The Rise and Fall of Elvis the Actor

Elvis' film career rose and fell with his rebel status. He burst on to the movie scene at the height of his early, controversial music popularity with a string of strong performances - "Love Me Tender" (1956), followed swiftly by "Jailhouse Rock" (1957), and "King Creole" (1958). Both critical and box office successes, these films showed the boy could act, and alongside other outsider icons, like Marlon Brando and James Dean, his bright eyes burnt smouldering holes into middle America.

On his return from the army in 1960 however, things went badly downhill. His manager Colonel Tom Parker had conspired with Hollywood heavyweights like Hal Wallis and Abe Lastfogel to change Elvis' career and make a lot of money in the process. Elvis would no longer play concerts or star in 'serious' dramas; instead he would churn out a string of feelgood blockbusters. The first was "GI Blues" (1960) and over the next nine years 27 more followed - the most memorable being "Viva Las Vegas" (1964). Did money murder his film career? Possibly.

As the years went by film, rock'n'roll, and popular culture became more radical and Elvis found himself adrift among a series of increasingly limp plots pinned together with flabby ballads and trite romance. Out of step with his fans, he was lost in a haze of beautiful girlfriends, private jets, drink, drugs, and fried food. By the time he died in 1977 his films were a laughing stock. Could he have been another Brando? Unfortunately we'll never know.


"Elvis Day by Day" by Peter Guralnick and Ernst Jorgensen, Ballantine Books, 2000, ISBN: 0 3454 2089 6

"The Cinema Book", Pam Cook, Mieke Bernink (eds), BFI Publishing, 1999, ISBN 0 8517 0726 2

"Careless Love: the Unmaking of Elvis Presley" by Peter Guralnick, Abacus, Abacus, ISBN: 0 3491 1168 5