Elvis in Hollywood : A Time to Reassess?

By: Mark Cunliffe
Source: Elvis Australia
July 20, 2007 - 1:49:00 PM
Elvis Articles, By Mark Cunliffe


With the recent release of the Elvis At The Movies compilation CD, attention is again focusing on Elvis' musical output during his 13 years as Hollywood superstar.

Elvis' Hollywood years have tended to be dismissed as a failure, both artistically and musically. Whilst some may concede that some his 1950's output is of value, and others might argue that GI Blues, Blue Hawaii and even Viva Las Vegas film and soundtracks aren't that bad, the majority of fan and general public opinion is dismissive to such an extent that this part of Elvis' musical heritage is widely ignored.

This article sets out to re-visit the movie musical output of the King between 1956 and 1969 to establish the truth. Just how good or poor are the musical soundtracks from his 31 studio films? How do they stand up to the ear in 2007? And what can we conclude from our findings?

Before starting it may be just be worth having a brief overview of his Hollywood career.

It'll help put things into perspective.

A brief overview of the movie years

Note! Having risen to US stardom via the medium of television in 1956, Elvis spent most of the next 13 years of his public life making movies in Hollywood.

Note!  He appeared in 31 movies and sang over 235 songs, ranging from up-tempo rocker's to gentle ballads.

Note! Whilst the success of the films tailed off towards the end of the end of the 60's, Elvis was a major global box office draw in the 1950's and early 1960's.

Note! In The USA alone, 7 of his movies were amongst the top 20 highest grossing movies of that year, up with the blockbusters of the day like Spartacus, Psycho, The Alamo, Goldfinger, Laurence of Arabia and the like.

Movies Rank
Love me Tender (1956) 20
Jailhouse Rock (1957) 12
Loving You (1957) 15
GI Blues (1960) 15
Blue Hawaii (1961) 13
Girls! Girls! Girls! (1962) 19
Viva Las Vegas (1964) 11

14 of his movie soundtrack albums reached the U.S Billboard Top 20, all but 3 of them in the top 10. Loving You, GI Blues, Blue Hawaii, and Roustabout reached number 1.

Album Title

Peak Position

Year Released

Pop Chart

Loving You

1

1957

King Creole

2

1958

GI Blues

1

1960

Blue Hawaii

1

1961

Girls! Girls! Girls!

3

1962

It Happened at the World's Fair

4

1963

Fun in Acapulco

3

1963

Kissin' Cousins

6

1964

Roustabout

1

1964

Girl Happy

8

1965

Harum Scarum

8

1965

Frankie and Johnny

20

1966

Paradise, Hawaiian Style

15

1966

Spinout

18

1966

Single releases from his movies also performed with distinction.

Below are the rankings from the U.S Billboard chart. 18 of his soundtracks songs were released as A side singles, 4 reaching number 1, and 3 hitting the number 2 spot.

Song Title
Pop Chart
Year Released

Love Me Tender

1

1956

Love Me

2

1957

(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear

1

1957

Loving You

20

1957

Jailhouse Rock

1

1957

Treat Me Nice

18

1957

Hard Headed Woman

1

1958

Flaming Star

14

1961

Can't Help Falling in Love

2

1961

Follow That Dream

15

1962

Return to Sender

2

1962

One Broken Heart for Sale

11

1963

Boss Nova Baby

8

1963

Kissin' Cousins

12

1964

(Such an) Easy Question

11

1965

I'm Yours

11

1965

Puppet on a String

14

1965

Don't Cry, Daddy/Rubberneckin'

6

1969

Many of the movies have had a successful after-life following their original release.

Note! Selections from Elvis soundtracks appeared with much success on the RCA Gold Records Series 1-5 and in compilation albums such as RCA's successful series of Camden Record releases.

Note! The movies were frequently shown on television, during the 1960's and 70's, in many cases being instrumental in converting future generations into Elvis fans.

