Having just finished reading the book by Jorge Carrega I thought it wouldn't be totally out of place to share with the readers of this magazine the satisfaction that the referred reading caused me. Satisfaction mainly caused by three specific reasons. First because it is a book on Elvis edited in Portugal and by a Portuguese author. In fact, as far as I know, before the publication of Elvis Presley e o Cinema Musical de Hollywood, only three other books had been published in Portugal on the King of Rock:
– Elvis - Um Rosto que Simboliza uma Época (Elvis - A Face that Symbolizes a Time), by Mike Bruce, published by Editorial Íbis in the mid 60's, without a publication date, which original had been published in the USA in 1962. In fact, the Elvis filmography included already points out Blue Hawaii and it is referred that a new movie is being prepared, by the name of Pioneers Go Home, that was the title of the book in which the screenplay of the movie, Follow That Dream, would be inspired.
– Elvis, by Isabel Camarinha, César Figueiredo and Francisco Pacheco, published by Centelha in 1986.
– Elvis o Rei do Rock (Elvis the King of Rock), written by José Jorge Letria and published in 2008 by Texto Editora.
The second book being a collective work and the book by José Jorge Letria being a work directed to a juvenile public (which does not take any importance on the work, on the contrary), we can say that, by its specific characteristics, the book by Jorge Carrega can be considered the most relevant book on Elvis by a Portuguese author ever to be published in our country. The second reason that the reading of this book caused me results from the fact that it had its origin on a dissertation of a master degree that took place at the University of Algarve. This fact ensures a development of the theme in question to a level and depth that, obviously, cannot be found in most of the articles and books that are still being published on the singer today.
The elaboration of works of academic nature having per theme the figure or the career of Elvis Presley, undoubtedly considered today one of the most important cultural phenomenons of the Twentieth Century, is no news in other countries. But the fact that a work on the filmographic career of a singer is presented, accepted and approved in academic exams by a public Portuguese university is, certainly, an inedit event.
The above mentioned facts and the subsequent publication of the book under analysis translate, in practice, the acknowledgement, among us, of the importance that Elvis has in artistic terms, not only in the popular music domain, but also in cinematographic terms.
And finally, a third and last reason for the satisfaction that the reading of this book by Jorge Carrega caused me. Elvis Presley e o Cinema Musical de Hollywood is not only a text with technic nature on the cinematographic career and Elvis filmography. In fact, this book is a work where the importance and significance of the King's movies in the history of the North-American musical cinema are analysed in the light of updated concepts, theories and esthetic patterns, with the desired distancing in terms of timeline regarding the time when the movies were produced and in a social-cultural framing quite diverse from the existing one at the time those movies were produced.
Under these conditions, the author's capacity and knowledge in domaining the North-American cinematography and, in particular, the musical cinema area, allowed him to make a reavaluation of Elvis's movies and his activity as a movie actor, inovating and manifestly credible.
The results of that reavaluation are translated by the opinions expressed by the author regarding the value of Elvis filmography and his qualities as an actor. Those opinions and conclusions go against the generalized idea, and quite a negative one, that most movies by Elvis (if not all) do not have enough quality and Elvis is not a good actor. This idea, intelligently refuted by Jorge Carrega, and which was created and supported by the critics and analists of the contemporary cinema on Elvis's cinematographic activity, is particularly unfair regarding the first movies by the singer (and, sometimes, regarding some of his subsequent movies).
In fact, the first movies by Elvis were not only victims of the cinematographic critics, who were eventually cult people in that area, but were also uncapable of understanding and keeping up with the rapid and profound transformations that the 7th Art was going through and, in particular, the musical cinema at the time Elvis appeared. This fact obviously limited the capacity of those critics to comprehend and correctly evaluate Elvis's movies.
The movies were also object of critics that reflected an intentional animosity of its authors towards the authentic social, political and cultural revolution in course in the United States at the time of the production of the referred movies, a revolution that, to some extent, Elvis represented. And this also contributed for the image of lack of quality that was pasted to those movies.
Only this way we can understand that films that have been produced in the best Hollywood studios and in which, as Jorge Carrega shows in his book, producers, directors, screen writers and technical people regarded as competent, in which some actors of acknowledged merit who had tremendous success among the public, have been continually considered, throughout the years, as minor cinematographic works. Fortunately that in the latter years there are undeniable signs that this situation is changing, even among us.
Just an example that ilustrates this and which involves our fan club. In a book edited a few years ago in the ambit of a movie cicle dedicated to the musical cinema, promoted by Cinemateca Nacional (1), João Bénard da Costa, a respected movie critic and director, during many years, of this Movie Museum, referred himself in a perfect abrasive way towards two of the most respected directors of Elvis movies. Namely, Richard Thorpe and Norman Taurog (fact that is cited by Jorge Carrega in his book).
In 2007, almost twenty years after these events, the same Cinematec (now called Cinemateca Portuguesa), with the support of Elvis 100%, promoted a movie cicle dedicated to Elvis Presley (Click). Among the movies then exhibited, were three by two of the previously mentioned directors, of whom Bénard da Costa had talked and evaluated so negativelly(2).
The referred facts translate a favourable attitude evolution of the people who study the cinema regarding the real value of many of the movies performed by Elvis and their significance in the musical cinema domain.
Therefore, the work by Jorge Carrega is updated in a way and presents an interest that deserves to be highlighted.
By all the above-mentioned reasons, I recommend the reading of Elvis Presley e o Cinema Musical de Hollywood to all the members of Elvis 100% who love the movies and who are interested in knowing the movies performed by Elvis through a text that is deep and precise, something that is not easy to find in articles focusing on the same theme.
The fact that, in the back cover, we can read a presentation of the book by Célia Carvalho, the President of Elvis 100%, reinforces, naturally, the justice of this recommendation.
One last comment of the work by Jorge Carrega, which does not limit its value in any way: the majority of the photos in the book (which value is manifestely exaggerated) are compressed, which tends to present Elvis's and other peoples's faces notoriously deformed.
(1) The Musical - Cinemateca Nacional, 1988
(2) Jailhouse Rock, Fun in Acapulco by Richard Thorpe, and Blue Hawaii by Norman Taurog.