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Let's talk Elvis

I watched Elvis (2022) on DVD the other day and I remembered why I would never go to a theater to see it. It is waaayyyy tooo looonnnngggg! Two hours and 39 minutes. 


It’s actually not that bad if it didn’t wear you out. Unknown Austin Butler is just right as The King. (He does his own singing and dancing.) And Tom Hanks proves he can play despicable. I’m sure a lot of his fans love that much of Elvis, but it’s sort of like 10 pounds of chocolate all at once. Nevertheless, I have heard from Elvis fans wanting some guidance through his 30-plus movies. Not all of them are terrible. Just most. So here goes:


Elvis’ filmography is contained in 10 short years: 1957-1967. And in that time span, the studios frantically rushed to cash in on his popularity. The results are some truly awful movies and a few that aren’t so bad. 


I’ll begin with King Creole (1958). It is based on a Harold Robbins story, A Stone For Danny Fisher, and in addition to Elvis, it has Walter Matthau and Carolyn Jones. It is directed by Michael Curtiz (Casablanca) and was a commercial and critical success. Elvis later said his role as Danny Fisher was his favorite. Danny drops out of high school and works to support his family. They move to New Oreans and Danny winds up singing at the King Creole club. After several fight scenes and several songs, it all ends  pretty well. 


Flaming Star (1960) stars Elvis as the son of a Kiowa mother and a Texas rancher father. He happily works at the ranch until the Kiowa Indians start raiding settlers in the area. He is caught between two worlds and the film is about his determination to find his way between. At Elvis’ insistence, two of the four songs were cut from the film as he wanted to be taken more seriously as an actor. Though not a great commercial success by Elvis standards, the film was well received by most critics and audiences. 


Viva Las Vegas (1964) has Elvis as a Formula 1 race car driver intent on winning the Las Vegas Grand Prix but needing money to buy a new engine for his car. The beautiful and famous Ann-Margaret is on board as the love interest and there are 10 song and dance numbers to rev up the film. 


Jailhouse Rock (1957) was Elvis’ first film and one of his best. This film, together with his legendary appearance on the Ed Sullivan show (from the waist up!), sealed his place as the No. 1 rock and roll star of his time. OK, maybe all time! The movie stars Elvis and nobody else you ever heard of. It begins with him doing time for manslaughter and developing his singing and dancing. The famous scene in the prison was one of his best. The songs were recorded later and dubbed into the film. Elvis lip-synched them! 


Well, Elvis fans, it’s pretty much downhill from here. There are 27 more Elvis films and none of them are very good. All of the movies in this article are available on DVD. And all are fine for all ages.