Note! Most of the movies are still widely available on DVD, and many have been re-released in repackaged and digitally updated formats. They continue to sell in respectable quantities.

Note! On the internet, clips from his movies achieve 100,000's of views on You Tube, and some soundtrack releases are now available for digital downloading. Ebay sites have big categories selling movie DVD's and CD's.

Note! On CD, The recent Elvis At The Movies CD is the latest of a long line of CD releases that feature the music of Elvis from his Hollywood years. Despite all this success, at the time of release, and subsequently, Elvis' music legacy from his movie years are still much maligned and ignored by significant numbers of fans and general public alike. Are they right? This is my take.

Rating Of Movie Song Content

Soundtrack quality is judged on whether the songs connect with the soul or grate? Or, put more simply, are they a pleasure to listen to or is it a pain? I have used the rating scale below to review the song content of the Elvis movies.

  • 5 Excellent song content (all or almost all of the songs are good)
  • 4 Mainly good song content (a significant majority of songs are good)
  • 3 Mixture of good and poor song content (the soundtrack has a broadly even mix of good and poor songs)
  • 2 Mainly poor song content (a significant majority of songs are poor)
  • 1 Poor content - very little to redeem it (all or almost all the songs are poor)

This classification can be neatly and more broadly summarized as:

Rating

Classification

5,4

Good soundtrack

3

Reasonable soundtrack

1,2

Poor soundtrack

I've looked at Elvis' movie output as a whole and the ratings are based on how good a soundtrack is within that body of work. The soundtracks are therefore judged within the Elvis music context.

I doubt that there will be too many arguments over the general rating as to whether a movie soundtrack is good or poor, but that in certain cases you may disagree with the specific rating of just how good or poor the soundtrack is (is it a 5 or 4 for instance). Have a look and see what you think.

Below is a table detailing the films he made, the songs he sang in them, and a rating on how strong the movie soundtrack is. Elvis' actual performance in the movie, or the script, is not under evaluation, just the songs sung.

Note: Only songs that appeared in the movie are looked at. Additional songs that may have appeared on the soundtrack album release go un-judged. Movies are presented in the order soundtracks were recorded.

Film

Song Content

Appraisal

Rating

Love Me Tender
(1956)

We're Going To Move
Love Me Tender
Let Me
Poor Boy
Love Me Tender (reprise)

The timeless title song 'Love Me Tender' is up there in any list of great love songs of the 20th Century. The other songs from the movie are set very much within the film Civil War period setting which detracts from their appeal. However they are nicely performed and convey the infectious quality of Elvis' music.

3

Loving You
(1957)

Got A Lot Of Living To Do
Party
Lonesome Cowboy
Mean Women Blues
(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear
Loving You (acoustic)
Loving You
Got A Lot Of Living To Do
Party
Hot Dog

A superb selection of classic rock and roll and 1950's balladeering that encapsulate the very best of what Elvis Presley was and is. These are inspired, joyful performances from the King that have never lost their sheen.

5

Jailhouse Rock
(1957)

Young And Beautiful (acoustic)
I Want To Break Free
Young And Beautiful
Don't Leave Me Now
Treat Me Nice
Jailhouse Rock
(You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care
Young And Beautiful

Awesome song performances throughout whether rocking or slower tempo. 'Jailhouse Rock', '(You're So Square) Baby I don't Care', and 'Treat Me Nice' are simply great songs written by the legendary Leiber & Stoller songwriting team specifically for the movie and performed brilliantly by Elvis. Add in the heartfelt 'Young and Beautiful' and you have one of the great movie soundtracks of all time.

5

King Creole
(1958)

Crawfish
Steadfast, Loyal And True
Lover Doll
Trouble
Dixieland Rock
Young Dreams
New Orleans
King Creole
Don't Ask Me Why
As Long As I Have You

The best dramatic movie Elvis ever starred in, and possibly the best location themed music of his movie years, Elvis rises to the challenge of singing the New Orleans style of music whilst retaining the edge and explosiveness of his own rock and roll. The slower tempo love songs are also winningly performed.

