Elvis Presley (1935-1977)
- Eddie Cochran, The Girl Can’t Help It, 1956. Presley’s huckster manager,the self-styled Colonel Tom Parker,demanded too much money for Elvis to sing one song.Besides, E wanted real movies, not guest shots.
- Earl Holliman, The Rainmaker, 1956. HHHey fellas, rasped The Colonel, not that real... As late as April 13, 1956, Elvis thought this would be his first film. Impressed by his impact on TV, his March screen test (“electricity in the air”) and his manners (after years of suffering Jerry Lewis), Hal Wallis signed E for one film, with options for six more, rising from $15,000 to $100,000 per film. (Blue Hawaii extended that deal – and salaries, rising from $175,000 to $200,000). Instead, Wallis prepared Loving You for their debut… and, for a hefty price, let Fox take the gamble on the rocker in Love Me Tender. If it failed, Wallis could simply drop Presley. If it hit big, then he had a big new star on his roster. With its inflation-adjusted take of $133.2m, Tender remains E’s #1 box-office hit. Apart from Jailhouse Rock and Loving You, none of his other 30 films came close.
- Don Murray, Bus Stop, 1956. Sad saloon chanteuse Chérie and dumbstruck cowboy Bo went from such dream notions as Marlon Brando and Kim Stanley or Marilyn Monroe to Elvis and Marilyn. Also up for the bus: Montgomery Clift and TV’s Davy Crockett, Fess Parker. Due to her high salary, costumes were cheap. Such as Marilyn grubbing up Susan Hayward’s black blouse from With A Song In My Heart, 1951, and, according to Murray, nothing at all under their sheets.
- Jeffrey Hunter, The Way To the Gold, 1956. $100,000 stopped this piddling B Western becoming Presley’s second movie. And indeed, his second for journeyman director Robert D Webb, who had - by chance of a Fox contract - helmed the Elvis debut, Love Me Tender. They got on fine, and Webb offered his next gig to the rock idol - but… oh, for all manner of reasons… 1. Fox found The Colonel’s demand of $250,000 pus 50% of the profits, extortionate. 2. The dreaded Colonel Patker wasn’t happy with the Presley character just coming out of prison. “Not mah boy!” (Presley’s third film was… Jailhouse Rock!). 3. Hal Wallis, the producer who had Elvis under exclusive contract, was not about to let Fox make more money off his guy a second time, after as he’d allowed with Love Me Tender, when Elvis had not yet made his first Wallis film, Loving You, 1956. (Hunter had also been in the mix for Presley’s Tender role).
- Robert Wagner, The True Story of Jesse James, 1957. If he had known that Nicholas Ray wanted him as Jesse, it would have happened. Like every other Hollwyood youngster, Prersley craved to work with the director of Rebel Without A Cause… The Colonel knew that. so he kept quiet. So did Fox. Wagner, totally unsuitable, wasa contract player and, thereby, cheaper.
- Tommy Sands, Sing Boy Sing, 1957. A tad close to the Elvis story. So, The Colonel suggested his other teen client who he wanted to turn into a new Roy Rogers! - proving Parker knew as little about music as he did about movies. The Colonrl hated Edmond O’Brien as the cracker-barrel manager figure, feeling Sharkey was too close to Parker and even close to … shark. The title possibly stemmed from Parker’s orders when Elvis kept asking for dramas… Presley pal, Nick Adams, co-starred and E watched from his Caddy at a drive-in.
- Paul Newman, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, 1957. For some reason, poor Ben Gazarra was never asked to reprise his Broadway triumph as Brick. MGM looked at everyone else: Montgomery Clift, Don Murray, William Shatner. Even the too old Robert Mitchum - and Elvis Presley, whose manager, Colonel Parker, was furious. Now it was: Ain’t gonna have mah boy im-po-tent! Elvis was a keen fan of another Tennessee Williams item, A Streetcar Named Desire, 1951.
- Robert Evans, The Fiend Who Walked The West, 1958. Not that it was ever called that when future producer Evans beat Elvis, Steve McQueen, etc, to retreading Richard Widmark's 1947 Kiss of Death role re-set out West as...Hell-Bent Kid, Rope Law, Enough Rope,Quick Draw at Red Rock, etc.
