Elvis: A Celebration

Images of Elvis Presley from the Elvis Presley Archive at Graceland

Mike Evans
Dorling Kinderlsey. London. 2002.
Hbk. 608 pages.  Index.  £25.00.

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I’m not a great fan of Elvis Presley. I can appreciate his importance in the history of popular music and culture but I can’t accept that he’s The King. In reality he was a puppet of his manager Colonel Tom Parker. He was manipulated and used to such an extent that he turned into a burger-eating, drug-taking money machine. By the end of his life he was a bloated travesty.

We can see that his film career was largely ruled by the lazy pursuit of money.  He could have had prime parts in The Defiant Ones, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, West Side Story, Midnight Cowboy or the 1970s remake of A Star Is Born, but he (read Colonel Parker) preferred to star in musical ‘travelogues’ instead. Scenery, girls, music and a few motor vehicles became the basic formula for most of his films, which he churned out from 1957 to 1969.

Yet, he could have made far more impact as a film actor. He distinguished himself in two Westerns, Flaming Star and Charro! He also was very good in my personal favourite, Jailhouse Rock (1957). It portrays him as an angry, confused innocent with musical passion who is enslaved by the music industry. 

The films helped sell Presley as a happy-go-lucky bland brand suitable for kiddies, grannies and anyone else between these demographic groups. Money and manipulation ruined him, he should have been warned by the message of Jailhouse Rock...

Elvis: A Celebration is a huge collection of photographs of Presley starting from the beginning right though to the end of his life. There’s not much text but there is a useful appendix containing ‘Facts, figures and statistics on the life of Elvis’. It certainly lives-up to the cover blurb as ‘The Ultimate pictorial tribute to the King of Rock’n’Roll.’

Nigel Watson
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