Elvis (1979 film)

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Elvis (1979 film).jpg
Film poster
Written by Anthony Lawrence
Directed by John Carpenter
Starring Kurt Russell
Shelley Winters
Season Hubley
Bing Russell
Theme music composer Joe Renzetti
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Producer(s) Dick Clark
Anthony Lawrence
Cinematography Donald M. Morgan
Running time 150 min.
Production company(s) Dick Clark Productions
Distributor American Broadcasting Company (ABC)
Scotia (West Germany, theatrical)
Budget $2.1 million[1]
Original channel American Broadcasting Company
Original release
  • February 11, 1979 (1979-02-11)

Elvis is a 1979 American television biographical film directed by John Carpenter. It is based upon the life of Elvis Presley, and stars Kurt Russell in the title role. It stars Shelley Winters, Season Hubley, Bing Russell and Pat Hingle in supporting roles. Elvis originally aired on ABC.

Russell was nominated for an Emmy Award for his performance as Elvis. Also nominated for Emmy Awards were cinematographer Donald M. Morgan and make-up artist Marvin Westmore.[1]


The story follows the life of rock and roll legend Elvis Presley. It ends in 1970, and does not depict the last few years of Presley's career.

There is more than one version of this film: a version that starts with Presley's hair being cut when he was called up by the US army, and then death of his mother, with no scenes of his life before this, has been shown on TV in the UK. It runs for about two hours including commercials.



Russell worked with and met Elvis in the film It Happened at the World's Fair (1963). In the film, Elvis wants to meet the fairground's nurse and he pays a young boy (Russell) to kick him in the shins. Later in the film, the young boy sees Elvis and the nurse together on a date and asks Presley if he can kick him again for money. Russell's cinematic involvement with Elvis also includes dubbing the voice of a young Elvis in Forrest Gump and playing an Elvis impersonator in 3000 Miles to Graceland.

Country singer Ronnie McDowell provided the vocals for a number of songs Russell performed in the film. McDowell recorded 36 songs for the soundtrack, of which 25 were used.[1]

According to several reports, Priscilla Presley was paid $50,000 to check the script for accuracy before shooting commenced.[1]


Elvis originally aired on ABC opposite two blockbuster films; Gone with the Wind on CBS, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest on NBC.[1] Despite this, Elvis beat both in the Nielsen ratings, receiving a 27.3 rating compared to 24.3 and 22.5 respectively. Elvis was ranked the sixth most watched program of the week.[1]

After its success on television, the film was released theatrically throughout Europe. The film debuted on DVD and Blu-ray in early 2010 via Shout! Factory.


Elvis is notable in Carpenter's career for two reasons. It was made after Halloween had wrapped, so it offered him an avenue to try his hand at a film away from the horror genre. It was also the first time Carpenter had worked with Kurt Russell, who became a frequent collaborator of Carpenter's. Russell subsequently starred in Escape from New York (1981), The Thing (1982), Big Trouble in Little China (1986), and Escape from L.A. (1996).

Russell would later marry co-star Season Hubley on March 17, 1979. They were later divorced.[1] Bing Russell, who played Vernon Presley, is Kurt Russell's real father.[1] For several years Bing played Deputy Clem Poster in the TV series Bonanza.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Worth, Fred (1992). Elvis: His Life from A to Z. Outlet. pp. 308–309. ISBN 978-0-517-06634-8. 

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