- Jim Mitchum, Thunder Road, 1958.
What an idea! Mitchum and Presley as brothers! This was Bob’s very personal movie: he wrote the story that pre-dated Smokey and the Bandit and The Dukes of Hazzard by two decades. E adored Bob, stole his hairstyle and all, even came by for Sunday lunch, played piano and sang duets with him. As usual, The Colonel made another dumbass decision. “Fuck,” growled Mitchum, “I’m talking to you. Don’t need your manager. Let’s do the picture.” “Not unless the Colonel says I can.” Mitchum’s son played his brother and Pop hit #62 in the charts with his song: “The Ballad of Thunder Road.”
- Tony Curtis,The Defiant Ones, 1958. As with everything else that didn’t smell of carny, Colonel Parker dumped on the another explosive pairing: Presley and Sammy Davis Jr! The Colonel didn't want his boy handcuffed to a black man. (He also rejected several offers from Marlon Brando and James Dean’s director Elia Kazan!).
- Ricky Nelson, Rio Bravo, 1958.
- Marlon Brando, The Fugitive Kind, 1959. His cup runneth o’er… E told co-star Anne Helm during Follow That Dream in 1961, that he had d been offered the Tennessee Williams drama - with Eli Kazan directing. Wishful thinking? Well, he had already played one role that had been reserved for Brando in his sixth vehicle, Flaming Star. (It was the thrill of his life for the Brando-with-a-guitar when one day at the Paramount canteen: “My God, I shook hands with Marlon Brando!”). However, Tennessee Williams penned the original Orpheus Descending play with Brando and Magnani in mind. And Brando followed Liz Taylor as the second star to net $1m for a movie… Which is probably why he gave one of his worst screen performances, like an bad parody of his screen persona.
- James Darren, Gidget, 1959. Just about sums up poor his lousy film career: being offered The Fugitive Kind (by Tennesse Williams) and Gidget (with Sandra Dee) in the same year! Before producing two of the singer’s 60s’ horrors, Joe Pasternak had planned the first beach movie for Elvis as… wait for it… Moondoggie! Darren couldn’t really swim or surf and was hardly known as a singer - yet became came a huge teenage idol, reprising Moondoggie with Gidget songs in two more Gidget movies (with two more Gidgets). Throwing away the potential of his first ten movies - and just not trying anymore - Presley reprised Moondoggie, more or less (no, just less), in his next 21 films… including auch Pasternak drek as Girl Happy, 1964, and Spinout, 1965.
- Laurence Harvey, A Walk on the Wild Side, 1961. Hollywood agent turned producer Charles K Feldman talked about a musical version.. Feldman had the rights to the Nelson Algren novel – and the carrots. The One The Waterfront team of director Elia Kazan and writer Budd Schulberg. “It’s perfect. He’s handsome. Hel’s innocent. And he’s the victim.” OK, said The Colonel, but what’s with all these hookers… Feldman made it straight - and badly. (Harvey and Barbara Stanwyck made it camp; idem forn Elvis and Stanwyck in Roustabout, 1963). Wild remains the sole Hollywood movie where the credits (by The King, Saul Bass, of course) are better than the film.
- Richard Beymer, West Side Story, 1961. Demonstrating an almost Colonelesque ignorance, producer Walter Mirisch saw Presley as the New York Romeo… supported by Paul Anka, Frankie Avalon, etc!Colonel Parker might have agreed to E as Tony but not opposite the Presley clone Fabian as Bernardo. Beymer was dubbed by Jimmy Byrant. And “wasn’t happy with his performance,” reported co-star Russ Tamblyn. “He thought he was miscast: he was from a farm in Indiana and had no street sense whatsoever.He needed a lot of direction and didn't get it. They just stuck fake teeth in his mouth!”
- Paul Newman, Sweet Bird of Youth, 1962. Ain’t gonna castrate mah boy, neither..! Geraldine Page's sneering gigolo was called Chance Wayne… after Presley's Clint Reno, Rick Richards, Jodie Tatum, Rusty Welles, etc.
- Robert Goulet, Gay Purr-ee, 1962. Poor Elvis was not even allowed the fun of voicing the French cat Jaune-Tom in a toon co-scriptedby The Man - Chuck Jones.
