Elvis invades Toronto!

Elvis Aaron Presley died thirty-two years ago today. Since this site bears his name-sake, it’s about time I pay a proper tribute to the King.

More often than not, I have to explain how this site has nothing to do with Elvis Presley. The title is a carry-over from an old ‘zine I used to print about a decade ago which catered to my obssessions with ’50s Rock’n’Roll and classic Universal and Hammer horror films.  I saw it as the bastard child of Mojo and Famous Monsters of Filmland. The title came to me after reading a biography on David Bowie, where he referred Just a Gigolo as his “thirty-two Elvis movies in one.” The title stuck. From 1999 to 2002, I published five issues. Some of the interviews, like those with Bob Keane of Del-Fi Records and Hammer goddess Ingrid Pitt, can be found in the archives.

But back to Elvis. I grew up on ’50s music: Elvis, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and just about any compilation tape from that era which could fit into a cassette deck. I also grew up on a steady diet of Elvis films. They often played on one of the french networks on summer afternoons. I’m sure I saw a good chunk of them, probably most of them. I never counted.

If Elvis is to be remembered for one film, it should be King Creole. It is part noir-thriller, part tale of teenage delinquency. Michael Curtiz’ black & white cinematography, with its elegant use of shadows, gave New Orleans a rich, stylized look. And Elvis, when given the right script and working alongside a great director, proved to be an amazing actor. The gentle subtleties in the father/son dynamic have aged much better than the film which tends to overshadow it, Rebel Without A Cause. If only the Colonel hadn’t been so focused on selling soundtrack albums, we could have seen more performances like this.

King Creole was released in July of 1958. When this ad ran in the Toronto Star on August 15, 1958, it was playing its second run at the Nortown Cinema at Bathurst and Eglinton. In the book Nabes, John Sebert says the Nortown was the last single screen theatre built by Famous Players. Long demolished, it’s now a strip mall, but on that day over fifty years ago, Forest Hill residents hit up the Nortown to see the King in his prime. Save for a brief moment in 1968, things would never be the same.

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