King Creole: Elvis Presley’s Popular Movie

It’s hard to believe that had Elvis Presley lived, he would have been only in his late 70s. As is well known, he died on August 16, 1977, at the age of 42.

Who was Elvis and what was his legacy in terms of musical films? Born on January 8, 1935, in Tupelo Mississippi, Elvis was a major rock ‘n roll idol of the 1950s, whose influence on American pop music and Hollywood musical genre, not to mention his impact on youth lifestyle, cannot be overestimated.

By the time of his death, Elvis had sold some 600 million singles and albums, more than any other performing or recording artist, including Frank Sinatra.

The bumpin’ grinding rock n’ roll star developed a unique style of performance, known for his pelvic gyrations, which caused mass hysteria among teenage audiences, particularly girls.

His style also stirred major controversies among religious leaders, TV persona, and parents that led to accusation of “corrupting the youth of America”—this was after all the conservative era of the Eisenhower administration. So great was the fear of the “threatened sexual standards” of the young generation during his many TV appearances that cameramen were ordered to shoot and/or cut him off at the waist level. There were always rumors that he was wearing loose pants and no underwear

The survivor of identical twins, Elvis moved with his family to Memphis, Tennessee, when he was 13. He worked as an usher at a movie theater and as a truck driver before embarking on one of the most phenomenally successful showbiz careers. After touring locally as “The Hillbilly Cat” and recording a number of singles for a regional label, he was signed by RCA in 1955 at the young age of 20.

Elvis became an instant hit on the radio airwaves and in concert halls. In 1956, he began a successful film career, starring in no less than 33 pictures, most made in one decade, between 1956 and 1966.

With few exceptions, most of Elvis’s films were dismissed by movie critics and the more discriminating audiences. However, they were tailor-made vehicles that exploited his unique personality and talents.

King Creole
Presley delivers a good performances in ” King Creole,” as teenager Danny Fisher, forced to drop out of school to help support his weakling of a father (Dean Jagger). New Orleans saloonkeeper Charlie Le Grand (Paul Stewart) comes to the rescue, when he offers Danny a job as a singer. But the gang boss, Maxie Fields (Walter Matthau, before he became a star), a figure from Danny’s criminal past, insists that Danny sing at his place. Maxie manipulates Danny with the gun moll Ronnie (Carolyn Jones), though his true love is another girl, Nellie (Dolores Hart, who later quit acting to become a nun).

In the climax, there’s a fist fight between Danny and Maxie (guess who wins?)

Along with “Jailhouse Rock,” “King Creole” is one of the good samplers of Presley’s early screen career (before he went to the army), offering the requisite musical numbers.

Directed by the versatile Michael Curtiz (“Casablanca,” many Errol Flynn adventures), “King Creole” was loosely adapted from Harold Robbins’ novel, “A Stone for Danny Fisher,” by playwright Herbert Baker and Michael V. Gazzo.

Though most fans must have gone to Elvis’ movies due to his popularity as a singer, Elvis had enjoyed quite a long and fruitful screen career as an actor.

Most of Elvis movies fared well at the box-office, and some, like “Love Me Tender,” “King Creole,” “Jailhouse Rock, “Blue Hawaii,” and “Viva Las Vegas,” were among the top-grossing features of their respective years.

Elvis’s career began to decline in the mid-1960s, a combined result of over-exposure and the rise of new musical styles by the Beatles and other groups and bands from the U.K., such as the Rolling Stones and The Doors.