- George Hamilton, Your Cheatin' Heart, 1964. For once, it was not the Colonel but Hank Williams’ widow rejecting the plan. Audrey Williams felt Elvis would become the focus of thebio-pic, not Hank.So it went to that other famous rock ’n’ country singer,George (’scuse me, while I catch some rays) Hamilton.
- George Hamilton, Looking For Love, 1964. “I hear you’re using a lot of guest-stars in your new musical,” said Elvis to Connie Francis on the Metro lot. “How about a job for a hungry folk singer?”Once the Colonel foundout, he helped push the Top Tan star into the Presley slot. Again.
- Roy Orbison, The Fastest Guitar Alive, 1968. Elvis dyed his hair black to match his idol- for him Orbison was “the greatest singer in the world.” After Harum Scarum, 1965, even the Colonel realised Presley’s scripts had all the box-office appeal of dog-shit burgers.They left this one for poor Roy to pluck out of the garbage.
Chad Stuart, The Jungle Book, 1966.
Make of this what you will…! Frankly, I don’t believe it, but it’s too good to throw away… For what proved his final toon (one of his finest), Walt Disney inaugurated the idea of using celebrity voices. He won over Sebastian Cabot, Phil Harris, Louis Prima and George Sanders for Bagheera, Baloo, King Louie and Shere Khan. But John Lennon was annoyed by the very invitation for the Mop Tops to Liverpoolise four vultures. And then, so it goes…. Disney asked Elvis to be the vulture group’s leader, Flaps. Hmm! So then, who would have been the others - three of The Jordanaires? Or was Uncle Walt suggesting he’d settle for three Beatles plus Presley and Lennon could go off in a dream… Yes, yes, Disney also wanted Louis Armstrong for King Louis - but Elvis!!! I’m not convinced. Yet. (Stuart, incidentally, came from the UK pop duo, Chad and Jeremy).
- Jon Voight, Midnight Cowboy, 1968. Voight couldn’t sleep when he thought he’d lost the role. And lost it to whom? Well,believe it or not -and not that he knew about it, much less was allowed to express an opinion about it either way -but there was great talk of Joe Buck being aimed at Elvis.
- Glen Campbell, True Grit, 1968. The Duke and The King! That was the lofty aim of Hal Wallis. And as thefirst producerto sign Presley (for eight films), Elvis owed him, after all. The damned Colonel stuck his oar in yet again, insisting on top billing for his boy!Elvis often wanted to sack him. “Tell Parker, he’s fired,” he’d tell the Memphis Mafia. Parker would reply: “Tell Elvis to tell me personally.”E never did. E just hated confrontations.
- Kris Kistofferson, A Star Is Born, 1976.
- Meat Loaf, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, 1974. 20th Century Fox wanted Elvis as Eddie, “Ex Delivery Boy,” and offered a bigger budget if director Jim Sharman would use other current rock and pop stars. He would not. Preposterous! Not so, said Meat Loaf, the LA stage Eddie. Presley was keen to be Eddie - played, of course, by Mr Loaf, himself. And a dummy corpse.
- John Travolta, Grease, 1978. Seemed like a good idea at the time - 1972 - when Allan Carr bought the rights - for E and Rusty. Elvis and Ann-Margret (aka The Female Elvis!). E was suffering from too much grease - in food anybody - and was dead before the film went into production.
- John Travolta, Grease, 1977. Seemed like a good idea in 1972 when flamboyant producer Allan Carr bought the rights - for E and Rusty. Elvis and Ann-Margret (aka The Female Elvis!). Not caring a jot about their ages: 42 and 36! Which made ’em more suitable for the parents of Danny or Sandy. Plus E was suffering from too much grease - in food and body…
- Frankie Avalon, Grease, 1977. OK, E doesn’t want to do an entire musical, so why not play himself as the Teen Angel. Or, Tubby Angel… He was not in good shape to play anything or anyone and, in fact, Elvis died during the production. The song, Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee, had a a line about Sal Mineo. This was changed to “Elvis, Elvis, let me be. Keep that pelvis far from me!” for the movie. Publicity releases insisted the scene was shot on August 16, 1977… the day that Elvis died. Yeah, sure.