analysis of scenes often reveals interesting information about incidents in Elvis’ life and career. As most film treatments of historical and contemporary figures include exaggerations, erroneous information, and missing context, releases such as Fact vs. Fiction in the 2022 ELVIS Movie, set the record straight. It will be welcomed by readers wanting to know the real facts and serve as an important record for historical /archival purposes. There should be more releases like this one!
Comment on this review
Read Trina Young's fascinating interview with EIN
Visit Trina Young's official website, ElvisBiography.net, for more information.
Book Review by Nigel Patterson.
-Copyright EIN July 2023
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Copyright the Elvis Information Network.
Trina Young Interview 'Fact vs. Fiction in the ELVIS movie': Elvis expert and author Trina Young has recently published her new book 'Fact vs. Fiction in the 2022 ELVIS Movie: An Unauthorized Scene-by-Scene Analysis'.
Described as .. 'Out of respect for Elvis, this book clears up any misleading information or artistic license that may confuse people between what is shown in the film and what is true Elvis history. The purpose of this book is to offer a balanced side to the story.'
Having spent a lot of time recently explaining the true story-line of Elvis' amazing legacy to new fans - who have discovered ELVIS through the recent Luhrmann biopic- this book sounds fascinating.
After all, having been the most successful ELVIS movie of all-time getting down to the truth of the matter is pretty important.
EIN wanted to know more....
Piers Beagley asked Trina Young the probing questions...
(Book Review) Elvis The Army Years Uncovered (Trina Young): EIN thanks our good friend, Kees Mouwen (administrator of the best Elvis blog on the Internet....Elvis Day By Day), for allowing us to publish his informative review of Trina Young’s latest book.
Despite what some fans may think, Elvis’ Army years were eventful, full of interesting and sometimes sad, incidents.
Those two years in the Army were important in shaping Elvis as a person.
As Kees notes in his enlightening review, in her book, Trina Young “goes behind the superficial public relations story of Presley’s army years”.
Read Kees’ detailed review
(Book Review: Source: Kees Mouwen)
Trina Young talks to EIN: Music journalist, Trina Young’s latest Elvis book, Elvis: The Army Years Uncovered: Behind the Scenes of the Two Years That Changed The King of Rock and Roll's Life, is now available.
Trina recently took time out to speak with EIN’s Nigel Patterson about her new book, her earlier Elvis books, the concerning issue of plagiarism of her works, and more.
Read Trina’s full interview
(Interview, Source: ElvisInformationNetwork)
EIN 'ELVIS" Movie Spotlight: Baz Luhrmann's new biopic 'ELVIS' was finally released to the cinemas on June 24 2022.
It was as far back at May 2014 - eight years ago - that EIN first reported that fellow-Australian Baz Luhrmann had started working on his concept for a stunningly fabulous ELVIS movie. At the time there were plenty of skeptics that didn't believe that this Academy award-winning director of The Great Gatsby, Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet, Australia and Moulin Rouge could be interested in an ELVIS biopic but we were proved right.
In our in-depth spotlight EIN presents all the stories, interviews and drama that have accompanied this brilliant achievement since those early days of 2014.
|Baz Luhrmann ELVIS Sydney Premiere: The Sydney Premiere of Baz Luhrmann's ELVIS movie was presented in the glorious Sydney State Theatre where Luhrmann's first film 'Strictly Ballroom' was featured thirty years ago at the 1992 Sydney Film Festival.
The evening was part of Sydney's VIVID festival and before the actual Premiere, director Baz Luhrmann spent an hour in conversation discussing his life in movies as well as his thoughts on ELVIS.
The Sydney Media were out in force to celebrate the international cast of the movie, including Austin Butler, Tom Hanks and Australia's Olivia DeJonge, along with Director Baz Luhrmann.
EIN's Piers Beagley was lucky enough to be part of the ELVIS celebration - and who knew that his night would include an Elvis sing-a-long with Tom Hanks!
Go here for the Baz Luhrmann discussion and plenty of Premiere pics.
| (Spotlight) 'Elvis biopic and Agent Elvis – Revisionist History and Reinforcing Negative Stereotypes?': In a thought-provoking 3,000 word article, EIN’s Nigel Patterson examines the impact of Baz Luhrmann’s film 'ELVIS' and the adult-orientated animation, Agent Elvis.
Undoubtedly in any mass-media the dehumanisation of Elvis is a real issue but marketing the man has always been more concerned with the “mainstream” commodification of his name since mid-1950s.
So are these new millennium productions good or bad for how society views Elvis and which one will have the greatest impact?
.. Read the article... Now Updated with YOUR comments
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