Elvis Presley was known for his various No.1 hits and star appeal on stage. But the King also starred in his fair share of Hollywood productions. While many of Presley’s films were musicals, the singer also tried his hand at several westerns across his career.
Presley’s westerns usually incorporated his music or comedy. But occasionally, he played against type as hardened characters you’d expect of Clint Eastwood. Outsider took a look back at the singer’s film catalog, and here are the various westerns that Presley starred in during his career.
Presley Plays a Rodeo Rider in ‘Stay Away, Joe’
“Stay Away, Joe” is the kind of film that probably wouldn’t get made today. It came near the tail-end of Presley’s film career before the singer began his decline and spiral. The film is a musical like many of Presley’s catalog, banking on both the actor’s screen presence and vocal talents. It’s not a straight western because it’s set in then-modern times of the 1960s. But the film explores a Navajo rodeo rider Joe Lightcloud, played by Presley.
Upon release, many criticized the film for being offensive to the Native American tribe by stereotyping them. Reportedly, the film also had its strengths as well, taking a “Blazing Saddles” slapstick approach to comedy. Overall, the film wasn’t among Presley’s best work.
Elvis Presley Plays a Bronco-Buster in ‘Tickle Me’
The King of Rock ‘n Roll on horseback and also riding a bull? It’s probably not something that many Elvis fans probably imagined. But Presley decided to try his hand at being a rodeo champion in this 1965 film. Similar to “Stay Away, Joe,” the film isn’t a western in the traditional sense. But it does feature several western undertones and a particularly funny fantasy sequence lampooning the genre.
So, Presley obviously employs a stunt double for those riding sequences. But viewers could easily believe, Presley would be the star attraction at a rodeo. The singer successfully translates some of his star-power and charisma on screen, portraying Lonnie Beale. But during a fantasy sequence, Presley shows off his comedy chops as The Panhandle Kid. A parody of Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, and other gunslingers, the Panhandle Kid loves his milk. So much so, he asks for a whole bottle at the local saloon. Is it ridiculous? Absolutely. But it’s also a lot of fun.
Presley Plays a Rancher in ‘Love Me Tender’
Presley made a pivot from music to film in this musical western based on one of his hit songs. The King starred in his 1956 debut as a Texas rancher overwhelmed by jealousy. Presley plays Clint Reno, who believes his brother Vance died fighting for the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Upon news of his brother’s death, Clint marries his brother’s beloved. But matters soon become complicated when Vance wasn’t quite as dead as everyone thought. The two brothers soon find themselves at odds over their mutual love for the woman. Rather than a comedy, Presley shows his serious side in the film and proved he was more than just his voice. But the ending rendition of “Love Me Tender” is absolutely haunting, even more so now all these years after his death.
The Singer Gets in a Conflict in ‘Flaming Star’
Many consider “Flaming Star” to be among Presley’s best work. The singer intended for the film to showcase himself as an actor and not just a musician pretending to be one. As such, Presley only performs two songs during the film, and one was during the opening credits. Unfortunately, the studio failed to launch an adequate marketing campaign to support Presley’s aim. And the film ended up being somewhat of a box office disappointment.
It’s hard not to look at the film and consider the what-ifs. Presley portrayed a commanding performance as Pacer Burton, a Texas rancher. When their neighbors are killed by a native tribe, the Burton homestead is forced to choose sides between the natives and their fellow Texans. It’s a performance that even some seasoned actors might struggle with. But Presley nailed the role, proving to be one of his most celebrated acting works.
Elvis Presley Stars as a Gunslinger in ‘Charro!’
In what ended up being one of his last film roles, Elvis Presley channeled Clint Eastwood for this Spaghetti Western. This was the King of Rock ‘n Roll like fans rarely saw him before or since. Gone was his clean-shaved squeaky clean usual appearance. In “Charro!,” Presley has stubble and a grimace. For perhaps the only time in his career, Presley showcases menace in one of his performances. You could believe that his character Jess Wade isn’t someone you would want to mess with.
The film is somewhat slow-paced in parts. But it follows Wade, who has only two things on his mind. He wants to win back his love and he wants to get revenge for getting set-up. Soon, the bullets start flying, and you almost forget that you’re watching Presley on-screen. He becomes a cowboy on-screen. “Charro!” might be the most western of Presley’s films.