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Colonel Tom Parker's Biographer Disputes Major Themes In Elvis

Alanna Nash, the biographer of Colonel Tom Parker, describes certain factually incorrect elements of the storyline of Baz Luhrmann's most recent movie, Elvis

Austin Butler portrays the title character in the movie, and Parker, his longtime manager, is also featured (played by Tom Hanks). The movie is directed by Baz Luhrmann, who is renowned for reworking well-known storylines in a new and exciting way. This frequently entails blending contemporary music with movies that are set in various historical eras, a tendency that he carries on with Elvis.


Alanna Nash became well-known for her biography of Parker, The Colonel: The Extraordinary Story of Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley, which she penned. In order to prepare for the movie, Luhrmann claims to have studied comments from academics who had read both Nash's book and a number of other works about Presley. Before making an illegal emigration to the US and starting his career in music marketing, Parker was born in the Netherlands and worked as a carnival worker.

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Nash now discusses how correctly Parker is represented in Elvis in an interview with Variety. Nash notes that one incident from the movie that she believes to be fake is Parker having his citizenship endangered by covert government agents who wanted Presley to tone down his performances so as not to contaminate the nation's young. Presley firing Parker on stage after Parker demanded money from Presley for a number of costs over the years is another scene in the movie that Nash alleges is untrue.


Nash claims that despite the fact that Presley and Parker had a disagreement during a concert in 1974 during which Presley threatened to fire Parker and Parker threatened to resign, nothing of these threats came to materialize. Throughout the conversation, Nash also expresses her opinion that, despite Parker's obvious flaws—such as accepting too much money from Presley—he also made wise economic judgments for Presley, and that this facet of his character was underemphasized in favor of his antagonistic side for dramatic effect. Below is a whole quotation by Nash:

"That’s total and unequivocal bunk, a complete invention in the movie. First of all, when Colonel Parker enlisted in the U.S. Army, he declared himself a Dutch citizen, with parents born in Holland. That was fine — we took foreign nationals — but he just had to swear he’d become a U.S. citizen, which he never did because he went AWOL. But he worked closely with the Pentagon, planning Elvis’ army career and post-army concert to raise money for the U.S.S. Arizona monument.

"He never fired him on stage, but there was an incident in Vegas in 1974 where Elvis criticized Barron Hilton from the stage for firing one of Elvis’s favorite employees. That led to a colossal shouting match afterward with Parker and talk of firing and quitting on both their parts, with Colonel ultimately presenting a bill that the Presleys could not pay. And so things resumed as they had been. Elvis would never have been so crass as to have fired Colonel from the stage."

Nash's analysis of the movie's accuracy—or lack thereof—in relation to Parker's character is helpful in reminding the audience that true-crime movies sometimes distort the facts in order to produce a more unified and interesting plot. This is not to suggest that every biopic produced is categorically untrue; rather, a movie with a cast made up of real individuals, like Elvis, shouldn't be used as a substitute for studying the actual history. In addition to being able to appreciate the movie for its originality, this allows the audience the chance to comprehend a story that may be more historically true than what is depicted on screen. Knowing this from Nash provides another perspective from which to view Elvis, one that views Parker's real character to be more complex than the one portrayed in Elvis. Whether or not Parker accurately portrays his role, the tense relationships that develop between managers and talent are a well-worn cliche that still adds a lot of suspense to the story and keeps viewers interested. Keep this knowledge in mind when you watch Elvis, which is presently in cinemas, whether you haven't seen it before or even if you want to watch it again.


Sources: Variety

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