5

GI Blues
(1960)

G.I. Blues
What's She Really Like?
Doin' The Best That I Can
Frankfurt Special
Shopping Around
Tonight Is So Right For Love
Wooden Heart
Pocketful Of Rainbows
Big Boots
Didja Ever

Elvis' big comeback vehicle that launched the new clean cut Elvis of family appeal to the world. Blamed for setting a bland model of later Elvis movies, this movie none the less has a wonderful selection of songs, some with notable European flavour, that still enchant today. Highlights include the multi million selling 'Wooden Heart', the magical 'Pocketful of Rainbows', and knock out 'Doin' the Best I Can'.

4

Flaming Star
(1960)

Flaming Star
A Cane And A High Starched Collar

One of Elvis' non-musical movies (almost). Forgettable songs.

2

Wild In The Country
(1961)

Wild In The Country
I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell
In My Way
Husky, Dusty Day

Good songs and exquisite singing by Elvis makes this delightful soundtrack a winner. The sublime 'Wild In The Country' and beautifully sung 'In My Way' are highlights.

4

Blue Hawaii
(1961)

Almost Always True
Aloha Oe
No More
Can't Help Falling In Love
Rock-A- Hula-Baby
Moonlight Swim
Ku-u-i-po
Ito Eats
Slicing Sand
Hawaiian Sunset
Beach Boys Blues
Island Of Love
The Hawaiian Wedding Song

The smash hit movie of Elvis' 1960's movie career, with chart topping soundtrack. The Hawaiian flavored music and seductive ballads continue to woo and wow. Throw in smash hits 'Can't Help Falling In Love', 'Rock-A-Hula Baby', and Elvis late 1970's concert favorite 'The Hawaiian Wedding Song' and you have a 'must have' Elvis movie soundtrack.

5

Follow That Dream
(1962)

I'm Not The Marrying Kind
Sound Advice
Follow That Dream
Angel

Recorded in July 1961 this soundtrack contains two superb songs in the up-beat 'Follow That Dream' and the beautiful ballad 'Angel'. With the wry sentiments of 'I'm Not The Marrying Kind' and 'Sound Advice' this remains one wonderfully enjoyable soundtrack. The movie is also noteworthy in that in that Elvis reverts to his natural brown hair colour for this film, and his next movie.

4

Kid Galahad
(1962)

King Of The Whole Wide World
This Is Living
Riding The Rainbow
Home Is Where The Heart Is
I Got Lucky
Whistling Tune

Arguably the strongest collection of non-location themed songs within any of Elvis' 1960's movies. The soundtrack, which was actually recorded in October 1961, contains a lovely mix of up-beat and slow tempo songs, sung with a zest and charm that is irresistible. Difficult to better, his future movie soundtracks would never again reach these heights.

5

Girls Girls Girls
(1962)

Girls! Girls! Girls!
I Don't Wanna Be Tied
Where Do You Come From
We'll Be Together
A Boy Like Me, A Girl Like You
Earth Boy
Return To Sender
Because Of Love
Thanks To The Rolling Sea
Song Of The Shrimp
The Walls Have Ears
We're Coming In Loaded
Dainty Little Moon Beams / Girls! Girls! Girls! (end title version)

This is a pleasant enough soundtrack, easy on the ear, which delivers a variety of songs without really hitting any highs or lows. The hit 'Return To Sender' is by far the standout song, although 'I Don't Want To Be Tied', 'Dainty Little Moon Beams/ Girls Girls Girls', 'Song Of The Shrimp', and 'We're Coming In Loaded' are enjoyable enough. For the first time there's not one love song that really works, certainly not in 2007.

