There is probably no one else than Alanna Nash who can tell us the reality behind the new Elvis biopic. Nash, is the music journalist who published ‘The Colonel: The Extraordinary Story of Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley’ and although her book was not the basis nor the complete inspiration for Lurhman’s new biopic, it did serve as a reference to understand and enter into the life of Elvis Presley.
However, it came as a surprise when it was learned that the movie was not based on his book. The director, Baz Luhrmann did not even read it, at least not on his own, as he says that several researchers presented him with notes from that book and with several others that had key facts about the life of the King of Rock n’ Roll.
The importance of Alana’s book is that it is considered by many to be the word that Tom Parker authorized, the story of how a former manager made his fortune with Elvis and that his manner of being a very controlling one, to this day, remains a debatable topic.
Alana has already spoken out about how true some of the issues touched on in the film are.
Parker never pressured Elvis to quiet down his sex appeal
Elvis took care of what Elvis did and Colonel took care of what Colonel did. No doubt he liked Elvis to do what attracted people to the big tent. For Parker was no fool, he loved that Elvis was a male striptease artist of sorts. And it worked for him, they sold tickets.
When Parker became critical was when Elvis began to fail on stage, impacting the show with erratic behavior caused by narcotics. However, that happened in the 70s.
The movie is not fair to Parker, they make him an antagonist and detract from many of his accomplishments with his client.
There was not a late 50s concert riot in which Elvis disobeyed Parker’s orders
While there were riots, usually in Jacksonville, at no concert did Parker order Elvis not to move around or wiggle on stage. Everything was rehearsed and the Colonel knew what Elvis would do. He did not advise Elvis on any aspect of his performance.
Colonel Tom Parker didn’t have an accent
The Colonel’s accent didn’t sound like the one Tom Hanks uses in the movie. His accent was more American with a slight lisp as if he had a speech impediment. He didn’t have any impediment, in fact, he was just trying to wrap his Dutch tongue around the English, in true Southern style. Thus, the Colonel’s English sounded like a strange regional dialect and just by listening to certain consonants, you would know it was Dutch.
Elvis played for free in a Vegas hotel to satisfy Parker’s enslavement to gamblings
Elvis never knew how many shows he gave for free because Parker had sent him to pay off his gambling debts at a single Vegas hotel for years before Elvis’s death.
It is a reality that the Colonel even lived his last years sick but still gambling, even though years before, he didn’t even have to go down to the casino. The hotel would bring a roulette wheel to his room.
Elvis’ musical influences were not all black artists
Elvis had too many white influences and in seventh grade, he announced that he would sing at the Grand Ole Opry. Odds were he would be a country singer and his stint on the Louisiana Hayride seems to point in the same direction.
He certainly listened to R&B and swing tunes, as he lived in a ‘colored’ neighborhood.
Did Elvis really attend performances by singers such as B.B. King, Little Richard, and Sister Rosetta?
Luhrmann wants to show us Elvis’ influences. The teenage Elvis who lived in Memphis, went to West Memphis, Arkansas, and Beale Street to listen to black artists. And he continued to see them throughout his life, as in the case of Jackie Wilson or when he visited Little Richard’s house in California in the late 50s.
How accurate is Priscilla and Elvis’ relationship?
Despite their relationship depiction in the film, they do touch on the period after their divorce, and a few shared experiences other than arranging Lisa Marie’s visits.
Elvis did not join the army so that Parker could take him away for a while
While Parker did instigate the Elvis-in-the-Army affair, it was not to put a limit on sexual energy.
It was all negotiated in 1956 at the Pentagon. Parker wanted Elvis not to go to the Special Services, where happily the Army would welcome him, but to serve his time like any other soldier. In order to sand off the rough edges of his image and return as the all-American boy fit for family entertainment.
It was all planned to turn him into an adored pop idol, not a dangerous, lugubrious rocker.
While Elvis was in the army Parker prepared many appearances and movies for Presley, with the idea of making him appealing to families. However, when Elvis returned and was on stage, he did what he wanted.
Parker went out of his way to make sure that Elvis did not fulfill his desire to tour internationally
The Colonel didn’t have a passport, so he couldn’t go and didn’t trust any other promoter to take him. He gave many more reasons such as security and venues that were not big enough for Elvis.
It is believed that near the end of his life, Parker spoke to two promoters about this, as Elvis was unhappy about never being able to tour Europe, but it never happened.