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Elvis in Mexico and Parménides García Saldaña

México desde fuera

Rafael Aviña

Translator, Andrea Cabrera


When Elvis Presley's twin brother died during childbirth, his mother interpreted the event as a divine sign destined to mark in a special way the life of her surviving son. From that moment, the myth of the most famous rocker in the history of the genre arose. A cult elevated to religious proportions as indicated by the fervent signs of adoration of his followers every anniversary of his death, which occurred on August 16, 1977.

Hand in hand with his manager, colonel Tom Parker, Elvis took the chords of his guitar and his frenetic movements from Tupelo, Mississippi - his hometown - to the most remote places on the planet where there was a record player or a radio. His magnetism was such that he revolutionized the fashion and the mood of the youth that acclaimed him, and Mexico was no exception. Our country was the inspiration for a couple of his films, while he inspired lifestyles here and Mexican films of the time. In turn, he provoked a riot at the now-defunct Las Américas cinema during the premiere of Michael Curtiz's King Creole (1958), and his films were banned alluding to absurd racist statements attributed to the singer and actor.

Richard Thorpe, Fun in Acapulco/ Fiesta en Acapulco
Fun in Acapulco (1963) by Richard Thorpe

His long but highly disparate filmography, including 33 films, began in 1956 with Love Me Tender, a nondescript western where he plays a rebellious rancher without cause in a rural environment of the last century, and concludes with the documentary filming of the Elvis On Tour (1972). From all of them can be rescued titles such as Jailhouse Rock (1957), by Richard Thorpe, and the aforementioned King Creole; both respected the dissatisfied and rebellious image of Elvis. The other films were a pretext for the interpretation of his songs as happens in Fun In Acapulco (1963) and Charro! (1969), whose titles speak for themselves.

Filmed at Paramount Studios and in the then paradisiacal Guerrero port under the direction of Richard Thorpe, Fun in Acapulco included two foreign actresses. The Swiss Ursula Andress who caused a sensation in Dr. No (1962), the first of the saga of James Bond 007, and Elsa Cárdenas, from Tijuana, who had appeared next to James Dean in Giant (1956). A tourist excuse to show off Presley: former trapeze artist who works in a hotel as a singer and lifeguard.

Elvis competes with Alejandro Rey as a diver in La Quebrada and protects a Mexican shoe cleaner and of course, ends up preferring the blonde Andress over the bikini bullfighter Cárdenas plays. Among other songs, Elvis sings Guadalajara accompanied by mariachi with sarapes and big hats, Vino, dinero y amor, México and You Can't Say No in Acapulco.

In Charles Marquis Warren's Charro!, with music by Hugo Montenegro, Presley plays former outlaw Jess Wade, involved in the theft of an exquisite Mexican piece: a gold and silver cannon used during the war against Maximiliano. With a three-day beard and a hat with tassels Elvis sings the theme Charro! in this western set around 1870 filmed in Arizona and the Mexican border.

Charles Marquis Warren

To complete the film allusions to Mexico by Elvis, he played in turn, a mestizo singer and rodeo hero next to our compatriot Katy Jurado in Stay Away Joe (1968) and in Flaming Star (1960), by Don Siegel, shares credits with the Mexicans: Dolores del Río and Rodolfo Acosta.

Even more intriguing, however, was the excitement that Elvis sparked during the premiere of King Creole on May 6, 1959. A real chaos that led to the farewell of Elvis from the Mexican screens, described with enormous irony by the talented writer Parménides García Saldaña (1944-1982), a member of the "Literatura de la onda", in his book El rey criollo (1970): "...they began to tear the seats and to blow them away, everyone running like crazy everywhere, as if the cinema were on fire. The function was interrupted and the lights came on. And the disarray continued until the grenadiers arrived and took us all out of the cinema...".

“…I went to the movies with my friends to see King Creole. We all admire Presley, Elvis Tulsa Presley. It's a badass singer. And also a nice face, I mean, any old woman gives her buttocks for him... My dad says he's a degenerate faggot and all that, and my brother, the one who studies law and is the secretary of the students society of his school, says he's a fucker, and I tell the asshole that he wishes to have the personality of Elvis Presley”.