Cultural depictions of Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley has inspired artistic and cultural works since he first entered the national consciousness. From that point interest in his personal and public life has never stopped. With his death in 1977, such interest increased even further. Some scholars have even studied many aspects of his profound cultural influence. * Billboard historian Joel Whitburn declared Presley the "#1 act of the Rock era", beating out The Beatles, based upon his dominance of Billboard's list of top 100 singles artists since 1955. The following lists cover various media which include items of historic interest, enduring works of high art, and recent representations in popular culture. The entries represent portrayals which most Americans have a reasonable chance of encountering, rather than a complete catalog; lesser-known works are not included.
For purposes of classification, popular culture music is a separate section from operas and oratorios. Television covers live action series, TV movies, miniseries, and North American animation but not Japanese anime, which appears with manga and graphic novels.
Popular cultural references
- Elvis & I by Denis Leary (1992)
- Calling Elvis by Dire Straits (1991).
- There's a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He's Elvis" by Kirsty MacColl (1981)
- Elvis is Everywhere, by Mojo Nixon (1987)
- Crazy Little Thing Called Love, by Freddie Mercury (1980)
- Black Velvet, by Alannah Myles (1988)
- The King & Eye, by The Residents
- Walking in Memphis, by Marc Cohn (1991)
- King of the Mountain, by Kate Bush (2005)
- "Johnny Bye Bye", by Bruce Springsteen (1985)
- "Elvis is Dead" by Peter and the Test Tube Babies (1982)
- "Elvis Is Dead" by Living Colour (1990)
- "Name and Address" by Wings (1978)
- "From Graceland to The Promised Land" by Merle Haggard (19??)
- "Me & Elvis", by Human Radio (1990)
- "Elvis's TV", by Spiders & Snakes (1991)
Plays and films
- A Brighter Summer Day (Taiwan)
- All Shook Up (US)
- Beach Blanket Babylon (US)
- Bye Bye Birdie (US)
- Cooking with Elvis (UK)
- Elvis: The Concert (US)
- Grease (US)
- Happy Days - A New Musical (US)
- Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (UK)
- Million Dollar Quartet (US)
- Nunsense II (US)
- The Outsiders (US)
- Picasso at the Lapin Agile (US)
- Smokey Joe's Cafe (US)
- Numerous people have been named after Presley, several of them becoming quite well known themselves: Elvis Mitchell, a former motion picture and arts reviewer and staff writer for the New York Times, Elvis Stojko, a Canadian who was the three-time World Figure Skating Champion; Elvis Crespo, a salsa and merengue musician; Elvis Dumervil, a former University of Louisville All American football player, now with the Denver Broncos; Elvis Perkins, a musician who is the son of actor Anthony Perkins; and Elvis Polanski, son of movie director Roman Polanski.
- Musician Elvis Costello adopted Presley's first name a few months before Presley's death in 1977.
- NYC DJ Aaron Elvis switched Presley's first and middle name as an homage and to give himself a memorable moniker.
- Three of the top ten sales ever achieved, both privately and at auction, of silkscreens created by top American pop artist Andy Warhol involve his despiction of a 1961 publicity still from the Don Siegel-directed 1961 western "Flaming Star", showing Presley armed and shooting from the hip. These are "Double Elvis", which sold at Sotheby's in New York City, in 2012, for US$37 million, "Triple Elvis ", sold at Christies's also in New York City in 2014 for US$81.9 million and "Eight Elvises", which sold privately to an unknown Middle Eastern buyer for US$100 million at the end of 2008, a fact which was only reported by the Economist in 2009. The latter also made Warhol only the fifth artist, behind Pablo Picasso, Gustav Klimt, Jackson Pollock, and Willem de Kooning to have a painting sold for at least $100 million. In addition, there are at least 22 other Warhol paintings of Presley, including "Red Elvis" and "Elvis 1 and 2" as well as other "Double Elvis" at several museums worldwide.
- Japanese manga creator Tatsuo Yoshida has stated publicly that the inspiration for his character, Speed Racer, came from watching Elvis in Viva Las Vegas.
