Re: Elvis and "A Star Is Born" --> A New Mystery!

Sun Sep 09, 2012 10:35 pm

jurasic1968 wrote:Elvis was perfect for the role. Could be a very big challenge for him (maybe the last one!) A rock star in decline (he could play a lot better then Kris Kristofferson because he was playng himself). Like it or not, the movie and the music LP were huge hits. The only problem I saw: it was not fair in the offer to give Elvis only 10% from the profits. In this case the Colonel was right to change it at 50%. It's not exagerated at all.

I agree, but this point should not have been a deal-breaker.

Re: Elvis and "A Star Is Born" --> A New Mystery!

Mon Sep 10, 2012 12:28 pm

You're right. With extensive negociations The Colonel could have a better deal (maybe not 50% from the profits but at least 30%). The Star is Born I think is the only documented offer put on paper send to Elvis to make a serious movie. All the others were just rumours (West Side Story, Midnight Cowboy, and many others). So this was a serious and put on paper offer Elvis received to make a serious movie.

Re: Elvis and "A Star Is Born" --> A New Mystery!

Mon Sep 10, 2012 11:13 pm

jurasic1968 wrote:You're right. With extensive negociations The Colonel could have a better deal (maybe not 50% from the profits but at least 30%). The Star is Born I think is the only documented offer put on paper send to Elvis to make a serious movie. All the others were just rumours (West Side Story, Midnight Cowboy, and many others). So this was a serious and put on paper offer Elvis received to make a serious movie.


West Side Story was a not a rumour, the idea of casting teen idols such as Elvis was simply shelved early on in the production process. The idea of people like Elvis, Anka and probably Darin in the film is tantalising, but the chances that they would have been able to cope with the choreography of the film in the same way as the final cast did is slim. Elvis might have been able to move, but mastering modern dance is another thing altogether. And, seeing Darin's choreographed routine in his 1960 TV special shows that, while he might have been able to handle the vocals of Cool he certainly wouldn't have mastered the moves.

Re: Elvis and "A Star Is Born" --> A New Mystery!

Mon Sep 10, 2012 11:20 pm

poormadpeter wrote:West Side Story was a not a rumour, the idea of casting teen idols such as Elvis was simply shelved early on in the production process. The idea of people like Elvis, Anka and probably Darin in the film is tantalising, but the chances that they would have been able to cope with the choreography of the film in the same way as the final cast did is slim. Elvis might have been able to move, but mastering modern dance is another thing altogether.

Slim? No, 'fraid not.

One only needs to watch the finished 1961 film, with Richard Beymer in the role of "Tony Wycek," to note there is not a single move made by Beymer that would have stymied Elvis. And Presley had a prior friendship with Russ Tamblyn, who had the role of "Riff" and was a superb dancer, and no doubt would have been happy to assist with any concerns.

Re: Elvis and "A Star Is Born" --> A New Mystery!

Tue Sep 11, 2012 12:33 am

drjohncarpenter wrote:
poormadpeter wrote:West Side Story was a not a rumour, the idea of casting teen idols such as Elvis was simply shelved early on in the production process. The idea of people like Elvis, Anka and probably Darin in the film is tantalising, but the chances that they would have been able to cope with the choreography of the film in the same way as the final cast did is slim. Elvis might have been able to move, but mastering modern dance is another thing altogether.

Slim? No, 'fraid not.

One only needs to watch the finished 1961 film, with Richard Beymer in the role of "Tony Wycek," to note there is not a single move made by Beymer that would have stymied Elvis. And Presley had a prior friendship with Russ Tamblyn, who had the role of "Riff" and was a superb dancer, and no doubt would have been happy to assist with any concerns.


Beymer was always the weak link in the film both from the point of view of acting and movement, and one of the few male members of the cast without a background in broadway musicals and/or dance - and it shows. Presley would have been no better.

You may also wish to re-read my comment, it was clearly talking about the collective cast, hence the word "they" in the phrase "they would have been able to cope".

Re: Elvis and "A Star Is Born" --> A New Mystery!

