Elvis Presley’s Concert Documentaries

MGM produced two film documentaries, Elvis — That’s the Way It Is and Elvis on Tour, that captured Elvis’ live performances. Elvis — That’s the Way It Is, a feature-length movie, is built around Elvis’ August 1970 engagement at the International Hotel in Las Vegas.

About half of the movie features his performance onstage in the main room. One segment in which Elvis sings “Mystery Train” and “Tiger Man” was filmed at a concert in Phoenix. The rest of the movie documents the excitement Elvis generated as a performer. Elvis is shown in rehearsal for the show, whipping his band into shape and mastering new material for the act.

Intercut with the rehearsal footage are shots of the massive promotional buildup in Las Vegas. They also sent a film crew to Luxembourg to record an Elvis Presley convention.

Elvis — That’s the Way It Is was directed by Denis Sanders, who had won an Oscar for Best Documentary for his film, Czechoslovakia 1968. Expert cinematographer Lucien Ballard caught the excitement of Elvis’ performance onstage with eight Panavision cameras.

The film was released on November 11, 1970, to good reviews. The Hollywood Reporter remarked that Elvis was probably the only entertainer alive who could draw enough people into a theater to make a documentary profitable at the box office. The film also introduced Elvis as a live performer to an audience who was too young to remember him from the 1950s and knew Elvis only from his movies.

In 1972, MGM released another feature-length documentary about Elvis, which was shot in the spring of that year. Elvis on Tour focuses on his road show during a 15-city tour. This film captures the final phase of Elvis’ career at its highest point. It was produced by Pierre Adidge and Robert Abel, who had won critical acclaim for their rock documentary Joe Cocker: Mad Dogs and Englishmen.

Some of the editing was supervised by of Woodstock.Andrew Solt is credited with doing research on Elvis on Tour. He later coproduced the semidocumentary This Is Elvis. Elvis on Tour won a Golden Globe for the Best Documentary of 1972; it is the only Elvis Presley movie to be honored with an award of any kind.






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