New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - August 21, 1997, New Braunfels, Texas
Love Elvis, but not his films
By David Elliott Copley News Service
You’ll never be a Bubba - or maybe a Buddha, in the current American scale of things spiritual - if you don’t love Elvis. But you’re sort of a booby if you love Elvis’ films.
Oh, they’re not all terrible. But sit down for a Kingspread of the best (a few) and the worst (many), and you know that Elvis Presley was no king of the screen. He was a sawed-off prince in a land of giants.
The giant he mostly looked up to was James Dean, the young meteor who got Elvis all shook up in 195S, just as Presley was wiring his atomic pelvis to launch the full thrust of the rock ’n’ roll revolution (with, let’s recall, more than a little waxing of the national soul platter by such black artists as Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley).
Presley, like nearly every other teen (though he was two years past teendom in ‘55, who can deny him everlasting membership?), found in Dean the avatar and icon of adolescence. But Dean had genius for acting and worked very hard at it before martyrizing himself in the most remembered car crash of the ‘50s.
The same year that Dean died (1955), Elvis was thrown into films -he finally appeared in 33, counting documentaries - mostly to extend his reign as a record star and satisfy his (and manager Tom Parker’s) ego. He yearned to become Dean, but had no training except hillbilly chutzpah ami his genius for music translated awkwardly to acting.
He had to fight innate shyness and his Mama's-boy distaste for public intimacy (give him a song, though, and he could switch from anxious hall to shakin’ El). His nice manners charmed Ed Sullivan on television but were a poor substitute for Dean’s often loutish zeal to burn down the
Pmonaliztd mnaagN adorn th# wall surrounding Elvis Praalay’s Gracaiand mansion In Memphis, Tennessee.
rules. Presley, a famous rebel in hunk starlets George Nader and Bob
song, had little of the thespian audacity of Dean and Marlon Brando.
Still, he was more than a tater bud of promise. Elvis was a beautiful camera object, a graceful mover and poser. With his surly twist of mouth, he brooded well. Sadly, he tended to open the mouth like a boy at Sunday supper asking for an extra splash of gravy (please, ma’am). The lion of rock entered a scene, tossed his mane, purred likens kitty.
He tried hard in the ‘56 debut of “Love Me Tedder” and impressed some critics and industry insiders as a “comer.” Most crucial (defining the career trajectory), the title tune hit big. Still, he was one step above
He was let loose for some good rockin’ in “Jailhouse Rock" (1957) and “King Creole” (‘58), and was earnestly touching as a “half-breed” in the soft western “Flaming Star” (1960), directed sharply by Don Siegel. But as the world npped open in the ‘60s, Elvis congealed, caught in the claw of formula as a utility star of sterilized crud like “Fun in Acapulco” (‘63), “Roustabout” (‘64), “Speedway” (‘68) - they go down easy, like a pill you Anon is a placebo.
Parker and the studio handlers made sure Elvis would become not a new Dean but a bigger Pat Boone. He was sanitized, turned into white
loaf without grain. The songs were mostly tin, panned from a plastic alley. The co-stars (like Sally Field as a nun in 1969’s “Change of Habit") were accomplices in trivia, though Tuesday Weld stirred him to some response in 196l’s “Wild in the Country,” which had a Clifford Odets script.
“Viva Las Vegas!” (1964) juiced his talent. It had the right kitschy take on Vegas; the King looked great tooling around town and looked even better singing and twitching with Ann-Margret and her lush, sibling lips. The film is a ripe overture of all Elvis-in-Vegas spoofs, including “Honeymoon in Vegas” (Nick Cage can be like Elvis plus acting genius).
Just a year after that, back in the Parker pit, reduced to stardom by rote (and looking about as bored as another king, Sinatra, in the dullest Rat Pack movies), Elvis was in “Harum Scarum.” To describe it is to jeer it, as in this from a film book;
“Motion picture and singing star Johnny Tyronne (Presley) is kidnapped while on a tour of the Middle East. In between Arabian adventures, he falls for Princess Shalimar (Mary Ann Mobley) and sings ‘Go East, Young Man.’...”
That same year, not even a full decade after shaking the foundations of Eisenhower Amenca as a rocker, he also gave us “Girl Happy” and “Tickle Me.” Mercifully, he did not appear with Francis the Talking Mule, but Elvis was too busy filling
his gold coffer (coffin?) with easy money to grow into much acting technique.
Elvis might have been a fine silent film star, a sort of Memphis Valentino, except that fans needed to hear him sing about once every IO minutes. The songs staved off total rigor mortis, though most of the film tunes were anti-rock fluff. After his death, the Elvis “musicals” enjoyed long TV life because they are TV, with sitcom plots, voided visual values and songs like commercial breaks pitching the Elvis of sacred memory.