- The Broadway musical All Shook Up features the songs of Presley, and is based on the plot of William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.
- The 2002 Disney animated feature Lilo and Stitch contains more Presley songs than there are in several movies in which Presley himself starred. The film's closing sequence also features a montage of photographs, one of which portrays the film's main characters posing before the gates of Graceland. The film also broke several rules related to Presley in films which included using his photo, shortening his songs for time and dressing up like him. However, the Graceland estate allowed the producers this degree of freedom.
- British satirical puppet show "Spitting Image" did an Elvis parody entitled "I'm Sure Livin' Since I Died".
- Dread Zeppelin is an American band best known for covering the songs of Led Zeppelin in a reggae style, sung by an Elvis Presley impersonator.
- Actor and professional wrestler The Rock stated that he was a long time Elvis fan. During the late 90's he donned a hairstyle similar to Elvis' and sang "SmackDown Hotel", a reference to "Heartbreak Hotel", in response to a title challenge from the self-proclaimed "Pride of Pittsburgh" Andrew Lee Michaels. The Rock later on abandoned the look but still made references to Elvis including singing "Viva Rock Vegas".
- The Norwegian rock band Kaizers Orchestra has a stagehand who is dressed like Elvis, and he can be seen in the Viva La Vega DVD, coming out on stage several times to help with the instruments. Janove Ottesen even encourages him to come out on stage for applause, insisting that "He's still working in the industry. He never left the building!" He goes on to insist that Elvis is assisting the band in their rise to stardom, and that they "wanted Roy Orbison, but they said he was dead".
- Former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is a longtime Presley fan who has released a CD of his favorite Presley songs with his own commentary. He also helped finance a statue of the music pioneer and made a historical visit to Graceland in June 2006 with United States President George W. Bush.
- In Dean Koontz's Odd Thomas series, three novels detailing the life of a man who can see the dead, Elvis is one of the spirits that Odd frequently encounters.
- In Stephen King's novel Nightmares & Dreamscapes, one of the short stories is You Know They Got a Hell of a Band about a town inhabited by late rock and roll legends called Rock and Roll Heaven. Elvis is the mayor himself. He is played by actor Joe Sagal in the television version.
- In Robert Rankin's Armageddon trilogy, a race of aliens who watch Earth history as a television program attempt to change history to avert a nuclear war by preventing Elvis from joining the army, the reasoning being that, without Elvis joining the army, an entire generation will not enlist, and thus wars such as Vietnam will be averted. As a result of this attempt, Elvis becomes a key player in the struggle against the Antichrist, allying himself with Rex Mundi and Barry the Time Sprout, faking his death in an attempt to track down the Antichrist and prevent the wars. As a result of his time travelling, Elvis creates an alternate world where he is hailed as a god due to his involvement in biblical events, but his memory of his adventures with Rex and Barry is apparently erased as he returns to his own time.
- Jack Womack's novel Elvissey is about time travelers attempting to rescue Elvis from 1954.
- In Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire Mysteries novels, Elvis is depicted as an obese, amnesiac, brain-damaged vampire nicknamed "Bubba": a vampiric morgue attendant in Memphis had attempted to convert Elvis's corpse into a vampire, but did not take into account the presence of bloodstream contaminants or the process of post-death brain decay.
- The film Bubba Hotep focuses on an elderly Elvis, who swapped places with an Elvis impersonator in the mid-70s and is believed to be deluded, living out his days in a Texas old-age home. Most of the film's plot is driven by Elvis' internal monologue, and uses him to explore the deeper theme of aging and being forgotten.
- In 2005, CBS aired a TV mini-series about the King's life called Elvis, starring Irish actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Presley (for which he won a Golden Globe for best actor). The film takes on Elvis' early years as an 18 year old in Memphis, Tennessee to his Comeback Special in 1968.
- Kim Newman's contributions to the Dark Future series of books had Elvis as a major character, in an alternate timeline where he'd rejoined the army in 1961 and now acts as a freelance law enforcer. Elvis' music becomes key to the plot, acting as a form of voodoo. His real life career is alluded to, with a meeting with John Lennon that plays off their real meeting and Elvis has a recurring nightmare that the readers recognises as his final concerts in 1976.
