Last week, ElvisBlog reported that a new movie about Elvis would premier on April 22. It is Elvis & Nixon, starring Kevin Spacey as Nixon and Michael Shannon as Elvis. Like all Elvis fans, I hope it will be a good film, but I expressed doubts that it could be as enjoyable as a 1997 made-for-Showtime movie titled Elvis Meets Nixon.
Take a look at the fine print on this DVD cover. The New York Daily News called it “The giddiest, funniest, most entertaining comedy …in years.” I absolutely agree.
Elvis Meets Nixon follows a semi-documentary format with Dick Cavett as the host and frequent voice-over narrator. I have only one beef with his commentary. In the very beginning, he says Elvis was a forgotten performer in 1970, reduced to doing Las Vegas shows. That is so wrong. Elvis was huge in Las Vegas, setting attendance records with his concerts. He was the hottest ticket in town.
From that point on, Cavett does a good job, and one statement he made captures the essence of this movie. While talking about the short time Elvis and Nixon actually spent together in the oval office, Cavett said, “If what you are about to see didn’t happen exactly this way, it should have.” Actually, that sentiment could be made about the entire movie.
Of course, it’s all a dramatization of events, and quite a bit of artistic license has been taken with the two main characters’ personalities and the absurdity of the reality these two men lived in. Both were so out of touch with everyday life that it could have been destiny they found each other in this truly ironic way.
According to Jerry Schilling, Elvis did in fact hug Nixon. The President was caught off guard, but the scene in the movie is very endearing.
Here’s the story on the two actors in the key roles. Bob Gunton showed pure genius of comedic timing in his portrayal on Richard Nixon. You may not know him by name, but you’ve seen his face in lots of movies.
The fellow playing Elvis is Rick Peters, and his acting career has been rather modest. His last movie was in 2006.
But with the wig, sunglasses, and attitude, he pulls off a great Elvis portrayal.
This clip is from the flight Elvis took from Washington DC to Dallas. You see, Elvis’ odyssey took him from Memphis to DC, DC to Los Angeles (via Dallas), and from LA to DC.
This clip is from a scene when Elvis stops off at a donut shop (in a rather seedy part of town) on the way from the airport to the Washington Hotel. He actually did this, but the “artistic impression” of what happened is one of the most amazingly surreal moments I’ve ever seen on film. Take a few minutes and watch this.
Here’s another clip that takes even more creative license, but it’s a riot. The set-up is that Elvis had time to kill in Los Angeles before the flight back to DC, so he went down to the Sunset Strip. His friend Jerry Schilling (they used the name Bobby Bishop in the film for some reason) urged him to walk around and see if he was relevant to people on the street. Elvis wanders into a record store and goes through some hilarious culture shock. Rick Peters does this bit so well, you will think you are watching archival film of the real Elvis. You definitely want to click on this.
Elvis Meets Nixon is 140 minutes long, but the scene of Elvis and Nixon together in the Oval Office lasts just 11 minutes. That was plenty for these two very different men to bond together. Before the movie gets to Elvis’ visit, there are three scenes of Nixon and H.R. Haldeman in the Oval Office. They aren’t funny like the Elvis clips, but they are still fascinating. One warning — if you were were offended by the profanity in the donut shop clip, you might want to skip the one below.
There is one more thing I suggest you click on. It is the full movie on YouTube. You can buy it for $7.99, or rent it like I did for $1.99. I wasn’t able to get it to stream onto my smart TV, but maybe you can. If not, it’s still a blast watching it on your computer screen. Check it out here. I guarantee you will be happy you spent the two bucks.
There is enough stuff left in my Elvis and Nixon file to squeeze out one more article in this series next week. Stay tuned.
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