3

It Happened At The World Fair
(1963)

Beyond The Bend
Relax
Take Me To The Fair
They Remind Me Too Much Of You
One Broken Heart For Sale
I'm Falling In Love Tonight
Cotton Candy Land
A World Of Our Own
How Would You Like To Be
Happy Ending

Some surprisingly strong songs rescue this soundtrack from a lower rating. The highlights include the delightful 'One Broken Heart For Sale', the heartfelt' I'm Falling In Love Tonight', and moving 'They Remind Me Too Much Of You'. The lightweight kiddies orientated songs of 'Take Me To The Fair', 'Cotton Candy Land', and 'How Would You Like To Be' is a major factor in detracting from the overall appeal of the soundtrack.

3

Fun In Acapulco
(1963)

Vino, dinero y amor
I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here
Mexico
Marguerita
The Bull Fighter was A Lady
(There's) No Room To Rhumba In A Sports Car
Bossa Nova Baby
You Can't Say No In Acapulco
Guadalajara

If you like Mexican Spanish influenced music then this is the soundtrack for you. Unfortunately despite some fine singing by Elvis there's little to recommend. Of note is Elvis' committed singing of Guadalajara in Spanish.

1

Viva Las Vegas
(1964)

The Yellow Rose Of Texas/The Eyes Of Texas
The Lady Loves Me
C'mon Everybody
Today, Tomorrow and Forever
What I'd Say
If You Think I Don't Need You
Viva Las Vegas
I Need Someone To Lean On

This strong soundtrack, recorded in July 1963, is full of good songs, be it the rocking 'Viva Las Vegas', 'C'Mon Everybody', and 'What I'd Say', the playful 'The Lady Loves Me', or the atmospheric 'I Need Someone To Lean On'. The soundtrack has a winning mix of songs with only the traditional 'The Yellow Rose Of Texas/The Eyes Of Texas' noticeably poor. The movie dance sequence of 'C'mon Everybody' with Ann Margaret competes only with 'What I'd Say' as the best choreographed song of Elvis 1960's movie career.

4

Kissin' Cousins
(1964)

Kissin' Cousins
Smokey Mountain Boy
There's Gold In The Mountain
One Boy Two Little Girls
Tender Feelings
Anyone (Could Fall In Love With You)
Catching On Fast
Barefoot Ballad
Once Is Enough
Kissing Cousins

The soundtrack features nice performances by the king but the song quality just isn't good enough. 'Tender Feelings' based on the traditional tune 'Shenandoah; is the standout ballad. Both versions of 'Kissin' Cousins' are catchy, the happy 'There's Gold In the Mountain' with its high pitched backing singing has some charm and the somewhat iffy premise of 'One Boy And Two Little Girls' is nice enough.

2

Roustabout
(1964)

Poison Ivy League
Wheels On My Heels
It's A Wonderful World
It's Carnival Time
Carny Town
One Track Heart
Hard Knocks
Little Egypt
Big Love, Big Heartache
There's A Brand New Day On The Horizon

Elvis rescued 'Little Egypt' from this movie for his memorable comeback special but this movie version is a very ordinary performance and arrangement. 'Poison Ivy League', 'Wheels On My Heels', and 'Hard Knocks' cannot save this soundtrack from a low rating. Inexplicably the album went to no.1 in the US Billboard charts.

2

Girl Happy
(1964)

Girl Happy
Spring Fever
Fort Lauderdale Chamber Of Commerce
Wolf Call
Do Not Disturb
Cross My Heart And Hope To Die
The Meanest Girl In Town
Do The Clam
Puppet On A String
I Got To Find My Baby
Girl Happy (reprise)

Nice chirpy film title song, and the pace rarely lets up, energy replacing any semblance of decent songs, at least to 2007 ears. The ballad 'Puppet On A String' and a raucous 'I Got To Find My Baby' offer some redeeming features. The album on release climbed to number 8 in the US Billboard chart, a commendable chart placing, so Elvis was obviously hitting some kind of popular nerve in 1964. Despite this it was the lowest chart placing of any soundtrack album release to date.

