Why Elvis Presley Never Starred in a Western With John Wayne

by Taylor Cunningham
why-elvis-presley-never-co-starred--western-with-john-wayne

Elvis Presley once had a chance to star in Westerns alongside John Wayne. But thanks to Elvis’ manager, the iconic pairing never happened.

During his silver screen career, Elvis made three Westerns—Love Me Tender, Flaming Star, and Charro! But it just took one cowboy role to give the singer a reputation in the film industry.

After Love Me Tender, Elvis became a sought out genre actor. And that fact didn’t go unnoticed by the biggest Western star in history, John Wayne.

While searching for a co-star in True Grit, Wayne realized that he and The King could make a legendary screen side duo. The producers also realized that they could gain some extra attention with an Elvis original on the soundtrack. So they asked Elvis to play the part of Texas Ranger LaBoeuf. But his manager. Col, Tom Parker, ended up standing in the way.

According to The Watch, Parker thought his client was the biggest star of his day. And unless the producers agreed, he wasn’t going to let Elvis take part in the film.

“They actually talked with Elvis’ manager because Elvis could act and sing,” said Eve Becker-Doyle, a local Chamber of Commerce member who worked on the film. “But the manager insisted that Elvis get top billing over John Wayne. And that wasn’t going to happen — not in a John Wayne movie,” Becker-Doyle said.

So instead of having a hit Western with John Wayne and Elvis Presley, country singer Glen Campbell joined the cast. And the lyrics to his song, which was also dubbed True Grit, won an Oscar nomination that year.

To add to Elvis’ disappointment, John Wayne also took home an Oscar for his work as Rooster Cogburn. And working on an Academy Award-winning film would have helped solidify his place in Hollywood.

Elvis Presley Also Turned Down ‘A Star is Born’

Unfortunately, True Grit wasn’t the only famous movie that Col. Parker pushed Elvis out of. He also had a chance to play the lead in A Star is Born.

For the third remake of the classic film, Barbara Streisand had the rights to the film. And The King was her first choice to play her love interest, Norman Howard.

“His career was slightly in decline,” Streisand told Billboard in 2014. “He was overweight, and I thought he was perfect to play that part.”

But Col. Parker’s greed ruined negotiations once more. As The Vintage News reported, the manager demanded that Streisand give Elvis $1 million before he even began. And, he said that the singer would also need to pocket “50 percent of the profits.”

Because Barbara Streisand was already an A-list actress, she knew that she didn’t need to cast Elvis to fill theaters. So, she turned down the offer. And she ended up doing well without him. In 1977, A Star is Born earned the singer her very first Oscar.

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