(Blast from the past - Strictly Elvis )


Elvis' Screen Test

Strictly Elvis  No. 76

The time was mid-summer, 1956. Elvis was literally hotter than a firecracker as his name was on virtually every pair of lips ( for one reason or another ) across the nation. His personal appearances were hysterical sellouts wherever he went and one out of every nine records being sold was an Elvis record. The music world, and the world in general, had never been shaken up so much before or since Presleymania hit the scene. 

By July of 1956, there weren't really very many avenues left for Elvis to conquer, with the exception of one…Hollywood. To date, Elvis has made 33 pictures; some of them excellent, and some not so excellent. But even in his pre-army days, Elvis definitely showed that he was a very capable actor, when given a decent part. In fact, in " King Creole ", Elvis' fourth movie, he received a great deal of acclaim from critics who had no reason to say that he did a good job…except that he DID do a very excellent job in the film. 

March 26, 1956. Elvis performed two scenes of " The Rainmaker "

But just how did Elvis get started in films. Even though he was going great guns in the music industry, it certainly was not the " norm " of the day for singers to automatically be offered starring roles in Hollywood; especially a singer who was literally crucified by the established press of the day. 

Elvis' film career actually got started when film producer Hal Wallis caught Elvis' first night club stand at the Flamingo in Las Vegas, the summer of 1956. Although Elvis was received with mixed feelings by the tinsel city, Wallis saw something in Elvis that he was certain would transcend to the silver screen. Hal Wallis made his way backstage after the show and, without fanfare, held out the promise of a screen test for Elvis. Now it should be realized that, even in his childhood, Elvis was a big fan of the movies... so this was like a dream come true for him. Skeptics in Hollywood laughed at the idea of the " hip-shaker " in the movies, but Wallis saw an ability in Elvis that went far beyond singing and playing the guitar. 

For his screen test, Elvis read through a part in " The Rainmaker. " This was a truly excellent film that starred Burt Lancaster and was one of the biggest hits of the year. Elvis was so convincing in his test, that he was offered the part of Katharine Hepburn's younger brother, who was sort of only half-there in the brains department. For certain, it was a difficult part, but Elvis ran through the series of emotions the part called for as if he had been acting professionally for years. Since the part was one of a semi-idiot, Colonel Parker decided that Elvis should pass the role up. So the part went to Earl Holloman, a character actor who received a lot of credit for his part in " The Rainmaker. " It was decided that Elvis' screen debut would wait until Hal Wallis could have a screenplay, titled The Reno Brothers, written especially to introduce Elvis. The title of the film was, of course, later changed to "Love Me Tender. " 

March 26, 1956. Elvis with veteran actor Frank Faylen (left)

The actor with Elvis is veteran Frank Faylen. In these photos, you can literally see different emotions written across Elvis' face. Most of his fans, myself included, still believe that Elvis has all of the potential to be a really top-notch actor, if he is given the right material. In the films he has already done, with any kind of a plot at all, Elvis comes off very well. In others, no titles necessary, Charlton Heston would have seemed just as stiff.... with virtually no plot whatsoever to work with.