Austin Butler, Elvis (The Movie) and ‘Suspicious Minds’

In the early days of this blog there were a fair few Elvis Presley posts – in fact there is a category on my sidebar dedicated to him (link here) – but it’s not been added to for a long time, perhaps because everything I had to say about him has already been said. Until now.

It nearly didn’t happen, as the friend I was supposed to go and see the new Baz Luhrmann film Elvis with last week was struck down with covid. Last night was the last time it was showing at our local arts centre however, and she was still testing positive, so I persuaded Mr WIAA (he’s not a fan of Elvis so it was tough going), to come with me. Elvis was one of my first musical heroes so it was unthinkable that I might miss out on seeing this film on the big screen.

As it turned out we had a really sociable evening even before heading into the cinema. The deal struck was that I would drive, and Mr WIAA would enjoy a large glass of red wine in the bar ahead of the film starting. Once there, we both met old work colleagues and in Mr WIAA’s case, old friends from as far back as school days, one of whom is now DD’s boss. They were very complimentary about her abilities which is always nice to hear as a parent and of course a lot of catching up to be done. Ahead of the film starting we said our farewells, only of course to find ourselves sitting next to each other once inside. Typical.

But back to the film, I thought it was pretty fabulous actually. There is always a worry that the actor playing such an important role will not be believable, but Austin Butler was blisteringly perfect for it. Such a beautiful man too, just as the young Elvis was a beautiful, beautiful man. I use that word deliberately. I recently shared extracts from Caitlin Moran’s essay on what it takes to achieve the massive success bands like the Beatles found so quickly, and yes, it involves girls. Both the Beatles and Elvis, Frank Sinatra before them, and all those boys since have experienced the following:

They know there is a power they will never attain until they have stood in the white-noise of a theatre of devotion and seen the girls down the front collapse in ecstatic tears. (CM)

To experience that devotion you have to love girls, be on the side of girls, dress in dandy clothes like a girl, and most important of all, look beautiful like a girl. I was transfixed by Austin Butler’s cupid’s bow lips. For the duration of the film he had me convinced he was Elvis.

Sigh… those high cheekbones and the cupid’s bow lips

The storyline very much reflected the relationship between Elvis and his long time manager ‘Colonel’ Tom Parker. Tom Hanks, with his prosthetically enhanced nose and chin, did a fine job of playing the Colonel and acted as narrator throughout. I think most of us know the story by now of how the former carnival huckster wormed his way into his boy’s life and took total control, but watching the film it is understandable how the young Elvis and his parents were convinced he was the right man for the job. Every now and again it looked as if Elvis was going to stand up to him and make the break, only to be thwarted by some convincing talk from the Colonel that he knew best. Fortunately Elvis did stand his ground when it came to the ’68 Comeback Special, which was a triumph after his years of making lacklustre films in Hollywood. I still have the DVD of that show and unbelievably still have something to play it on, so will be seeking it out this weekend.

Throughout the film there were some incredible performances of many of the songs we associate with Elvis. I think Austin did some of the singing on the early ones but got a lot of help from the original recordings for the later years. All an absolute joy to watch however and I know I had a big smile on my face right the way through (also my right leg just wouldn’t stay still, shaking at breakneck speed in time to the music). Many of his songs have been shared around here before, but not this one. Most of us who were fans of Elvis prefer to forget about the latter years of his life (just too sad), but on the back of the ’68 Special, the Colonel arranged a six-week residency for him at the new International Hotel in Last Vegas. Elvis was fired up for it, was slim, dressed in a comfortable white jumpsuit and gave us some electrifying performances, especially this one which goes down in history I think as one of the most remarkable ever to have taken place. Elvis didn’t just sing songs, he became the song, and although not mathematically possible, he gave us 110%, every single time. (Gets really energetic in this clip from 2:45 onward.)

Suspicious Minds by Elvis Presley:


Suspicious Minds was a No. 1 hit for Elvis on the Billboard Chart and reached the No. 2 position in the UK in November 1969. It kickstarted things for him again and he followed it up with many other hit singles and albums. Although the song is about a dysfunctional relationship, during the film you couldn’t help but think the first lines of the lyric reflected Elvis’s life at the time. The Colonel effectively trapped him in Las Vegas, the residencies lasting for years as opposed to the six weeks originally planned. Elvis had wanted to tour the world, something he had never done before, but because of a deal struck on a napkin with the hotel owner early on, he couldn’t walk out.