Tue Sep 11, 2012 1:27 am

poormadpeter wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:
poormadpeter wrote:West Side Story was a not a rumour, the idea of casting teen idols such as Elvis was simply shelved early on in the production process. The idea of people like Elvis, Anka and probably Darin in the film is tantalising, but the chances that they would have been able to cope with the choreography of the film in the same way as the final cast did is slim. Elvis might have been able to move, but mastering modern dance is another thing altogether.

Slim? No, 'fraid not.

One only needs to watch the finished 1961 film, with Richard Beymer in the role of "Tony Wycek," to note there is not a single move made by Beymer that would have stymied Elvis. And Presley had a prior friendship with Russ Tamblyn, who had the role of "Riff" and was a superb dancer, and no doubt would have been happy to assist with any concerns.


Beymer was always the weak link in the film both from the point of view of acting and movement, and one of the few male members of the cast without a background in broadway musicals and/or dance - and it shows. Presley would have been no better.

He might just have been a ... tad better than Richard Beymer. Maybe. Perhaps. :D

Re: Elvis and "A Star Is Born" --> A New Mystery!

Tue Sep 11, 2012 1:39 am

Being offered 10% of the profits from A Star is Born was an excellent deal for Elvis, and one that shouldn't be sniffed at. It's unlikely that he would have been offered more -- this being a producer's offer, as opposed to a studio contract. Furthermore, this wasn't a production relying on Elvis's participation to succeed, but requesting his involvement as a matter of choice casting. Whilst, the notion that he could have gotten a million dollar salary plus 50% of the returns is ludicrous -- a deal breaker, as previously mentioned (whether the Col. was serious, or not). Especially when 10% profit participation (against a million) was, typically, the highest level for an actor to be offered by a producer at this time. Variables permitting, of course -- especially after Brando took 11% (against $1.25 million) to star in The Missouri Breaks. But Brando was a power player and box office attraction the likes of which Elvis never was -- the same can be said of Streisand. Bearing in mind that Elvis wasn't starring in A Star is Born, but appearing in support next to one of the most popular, powerful and business-savvy actresses in Hollywood. Even the top movie stars of the era (Brando included -- even McQueen) wouldn't have gotten more than 10% next to Streisand in a film she was producing to star. In Elvis's case, an increased basic salary may have been possible with intent to actually take the role.

With regards to West Side Story, I can see Elvis in the film in every way except for the choreography. That doesn't mean he couldn't have undertaken training to make the grade -- Sinatra wasn't a hoofer prior to Anchors Aweigh (1945), but worked hard with Gene Kelly to impress in one of the greatest musicals ever made. Two, in fact -- all involved working to the best of their abilities in On the Town, some four years later. And the same can be said of West Side Story, Jerome Robbins' sensational choreography punctuating every aspect of the film. But Robbins didn't want Elvis in the film, even if the Mirisch brothers were, initially, keen on casting him as Tony. Elvis would have been among many trained, skillful dancers in West Side Story, and keeping up would have been a task not easily met. We can see that in Richard Beymer's performance.

Re: Elvis and "A Star Is Born" --> A New Mystery!

Tue Sep 11, 2012 1:57 am

drjohncarpenter wrote:
poormadpeter wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:
poormadpeter wrote:West Side Story was a not a rumour, the idea of casting teen idols such as Elvis was simply shelved early on in the production process. The idea of people like Elvis, Anka and probably Darin in the film is tantalising, but the chances that they would have been able to cope with the choreography of the film in the same way as the final cast did is slim. Elvis might have been able to move, but mastering modern dance is another thing altogether.

Slim? No, 'fraid not.

One only needs to watch the finished 1961 film, with Richard Beymer in the role of "Tony Wycek," to note there is not a single move made by Beymer that would have stymied Elvis. And Presley had a prior friendship with Russ Tamblyn, who had the role of "Riff" and was a superb dancer, and no doubt would have been happy to assist with any concerns.


Beymer was always the weak link in the film both from the point of view of acting and movement, and one of the few male members of the cast without a background in broadway musicals and/or dance - and it shows. Presley would have been no better.

