The Dream That Failed to Follow

September 28, 2014 | By


Being too young to appreciate Elvis Presley’s talent in the seventies, my early impressions were of an accomplished singer, a studded karate-chopping performer, and a star of mostly musicals, and as much as enjoy the goofy Viva Las Vegas (1964), that film also represents the formula imposed by his managerial handlers who wanted to exploit Elvis’ voice and natural likeability in light fodder instead of more dramatic material – not Shakespearian tragedy, but roles where there was depth, decent dialogue, and a genuine character.

Perhaps that’s the most striking aspect of this forgotten gem – Elvis was a natural actor, and he’s the most magnetic and compelling figure in a film that also affords fair screen time to the solid character actors, many drawn from TV.

FollowThatDream_songshotFollow That Dream (1962) is a balanced production that almost offers everything to everyone; when allowances are made for songs, though, the film is literally put on Pause, forcing some very ridiculous situations (as in the seduction scene between good guy Toby and the sultry Ms. Claypoole).

Twilight Time’s resident film historian Julie Kirgo chimes the sad but true view that Follow That Dream represents the kind of films Elvis should’ve been able to make between the populist musicals; had his overlords not been so greedy to exploit with ease Elvis’ most obvious skills, he could’ve done both.

But in fairness, when given the freedom to choose after gaining earning power and self-direction, even singers can stumble and similarly never recover what was lost. It may read a little pale, but I can’t help thinking of Jennifer Lopez after she co-starred in Out of Sight (1998), a perfect film with a perfect cast that gave everyone moments of brilliance in long and brief scenes.

Lopez soon earned power, and it was apparently her choosing to go back to her roots as a singer / dancer, and what could’ve been a strong career in acting was neutered by vanity projects, bad filmic decisions, and a desire to focus on crafting an image that even in its earliest stage resembled a fabricated pop diva.

One can even see similar issues at play with Frank Sinatra, working his way up through musicals to dramatic roles, earning an Oscar Award for From Here to Eternity (1953), producing classic jazz albums, producing personal films… and then getting complacent, becoming his own worst enemy by walking through a string of mediocre, sometimes lazily crafted films, like Assault on a Queen (1966), before he too would have to reassess what he was: an actor, a jazz artist, or an icon from an era losing its relevance with new generations.

Elvis’ predicament in the sixties is more complex because he put great faith in the Colonel, the impresario who managed his career, and signed him to lucrative but creatively stifling film contracts.

1962 is still very early in his career – Follow That Dream was only Elvis’ 9th of 31 non-concert films – but it is sad that the work that led up to his final film, 1969’s Change of Habit, has a certainly sameness. Fans may have wanted more variety and scope, but it was the Machiavellian hands of Elvis’ handlers and contract holders who ultimately failed to fully exploit the dream of a balanced, rewarding film career.

Coming next: DVD review of the Roy Budd-scored version of Universal’s Phantom of the Opera (1925), released by Mishka Productions + an interview with Sylvia Budd on rescuing her late husband’s great work from a 20 year stasis.




Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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