So, ‘What’s It All About? – I would thoroughly recommend the film to everyone, even those who have never been Elvis fans. Ever since the success of the Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, many more have been made about other artists, of differing quality, so it’s all becoming a bit boring now. I deliberately chose not to use that term for the Baz Luhrmann film however as it’s more about the journey these two men went on together, sadly culminating in a tragic ending for Elvis. Being a Baz movie, it is also of course lavishly colourful and opulent, so a feast for the eyes too.

I am always fascinated by novels where there is a dual narrative, of paths taken or not taken, and how they can either lead to a totally different outcome for the character or arrive at the same destination via another route. There is no doubt that had the Colonel not taken Elvis under his wing in those early days, he would still have become a big star. He had the looks, the voice, the moves and the stage charisma. To become such a big star at such a young age does not always bode well however for the artist, especially back in those days, so had the Colonel not insisted on the Hollywood route for his boy, things might still have gone awry. He was from a poor southern family, ill-equipped to deal with his sudden success and wealth, and was also a good-looking ‘dandy’ who loved that he was adored by women. An intoxicating mix for a young man. We will of course never know how it could have turned out, but he certainly has left an enduring legacy as the ‘King of Rock and Roll’.

Until next time… RIP Elvis Aaron Presley.

Suspicious Minds Lyrics
(Song by Mark James)

We’re caught in a trap
I can’t walk out
Because I love you too much baby

Why can’t you see
What you’re doing to me
When you don’t believe a word I say?

We can’t go on together
With suspicious minds
And we can’t build our dreams
On suspicious minds

So, if an old friend I know
Stops by to say hello
Would I still see suspicion in your eyes?

Here we go again
Asking where I’ve been
You can’t see these tears are real
I’m crying
(Yes, I’m crying)

We can’t go on together
With suspicious minds
And we can’t build our dreams
On suspicious minds

Oh let our love survive
I’ll dry the tears from your eyes
Let’s don’t let a good thing die
When honey, you know I’ve never lied to you

Mmm yeah, yeah

We’re caught in a trap
I can’t walk out
Because I love you too much baby

Why can’t you see
What you’re doing to me
When you don’t believe a word I say?

Oh, don’t you know
I’m caught in a trap
I can’t walk out
Because I love you too much baby

Oh, don’t you know
I’m caught in a trap
I can’t walk out
Because I love you too much baby

Oh, don’t you know
I’m caught in a trap

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team Bacharach and David - The opening line to that song was "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

17 thoughts on “Austin Butler, Elvis (The Movie) and ‘Suspicious Minds’”

  1. I really want to see this. I just need to get past the Hanks dilemma. Still, I guess I’m already predisposed to hate Colonel Tom, so I guess I’ll manage.

    Glad you enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds like a brilliant, feelgood night out (had to laugh about you saying your farewells to old friends only to find yourselves sitting next to each other in the cinema, I can just imagine it). Your joy and admiration really shine through this post too, lovely stuff. And you’re so right in what you say about Elvis and his appeal to girls, his looks and clothes, etc. – as discussed before re. the Beatles and Caitlin’s observations. The film sounds excellent and Austin Butler’s similarity to him is striking. Must try and see it. Incidentally, did you ever see the BBC documentary, “The Rebirth of the King”? I learned a lot from it… and warmed to Elvis, the man, immensely.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To think I nearly missed out but yes, a really great night out in the end. (Of all the seats in the cinema… and after saying our farewells – typical!)

      I know the whole Elvis story inside out and upside down but it was interesting to see it told from the Col. Tom angle. Also, being a Baz Luhrmann film, it was always going to look colourful and spectacular. It certainly feels as if Elvis was exploited but as I said, who knows what might have happened had Col. Tom not got involved. I don’t think Elvis was ever going to live a long and healthy life – there were just too many factors that would potentially have got in the way of that.

      I’ve seen many documentaries over the years but I can’t remember if that’s one of them. I’ll have a mooch around and see if I can find it. Thanks for the heads-up.

