Elvis Presley. The very name conjures a host of associations, both general and particular to the individual.
The young trucker with a golden voice, making his way through the tough Southern rockabilly circuit before emerging as the posterboy for everything rock n’ roll – the positive liberation of an emergent youth culture and the first musician to truly “cross the color line” of the era, the negative associations of stiff necked traditionalists and conservative fearmongers, damning everything from rock n’ roll to comic books for their children’s nascent rebellion from conformity.
The clean cut army brat with the whirlwind (and presumably chaste) romance with a teenaged Priscilla Beaulieu. The surprisingly adept actor and musician, contract bound into a decade worth of million dollar a picture films, seemingly unaffected and siloed away from a rapidly and dramatically changing world.
The high overlord of Las Vegas, one of its biggest draws and chronicle of his ongoing downfall, a spiral of cheesy balladeering, noticeable weight gain and increasing wackiness, from karate and UFO obsessions to meetings with the controversial Richard Nixon and using an honorary law enforcement badge to pull over random strangers and give them a cadillac, all eventually culminating in an ignominious demise consuming truckloads of drugs while, as the coroner’s report notes, “straining at stool” in his lavishly appointed bathroom.
There are at least three distinct Elvises, each with its own gaggle of posthumous impersonators (who can marry you in a quickie Vegas wedding!) and fans – a figure of bizarrely literal worship to some (many of whom eagerly devour Weekly World News ‘sightings’ and entertaining conspiracy theories that he may actually still be alive…), a figure of camp to others, but a versatile performer to all.
Tonight, we celebrate perhaps the strangest element of Elvis’ life and career: his films. A cinema that occupies its own bizarre, detached universe, as different from pale imitators like the Frankie and Annette beach party films or the many JD films of the 50’s and early 60’s as they are from traditional musicals or cinema proper; neither television-style sitcom or hard edged “rebel without a cause” teenaged outsider film, but standing somewhere crossing all of those, and coming off far superior in terms of budget, supporting casts and general quality of entertainment than any of its putative rivals.
Join us as we share an appropriately balanced mix of both well deserved laughs and due respect to these unique bits of Americana, only here on Weird Scenes!
The King died on the throne: the weird world of the Elvis movie