- In the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the Pharaoh's character is based on Elvis (most clearly seen in the performance of "Song of the King (Seven Fat Cows))".
- In the 1984 comedy This is Spinal Tap David (Michael McKean), Nigel (Christopher Guest) and Derek (Harry Shearer) visit Graceland, then reminisce with Marty (Rob Reiner) and sing a portion of Heartbreak Hotel.
- In the Welsh children's television series Fireman Sam one of the firefighters, is named Elvis Cridlington because of his Elvis Presley hairstyle.
- In a two-part Richie Rich and Jackie Jokers story, published by Harvey Comics in the 1970s, titled "Happy Times", the two above-named characters threw a 1950's-style costume party, where the boy who dressed up as Elvis Presley was referred to as having portrayed "Pelvis Pretzly".
- In his novel King Clone (novel) writer Ted Harrison tells the story of two devout Elvis fans who clone an Elvis and bring him up as their son. A gentle satire on fans, the story tells of how at 18 the young Elvis clone gets acclaimed as The King returned by the leaders of a fictional Elvis Cathedral.
- Elvis's death occurred only three days before that of Groucho Marx; fans of Groucho blamed Elvis's death for Groucho's death not getting as much publicity as they felt he deserved, and fans of Elvis likewise blamed Groucho. Coincidentally, Elvis and Groucho owned houses next door to each other in Beverly Hills, California.
- In the video game Fallout: New Vegas one of the factions are called "the Kings." They were raiders who came across an Elvis Impersonator School, finding old tapes of Elvis they built their gang around him. Their leader is named the "King" and he dresses, acts and talks like Elvis. Ironically despite their love of him, his name was lost over the centuries and they only know him as the King. Two of the quests for them, "G.I Blues" and "Nothin' But a Hound Dog", are references to his songs of the same names. Additionally there is a quest called "I Forgot to Remember to Forget", which was also his first number one single.
- Country comedy duo Pinkard & Bowden recorded a song titled "Elvis Was a Narc", which mocked Presley's stand on illegal drugs while himself consuming large quantities of pharmaceuticals. A live version also poked fun at the "Elvis Lives?" phenomenon.
- McFarlane Toys came out with a line of action figures that depict Elvis in his greatest moments like "Jailhouse Rock", "Blue Hawaii", "'68 Comeback Special" etc... there have been 6 figures released as of now.
- Elvis's beloved teddy bear Mabel was made in 1909 by the German manufacturer Steiff. It was on display at a children's museum near Wookey Hole Caves near Wells, England, when Barney, a Doberman-Pinscher guard dog went wild and destroyed it and damaged about 100 other valuable stuffed animals in the summer of 2006. The insurance company had insisted that the valuable teddy bears be protected by guard dogs.
- In the pilot episode (Part 1) of the TV series Sliders, Quinn Mallory (Jerry O'Connell) travels to a parallel world where he sees a billboard advertising a show of an elderly Elvis in Las Vegas. The original idea of the creators was "The Beatles Reunion Tour". In the episode "The King Is Back" (season 1, episode 9), Quinn and the rest of the Sliders travel to a world where Rembrandt "Crying Man" Brown (Cleavant Derricks) is mistaken for his double of this world, who died eight years ago. Rembrandt’s manager was Captain Jack Brim (Chuck McCann), a reference to Elvis’ manager, Colonel Tom Parker.
- In 2001, the German automobile company Audi aired commercials in Europe featuring an Elvis impersonator and a prototypical Wackel-Elvis ("Wobble Elvis" or "Wobbly Elvis") dashboard figure with a wobbling left arm and hip. Due to high demand of viewers after the spots aired, 165,000 Wackel-Elvis dashboard figures were produced. The figure depicts Elvis wearing the jumpsuit he wore in the 1973 Aloha from Hawaii TV broadcast.