He might just have been a ... tad better than Richard Beymer. Maybe. Perhaps. :D


Presley's acting in serious roles by this time was not setting the world on fire. Flaming Star is a success not because of Elvis but because of the director and the fine supporting cast. That this western is highly regarded is not because of Presley's performance (contrary to what Presley fans are likely to think), which is little more than adequate. The New York Times review from 1960 highlights this (the online version of this review is riddled with errors, I have corrected where it is easy to work out what is intended!):

SINCE Elvis Presley previously has been involved in worlds he never made, it shouldn't startle the Paramount's patrons to find him, after his recent Army hitch in "G.I. Blues.", again embattled—this time as a half-breed American Indian—in "Flaming Star."

It is surprising, however, that this small, somber view of some of the misunderstanding and bloody strife between settlers and Indians in Texas of the Eighteen Seventies is equally passionate about both. No guitar gala, "Flaming Star" is an unpretentious but sturdy Western that takes the time, the place and the people seriously.

Elvis, for the record, is merely one of the principals caught up in the tensions exposed here. Both the author, Clair Huffaker, and Nunnally Johnson, with whom he collaborated on the script, focus as much on his family as they do on the hero. It is a closely knit, loving unit, seemingly integrated with and well liked by the neighbors until some of them are massacred by aroused Kiowas after a birthday party. The Indians are not simply presented as heavies" but also as beleaguered men being ruthlessly deprived, in their view, of their lands.

The hatreds that follow misconceptions are suggested logically. The whites are balefully suspicious of old man Burton who loves and steadfasly stands by his Kiowa wife, his half-breed son and his white son by a previous marriage. The Indians, they eel, give them special conderation and protection. And, when the clashes do occur, it is a double-edged digmma for the Burton family (especially Elvis), who find themselves physically and spiritually caught in the middle. The warfare destroys all not one of the Burtons in an unhappy ending that seems to underline the sadness of the period when the Indian beg to vanish.

Don Siegel's direction is workmanlike and deliberate except in the massacre sequence which has the element of surprise and shock. Although he is not called on to carry a histrionic load, Mr. Presley, thanks to fine makeup and the color cameras, is a passable red youth. He is also allowed to twang the guitar in one cowboy ballad, so the film cannot be listed as a total loss by the rock the rollers.

Elvis does not get the gift. However, he does allow, climactically, that he was romantically inclined toward the white leading lady all along, but deferred in favor of his white half-brother. He sits a horse well and is properly brave and stoic, even in the point where he sees the "flaming star" of death.

As a matter of fact, John McIntire, as the understanding head of the ill-fated clam contributes the film's best portrayal, one that is understated and convincing. Dolores De Rio is the soul of restraint an his quietly longsuffering Indian wife, and Steve Forrest as the white son, is equall subdued but effective as man torn by blood ties and blood shed. Barbara Eden in decorative as the blonde why adores Elvis.

Although it is not electrifying, "Flaming Star" make a neat and satisfying adventure.


As we know, Wild In The Country shows Elvis in rather wooden form, although he does have to battle against a decidedly clunky script. We should also not forget that Presley would have been 26 by the time the film was being made, maybe a few years too old to play a teenaged gang member. While the supporting cast were, in the main, no younger than Presley, it is telling that the two leads were in their early rather than mid-twenties when the film was made. Beymer was relatively unknown and Natalie Wood was still being viewed as the teenager of Rebel Without A Cause. Presley on the other hand was very different: the public was all too aware of his age, the fact that he had been in the army, and he had also played an adult rather than teenaged role in G I Blues. To then see him playing a teen would probably not have worked for cinema audiences.

West Side Story is a heavily flawed film, but its flaws can be overlooked thanks to the wonderful performances of the supporting cast (Tucker Smith as Ice is particularly good, as is Tamblyn despite his advancing years) and Robert Wise's direction. Replacing this experienced cast with the teen idols of the day would have been a huge mistake. While Darin had a cocky enough persona to make a decent Riff, he probably would not have been able to cope with the physical demands of the role due to health issues and, while both he and Anka had both recorded swing albums by this point, the constant, secure rhythm of Mack The Knife and swing in general is a far cry from Bernstein's complex score. Meanwhile, Presley taking on the likes of Something's Coming is certainly intriguing, but he would have been unlikely to cope with the alien (to him) jazz rhythms which dominate the music, and in particular the cross rhythms of that song. To then add into the mix the likes of Frankie Avalon (and I think even Pat Boone was mentioned at one point) would have been a recipe for disaster.

