IS IT A SAUSAGE? NO, IT'S A RUSTY FOGHORN


Earlier this year, we had fun looking back at the 1956 New York Times review of Elvis’ first movie Love Me Tender.  To say the least, the reviewer didn’t like it.  Do you think Elvis fared any better in the review published in Time Magazine?  Of course not.
 
For some reason, the unnamed writer begins the review with a description of Elvis’ face.  Considering that Pat Boone said Elvis looked like a Greek god, and Carl Perkins called Elvis the best looking man he had ever seen, it’s hard to figure out how Time could say these outrageous things:
 
“Is it a sausage?  It is certainly smooth and damp-looking, but who ever heard of a 172-lb. sausage 6 ft. tall?”  These were the opening lines of the review in America’s leading news magazine.  It sounds like a fourteen-year old wrote them.  Give me a break.  They refer to Elvis as “it” and say he looks like a sausage.
 
            “Is it a Walt Disney goldfish?  It has the same sort of big,
            soft, beautiful eyes and long, curly lashes, but who heard of 
            goldfish with sideburns?”  These lines are just as stupid, but 
            at  least there is praise for Elvis’ eyes and lashes.  What
            Disney goldfish was he referring to, anyway?
 
“Is it a corpse?  The face just hangs there, limp and white
with its little drop-seat mouth.”  OK, lets summarize: The
Time reviewer thinks Elvis’ Greek god face looks limp and
damp and white and just hangs there.  I’d like to know what
this guy thinks a handsome face looks like.
 
Next, the reviewer describes Elvis’ body motions as he sings.  “But suddenly the figure comes alive.  The lips part, the eyes half-close, the clutched guitar begins to undulate back and forth in an uncomfortably suggestive manner.  And wham!  The midsection of the body jolts forward to bump and grind and beat out a low-down rhythm.”  This is a fine description of Elvis’ live performances in 1956, but it in no way describes his motions in the movie Love Me Tender. There were only four songs, and two were ballads, and Elvis is very restrained doing them.  I guess the writer just had to get in some well-crafted lines whether they fit in a movie review or not.
 
Then it was time to describe Elvis’ singing voice.  “As the belly dance gets wilder, a peculiar sound emerges.  A rusty foghorn?  A voice?  Or merely a noise produced, like the voice of the cricket, by the violent stridulation of the legs?”  Now, I like a good simile as much as the next reader, but that’s the dumbest comparison I’ve ever seen.  Can you visualize Elvis rubbing his legs together to produce a sound like a rusty foghorn?  Awful.  And the Editor left it in the piece.
 
The review continues:  “Words occasionally can be made out like raisins in cornmeal mush.  ‘Goan…git…luhhv…’  And then all at once everything stops, and a big, trembly tender half smile, half sneer smears across the CinemaScope screen.  The message that millions of U.S. teenagers love to receive has just been delivered.”  How about that.  Despite the knock on his diction (going, get, love), Elvis does get a begrudging compliment.  And we’ll have to give credit to the writer for a pretty good simile with the raisins in cornmeal thing.
 
At this point in the review, there were only four lines left, and neither the movie nor Elvis’ acting had been discussed yet.  Here is all they printed: “In his first screen appearance, with a secondary role as the hero’s little brother, in an otherwise routine western, Elvis Presley all but steals the show from such better known players as Richard Egan and Debra Paget.”  Finally, a full-fledged compliment.  Then the reviewer predicted Love Me Tender would be a box-office bonanza.  At least he got that right.
 
©  2007   Philip R Arnold   All Rights Reserved   www.elvisblog.net

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