Though Elvis Presley’s music is widely credited as starting a sea change in American popular culture, his films are often dismissed as base marketing vehicles, commercially successful but insignificant. Beyond the formulaic plotlines and increasing reliance on weak songs, however, the films—and Elvis—serve as profound cultural touchstones, revealing changing American aesthetics more than a changing Elvis. Elvis’s rebel image in 1956, as a guitar-swinging incarnation of Brando or Dean, had by 1969’s Change of Habit become safe and sterile.
The book "Elvis Cinema And Popular Culture" demonstrates how Elvis, through his films, reflected a shifting social, cultural and political landscape in America. Encompassing all 31 movies and two 1970s documentaries, it provides a film-by-film study of Elvis Presley and America, and argues that each film reflects the society for which it was made. Throughout his career, most of Elvis’s characters combined rebellion with wholesome, traditional ideals, but the public’s perspective changed, and what was considered radical in 1954 was called reactionary by 1970. Studied sequentially, his films reflect those cyclical ideals, and unconsciously portray America’s process of renewal and redefinition of self.
The book will be released in Spring/Summer 2006 by McFarland Publishing. Paperback, ISBN 0-7864-2526-1.