Re: Elvis and "A Star Is Born" --> A New Mystery!

Tue Sep 11, 2012 3:16 am

poormadpeter wrote:West Side Story is a heavily flawed film ...

?

Re: Elvis and "A Star Is Born" --> A New Mystery!

Tue Sep 11, 2012 3:46 am

drjohncarpenter wrote:
poormadpeter wrote:West Side Story is a heavily flawed film ...

?


Beymer's wooden acting and the rather insipid vocals of the two leads has come in for criticism ever since the initial excitement for the film died down, as have the changes to the narrative structure of the stage version and more. But it is a highly enjoyable film which still packs a punch despite being rather dated in sections.

Re: Elvis and "A Star Is Born" --> A New Mystery!

Wed Sep 12, 2012 1:19 am

The best of West Side Story comes from the scenes choreographed and directed by Jerome Robbins, whose perfectionism and long rehearsals (ten weeks) caused budgetary concerns for United Artists before a single frame was filmed. His intention was to emulate, for the screen, the Broadway production that he also choreographed and directed. Conversely, Robbins could have sunk all he achieved in creating such marvellous routines, because he shot angles without constructing scenes and, in the process, understood and applied little with regards to camera movement. Robert Wise salvaged what Robbins shot and, although leaner and more economic in his approach, took West Side Story from being purely a dance film, to a song and dance film, through a reliance on close-ups and a lean towards dramatic realism. This, contrary to what Robbins shot. There's an incompatibility on screen that's occasionally obvious within West Side Story, although not to the detriment of an artistic landmark among movie musicals. That incompatibility also stretches to Beymer and Wood, who are, at times, aloof and lacking in presence and charisma next to Chakiris, Moreno and Tamblyn. But this was a film both of its time, and ahead of its time -- ushering in a new era of dance movement for the screen, but coming at a time when the movie musical was entering a decline. Although, a resurgence in 1964/1965 came about through some of the genres greatest successes, with My Fair Lady, Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music (also directed by Robert Wise) and A Hard Day's Night. Even Elvis landed one of his best, and most financially successful vehicles, during this period -- Viva Las Vegas not merely benefiting from the credibility and expertise of Jack Cummings and George Sidney, a dazzling young co-star and a vibrant soundtrack, but also a renewed (if brief) interest by the public, at large, in the musical genre.

Incidentally, Sam Katzman, a veteran and stalwart of B-movie musicals from Junior Prom (1946) and Cha-Cha-Cha Boom (1956) to Rock Around the Clock (1956), Twist Around the Clock (1961) and Don't Knock the Twist (1962), ultimately found his greatest financial success within the genre during 1964/1965, with Kissin' Cousins and Harum Scarum. Inferior material? Yes! Cheaply produced? Certainly! But, lucrative, and enough to keep Elvis as a viable money-maker in Hollywood, albeit, sinking his credibility in the process. Katzman also produced the 1964 Hank Williams biopic, Your Cheatin' Heart. Elvis, having also been considered for the leading role here. His dramatic abilities untested since Flaming Star and Wild in the Country, despite playing slightly against type in Roustabout --although, harking back to the angry young man characters he played in Jailhouse Rock and King Creole. If more The Mild One than The Wild One . . . Still, Elvis never became the liability that Brando was. But he was, perhaps, as trusting (or naive) as Brando was cynical -- especially with Parker as a decision-maker. But during an era where excessive misfires, such as Cleopatra, Mutiny on the Bounty, One Eyed Jacks and The Alamo, cost their respective studios millions of dollars, Elvis offered safe hands and steady returns. That wouldn't last -- and couldn't last. Parker's growing designs on profit-participation realised greater than ever with Kissin' Cousins and Girl Happy.

