From Blogs To Books/From Books To Movies

Thanks again to Thomas for taking over as guest conductor last week. I decided to just take the whole week off from keeping up with Elvis news and writing the blog. Honestly, what I learned during my week away from The Mystery Train is that I need time off from here more often, despite how much I love it. Taking a few steps back made me realize that sometimes this fun little hobby consumes too much of my life.

Last Train To Memphis: The Movie That Wouldn’t Die

With that being said, I did have a chance to go back and catch up on the news. One of the main stories to hit the Elvis sites last week was talk of a movie version of Last Train To Memphis: The Rise Of Elvis Presley, Peter Guralnick’s definitive early Elvis biography. The book was first released in 1994, seventeen years ago. I believe Hollywood has been trying to turn this into a movie for almost that long.

I can actually remember covering the Last Train To Memphis movie for the fan club newsletter I wrote back in the early to mid 1990s. My last story on the subject was something to the effect of “Unfortunately, plans for a movie version of Last Train To Memphis have been put on hold.”

Over the years, the project has continued to garner a mention out here in web land every now and then. IGN Movies even reviewed a rough draft script for Last Train To Memphis by Jim Uhls (Fight Club) back in 2000. None other than The New York Times listed a now-abandoned Last Train To Memphis incarnation with Mike Newell directing, Leonardo DiCaprio producing, and John Goodman appearing in an unidentified role (perhaps Colonel Tom Parker?). Long-time Elvis friend Jerry Schilling was also attached to the project as co-producer.

Here we are, well over a decade later, and plans for the movie have apparently been put back on the track, with John Fusco set to write a new adaptation for producer Steve Bing (“John Fusco Takes His Shot At Early Elvis” — Deadline Hollywood). Fusco‘s biggest credit to date is 1988’s Young Guns, while a few of Bing’s past productions have been documentaries. He also wrote the Chuck Norris Missing In Action series of movies.

My hope is that Last Train To Memphis: The Rise Of Elvis Presley will not be yet another conventional dramatization of Elvis’ life, but instead a definitive documentary using archival music, footage, and photographs to tell the story. After all, the only person who can really do Elvis justice is Elvis himself. Johnny Depp need not apply.

An ultimate Elvis documentary would fill the void left by the now-dated This Is Elvis and Elvis: The Great Performances. If they do this movie right, there’s a sequel already waiting in the wings in the form of Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley, Guralnick’s somewhat disappointing 1999 follow-up that covered the remainder of Elvis’ life.

Sometimes, initiatives take flight right out of the Projects That Will Never Happen Department, and maybe that will be the case with Last Train To Memphis.

Live like Elvis – at any budget

ElvisBlog was one of several sites to cover one of Elvis’ former homes going on the rental market. The southern California residence that then-newlyweds Elvis and Priscilla used in 1967 can be yours for just $25,000 a month and includes, amazingly enough, “floor-to-ceiling walls throughout.”

If $25,000 a month is too much for you, then perhaps you might want to furnish your own version of Graceland instead by perusing eBay’s local classified advertisements (“Recreate Graceland Forever!” — The eBay Classifieds Blog). The Jungle Room is pretty cool, especially since two of my favorite albums were recorded there, but I think Elvis’ TV Room is more my style.

Judging a blog by its book cover

Finally, be sure to check out the ultra-slick cover to Thomas’ forthcoming book, which compiles his first 271 posts on the Elvis Today blog. It also features one never-before-published article. Hey Thomas, I’m just wondering, who is going to star in the inevitable movie version of the Elvis Today blog?

2 thoughts on “From Blogs To Books/From Books To Movies

  1. More often than not, Elvis bio-pics are a collection of re-creations of pivitol moments of Elvis’ life; and not an actual narrative sorty driven by plot or character.

    In this way, they are very disappointing, because they never reveal anythign new or create a new understanding of Elvis.

    The myth of the Elvis story dominates and the reality never comes through.

    Elvis tried very hard to get a musical career going – all through high school.

    He went twice to Sun to make a personal recording, hoping to meet Sam Phillips to turn the recording into an audition.

    Yet, people still believe there was just the one record for his mom’s birthday. Despite that My Happiness was recorded months away from her birthday and he left the disc with the high school pal who loaned him the $4 fee.

    Elvis deserves a proper movie bio-pic like Walk the Line or the Ray Charles one.

    But, perhaps the problem with doing so, is that the Elvis story is too complex to reduce to a feature length movie.

    Ray Charles’ story is one of overcoming various obstacles; Johnny Cash is overcoming internal demons

    But Elvis – Elvis can be used as a metaphore for a lot of different stories

    He’s an inspiration, a cautionary tale, a death spiral nightmare – he was sex and innocence, rebel and soldier, he was more than rock n roll and he is in more Music Halls of fame than any other performer.

    Perhaps to get a movie that really shows us the Elvis story, in it’s historical & cultural context and done as more than a greatest/pivitol moments collection of scenes.

    The Elvis movie needs to tell the story as if the audience doesn’t already know – because, even after his death, we still don’t.

    Elvis is mythic and legion


    • Thanks for commenting, random. Beyond the story elements that you mentioned, which are all great points, I think the other two things that would potentially work against an Elvis movie would be casting him – both the actor and vocal work.

      It would take an extremely talented actor to capture the spirit of Elvis without turning into a typical caricature. The other issue is the music. I’m completely against having an actor lip-synch to real Elvis recordings, yet using recordings by someone else could be problematic as well when the music is such a core part of the man.

      For those and other reasons, I’d prefer to see Last Train To Memphis handled as an ultimate documentary with audio and visuals of the real Elvis, rather than a dramatic portrayal in the vein of Ray or Walk The Line.


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