Elvis (2022) Ending Explained – Why did the King of Rock never go on a world tour?

Elvis Plot Synopsis

Elvis is a glittery biopic based on the King of Rock ‘n Roll, Elvis Presley told through the eyes of his supposedly manipulative manager, Colonel Tom Parker. It follows Elvis’ life from when he was first discovered and through his highs and lows as a musician and actor.

We also get a glimpse of his turbulent relationship with his manager and how he became a worldwide influence despite being regulated by the government, the Colonel and his substance abuse.

It should be noted that Baz Luhrmann took several liberties like his friendship with B.B. King and Elvis is not the exact story of the superstar. For a more accurate biography, turn to the documentary Elvis Presley: The Searcher.

Why is Elvis’ manager narrating the film?

Accusations that Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis’ manager, killed the King of Rock ‘n Roll get to him when he’s on his deathbed.

To absolve himself of the guilt, he decides to tell the world of Elvis’ story and how he wasn’t the villain but his biggest supporter. However, we see discrepancies between his narration and what is shown in the film hinting that the accusations may be somewhat true.

Instances like Parker narrating that he was responsible for some of Elvis’ greatest ideas like the NBC Christmas special while in reality, he was against it show his diabolical side and how he made the most of any opportunity.

What makes Colonel sign Elvis?

Like every middle-aged man of that time, Colonel Parker doubts Elvis’ capability when he first sees him in his greasy hair, ‘girly’ makeup and pink outfit. He is further sceptical when Elvis is nervous during his first live performance.

However, he sees the instant effect that Elvis has on the women with his gyrating moves while his rock music had made the Black communities his fans.

The Colonel being a circus performer knew what would sell as he declared Elvis the ‘forbidden fruit’ and immediately approached him. After an exceptionally wild show, he corners Elvis and promises to not let the life of a Rockstar overwhelm him while suggesting his world-famous potential.

When does Elvis first turn to drugs?

While it is no secret that Elvis had an addiction in the last years of his life, the Colonel claims that he first got a taste of drugs in his youth when he went on his first tour with the headliner Hank Snow. As the concert-goers start demanding more of Elvis, he feels his energy going down and getting lonely.

To cheer him up, his new band members which also consisted of Scotty Moore suggest downing a pill to fix his mood. 

Elvis then turns to alcohol in the 60s when his films flop and the youth turn to the Beatles. He is further disappointed that the Colonel does not allow him his political opinions especially when Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated.

His hospitalisation after his first year at the International Hotel due to exhaustion and stress restarts his drug abuse. He is then disheartened when he is unable to cut ties with the Colonel who has tricked him and turns to drugs to bear it.

Why does Elvis enlist in the military?

Elvis Presley’s rise to fame makes him a household name, unfortunately even in the house of the conservative senator, James Eastland. The senator notices Elvis breaking down segregationist norms as he combines Black dance moves and songs while also “corrupting” young White girls with his hip-thrusting moves and greasy fashion. The government announces that Elvis needs to clean up or get cancelled. 

Elvis is told to put on family-friendly shows which humiliates him. However, a night out with B.B. King has him inspired. At a 4th of July charity concert, he pretends to put on a safe show but on stage, he goes back to his old style and plays the iconic song ‘Trouble’. The women in the audience scream and hype him up. At that moment, the Black audience members break the ‘Coloured people’ section and start dancing with the White girls.

It causes a riot as the police issues an arrest warrant for Elvis. To avoid jail, the Colonel suggests Elvis join the military and go to Germany for 2 years to appease the government. Interestingly, in real life, historians suggest that the Colonel convinced Elvis to join the military as a PR move to prove that he was the perfect American.

How does Elvis make his comeback in the 60’s?

Elvis starts clashing with the Colonel when all his manager wants him to do is sell Christmas merch and do Christmas specials. He meets up with the NBC producer Steve Binder who is in charge of Elvis’ Christmas TV special. They scheme behind the Colonel’s back and decide to make a political statement. He starts off in his old style as he shows up in an all-leather outfit and sings his popular rock songs ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, ‘Hound Dog’ and ‘Jailhouse Rock’.

