In this episode of Memphis Type History: The Podcast, Rebecca meets Sheena and Savannah, two spectacular ladies of Graceland, who currently run a Podcast series entitled “Starring Elvis.” Whether you’re an Elvis fan or not, learning about the movies the artist put his heart into and the songs that came from them is surprising. You’ll hear about Sheena and Savannah’s Elvis favorites, some Elvis movie history, and what inspired the the two to start this charming series in the first place.
It all started with Dawson’s Creek. Well, not the show, but the podcast with fans of the show talking about each and every episode. While Sheena and Savannah were inspired by that show’s podcast, their Elvis movies podcast takes a whole other bent on the idea, focusing on the movies that really solidified the status of the king in the years after he returned from war.
The hosts even run down the list of all the world-renowned actors that were in those early films with Elvis. That’s just one reason they say, be careful if you assume all the films are silly or campy. One of the films in particular featured has a really interesting connection to Casablanca.
Elvis the Actor
Elvis made 31 feature films and even did a couple of concert documentaries, as well. Of those, our guests had some favorites. They were particularly impressed with King Creole because it gives Elvis a real opportunity to show acting skills that were often left out in his films in favor of assumed commercial success. He portrays a character with some real depth, co-stars with Walter Matthau, and the film was directed by Michael Curtiz.
Of course, Elvis really shines in the dancing and singing sequences in his films. The ones especially worth checking out—Jailhouse Rock and Love Me Tender. The ladies say those films demonstrate his star power was really connected to his performances within the films.
The Leading Ladies
Elvis’ leading ladies are well-known and many went on to have pretty impressive careers themselves. Ann Margaret, Nancy Sinatra, and Shelley Fabares are just some of the names that came up in our conversation. Of particular note was Ann Margaret performing her own song and having her name in the same size font as Elvis on the movie poster—a bit controversial at the time. Nancy Sinatra also played a big role. When the ladies talked about her connect to Elvis, the former star tweeted at them a note of thanks and that she missed Elvis (so sweet!).
Sheena and Savannah talk about a set of siblings that are especially cute and appear in several films and I asked them about Dolores Hart, who was the first leading lady to receive a kiss from Elvis on screen.
The movies were really groundbreaking because the films were often just opportunities to push out more Elvis music between records. The soundtracks were 45’s with 4-5 songs on them. The movie names were often connected to the title song such as “Love Me Tender”. If you want to listen to some of the music that true fans often love the most, check out “Pocket Full of Rainbows” or even the song “So Close Yet So Far Away from Paradise” in the movie Harem Scarem. In fact, many of the songs we all know as classic Elvis singles came from film soundtracks and weren’t released in any other form.
The Invention of the Karate Chop or The Fights
I found out that some people believe another of Elvis’ many innovations was the old-style movie karate chop move. Our guests tell us about how the fights were a key part of the Elvis films. And yes, he is known for a signature karate chop move. In one movie… he may have karate chopped a Jaguar. Elvis was actually known for being a passionate practicioner of karate. He loved integrating the moves he practiced on his own into any of the fight scenes. He almost never had a stunt double. One night, he was so into practicing for a fight scene, that he stayed up really late chopping wooden blocks until he felt he got the move down for the movie scene. You also may have seen Elvis’ custom Gi he had made.
Pop Culture Connections
We heard a lot more about the various pop culture connections Elvis brought to our country and the world. The craziest thing to think about, is at a time when there was barely tv, no internet or youtube, no social media, etc… he was doing as many as three movies a year and keeping himself connected to his audience. He showed different variations of his work in these films while retaining his place as a star singer and performer. It was a brilliant strategy for keeping relevant and some would say, ultimately, pushed him too far. Sheena and Savannah tell us about the next episode they are producing, but you’ll have to listen to hear about that.
Elvis Movie Trivia
We end the episode with a fun game of trivia with our new elvis movie-loving friends. You’ll have to listen to the podcast to see how many you can get right, but here is an example of questions below.
- What was the highest grossing Elvis movie?
Can you guess which movie got the highest star rating on IMDB?
- Which Elvis movie had the same writers as the Three Stooges?
- In what movie was a stunt double used for Elvis because he was banned from entering the territory in which that particular scene was filmed?
Support the show via Patreon and get bonus content like our weekly blooper reel, digital wallpaper featuring Rebecca’s artwork, t-shirts, signed books, and more!