I do have to disagree with you, PMP, regarding Flaming Star and Elvis's performance here, which, in my opinion, was vital to the success of the film. A fine script, good support and Don Siegel's splendid direction were all essential, of course. But Elvis was terrific here, genuinely escaping his own persona for the only time in his career, and doing so with a character who is emblematic of the racial undertones within the narrative. Pacer is a symbol of integration, but also frustration, community and sacrifice. Elvis gives a hugely understated performance during the first hour (or so) of the film, his frustrations coming to the fore amidst a growing intensity within a genuine pot-boiler, that's increasingly in danger of spilling over. He, impressively, keeps a lid on Pacer's emotions, his facial expressions and clenched fists convincingly holding a pent-up frustration and anger as he's torn between loyalties. Not once does he overact or step out of place amongst a small cast, all of whom play their parts well, often within the confines of a small set and an economy of camera angles. Elvis's rapport with John McIntyre and Delores Del Rio adds considerably poignancy through how natural they share lines and exist within the same frame. From an acting standpoint, the scene in which Pacer declares his love to Roslyn may be single best moment Elvis ever committed to film. There's a seething anger, but also anguish and hurt -- and Elvis is entirely effective, wholly believable and intense to a fault. I can't envision any other actor playing this role so well -- and that may be the best praise I can give Elvis as an actor. Comparisons with Burt Lancaster in Apache, or Steve McQueen in Nevada Smith, doesn't leave Elvis, or Flaming Star, wanting -- not that Elvis brought to the screen anything approaching the best of either, but Flaming Star was a superb western. And Elvis is an intrinsic part of that.

Re: Elvis and "A Star Is Born" --> A New Mystery!

Wed Sep 12, 2012 2:00 am

I think his performance in Flaming Star is more than adequate, and certainly better than anything that followed.

Re: Elvis and "A Star Is Born" --> A New Mystery!

Wed Sep 12, 2012 2:28 am

He was pretty awesome as Rick Richards.

Re: Elvis and "A Star Is Born" --> A New Mystery!

Wed Sep 12, 2012 2:29 am

greystoke wrote:The best of West Side Story comes from the scenes choreographed and directed by Jerome Robbins, whose perfectionism and long rehearsals (ten weeks) caused budgetary concerns for United Artists before a single frame was filmed. His intention was to emulate, for the screen, the Broadway production that he also choreographed and directed. Conversely, Robbins could have sunk all he achieved in creating such marvellous routines, because he shot angles without constructing scenes and, in the process, understood and applied little with regards to camera movement. Robert Wise salvaged what Robbins shot and, although leaner and more economic in his approach, took West Side Story from being purely a dance film, to a song and dance film, through a reliance on close-ups and a lean towards dramatic realism. This, contrary to what Robbins shot. There's an incompatibility on screen that's occasionally obvious within West Side Story, although not to the detriment of an artistic landmark among movie musicals. That incompatibility also stretches to Beymer and Wood, who are, at times, aloof and lacking in presence and charisma next to Chakiris, Moreno and Tamblyn. But this was a film both of its time, and ahead of its time -- ushering in a new era of dance movement for the screen, but coming at a time when the movie musical was entering a decline. Although, a resurgence in 1964/1965 came about through some of the genres greatest successes, with My Fair Lady, Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music (also directed by Robert Wise) and A Hard Day's Night. Even Elvis landed one of his best, and most financially successful vehicles, during this period -- Viva Las Vegas not merely benefiting from the credibility and expertise of Jack Cummings and George Sidney, a dazzling young co-star and a vibrant soundtrack, but also a renewed (if brief) interest by the public, at large, in the musical genre.

Incidentally, Sam Katzman, a veteran and stalwart of B-movie musicals from Junior Prom (1946) and Cha-Cha-Cha Boom (1956) to Rock Around the Clock (1956), Twist Around the Clock (1961) and Don't Knock the Twist (1962), ultimately found his greatest financial success within the genre during 1964/1965, with Kissin' Cousins and Harum Scarum. Inferior material? Yes! Cheaply produced? Certainly! But, lucrative, and enough to keep Elvis as a viable money-maker in Hollywood, albeit, sinking his credibility in the process. Katzman also produced the 1964 Hank Williams biopic, Your Cheatin' Heart. Elvis, having also been considered for the leading role here. His dramatic abilities untested since Flaming Star and Wild in the Country, despite playing slightly against type in Roustabout --although, harking back to the angry young man characters he played in Jailhouse Rock and King Creole. If more The Mild One than The Wild One . . . Still, Elvis never became the liability that Brando was. But he was, perhaps, as trusting (or naive) as Brando was cynical -- especially with Parker as a decision-maker. But during an era where excessive misfires, such as Cleopatra, Mutiny on the Bounty, One Eyed Jacks and The Alamo, cost their respective studios millions of dollars, Elvis offered safe hands and steady returns. That wouldn't last -- and couldn't last. Parker's growing designs on profit-participation realised greater than ever with Kissin' Cousins and Girl Happy.

