Elvis Meets Nixon (1997)

Not so much a biopic as a mockumentary, the zany tone for this film is set early. A sardonic Dick Cavett opens proceedings by advising viewers that what we are about to see is mostly true “and that’s what’s so scary”. Scary? Maybe if you think about it too much. Funny? Most definitely!

 

It all begins a few days before Christmas 1970 when Elvis ventures outside Graceland, alone, for the first time in years.  Taking no measures to disguise himself, he blithely informs swooning fans that he’s travelling incognito on a secret mission to Washington. It’s not too long before a member of the Memphis Mafia is hot on his trail, following shot television sets and bacon rinds all the way to the White House. 

 

Though Bob Gunton’s Nixon is an outright caricature, Rick Peters' rendering of Elvis is both hilarious and endearing.  Like a wide-eyed babe in the woods, his encounters with hippies, protesters and Vietnam War veterans find the King of Rock 'n' Roll  just as out-of-touch as the man he plans to meet. He was, as Wayne Newton states in one of the film’s mock interviews, like a Rip van Elvis.

 

Other talking heads passing comment on events include Tony Curtis, “Deep Throat” and journalist Edwin Newman, who after advising what Elvis was like at that time confesses “Not that I ever knew Elvis. I just know that from reading some books”. If only more biopics were so refreshingly honest…. and entertaining. 

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Sonny West was not dispatched by Priscilla to search for Elvis. Elvis actually arranged for Sonny to meet him at Washington. 

No scene recreations in this biopic. Instead we get a recreation of the photo that remains the most requested item from the U.S. National Archives.

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