Hot off the press is the newest book publication by well-known British journalist and author Paul Simpson with the intriguing title Elvis Films FAQ: All That’s Left To Know About the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Hollywood.
Simpson (*1961), who works as editor of Champions Matchday, The official magazine of the UEFA Champions League, has already published a number of books on topics closely related to popular culture such as The Rough Guide to James Bond (2002), The Rough Guide to Cult Fiction (2005), and 397 Ways To Pick A DVD (2009).
Elvis Films FAQ is Simpson’s second book on the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll after the well-received The Rough Guide to Elvis (2005) – The Memphis Flash talked with Paul Simpson about Elvis Presley’s movie career and the new book → Elvis Films FAQ.
The Memphis Flash: Paul, as a professional writer and longtime Elvis fan what made you dedicate a book with 400 pages to Elvis’ movies? Although initially successful at the box office, they today are mostly not well-regarded by fans, critics and Elvis biographers (Peter Guralnick) alike. Some even say the movies are the low point of Elvis Presley’s career. Frankly, is there really a point for such a book – and why?
Paul Simpson: The point is the movies were important to him – and as a fan and someone trying to understand his life and career I felt they were worth exploring. They did produce some great music, memorable scenes and helped him become such a global icon. Many of the movies are worth exploring on their own merits – the twin peaks being King Creole and Flaming Star – and the process which created them sheds a lot of light on how Presley’s career was run.
Also, this is one aspect of his working life that is under-explored – Guralnick, in his near definitive biography, can barely wait to gloss over some of the travelogues in the 1960s. I can understand why but if Elvis hadn’t wanted to be the next James Dean or Tony Curtis, we might never have heard of him.
The Memphis Flash: Elvis talked about his big childhood dream in his acceptance speech for the Jaycee award 1971: „When I was a child, ladies and gentlemen, I was a dreamer. […] I saw movies, and I was the hero in the movie...“
Paul Simpson: Right. The image that stays with me now, after the book is published, is Elvis as a child rushing into a cinema in Tupelo with his dad (something the Assembly of God church would not have approved of in the 1930s and 1940s) and marveling at the serials and films, watching Crosby singing Blue Hawaii in Wakiki Wedding and dreaming of a different life for himself and his family. Did that escapism, that permission to dream, keep hope alive in the desperate, dehumanising poverty of his boyhood?