Saturday, August 28, 2010

Wild In The Country – The Deleted Scenes

In the September 2010 issue of the Elvis The Man And His Music magazine, there is a very interesting article about Wild In The Country, documenting deleted scenes from the movie. Turns out there are nine of them, described in detail in the article.

In fact, photos from many of the deleted scenes exist, and in the magazine some of them are published, including four film frames from the original ending (where Hope Lange's character Irene had died). These frames show Glenn (Elvis) sitting on a train on his way to college, opening an envelope Phil Macy (John Ireland) had given him on the train platform.

Interestingly enough, it was Elvis himself that initiated the decision to re-shoot the ending, telling the director of the film, Philip Dunne, that he thought "the boy was getting away with an awful lot in the picture."

Dunne, taking this in consideration, wrote in a memo that "He [Elvis] is on top of the world, going to college, all expenses paid, his story is published, owing everything to her, and she is dead, and he [Elvis' character] is the one who started all the trouble by making a pass at her. She is punished for what is essentially his mistake and he gets off scot-free. The trouble isn't Elvis performance – it is in the situation as it is written."

No footage or photos from the original sequence with Elvis on the train has ever before been seen, according to the author of the article, Bill Bram. Unfortunately he doesn't elaborate as to where he's found his "movie files". But the Fox memos he's quoting offers insight into the making of the movie and the confidence the director as well as the producer had in Elvis' acting abilities.

And I agree wholeheartedly with Bill Bram that it would be nice to think that someday there'll be a deluxe DVD version of Wild In The Country with all the deleted scenes included as bonus material.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

From A Blog To A Book

I've always wanted to write a book, especially about Elvis. Having blogged for a couple of years now (August 16 marked the three year anniversary of Elvis Today) I realized I've sort of written one already.

So after some thinking, what I've decided to do, is to collect the 271 posts I've penned from August 16, 2007 to January 8, 2010 in a book, with the working title The Elvis Today Blog Vol. 1. I've already made a deal with a freelance journalist who will do the layout. As it happens, it's one of my brothers, and what he needs to get started, are all the posts included in a Word-document file.

So what I'm doing right now is a lot of “copy and paste,” going through each post and making corrections when necessary. For example, in the beginning I wrote the title of an album inside quotation marks, like “Elvis Is Back” but after a while started to use italics instead, like Elvis Is Back. Another problem is what to do with all the links and a sentence like “You'll find it here.”

Although it's slow work, I'm making steady progress. If all goes according to plan the book will be ready sometime this autumn, as a pdf-file, and then uploaded to Blurb.com, where you can print your own book on demand. As I understand it, Blurb also features a bookstore where you can choose to put your book up for sale.

So in a way, what I'm doing now is fulfilling a dream I've had for a long time. I'm looking forward to holding my very own book in my hands in the near future. And if you're interested in a copy, just let me know!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Elvis On Tour – Now And Then


Today, on August 16, I'm going to commemorate Elvis by watching his last film, Elvis On Tour, recently released on DVD/Blu-ray. But before I do that I'd like to tell you about the first time I saw it.

It must have been in the early or middle 80's. My parents had bought a caravan, and that's how we spent the vacation: on the road visiting different sights and places.

That particular summer the Swedish Television screened “rain movies” during the afternoon. These were feature films usually a bit old, supposedly to be shown if it was raining and one had to stay inside. Thinking about it right now, I'm pretty sure “rain movies” were shown whether it was bad weather or not, because what if it rained in the north and not in the south?

Now, one day I read in the paper that the “rain movie” was going to be Elvis On Tour. Needless to say, I was excited, as was my younger brother, who also digged Elvis. We told our parents in no uncertain terms that we had to park that caravan in good time before the film was to begin, so that we could turn the antenna around and try to get a sharp picture, something that wasn't always an easy task.

My parents, being very understanding folks, even headed for higher ground so that the TV signal would be stronger. An hour or so before the movie was to begin, we were parked outside a monastery, and went to work trying to find a decent picture on the tiny black and white television set.

I'm happy to report that we succeeded, and after all these years I can still recall the excitement when the screen showed a big clock where the hands were approaching three o' clock, together with a text that read: “15:00 - Elvis On Tour.” I also remember the opening “Johnny B. Goode” sequence and how cool I thought the slow-motion effect was. (Maybe that's another reason why I was so disappointed when it was announced that Warner Home Video had replaced it with “Don't Be Cruel” on the DVD/Blu-ray release.)

All in all, it was a fantastic “rain movie” and it will be great to watch it again tonight – with one big difference. This time it will be in color!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

More Lost Footage From The Garden

Today I was excited to learn that there exists more footage from Elvis' Madison Square Garden concert on June 9, 1972.

About a year and a half ago I wrote about footage of Elvis performing "Polk Salad Annie," captured by an NBC camera crew that was filming the show. Thanks to the Elvis Information Network (EIN) I found this on Youtube just moments ago:



Interestingly enough, the footage starts with comedian Jackie Kahane being booed of the stage (though he seems to think the problem is a faulty microphone). Then there's about two minutes worth of film showing the Sweet Inspirations performing a number followed by some great shots of the stage and audience before the main event begins.

And begin it does, with a superb looking Elvis entering the stage and launching himself into "That's All Right" followed by "Proud Mary." There's also footage showing audience reactions, and it all ends with about a minute of "Polk Salad Annie."

