Elvis Week is taking place at Graceland this month, marking 45 years since Elvis Presley’s untimely death. Aside from being the most successful solo music artist of all time, The King had a long, but repetitive Hollywood acting career. Apart from a few classics like Viva Las Vegas and King Creole, much of the star’s movie back catalogue were poor musicals with similar rom-com storylines.
By the end of the 1960s, Elvis decided to refocus his efforts back on his live singing. Following the success of his 1968 Comeback Special, The King had his 31st and final acting role in 1969’s Change of Habit.
Then it was on to Las Vegas and touring for the remainder of his short life. However, before his death in 1977, Elvis desired to start making movies again, but this time good ones.
He’d already missed out on the Oscar-winning True Grit opposite John Wayne, with his role going to Glen Campbell instead.
The problem was that in negotiations, Elvis’ manager Colonel Tom Parker was totally uncompromising. This led to missed opportunities for The King who could have gone on to win an Oscar.
Tragically, another would come when Barbra Streisand approached the star in 1974 to co-star with her in a remake of A Star Is Born, as she already knew him from sharing Las Vegas residencies at The International Hotel.
The movie was originally made in 1937, followed by a 1954 version with Judy Garland. What would be a 1976 adaptation with Kris Kristofferson instead of Elvis was eventually followed by the 2018 remake starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, which is on BBC Two at 10pm tonight.
One of the final scenes of Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis movie even has The King on the cusp of 40 in late 1974 telling his ex-wife Priscilla Presley that he won’t be able to co-star in A Star Is Born because of The Colonel. So what exactly did the old scoundrel demand?
During the pandemic, Graceland archivist Angie Marchese filmed a behind-the-scenes video at Elvis’ home, taking a look at the original proposed contract.
The black folder was labelled: “A proposed Presley and Streisand film. Contract for Rainbow Road, formerly A Star Is Born.”
According to Ernst Jorgensen in Elvis Day By Day, The Colonel had demanded a $1 million salary for The King, despite the fact he hadn’t starred in a movie since 1969’s Change of Habit.
Memphis Mafia member Jerry Schilling said: “There was no way the film’s budget could stand two superstar salaries and Elvis didn’t care about the money. He was smart enough to know that this kind of supporting role could be his way back into the movies.”