- Elvis is discovered to be working as a bar singer on an alien planet in Mostly Harmless, the fifth installment of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
- In The Kane Chronicles, the protagonists have to rob Elvis's tomb to obtain an important clue.
Actors who have played Elvis Presley
The table below excludes:
- Actors playing a role in a film where the script calls for them to act in a non-Elvis, or science fiction role, but nevertheless purposely imitating Elvis' style of singing, Elvis himself, or to appear dressed as Elvis did, both in a performance scene, or off stage, e.g., Bye Bye Birdie, Top Secret!, and Wild at Heart.
- Actors in movies where the plot calls for them to specifically wear Elvis-impersonator apparel, or disguise themselves as an Elvis impersonator, e.g., as in Honeymoon in Vegas and 3000 Miles to Graceland.
- Actors playing the character of a real, or fictionalized entertainer other than Elvis Presley who impersonate him as part of a stage act within the movie's plot itself, e.g., as in the movie biographies Wired and Man on the Moon, where the characters of comedians John Belushi (played by Michael Chiklis) and Andy Kaufman (played by Jim Carrey) are seen impersonating Elvis Presley.
- Actors playing characters based on specific, actual periods in the life, and/or music of Elvis Presley, e.g., in motion pictures such as All Shook Up.
- Actors, extras and/or Elvis impersonators, either male and female, whose specific role in a film is that of an Elvis impersonator.
|Actor||Credited character||Title (year of theatrical release, unless otherwise noted)|
|Jason Biggs||(fictional) Elvis Presley||Picasso at the Lapin Agile (2008)|
|Jonah Baker||Elvis Presley||Lives and Deaths of the Poets (2011)|
|Eric Bana||Elvis Presley at age 35||Elvis & Nixon (2012)|
|Paul Boensch||Elvis Presley, age 10.||This Is Elvis (1981)|
|Lucas Cain||Elvis Presley, age 10.||Elvis (1990) (TV mini-series)|
|Natalia Barragan||Elvis Presley, age 21.||Elvis (2012) (TV mini-series)|
|Bruce Campbell||(fictional) Elvis Presley||Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)|
|Peter Dobson||i) (fictional) young Elvis Presley
ii) The King
|i) Forrest Gump (1994)
ii) Protecting the King (2007)
|Casting as of 16/09/09||Elvis Presley, ages 23–25||Sgt. Presley (2012)|
|Casting as of 16/09/09||Elvis Presley||Restoring my father's honor (2012)|
|Casting as of 16/09/09||Elvis Presley||Fame and fortune (2012)|
|Casting as of 16/09/09||Elvis Presley||Last train to Memphis (2012)|
|David Dunavent||teenage Elvis Presley||Elvis (1990) (TV mini-series)|
|Jerry Eeten||Aaron Presley (Elvis re-incarnated)||Elvis took a bullit (2001)|
|Rob Fenton||young Elvis Presley||Ricky Nelson: Original Teen Idol (1999) (TV-made)|
|Martin Fox||(fictional) Elvis Presley||Give My Head Peace (2003) (BBC TV comedy show)|
|Randy Gray||Elvis as a boy||Elvis (1979) (TV-made)|
|Johnny Harra||Elvis Presley, age 42.||This Is Elvis (1981)|
|Greg Hemphil||(fictional) Elvis Presley, age 42||Eilbeas (2008) (TV-made)|
|Tyler Hilton||young Elvis Presley||Walk the Line (2006)|
|Paul Hipp||Elvis Presley||Liberace: Behind the Music (1988) (TV-made)|
|Don Johnson||Elvis Presley||Elvis and the Beauty Queen (1981) (TV-made)|
|Stephen Jones||(fictional)Ghost of Elvis Presley||Mystery Train (1989)|
|Harvey Keitel||(fictional) Elvis Presley||Finding Graceland (1998)|
