William A. Graham who directed Elvis Presley's final film and the pilots for The Big Valley and Police Story, died Sept 12 of complications from pneumonia. He was 87.
During his long career Graham also helmed the movies 'Honky' (1971) and 'Return to the Blue Lagoon' (91). He earned an Emmy nomination and also directed three episodes of The X-Files in the 1990s. In the '60s, he directed a number of TV series including Naked City, The F.B.I, The Fugitive and Batman. His also directed the telemovie 'Elvis and the Colonel: The Untold Story' (1993), with Rob Youngblood as Elvis Presley and Beau Bridges as Col. Tom Parker.
Earlier, Graham directed the real Elvis in Change of Habit (1969), which has the rock 'n' roll legend, in his last film, playing a doctor opposite Mary Tyler Moore as a nun.
In an interview about Elvis, William Graham noted that he talked Presley into changing his famous hairstyle for the film. "He had a kind of a pompadour in front and his hair was full of grease. And because this was a movie about a doctor working in the ghetto, it just didn't seem to be quite the right hairstyle, so I talked to him and I said, 'Elvis, how would you feel about changing your hair a little bit?' Well, he said he would be open to the idea. In the end we washed all the grease out of his hair and modified the styling and it was quite a landmark achievement. It was pretty unusual to get that done. And Elvis actually liked it very much.
Elvis was wonderful to work with and honestly was the nicest man I ever met in my life. Elvis called everyone 'Sir' or 'M'am' - from the gate guard at the studio all the way up to the head of the studio. Elvis was very responsive to direction. He didn't show any of the kind of ego, the kind of temperament that you would expect from a big star -- and he was a big star. Soemtimes Elvis would come out and sit around on the set and bring out his guitar and he would sing and play for us, lots of songs like 'Hound Dog' or 'Blue Suede Shoes' and this was wonderful for us. Elvis made being on the movie set a real thrill for the whole crew".