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At the movies, residents revisit the ‘king of rock ’n’ roll’

Parsons Presbyterian Manor residents gave “two thumbs up” to “Elvis,” the Baz Luhrmann biopic about one of the most influential musicians of all time.

Virginia Allison, David Guartney, Robert Keener, and Bette Whetzel attended a screening at The Parsons Theatre with Becky Nash, life enrichment director, and Babette Collins, social services director.

The residents were excited to see the movie because they grew up listening to Elvis Presley tunes.

David and Bette are fond of the 1956 hit “Love Me Tender.” The song was featured on the soundtrack of the western movie of the same name, which was also Presley’s first film role. David and Bette aren’t alone: “Love Me Tender” was a huge hit. It reached number one on the charts and made history as the first single to sell more than a million copies. The lyrics were co-written by Ken Darby and Elvis to the tune of the Civil-War-era ballad, “Aura Lee.”

Elvis performed “Love Me Tender” during his first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show. He performed on the influential TV program three times at a rate of $50,000, an astonishing sum at the time. These appearances are some of David’s favorite memories of the superstar. Bette best remembers his distinctive dance moves, which were first introduced to the American public during TV performances in the mid-1950s.

Virginia’s favorite Elvis song is “Trying to Get Back to You.” Where “Love Me Tender” was one of his first hits, “Trying to Get Back to You” was recorded in the late 1960s, when Elvis was mounting a comeback after a period in which he focused on film roles. He performed the country-tinged tune on a television special that aired in December 1968.

Throughout his career, Presley recorded gospel tracks and other songs that reflected his Christian faith and upbringing. These are Robert’s favorites, and they include 1957’s “(There’ll Be) Peace in the Valley (For Me)” and 1972’s “Amazing Grace.” His ninth studio album, “How Great Thou Art,” is devoted to gospel tracks. Released in 1967, “How Great Thou Art” won a Grammy for Best Sacred Performance.

The residents said they enjoyed the “Elvis” movie. David appreciated the depiction of Elvis’ rise to stardom, and Bette’s favorite parts were the musical numbers. Virginia liked that the film includes clips from his first and last concerts.

Robert’s favorite part of the film is its portrayal of Graceland, Elvis’ famous Memphis estate. It’s just one of the lavish sets the production designer recreated for the filming, all of which took place in Australia.

Virginia, who has been an Elvis fan since the age of seven, speaks to the enduring power of his legacy — and one of the reasons the new biopic has done so well at the box office, grossing well over $100 million.

Though the star often drew controversy, Virginia says he was always respectful of his fans.

“His songs helped me through good times and bad times,” she said.

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