2

Tickle Me
(1965)

(It's A) Long Lonely Highway (May 63)
It Feels So Right (Mar 60)
(Such An) Easy Question (Mar 62)
Dirty Dirty Feeling (Apr 60)
Put The Blame On Me (Mar 61)
I'm Yours (Jun 61)
Night Rider (Oct 61/Mar 62)
I Feel That I Have Known You Forever (Mar 62)
Slowly But Surely (May 63)

This is a really strong soundtrack, possibly because all the songs are culled from studio sessions between March 1960-May 1963 rather than being specifically recorded for the movie. The superiority of Elvis' earlier session recordings over his mid sixties movie soundtracks is clearly illustrated here. Even with album and single rejects, the songs are a marked improvement on the majority of movie soundtracks he had been recording the previous year. Elvis lets rip with 'It Feels So Right', and 'Dirty Dirty Feeling', and with 'It's A Long Lonely Highway' and the soulful 'I'm Yours' also featured, the film has some of the more arresting songs from Elvis' mid 1960's movie soundtracks.

4

Harum Scarum
(1965)

Harem Holiday
My Desert Serenade
Go East Young Man
Mirage
Kismet
Shake That Tambourine
Hey Little Girl
Golden Coins
So Close Yet So Far (from Paradise)
Animal Instinct
Wisdom Of The Ages

Elvis dressed up as an Arab may not have won out at the box office but if you're a fan of Elvis singing love songs this is the soundtrack for you. Though containing few outstanding songs overall this soundtrack holds together well and makes for pleasant listening. 'My Desert Serenade', 'So Close Yet So Far From Paradise', and 'Golden Coins' are kind on the ear and the more upbeat songs aren't too bad either. I struggled on rating this soundtrack and have, with some misgivings, awarded a 2 rating when a 3 might possibly be justified. This would be the last movie soundtrack to crack the US Billboard top 10.

2

Paradise Hawaiian Style
(1965)

Queenie Wahine's Papaya
Scratch My Back
Drums Of The Islands
It's A Dogs Life
Dating
House Of Sand
Stop Where You Are
This Is My Heaven
Drums Of The Islands (reprise)

The delightful 'This is My Heaven' is the standout ballad. Together with songs like 'Stop Where You Are', and 'Scratch My Back' this makes for an enjoyable enough soundtrack without it being particularly good.

2

Frankie And Johnny
(1965)

Petunia, The Gardener's Daughter
Chesay
What Every Women Lives For
Frankie And Johnny
Beginner's Luck
Down By The Riverside / When The Saints Go Marching In
Shout It Out
Hard Luck
Please Don't Stop Loving Me
Everybody Come Aboard

Non-descript. This is the first truly awful soundtrack. No redeeming features. (Apparently Elvis was so upset with the quality of material he stormed out the session. Enough said!).

1

Spinout
(1966)

Stop Look And Listen
Adam And Evil
All That I Am
Never Say Yes
Am I Ready?
Beach Shack
Spinout
Smorgasbord
I'll Be Back

Another disappointing soundtrack, full of fast beats and energy but containing very little in terms of decent songs or performances. The frenetic 'Stop, Look and Listen' is the best of the rockers. Whilst the languid 'Am I Ready' is one of two slower songs included that Elvis almost makes work.

1

Double Trouble
(1967)

Double Trouble
Baby, If You Give Me All Your Love
Long Legged Girl (with a short dress on)
Could I Fall In Love?
City By Night
Old MacDonald
I Love Only One Girl
There's So Much World To See

Dire. The recording of 'Old McDonald' almost says it all. That said, 'Could I fall in Love' is nice enough and 'Long Legged Girl (with a short dress on)' blows away some cob webs. The real problem is that the songs in Elvis movies were getting repetitive and seem to all sound the same. If the quality was there this would be no problem, the problem is, the quality is simply lacking.

