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The King of Rock on the Silver Screen

April 14, 2015

Elvis Presley may have been known as the King of Rock and Roll or simply the King, but he also made his mark on film. He was born in Mississippi, then his family relocated to Memphis, Tennessee when he was 13 years-old. As a kid he didn’t have music training, rather he played by ear and spent a lot of time at record stores with jukeboxes and listening booths. In August 1953 he went to Sun Records to record a two-sided disc that he intended to give to his mother as a gift. After he recorded the songs Sam Phillips, who was in charge of Sun Records, told the receptionist to get his information and his music career began in 1954 when he was 19 years-old.

He was one of the earliest singers to perform in the rockabilly style, combining rock and roll with country, adding to that a little rhythm and blues. He was rocketed to stardom with his first single was “Heartbreak Hotel” in 1956 and his popularity was bolstered by his high energy performances and unique dance style.

Elvis made his film debut in 1956 with Love Me Tender and followed it in 1957 with Loving You and Jailhouse Rock. He was drafted into the military in 1958, though still had time to film King Creole. He spent most of the ‘60s making movies and their soundtracks. Elvis starred in two films a year in 1960 with G.I. Blues and Flaming Star, and 1961 with Wild in the Country and Blue Hawaii. After that came three films in 1962 with Follow that Dream, Kid Galahad, and Girls! Girls! Girls!. Elvis starred in It Happened at the World’s Fair and Fun in Acapulco in 1963, then crammed in three movies a year in 1964 with Kissin’ Cousins, Viva Las Vegas, and Roustabout, and Girl Happy, Tickle Me, and Harum Scarum in 1965. He did three more in 1966 with Frankie and Johnny, Paradise, Hawaiian Style, and Spinout, in 1967 starring in Easy Come, Easy Go, Double Trouble, and Clambake, and Stay Away, Joe, Speedway, and Live a Little, Love a Little in 1968. His final films came out in 1969 when he starred in Charro!, The Trouble with Girls, and Change of Habit. In total, Elvis starred in 33 films from 1956 to 1969.

In addition to acting, he worked on 15 soundtracks for his movies and another 5 had soundtrack EPs. During the first half of the ‘60s three of his soundtracks hit number one, including songs like “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” “Return to Sender,” and “Viva Las Vegas.” It has been noted that the demanding schedule led to a downturn in the quality of his music on the soundtracks. Despite the fact that critics gave many negative reviews Elvis fans flocked to theaters to see the movies. Hal Wallis, who produced nine of his films commented, “A Presley picture is the only sure thing in Hollywood.”

Once he worked on the Elvis TV special and was able to choose his own songs and choose who he worked with again, Elvis became much happier with his music. Change of Habit was his final film in 1969. He died young, less than ten years later, after long-term drug abuse. He died in 1977 at the age of 42.

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