March 13, 2008
At the crossroads with Elvis
(Page 3 - Previous Page)It's all up there on the screen: The softness in his face that made him look boyish, the full lips that look almost feminine (and that would appear so strongly in the face of his daughter, Lisa Marie). There he was in black leather, with his animal grace and his magnetism -- his sex appeal as much at his command as his laugh. His self-deprecating humor and the easy familiarity with which he kidded around.
You see the way he responds to the audience and the audience responds to him. You see Presley in full command of his talent and power, "The King," with the potential to remain one of the greatest rock 'n' roll entertainers of all time.
At the same time, the show contains all the foreshadowing of what was to come. The face that would bloat, the distracted manner of starting a song and not finishing it, stopping to break into a joke, not taking his talent or his songs seriously, changing the lyrics as a goof, wiping the sweat off his brow with a handkerchief for a woman in the audience, the large production numbers, the faked emotion, all the signs of his impending tragedy are present.
That's why the show has remained memorable, because we catch Presley at the crossroads. He has emerged on Sunset Boulevard, and he has a choice: to embrace his music and his audience or to retreat into the Elvis Presley cocoon.
Binder's career has been one of granting the audience memorable performances by singular talents. However, in "Elvis," he caught a legendary artist at the intersection of his talent and his destiny, at a crossroads to which he would never return.
Elvis chose to go back in the building.
For more information about the 25th annual PALEYFEST, visit http://www.paleycenter.org/festivals/paleyfest2008/index.htm. A more extensive version of this article appears at tommywood.com.
Tom Teicholz is a film producer in Los Angeles. Everywhere else, he's an author and journalist who has written for The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Interview and The Forward. His column appears every other week.