|David Keith||(fictional) Elvis Presley||Heartbreak Hotel (1988)|
|Val Kilmer||(fictional)Ghost of Elvis:The mentor||True Romance (1993)|
|Shawn Wayne Klush||young Elvis Presley||Shake, Rattle and Roll: An American Love Story (1999) (TV mini-series)|
|Matt Lewis||Elvis Presley||Tears of a King (2008)|
|Clayton Mark||(fictional) Elvis Presley||Red Dwarf - Season 4, Meltdown (1991)|
|Steve Martin||The visitor (Elvis Presley, age 21).||Picasso at the Lapin Agile (1993, play)|
|Dana MacKay||Elvis Presley, age 35.||This Is Elvis (1981)|
|Gil McKinney||(fictional) Elvis Presley||Elvis Has Left the Building (2004, Video release only)|
|Karlo Metikos||Elvis Presley||Going for the Gold: The Bill Johnson Story (1985) (TV)|
|Dale Midkiff||Elvis Presley||Elvis and Me (1988) (TV-made)|
|Chunkey Pandey||(fictional) Elvis Presley||Hello, Darling (2008)|
|Ryan Pelton||(fictional) Elvis Presley, age 26||Hounddog (2008)|
|Robert Patrick||(fictional) Mr. Aaron||Lonely Street (2008)|
|Ron Perlman||(fictional) Elvis Presley, age 27||Bubba Nosferatu (2009)|
|Rick Peters||Elvis Presley||Elvis meets Nixon (1997) (TV-made)|
|Todd Peterson||young Elvis Presley||Shake, Rattle and Roll: An American Love Story (1999) (TV mini-Series)|
|Jonathan Rhys-Meyers||Elvis Presley||Elvis: The Early Years (2005)|
|Kurt Russell||Elvis Presley||Elvis (1979) (TV-made)|
|Joe Sagal||i), ii) and iii) (fictional) Elvis Presley||i) Nightmares and Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King: "You Know They Got a Hell of a Band" (2006) (TV-made)Elvis (1990) (TV mini-series)
ii) Redline! (2007)
iii) Unbeatable Harold (2006)
|David Scott||Elvis Presley, age 18.||This Is Elvis (1981)|
|Martin Shaw||Elvis Presley||Are You Lonesome Tonight? (1985, play)|
|Jason Alan Smith||Elvis Presley||Crazy (2008)|
|Ed Shifres||Elvis Presley||King and Me, The (1999)|
|John Sparks||(fictional) Elvis Presley||Smokin' Mary Jane (2002)|
|Jack Smink||(fictional) Elvis Presley||Buried dreams (2005)|
|Frank Stallone||(fictional) Elvis Presley||Angels with angles (2005)|
|Michael St. Gerard||i)and ii) young Elvis Presley
iii)(fictional) young Elvis Presley
|i) Elvis (1990) (TV mini-series)
ii) Great Balls of Fire! (1989)
iii)Heart of Dixie (1989)
|George Thomas||(fictional) Elvis Presley, as John Burrows||Memphis rising, Elvis returns- (2009)|
|Jeff Yagher||(fictional) Elvis Presley||The Twilight Zone Season 2, "The Once And Future King" (1986)|
|Rob Youngblood||Elvis Presley||Elvis and the Colonel: The Untold Story (1993) (TV-made)|
|Jack White||(fictional) Elvis Presley||Walk Hard (2007)|
|Lloyd Ahlquist||Elvis Presley||Epic Rap Battles of History, episode "Michael Jackson vs. Elvis Presley" (Season 2, 2012.)|
- Richard A. Koenigsberg, "'I MOVE, THEREFORE I AM:' Elvis Presley, Rock 'n' Roll, and the Liberation of the American Body," keynote address at the INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON ELVIS PRESLEY (Monday, May 19, 2008).
- MacDonald, Steven. The King & Eye at AllMusic
- Raised Eyebrows: My Years Inside Groucho's House, Steve Soliar, 1996, Stoddart Publishing
- Fans Waiting in Line for Release of Wackel-Elvis, 06/11/2001, Die Welt (German)
- Audi Wackel-Elvis commercial (2001, British version)
- Audi Wackel-Elvis commercial (2001, German version)
- List of minor The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy characters#Elvis Presley