January 8th is the combined marking of Elvis Presley’s birthday and the Battle of New Orleans, in which General Andrew Jackson and French Pirate Jean Lafitte defeated the British in the final battle of the War of 1812.
In the past Balladeer’s Blog has observed this date with looks at the musical Rock ‘N’ Roll vs The Red Coats and with an article on the whole Orion/Elvis situation. This time I’m taking a quick look at some early Elvis movies.
LOVE ME TENDER (1956) – Elvis was the latest reason that the saga of the Reno Gang/ Reno Brothers got distorted on the big screen. The need to turn the Reno story into a vehicle for Elvis Presley made this attempt the most unintentionally funny of them all.
Favorite Part: A scene between Elvis, playing Clint Reno, and Richard Egan, playing Vance Reno. Despite the fact that the long-missing Vance was given up for dead and Elvis married his mourning girlfriend in the meantime the Side-Burned One actually asks “What’s troublin’ you, Vance?” That question has been a catch-phrase for me ever since I first saw this flick on late-night tv.
Favorite Weirdass Song: Let Me
LOVING YOU (1957) – Elvis on the big screen with his mother before she died and with Wendell Corey in the days before he sounded like a slurring drunk all the time. Elvis supposedly never watched Loving You again because he found it too sad to see his mother in the flick. Instead he devoted the rest of his life to trying to weigh as much as she did.
Favorite Part: I sincerely like Elvis’ arrival in this movie. Nothing to make fun of, you just get a feel for that Memphis Flash charisma … then he ruins it all by starting to talk.
Favorite Weirdass Song: Dancing on a Dare (You can insert your own “Acting on a dare” joke here.)
JAILHOUSE ROCK (1957) – The inspiration for The Shawshank Redemption. I’m kidding! Elvis portrays a badass ex-con who strikes out as a straight-up country singer so he switches to rock ‘n’ roll and becomes a sensation. Presley shares the screen with Judy Tyler, who was required by law to appear in teen or rock-oriented movies in the 50s. (Disclaimer: That only SEEMS like it’s true.)
Favorite Part: Elvis Presley and Dean Jones … together! Bizarre. Hilariously so. The Stud and the Eunuch.
Favorite Weirdass Song: Cultural Appropriation Blues
KING CREOLE (1958) – Elvis Presley IS Carolyn Jones in King Creole! Actually, Elvis is lookin’ for love in all the wrong places. Elvis is also lookin’ for a male role model in all the wrong places. Anyway, a tramp tries to lure Elvis astray but a virtuous lass comes to Dr Sideburns’ emotional rescue and gets him to go straight. Directed by the same man who directed Casa – fucking blanca!
Favorite Part: Elvis’ gang robs a store while the Man From Memphis plays a guitar.
Favorite Weirdass Song: I’m Evil sung by Elvis at Club Creole.
G.I. BLUES (1960) – Elvis’ first movie after getting out of the army. While Presley was away in the service, Buddy Holly, Richie Havens and the Big Bopper died, Chuck Berry went to jail, Jerry Lee Lewis married his 13 year old cousin and Little Richard became a minister. All of that had played out exactly like the Memphis Machiavelli planned, the crafty bastard!
Anyway, free to resume his career, Elvis plays Tulsa McLean, a musically inclined G.I. who tries to win a bet that he can seduce the leggy Juliet Prowse and winds up falling in love with her for real.
Favorite Part: Elvis belting out a song while somebody decides to play Blue Suede Shoes on the juke box. Kind of funny.
Favorite Weirdass Song: Daddy Big Boots