After a break, he shows up with a gospel number complete with Black and Asian artists and backup dancers that have the sponsors furious. The Colonel warns him to stick to the Christmas script and Elvis is shaken. However, the news of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination upsets Elvis and he decides to sing ‘If I Can Dream’. The performance saves his popularity and the Colonel claims that it was his idea.

Why did Elvis never go on a world tour?

Following his regained popularity, Elvis’ friends reveal that the Colonel has been rejecting offers from London, Germany and Japan. At that moment, the Colonel is busy gambling at the International Hotel where he gets into a huge debt. The owner, Kohn threatens him. It is also shown that the Colonel has faked his identity and his real name is Andreas van Kuijk from Holland. 

When Elvis goes to break their contract, the Colonel is hospitalised in Las Vegas. He also agrees that it is time to retire. While Elvis realises that the Colonel is ‘snowing’ him, some of the crafty manager’s arguments start making sense to him. The Colonel claims that world tours are expensive and he could even go under.

He suggests a show at the International Hotel where Elvis would get paid but not be responsible for the expenses. The huge stage and audience size add to the Colonel’s convincing powers. He tells Elvis that he can perform for 6 weeks and then go on a world tour after that without any financial risk. Elvis is also given full creative freedom from allowing Black singers with him on stage to a 30-piece orchestra.

The opening night is a hit and the Colonel negotiates with Kohn for bringing Elvis back to perform every year. They sign a contract of 5 years for $5 million, previous gambling debts forgiven and unlimited gambling credit for the Colonel himself without consulting Elvis. In the 6th week, the Colonel keeps finding problems with the world tour like security and death threats.

He pays strangers to attack Elvis to strengthen his fake concerns. With the murder of Sharon Tate, the Colonel promises to give Elvis an American tour and postpones the world tour till the threats against celebrities are neutralized. The world tour keeps getting postponed till it ends up being the fourth year.

Why does Priscilla leave Elvis?

The first strain in Priscilla and Elvis’ marriage is seen on the opening night at the International Hotel when he kisses all the female fans. The Colonel thinks that she is jealous that she can never compete with the love he gets from fans. She on the other hand constantly urges Elvis to break it off with the Colonel but he isn’t able to as the Colonel keeps manipulating him.

However, the American tour separates Elvis and Priscilla as he starts sleeping with groupies and turns to drugs. She is upset that he is addicted and has abandoned her and their daughter for the stage and she leaves him.

Why is Elvis not able to leave the Colonel even after becoming aware of his manipulation?

It all goes back to that night at the carnival where the Colonel promised to make him a star. He promises Elvis record deals, Hollywood projects, cars, money, fame and more while also helping him stay grounded just like his mother wanted. In return, he would exclusively represent Elvis and take 50% off everything he ever earned.

A tip has Elvis realising that the Colonel would never allow a world tour because he doesn’t have a real identity and cannot leave the country and accompany him. At that moment, Elvis falls from exhaustion and sees the Colonel manipulating Vernon into ordering the doctor to pump him with drugs so he can finish the performance.

He publicly fires the Colonel after the performance. (Unfortunately, in real life, Elvis never found out about the Colonel’s origins and never publicly fired him.) The Colonel decides to charge Elvis Presley Enterprises with all the expenses that he paid for when he was handling Elvis’ finance right from the first time he went to see Elvis perform in public in Memphis.

The bill comes to a whopping $8.5 million and Vernon tells Elvis that they are broke and can’t pay him back unless they sell Graceland or take the Colonel back. Vernon attributes it to Elvis’ exorbitant spending on cars and drinks and girls. Elvis is furious but realises he has no way out. After his 5th year at the International where it seems that the public is tired of him, he sings ‘Unchained Melody’ to a cheering audience which becomes his last performance before his death.


Read More: Elvis Movie Review

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