1

Easy Come, Easy Go
(1967)

Easy Come, Easy Go
The Love Machine
Yoga Is As Yoga Does
You Gotta Stop
Sing You Children
I'll Take Love

In contrast to the three previous soundtracks, Easy Come Easy Go is a refreshing, fun filled soundtrack to be enjoyed. The arrangements work well and the inspired use of horn backing gives the songs a certain verve and swing that's difficult to resist. As a bonus you get a top notch Elvis movie gospel song in 'Sing You Children'.

4

Clambake
(1967)

Who Needs Money?
A House That Has Everything
Confidence
Clambake
You Don't Know Me
Hey Hey Hey
The Girl I Never Loved

Ballads again to the rescue of another wretched soundtrack with 'A House That Has Everything' and an uninspired 'You Don't Know Me' are O.K but nothing special.

1

Speedway
(1968)

Let Yourself Go
Your Groovy Self (Nancy Sinatra)
Your Time Hasn't Come Yet, Baby
He's Your Uncle Not Your Dad
Who Are You (Who Am I)?
There Ain't Nothing Like A Song

For the first and only time in an Elvis movie the best song is not sung by Elvis. Nancy Sinatra sings the bewitching 'Your Groovy Self' but three super tracks by Elvis in 'Let Yourself Go' (which Elvis was to record again for use in his 68 Comeback Special), 'Your Time Hasn't Come Yet Baby' and the revved up 'Nothing Like A Song' help redeem this indignity. The title song 'Speedway' has some oomph too.

4

Stay Away Joe
(1968)

Stay Away Joe
Dominic
All I Needed Was The Rain

Poor. The song 'Stay Away' which was recorded for the movie but not used is by far superior to the songs that were.

1

Live A Little, Love A Little
(1968)

Edge Of Reality
A Little Less Conversation
Almost In Love

3 above average tracks, including the now big hit 'A Little Less Conversation'. (Elvis was to re-record this for the Comeback Special but in the end it wasn't used).

4

Charro (1969)

Charro

Following his recording of the 68 Comeback Special in June, things would never be the same again. His first soundtrack recording after contained just the one song in Charro ('Let's Forget About The Stars' was belatedly emitted from the film).

3

The Trouble With Girls
(1969)

Swing Down, Sweet Chariot
Violet (1 verse)
Clean Up Your Own Back Yard

A confident, revitalized Elvis, oozing self belief and vocal command delivers 2 outstanding songs for this movie. 'Swing Down Sweet Chariot' is a delight and the movie version of 'Clean Up Your Own Back Yard' oozes class.

4

Change Of Habit
(1969)

Rubberneckin'
Have A Happy
Let Us Pray

Elvis end his Hollywood career on a high note. Not only is it a highly watchable movie but 'Rubberneckin' and 'Let Us Pray' are excellent. 'Rubberneckin' was actually recorded in January during Elvis' legendary American Studio's recording sessions in Memphis. It was included into this movie soundtrack when it didn't make the session album cut.

4

Analysis of Ratings

The rating for the movie soundtracks above confirm one thing most fans agree on. The quality of soundtrack and songs within a soundtrack did vary significantly during Elvis' movie making years. Most would agree the quality started strong and ended weak, but the story is more complex than that and not as simple.

Elvis Presley Photos View Graph

As the above chart shows Elvis' early movies did contain good quality soundtracks but as the years went by there was a general fall off in standard and there emerges a certain hit and miss trend. A soundtrack that is rated 'good' is often followed by a soundtrack rated 'poor'. In fact post 'It Happened at the World Fair' the one consistency within the overall trend is the inconsistency in soundtrack quality.

The overall trend in quality of song is more clearly seen if we look at how the soundtracks rated by year. This shows that Elvis soundtracks can be roughly be broken into three distinct phases.