      Like

    1. Yes, I’ve always loved that performance and quite a well known one I think. He really was back on top form and at this point we (nor he) had any idea of what was to come.

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  3. Thanks for the review, I’m sure I’ll be seeing it fairly soon. That clip of Suspicious Minds is a favorite. That whole concert film “Elvis: The Way that it Is” is a great watch. It was when the Vegas thing was new and fresh.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sure you’d enjoy it Rick as I’ve yet to meet anyone who hasn’t. Yes, that is one of my all-time favourite Elvis performances – I got a DVD copy of it nearly 20 years ago with a Sunday newspaper and I was blown away by it back then, and still am (although I wish he wouldn’t throw in the jokey ad lib lines – spoils it). Yes, if the original 6 week residency in Las Vegas had been just that and not dragged on for years, things may well have turned out very differently. He loved creating those first shows but of course they took their toll as the years went by.

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  4. I went to see it in the week and was absolutely blown away. I could have stayed in my seat and quite happily watched it all over again. The Elvis story is such a compelling one that you don’t take your eyes off the screen, even for a second. I wasn’t aware just how complicitous his dad was in the whole thing; tho’Parker’s hands were covered in blood from the moment he sold him to Vegas and turned him into a performing seal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to hear you too were blown away by it. We went to the last showing of the day, but you are right, had it been an earlier one I might have been tempted to watch it again. You used to be able to do that back in the day, when there was a B movie and main feature. The large cinemas were never cleared.

      His dad was only 17 years older than him and was not well equipped to help Elvis deal with the business side of things. You are right though, he was in effect sold to Vegas and became a performing seal – just so sad. Still glad he managed to thwart the Colonel over the Christmas Special though – a very special piece of music history and a very funny set of scenes in the film.

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  5. I’ve just googled Vernon Presley and saw that he only outlived his son by a couple of years – passing away in ’79. He was executor of the Presley estate and took a fine old salary from it.
    My first wife’s dad met Elvis in Germany on a railway platform in Germany when he was stationed over there: they were waiting for different trains on the same platform.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So many people earned a fine old salary from Elvis – everyone did well except Elvis it seems. He had to keep on doing those gruelling shows just to fund the massive wage bill he had. I’m always shocked how small Graceland is as well – with those pillars at the front it looks a bit like the White House but a fairly modest-sized house. Goodness knows where they all slept.

      The only place Elvis ever went overseas so quite a coup to have met him. He touched down at Prestwick airport on the way back home to the US so on a technicality he has also been to Scotland. I’m happy with that.

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  6. Hi Alyson,
    I´m Karina, I just landed on your blog by googling “Suspicious Minds” since I´m searching the video to send it over to my mamma.

    It was really nice to find out your post and go through your though about Elvis movie and Elvis music all around.
    In Mexico just released on theaters last weekend and as an Elvis fan couldn´t wait to watch it, being honest when the first trailers went public I didn´t know if I was going to watch it since I was not sure what to expect but I red the comments from Presley family regarding the movie and it absolutely gave me a “YES you need to watch it”. Although we already know the sad ending it is a great movie not only because the fantastic actor´s performance through Baz direction, also because it shows a minimal (I think) part of the Elvis´s beginnings and the background of his music.

    The most moving part from the movie for me is when Elvis mentions that “nobody will remember him” I wish he can see how many of us have grown with his music.

    Thank you for posting the video and I will try to find the ´68 comeback especial” to watch it completely.

    Have a great day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Karina – Thanks for dropping by with your comment. Always nice to know who reads our blogs and where they are from.

      Glad you were convinced you should watch the movie, as you would really have missed out had you not. As you say we all know the story and how it ends but the actor who played Elvis was fantastic (so many hours of research must have gone into getting the stage performances just right) and we got to know a bit more about how it all began for him.

      Yes, the line about nobody remembering him was quite poignant – he will NEVER be forgotten. How could he be? The ’68 Comeback Special was a real triumph after all those years in Hollywood. He came back with a bang and he was so happy to be performing live on stage again, with not a flimsy plotline in sight. You must seek it out and watch it. I still cry when he sings If I Can Dream, and I even shed a tear in the cinema when Austin Butler sang it. Such a powerful song.

      Liked by 1 person

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