Elvis Presley is still remembered as one of the greatest American icons of the 20th century, having influenced countless future artists and fans who have drawn inspiration from his works. Granted the prestigious moniker of ‘King of Rock and Roll’, Elvis’ effects on the popular culture of his time and the history of music are extremely significant.
In addition to his trailblazing career as a music icon, Elvis also built up his acting portfolio by trying to fulfil his dream of becoming a film star. Over the course of his life, he went on to star in many popular productions such as Loving You and Jailhouse Rock among many others which are cited as classics by cultural commentators to this day.
Elvis had a deep interest in the cinematic artform too and he actually wanted to follow in the footsteps of other acting stars like Marlon Brando and James Dean, setting out to establish himself as an actor who was capable of serious dramatic work. His taste in cinema was also very fascinating since he liked the works of many pioneers.
According to his wife Priscilla, Elvis enjoyed a wide variety of cinematic masterpieces. She claimed that the legendary star loved the works of William Wyler and Frank Capra, singling out classics like Wuthering Heights and It’s a Wonderful Life. She also noted that Elvis was very fond of Max Ophüls’ 1948 gem Letter from an Unknown Woman.
However, there was one particular film that affected Elvis so much that he cried himself to sleep after watching. That film was none other than Louis King’s 1940 project The Way of All Flesh, a remake of the eponymous silent film from 1927 that was directed by Victor Fleming which is sadly considered to be a lost film now.
“We cried ourselves to sleep over The Way of All Flesh, which concerns a banker who plans to carry a large sum of money out of state, only to discover upon awakening the following morning that he has been robbed,” Priscilla recalled. The story of a man who loses everything he has left a deep mark on Elvis as it did on many others who watched it.
“Stripped of everything, he takes to the streets, surviving among the derelicts, an outcast,” she added. “Years later, one Christmas night, he wanders into his hometown and peers through the window to see his wife and children, now grown, opening their presents. Sensing his presence but never recognising him, his wife takes pity on the lonely old man and invites him in to share the evening with her family. He declines, heading down the snowy street alone.”
His wife even claimed that he wanted to conduct his own remake of the film and had pretty definite plans about the project. According to her, Elvis wanted to cast his own father as the tragic central figure because the story meant that much to him: “Elvis identified so thoroughly with the story that he toyed with the idea of a remake. He intended to cast Vernon in the lead role.”