Elvis Presley Photos View Graph

1956-1962 Predominantly 'very good' soundtracks
1963-1967 Predominantly 'poor' soundtracks
1968-1969 Predominantly 'good' soundtracks

Elvis movie soundtracks were initially very strong and packed with high quality songs. Of the 11 movie soundtracks released from 1956-1962, 5 achieve ratings of 4 or 5 (73%). 5 of the movies attain the top rating of 5.

As his Hollywood career progressed a gradual erosion in soundtrack quality emerges which culminates in a succession of very poorly rated movie soundtracks. Of the 14 movies soundtracks between 1963 -1967, 10 (71%) earn 'poor' ratings, 5 of them a lowly score of 1. When the soundtracks got bad they generally got very bad indeed. It may be partly because of this that the widespread perception of Elvis movie soundtracks being so poor took root (the poor quality and repetitiveness of some of the scripts most probably didn't help either).

Towards the end of his Hollywood career a marked improvement in soundtrack quality is evident, helped in some respect by a significant reduction in the number of songs present in his movies. Of the 6 movie soundtracks between 1968 -1969 four achieve a 'good' rating of 4 (67%).

When you look at the number of songs Elvis recorded for film soundtracks per year a clear correlation between number of songs and quality of songs emerges (see graph below). It can be seen that a major factor in the deterioration of song quality was the increase in the number of songs that needed to populate the escalating number of movies Elvis was making per year. For instance, Elvis needed to record 42 songs for the 4 movies released in 1964. Another 41 movie songs were required for the year after. Given the small number of writers being used to submit material, it is not surprising that the quality of material suffered.

Elvis Presley Photos View Graph

The graph above shows that, bar 1966 and the poor 'Spinout' soundtrack, once the number of songs per year for movie soundtracks fell back to a reasonable number again the quality of song rating improves (I take this as being 18 or under based on the fact that prior to song numbers rising above 18 in 1962 the Elvis soundtracks were achieving good ratings of between 4-5). It is partly due to the reduction in songs recorded for his movies that the ratings score for Elvis' 1968 and 69 movies pick up, resulting in some really good soundtracks. Musically Elvis ended his movie career on the ascendant as the below graph clearly shows.

Elvis Presley Photos View Graph

Summarizing which movies fall in the 'good', 'reasonable' and 'poor' categories reveals just how much better than generally perceived Elvis' movie soundtracks were.

Elvis Presley Photos View Graph

Of the 31 movies Elvis performed in, almost half (48%) featured soundtracks rated as 'good' (4,5). 16% are rated as having 'excellent song content' (5) and 32% are rated as having 'mainly good song content' (4). Below is a table showing at a glance which movies fall into each broad rating category.

When you then look at the actual number of songs that fall within each soundtrack rated category the picture is broadly similar to the above. 45% of songs fall into the 'good' category, 57% within the 'good /reasonable' category (134 songs in total) and 43% fall into the 'poor' category (102 songs).

Given the widespread belief that Elvis' movie years are best forgotten, his movie soundtrack output actually comes out of the analysis in a far more positive light than you might expect. Having 105 songs in soundtracks that are rated 'good' is commendable and the overall spread of ratings is the kind of statistic that could be expected for any artist who recorded quite so much music as Elvis. Check out Elton John's back catalogue, Paul McCartney's, Bob Dylan's or any other major artist. Is their musical legacy as strong?

You can even look at Elvis' 1970's studio output to put his movie soundtrack output into some perspective. If you take the albums 'Elvis That's The Way It Is', 'Elvis Country', 'Love Letters From Elvis', 'He Touched Me', 'Elvis Now', 'Raised On Rock', 'Elvis Today', 'From Elvis Presley Blvd, Memphis Tennessee', and 'Moody Blue' and go through the same rating process as above, would it be a stronger or weaker musical output?

Conclusions

Ultimately, after all the analysis, you do come to one fundamental and overriding conclusion. The movie years contain a vital, overlooked, much maligned and misunderstood musical legacy that deserve a radical public reappraisal from fans and general public alike.