It all took my breath away, and I felt the need to write this post immediately after seeing it. It's like EIN puts it: "A must see!"

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Got A Lot O' Livin' To Do

A couple of days ago I was lucky enough to find a copy of Ger Rijff's book Inside Loving You (2003) in a second-hand bookshop. This photo-journal is packed with impressive photographs from the making of Elvis' second picture, most of them in black and white.

Leafing through it, the photos that fascinated me the most were the candid shots, especially those taken of Elvis together with his parents during breaks in the filming. As you may know, Gladys and Vernon visited their son at the movie lot, and it's clear looking at the pictures, just how much Gladys adored and loved her son.

The shots from the grand finale of the movie, where Elvis is performing "Got A Lot O' Livin' To Do" in front of the TV cameras, also caught my attention. "The best rock 'n' roll footage ever captured on the celluloid," the author writes, and he's probably right. This is how Peter Guralnick describes the scene (where Gladys can be seen in the audience, sitting on tha aisle) in Last Train To Memphis:

"It is perhaps the musical high point of Elvis' career in films, yet another reprise of "Got A Lot O' Livin' To Do" which combines illusion and reality in such a way as to heighten the attraction of each. Elvis swivels his leg sharply, then good-naturedly drags it behind him. He stands at the lip of the stage and, along with the Jordanaires, who are dressed in matching cowboy outfits, leads the audience in hand clapping, then jumps down and comes dancing up the aisle. Gladys' gaze never wavers. For a moment he is standing to her left, and as she claps along she never takes her eyes of her son. Then he backs away, climbs back up on the stage, and the number is over, the studio audience is still applauding."

After reading Guralnick's words, I had to watch the scene myself, and it's indeed a great moment for Elvis on the big screen. For his mother, the experience must have been an ever greater one. As Guralnick writes, "For her it is the pinnacle of everything she has ever dreamed or imagined, Her gaze in transformed by love."

Inside Loving You also includes an interview with Hal Kanter, the director of Loving You, where he has this to say about the rumour that Elvis never watched the film again after Gladys died:

"That's what I've read, I don't know whether that's true or not. I would really sort of doubt that, but it's a good story."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Spinout Soundtrack Revaluated?

I was a bit surprised to see the Spinout soundtrack receive such praise in the Behind The Scenes section in the booklet accompanying the latest FTD classic album release How Great Thou Art.

No less than three times is the soundtrack mentioned, described for example as “nine above-average recordings” and “a major improvement over the previous soundtracks – in song selection, in arrangements, in the playing, but more than anything, in Elvis' performances. However, this would be a secret until the album's release in October 1966.”

Don't get me wrong, I like the Spinout soundtrack recordings (recorded a couple of months before the How Great Thou Art album), but are they really so much better than the other soundtracks around that time? How can “Beach Shack” be an “above-average” soundtrack recording, or “Smorgasbord” for that matter? To me, it's the bonus songs “Down In The Alley,” “Tomorrow Is A Long Time” and “I'll Remember You” that makes the Spinout album a stronger one than for example Girl Happy and Frankie and Johnny.

The following paragraph also made me raise an eyebrow:

“An advance single for the Spinout movie is released combining the title song with the lovely ballad “All That I Am”. With marketing strategy deciding that the title song was the best way to promote the movie, good commercial sense seems to be overruled, as several of the other recording have much more hit potential.”

Now, which recordings would that be? “Never Say Yes” or “Adam And Evil”? Probably not. “Stop, Look And Listen” or “I'll Be Back”? Maybe those two songs are a bit stronger, but enough to be “hit potential”? I certainly don't think so.

I have to admit I was astonished to read about this “revaluation” of the Spinout soundtrack recordings. The reason why I use the term “revaluate” is because never before have I heard Ernst Jorgensen or Roger Semon talk about these recordings in such a positive way. In fact, in Jorgensen's book A Life In Music, about the only thing written is that the recording of the Spinout soundtrack “would follow the established model of production, promotion, publicity, and sales” and that the “difference between the clean, classic and well-crafted gospel album and the dated, pedestrian, poorly recorded soundtrack albums was like night and day.”

Therefore, it would be interesting to hear Ernst Jorgensen and/or Roger Semon elaborate a bit more about this. And while I'm at it, I'd also like to know the answer to why the photographs in the booklet I presume were taken for How Great Thou Art weren't used on the front of the original album cover, only on the back. Why pick a shot that must be at least four years old instead? It doesn't make sense. I missed the answer for that one, or at least a discussion about it, in the booklet.

Finally, I thought it intersting to see that the memorabilia section in the booklet listed two other drafts of the track listing for the How Great Thou Art album. I programmed my stereo with one of them, and have to say I enjoyed the mix of fast and slow numbers that it offered: (Oddly enough, "Crying In The Chapel” was missing on both of the two drafts.)

Side 1

  1. How Great Thou Art
  2. Run on
  3. Stand By Me
  4. By And By
  5. Farther Along
  6. Somebody Bigger Than You And I

Side 2

  1. So High
  2. In The Garden
  3. If The Lord Wasn't Walking By My Side
  4. Without Him
  5. Where Could I Go But To The Lord
  6. Where No One Stands Alone