Video Classics: “Jailhouse Rock” – Elvis Presley

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Elvis in a Promotional Pic for 'Jailhouse Rock' (Library of Congress)

Elvis in a Promotional Pic for 'Jailhouse Rock' (Library of Congress)

There’s no doubt that “Jailhouse Rock” is an all-time classic song, and the movie of the same name is often considered to be Elvis’ best (so sorry, Viva Las Vegas). And yet, The King never watched it.

The song “Jailhouse Rock” is almost the perfect Elvis rocker, and archetypical of the music of that time (‘that time’ being 1957, perhaps the archetypical year of the 50’s Rock era). The dance sequence that accompanies the song in the movie version of Jailhouse Rock has been called Elvis’ finest moment on-screen. Latter day scoffers who remember Elvis’ only from his Vegas performances almost 20 years in the future often fail to give Presley due credit for his early work, credit that in this case was well-deserved.  Alex Romero, choreographer for Jailhouse Rock, had scripted a sequence that, by his account, ‘just wasn’t working’. It was only after watching Presley on stage and conferring with The King himself that Romero began incorporating moves from Presley’s stage act that scene began to click and eventually went on to become iconic.

The story behind why Elvis never watched Jailhouse Rock is much more sad. His co-star in the movie, Judy Tyler, just 24 years of age, was killed in an auto accident in Wyoming just two weeks after filming completed. Presley was so distraught by the tragic loss that he could never bring himself to watch the film.

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