Elvis On Tour – Demands on bloated and pale King in his last movie

Elvis On Tour – Demands on bloated and pale King in his last movie

11/01/2022

Elvis on Tour: Trailer for 1972 documentary

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Elvis Presley’s final theatrical release arrived on the big screen back on November 1, 1972. His second concert documentary movie following 1970’s Elvis: That’s the Way It Is, followed The King on tour across the US. In fact, Martin Scorsese was hired to work in the split screen montage on the film that the star’s manager Colonel Tom Parker had big issues with.

Directors Robert Abel and Pierre Adidge were approached by MGM to helm Standing Room Only, which would later be titled Elvis On Tour. The filmmakers were initially reluctant to take on the job, but met with The King backstage in Las Vegas after one of his shows. 

The pair were blunt with the star that they didn’t like Elvis: That’s the Way It Is as they felt he acted up for the cameras. As a result, their ultimatum for agreeing to direct his new concert movie was if he acted naturally, which he agreed to.

Abel and Adidge also had issue with Elvis’ appearance, believing him to be too bloated and pale, so they make sure they had the lighting in the movie was just right to hide his appearance. 

Despite all this, the biggest challenge was getting around The Colonel’s demands for certain cuts to be made to Elvis On Tour.

The directors managed to convince The King through Memphis Mafia member Jerry Schilling to use footage from his 1956 Ed Sullivan Show performance performing Ready Teddy.

Parker unsuccessfully tried to block this segment of the film as he didn’t want Elvis to appear like a nostalgia act, but to be seen as a modern performer in his late thirties.

Schilling also managed to convince Elvis to be interviewed by the filmmakers at MGM, which helped construct the movie’s narrative.

However, The Colonel asked the studio to remove parts of The King’s comments, including negativity about his acting career in the 1960s.

Nevertheless, some of them did make the final cut around a compilation of Elvis’ on-screen kisses, pointing out the repetitive nature of the plots in his movies.

In the end, Elvis On Tour cost around $600,000 to film, which would be over $4 million today. This ballooned to $1.6 million (over $11 million today) when The King’s touring fee was included.

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Elvis On Tour opened to mixed reviews 50 years ago, but went on to win Best Documentary Film at the 30th Golden Globe Awards.

The King went on to star in two more concert films for TV with 1973’s Aloha from Hawaii Via Satellite being the next. This featured the star slimmed down and looking his best before his eventual decline and tragic death just four years later at 42.

The last one was 1977’s Elvis in Concert, capturing The King on tour in his final months. CBS broadcast it after his death, but it’s never been re-released aside from a clip of him singing Unchained Melody at the end of Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis movie.

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