At the start of this review we looked at the statistics of his movie years. This shows that Elvis achieved remarkable success for much of his career in Hollywood. 7 of his movies scaled the heights to be one of the top 20 grossing movies of the year in the US box office, 14 of his soundtrack albums hit the Billboard Top 20, and all 18 singles featuring songs from his soundtracks reached the Billboard top 20, 4 reaching number 1, and a further 3 hitting the number 2 spot. That's quite some achievement. We have also seen that many of his movies have had a remarkable after-life, featuring on television and selling well even today in DVD format.

We then rated Elvis' movie related musical output which clearly shows that there is much of worth to be found within his movie soundtracks. 105 songs fall in the 'good' soundtrack category, 134 in the broader 'good/reasonable' quality bracket. That's a tremendous treasure trove of Elvis music, much of it unknown to current fans. As such, the recently launched 'Elvis At The Movies' CD compilation should be the start of this re-discovery not the end. There are at least another 40 tracks of irresistible quality that demands and justifies an 'Elvis At The Movies' vol 2 release, and spin off's like the 'Elvis At The Movies Love Songs' would provide a welcome injection of refreshing new material to the assorted Love compilations that are currently on the market.

Looking forward, surely the time has come to de-compartmentalise Elvis' Hollywood output when putting together 'best of' compilations. The tendency to ignore much of his movie songs (other than his 1950's work and those songs that were released as singles) does a dis-service to Elvis' musical legacy and his fans. The Elvis world is thirsting for new material from the King, and given the current under-exposed nature of his movie soundtracks, the means of doing so is there. Isn't it time to introduce the better elements of his movie songs to the world at large, including them on compilations with his non-movie 50's, 60's and 70's material?

What is also needed is a radical new approach from those holding the movie rights. Elvis was one of the world's great natural performers. Even lip syncing, his ability to enchant and connect makes for powerful and enthralling entertainment. The world has moved on and what fans increasingly want now is the opportunity to watch Elvis' movie song performances without having to sit through the movie. The 21st century is increasingly about visual audio experience. The huge popularity of viewing music clips on Youtube is just one indication of this, the huge sales success of recent special editions of the Elvis Comeback Special and the Aloha concerts another.

Surely it's time to give us the movie soundtrack performances without the disruption of the movie storyline. How much more powerful and big a marketing event would the recent 'Elvis At The Movies' CD release have been if accompanied by all the performances on a companion DVD set? How many more Elvis DVD's would be sold if the complete movie soundtracks were released on DVD so fans could view just the song performances?

It would appear that the opportunities for reviving appreciation and familiarity with the songs Elvis recorded for his movies is there for those running the Elvis business should they have the determination and desire to do this. In the meantime, fans need to seek out the better movie soundtracks, movie song CD compilations, and movie DVDs, to discover/ re-discover the musical heritage Elvis left us from his Hollywood years.

Buy Elvis Movies on DVD
Buy Elvis Movie Soundtracks on CD

Note! Elvis Presleys Movies Website
Note! Elvis At The Movies CD Article by Mark Cunliffe Jun2, 1, 2007

Note! More articles by Mark Cunliffe

Also read Elvis at the Movies by Nick Keene from March 2005


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Elvis Presley Video Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley DVD

Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley DVD + 16 page booklet.

Never before have we seen an Elvis Presley concert from the 1950's with sound. Until Now! The DVD Contains recently discovered unreleased film of Elvis performing 6 songs, including Heartbreak Hotel and Don't Be Cruel, live in Tupelo Mississippi 1956. Included we see a live performance of the elusive Long Tall Sally seen here for the first time ever.

This is an excellent release no fan should be without it.

The 'parade' footage is good to see as it puts you in the right context with color and b&w footage. The interviews of Elvis' Parents are well worth hearing too. The afternoon show footage is wonderful and electrifying : Here is Elvis in his prime rocking and rolling in front of 11.000 people. Highly recommended.