On His Birthday Eve
By Deborah Smith Ford (
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This is a tribute to Elvis Aaron Presley on his birthday eve, January 7, 2011.  January 8th would have been his 76th birthday.

Presley, a singer and actor, was one of the most popular entertainers of the 20th century. This icon was born in Tupelo, Mississippi and later moved to
Memphis, Tennessee, with his family at the age of 13.

Presley's career began in 1954 with Sun Records owned by Sam Phillips who was eager to bring the sound of African American music to a wider audience.

Phillips saw in Presley the means to realize his ambition, not only in his music, but later as an actor as well.  That is the side, Elvis' acting talents, that will be

Elvis Presley became a film star in 1956, and would go on to appear in a total of 33 feature films.

Presley first became interested in acting in his youth. Despite later comments that he had no acting experience, fellow Humes High School students recall that
he was often cast as the lead in the Shakespeare plays they studied in English class.

Among many actors that Presley admired were James Dean and Marlon Brando.  It has been reported that he paid close attention to their performing styles
long before he ever set foot on a movie set.

On April 25, 1956 Presley signed a seven year contract with Paramount that also allowed him to work with other studios.  In November that same year, he
made his big-screen debut with the musical western Love Me Tender.  An eleven-year-old Kurt Russell made his screen debut as "boy who kicks Mike (Elvis)"
in It Happened at the World's Fair (1963).

Earlier films for Presley were Jailhouse Rock and King Creole (1958), and his return from the Army film (in real life), was G.I. Blues (1960).  
To follow were more dramatic roles in Flaming Star (1960) and Wild in the Country (1961), and the non-musical western, Charro!.

Blue Hawaii (1961) and Paradise, Hawaiian Style (1966) and Change of Habit (1969) followed.  Presley's films were commercially successful, and he
"became a film genre of his own."

By the late sixties the Hippie movement had developed and musical acts like Jefferson Airplane, Sly and the Family Stone, Grateful Dead, The Doors and
Janis Joplin were dominating the airwaves.  As a result Presley shifted his career back to recording and touring, and his last two theatrical films were concert
documentaries in the early 1970s.

Presley was reported to have been offered the starring role in West Side Story (1960), and Jon Voight's role in Midnight Cowboy (1969) but the roles were
turned down by either the Colonel or Presley himself.  Another film that never happened for Presley, due to "negotitating," was remake of A Star Is Born with
Barbra Striesand.  Kris Kristofferson was cast instead.

The types of films that Elvis Presley became known for did vary widely, thus indicating he was able to "handle" a more wide genre of acting.  He was cast in
the likes of the drama of Jailhouse Rock (1957) and King Creole, to the light comedies of Kissin' Cousins (1964) and Tickle Me (1965).

No matter what source of entertainment we have come to know and love Elvis Presley in, he left us way too early and will always be sorely missed... Happy
Birthday Elvis!