I do have to disagree with you, PMP, regarding Flaming Star and Elvis's performance here, which, in my opinion, was vital to the success of the film. A fine script, good support and Don Siegel's splendid direction were all essential, of course. But Elvis was terrific here, genuinely escaping his own persona for the only time in his career, and doing so with a character who is emblematic of the racial undertones within the narrative. Pacer is a symbol of integration, but also frustration, community and sacrifice. Elvis gives a hugely understated performance during the first hour (or so) of the film, his frustrations coming to the fore amidst a growing intensity within a genuine pot-boiler, that's increasingly in danger of spilling over. He, impressively, keeps a lid on Pacer's emotions, his facial expressions and clenched fists convincingly holding a pent-up frustration and anger as he's torn between loyalties. Not once does he overact or step out of place amongst a small cast, all of whom play their parts well, often within the confines of a small set and an economy of camera angles. Elvis's rapport with John McIntyre and Delores Del Rio adds considerably poignancy through how natural they share lines and exist within the same frame. From an acting standpoint, the scene in which Pacer declares his love to Roslyn may be single best moment Elvis ever committed to film. There's a seething anger, but also anguish and hurt -- and Elvis is entirely effective, wholly believable and intense to a fault. I can't envision any other actor playing this role so well -- and that may be the best praise I can give Elvis as an actor. Comparisons with Burt Lancaster in Apache, or Steve McQueen in Nevada Smith, doesn't leave Elvis, or Flaming Star, wanting -- not that Elvis brought to the screen anything approaching the best of either, but Flaming Star was a superb western. And Elvis is an intrinsic part of that.


Splendid assessment!

There's another one in a book about auteur theory that I will try to scan in tonight. (I rearranged my books about two years ago, so be patient! I also took that book with me to a conference in Normal, Illinois in 1998. So, just patience, and I'll find it!) That one deals more with the structure of the film, down to the physical blocking of characters and objects that the director uses to make his point, and the writer says it succeeds very, very well. He talks a lot about "the crossing" and its structural significance to the points in the film. How far the characters physically go, and how they do not "cross" certain barriers. Very intriguing, and I will do my best to get it on here!

As to having to master the choreography, and the allegory of Sinatra taking training, I think it was at this precise moment in his life that Elvis would have been open to it, and would have (and I hate this expression, 'cause they always threw it at me in grade school) applied himself! Whenever he did that, he usually triumphed. He often did not do that, wishing things to just come to him. But there were times in his life when he seemed really ready. This was one of those times. So, he would have done a fine job. And, you know, even so, he may never have done it again. Think about that. That would in keeping.

But it was not to be, in any event. :(

Thanks, all, for a fruitful discussion. (Total agreement with everyone, all the time, would be rather dull, don't you think?)

rjm

Re: Elvis and "A Star Is Born" --> A New Mystery!

Wed Sep 12, 2012 3:28 am

greystoke wrote:The best of West Side Story comes from the scenes choreographed and directed by Jerome Robbins, whose perfectionism and long rehearsals (ten weeks) caused budgetary concerns for United Artists before a single frame was filmed. His intention was to emulate, for the screen, the Broadway production that he also choreographed and directed. Conversely, Robbins could have sunk all he achieved in creating such marvellous routines, because he shot angles without constructing scenes and, in the process, understood and applied little with regards to camera movement. Robert Wise salvaged what Robbins shot and, although leaner and more economic in his approach, took West Side Story from being purely a dance film, to a song and dance film, through a reliance on close-ups and a lean towards dramatic realism. This, contrary to what Robbins shot. There's an incompatibility on screen that's occasionally obvious within West Side Story, although not to the detriment of an artistic landmark among movie musicals. That incompatibility also stretches to Beymer and Wood, who are, at times, aloof and lacking in presence and charisma next to Chakiris, Moreno and Tamblyn. But this was a film both of its time, and ahead of its time -- ushering in a new era of dance movement for the screen, but coming at a time when the movie musical was entering a decline. Although, a resurgence in 1964/1965 came about through some of the genres greatest successes, with My Fair Lady, Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music (also directed by Robert Wise) and A Hard Day's Night. Even Elvis landed one of his best, and most financially successful vehicles, during this period -- Viva Las Vegas not merely benefiting from the credibility and expertise of Jack Cummings and George Sidney, a dazzling young co-star and a vibrant soundtrack, but also a renewed (if brief) interest by the public, at large, in the musical genre.