The best Elvis on film is, of course, the concert stuff. A compilation only of his best filmed music, called “That’s Elvis!” might be worth an eternal run at the Graceland Multiplex. But most of the movies are stacked near the toilet where, so says tabloid legend, it all ended for El in 1977.
ii[UIIBT, OBTEST BWN
in Mr. Gatti's Pizza
IH 35 at Walnut Avenue 625-5165
Git r BOOKS AX. XII ABI I Xii shous b«0ort- 6p.ni S I 30 Adults Sv30, Kids \ Seniors '>Vr>(l
WALNUT 6 629-6400
IH 35 and Ualinit \\e.
ISIS Ani i/19
Air Force One
7:1k Mf J
7:1k t:H ^
7 JO, 9:30
Conspiracy Theory Dirty r-, OJO*
LBJ 7 JO, 9:50
George Of The jungle
290 VV. San Antonio
ction with a little something extra
From loft:SytvMt«r Stallone; Robert de Niro, and Ray Llotta in the new Mliiimax releaseBackiBy Joey Berlin Copley News Sendee
While the “Rocky” and “Rambo” movie franchises have been wildly popular around the world, numbing violence and simplistic politics stripped the quality from the sequels to the critically acclaimed original films. Remember, the first “Rocky” won the Academy Award as the Best Picture of 1976 and “First Blood” (1982) was an unusually powerful and moving action film.
liven Sylvester Stallone, who found stupendous fame and fortune as Rocky Balboa and John Rambo, is not proud of what became of the two series. He is even more embarrassed about his
“I just felt that it was the last chance to do something to perhaps make me feel some sort of redemption. ”
i Sylvester Stallone“Cop Land”.
subsequent missteps as a movie star, including such lame-brained stiffs as “Judge Dredd” and “Daylight,” not to mention his pathetic stabs at comedy in “Oscar” and “Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.”
Now, as the hype for “Rambo 4” might scream, “He’s Back”! Only this time he is surrounded by not only his most impressive supporting cast ever, but by 40 pcrtmd'sTof flab. In “Cop Land,” Stallone gets to test his acting skills playing a half-deaf New Jersey sheriff forced to confront a
gang of rogue New York City policemen played by such acclaimed actors as Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel and Ray Liotta.
“I just felt that it was the last chance to do something to perhaps make me feel some sort of redemption.” Stallone whispers nervously. In fact, he is the soul of humility throughout the conversation about “Cop Land,” heaping praise on his co-stars, writer/director James Mangold and Miramax chief Harvey Weinstein, who assembled the all
After so many years of coasting on his action hero image and celebrity, Stallone needed to dig down deep to hold his own in such heavyweight company. That meant letting himself go, not on the set, but at the table, which wasn’t as easy as you might think.
“I didn't realize the psychological impact of gaining that amount of weight in a short amount of ti me,” says. Fortunately, his new wife, Jennifer Flavin, was pregnant at the time and loved seeing him
balloon. With her enthusiastic support he came to enjoy the food fests and the break from his training regime.
“I felt really liberated and non-narcissistic for the first time,” he reports. “I think staying in shape is great, but there’s a point where the muscles are purely designer and they don’t have a function other than to display them. And by displaying them, it shows how little you think of yourself. You have to have your shoulders or your arms do your talking. A hundred years ago, if you had big muscles it was associated with a job, like coal mining. Today we’re all equally strong, because everyone can push a button on a forklift and off you go. So how you display yourself is quite different. I learned that the hard way, too.”
Mangold insisted - and Stallone agreed - that a doughy look was necessary for his “Cop Land” character, who has been sleepwalking through his job in the cozy suburbs for a decade. But the weight gain was also important for another reason.
“Psychologically, I had to get rid of my security blanket, which I used for 15 years,” Stallone explains. “After ‘Rambo,’ I became pretty well identified as a physical, monosyllabic, nonverbal person. Even though I didn't believe it, I was seduced by it. It was a great toy. That toy was action films.”
Obviously, Stallone has thought
long and hard about this genre, which he believes “Rambo” revolutionized. He maintains that the actors have been replaced as the engines of action movies by the “vehicle,” so the actors became interchangeable in one-man army stories.
“Before I knew it, I was being paid a great deal of money and being perceived as this bigger-than-life figure - and it’s over,” he continues. “The die is cast. You can’t go home again. I could have, but I wasn’t smart enough to split the two up and go from big movie to small movie and back.”
Now, hopefully smarter after “Cop Land,” and with his selfconfidence restored by the picture’s enthusiastic reception, Stallone is ready to go back to work. He had been waiting for “Cop Land,” praying it would allow him to change his downward career spiral. A military drama directed by William Friedkin will mostly likely be his next picture.
“I hope this isn’t considered a desperate ploy,” he says of “Cop Land” finally. “It's just an acting piece, something that I haven't done in 20 years. I hope it’s not seen as a man crying out - even though it is. I don't want it to be perceived that way, OK?”
His last words as he exits are for hunaatf as well as his critics and fans.
“I promise I won’t go backwards."Herald^eitun^^hursdayAugus^1^99^^A