Tomorrow, Jan. 8, would’ve been Elvis Presley’s 86th birthday and yet his smooth baritone and sexy moves – shocking and groundbreaking in their day, oft-imitated ever since – never age. As a movie star, he never achieved the fulfillment he did as a recording and stage-performing artist. (Imagine if he had accepted the role of Tony, the male lead in the film “West Side Story.”)
His movies – mainly musical rom-coms – didn’t give him much of a chance to show his acting chops, although some of the early ones – “Jailhouse Rock” (1957) and “King Creole” (1958) – made a stab at showing the grittier side of the American dream. That doesn’t mean that these boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-regains-girl romps with their pretty women and prettier settings aren’t entertaining. In “Blue Hawaii” (1961), Elvis has a tender moment, singing “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” to his beloved’s grandmother on her birthday. In the mediocre “Speedway” (1968), he tangles effectively with an IRS agent played by Nancy Sinatra, an underrated performer. And in the change-of-pace “Change of Habit” (1968), he’s an inner-city doctor who unwittingly falls for a nun (Mary Tyler Moore).
Among Elvis’ more enjoyable flicks is the frothy, flamenco-flavored “Fun in Acapulco” (1963), where the King even sings in Spanish. There his performance of the enticing “Marguerita” proves why Elvis has never left the building.