Incidentally, Sam Katzman, a veteran and stalwart of B-movie musicals from Junior Prom (1946) and Cha-Cha-Cha Boom (1956) to Rock Around the Clock (1956), Twist Around the Clock (1961) and Don't Knock the Twist (1962), ultimately found his greatest financial success within the genre during 1964/1965, with Kissin' Cousins and Harum Scarum. Inferior material? Yes! Cheaply produced? Certainly! But, lucrative, and enough to keep Elvis as a viable money-maker in Hollywood, albeit, sinking his credibility in the process. Katzman also produced the 1964 Hank Williams biopic, Your Cheatin' Heart. Elvis, having also been considered for the leading role here. His dramatic abilities untested since Flaming Star and Wild in the Country, despite playing slightly against type in Roustabout --although, harking back to the angry young man characters he played in Jailhouse Rock and King Creole. If more The Mild One than The Wild One . . . Still, Elvis never became the liability that Brando was. But he was, perhaps, as trusting (or naive) as Brando was cynical -- especially with Parker as a decision-maker. But during an era where excessive misfires, such as Cleopatra, Mutiny on the Bounty, One Eyed Jacks and The Alamo, cost their respective studios millions of dollars, Elvis offered safe hands and steady returns. That wouldn't last -- and couldn't last. Parker's growing designs on profit-participation realised greater than ever with Kissin' Cousins and Girl Happy.

I do have to disagree with you, PMP, regarding Flaming Star and Elvis's performance here, which, in my opinion, was vital to the success of the film. A fine script, good support and Don Siegel's splendid direction were all essential, of course. But Elvis was terrific here, genuinely escaping his own persona for the only time in his career, and doing so with a character who is emblematic of the racial undertones within the narrative. Pacer is a symbol of integration, but also frustration, community and sacrifice. Elvis gives a hugely understated performance during the first hour (or so) of the film, his frustrations coming to the fore amidst a growing intensity within a genuine pot-boiler, that's increasingly in danger of spilling over. He, impressively, keeps a lid on Pacer's emotions, his facial expressions and clenched fists convincingly holding a pent-up frustration and anger as he's torn between loyalties. Not once does he overact or step out of place amongst a small cast, all of whom play their parts well, often within the confines of a small set and an economy of camera angles. Elvis's rapport with John McIntyre and Delores Del Rio adds considerably poignancy through how natural they share lines and exist within the same frame. From an acting standpoint, the scene in which Pacer declares his love to Roslyn may be single best moment Elvis ever committed to film. There's a seething anger, but also anguish and hurt -- and Elvis is entirely effective, wholly believable and intense to a fault. I can't envision any other actor playing this role so well -- and that may be the best praise I can give Elvis as an actor. Comparisons with Burt Lancaster in Apache, or Steve McQueen in Nevada Smith, doesn't leave Elvis, or Flaming Star, wanting -- not that Elvis brought to the screen anything approaching the best of either, but Flaming Star was a superb western. And Elvis is an intrinsic part of that.


While we must agree to disagree on Flaming Star, I am as ever envious of your insight and eloquent writing.

Re: Elvis and "A Star Is Born" --> A New Mystery!

Wed Sep 12, 2012 9:06 am

Sam Katzman from Rock Around the Clock to Kissin' Cousins and Harum Scarum? From zenit to nadir! The worst of Elvis's movies were directed by him. Cheap, amtaeurish and ridiculous. And all because The Colonel wanted after Viva las Vegas low budget movies