Elvis Blog Readers Ask About Movies, Cruises, Ursula & Photos

Although it’s never overwhelming, a steady flow of feedback from readers of Elvis History Blog arrives in my inbox almost daily. Since I feel that those readers who take the time to share their comments deserve a response, I set aside some time each week to send replies. About half of all the comments I receive ask about the value of some Elvis collectible. My response to all of them is identical and brief—“I’m not a collector of Elvis memorabilia, and so know nothing about the value of such items. I suggest you put your item up on an auction site like eBay and see what response you get.”

Comments on the content of present, past, and future blogs, however, encourage a more thoughtful response. Halfway through Elvis History Blog’s eighth year, I’d like to share some of the interesting comments and questions readers have sent so far in 2015, along with my replies. We’ll start with the kind of feedback that motivates any blogger to keep going. 

From Annemarie:

“I am just writing a short note to let you know how much I, as an Elvis fan, enjoy reading your blog entries. Maybe you do know. You must. If not, you have to know how much joy you are spreading. What can be more fulfilling than reading well-researched, in-depth articles about your hero? I SO enjoyed your piece on your personal feelings about growing up with Elvis' movies. A third generation fan myself, I love all his movies, (though Harum Scarum is tough to watch), because I get to SEE and HEAR Elvis.”

My response to Annemarie:

Thank you for your kind comments. I wish you and many other similar Elvis fans of our generation lived in my area. It would be great to be part of an Elvis fan group that gets together regularly to talk about our fan experiences and Elvis’s music and movies. Unfortunately, most of the Elvis fans I’ve met in Spokane are mainly interested in karaoke or Elvis collectibles, neither of which interest me.

From Sandra:

“I would love to see comments and reactions to the various Elvis movies made since Elvis Presley’s death. Just to see what those that knew Elvis thought about the way he was portrayed and truthfulness of events.”

My response to Sandra:

I’ve tried to watch some of the movies and TV shows that attempt to dramatize all or portions of Elvis’s life, but none of them work for me. Elvis was such a unique performer that attempts to portray him on the screen come off as phony at best, and laughable in general. The events of his life are so well known that the scripts of movies about him are very predictable and often boring. Besides, why would anyone want to watch some actor portray Elvis when there are so many films and documentaries staring the real thing?

From Marie:

“My name is Marie Martins and I work for City Cruises, the number 1 sightseeing tour operator on the river Thames. During the months of June, July and August we will offer a Rock ’n’ Roll river cruise called the ‘Elvis dinner cruise.’

“Elvis tribute artist Ben Thompson, who has just won First Prize in the USA in ‘The 2015 Branson Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest’ will give a stunning performance as Elvis, singing his way up and down the Thames. This cruise includes a glass of sparkling wine and a three-course dinner. Cocktails, champagne and more are available at the fully-stocked bar. The boats leave from North Greenwich Pier, making a perfect match with Britain’s largest exhibition, now on at the O2.” 

My response to Marie:

I receive a number of requests like yours to plug an Elvis event, book, or product on Elvis History Blog. Usually, though, I don’t mention them in my blogs, unless they have some historical relevance to Elvis’s life and career. This one appeals to the fan in me, though. I’ve been to London several times, and cruising down the Thames, drinking champagne, and reminiscing about Elvis sounds like a great way to spend a summer evening. Personally, though, if I were on your cruise, I’d find a seat at the end of the boat furthest away from where the “Elvis Tribute Artist” was performing his antics. That’s not a personal slam on Ben Thompson; I’m just not into ETAs.

Here is the website link for more information: http://www.citycruises.com/Elvis-tribute-cruise

From Tom:

I'm wondering if Elvis actually dated Ursula Andress? And would you know if he dated Raquel Welch?”

My response to Tom:

Well, since I fancy myself an Elvis historian and not an Elvis gossip columnist, your inquiry is something unusual for me. While Elvis certainly dated a lot of women, that was something he tried to keep private. So the only knowledge we have about that part of his life comes from the published revelations of former Elvis insiders.

Ursula Andress was married when she starred with Elvis in 1963’s Fun in Acapulco, and most indications are that he avoided romantic involvement with his leading ladies who were then so attached. (Judy Tyler in Jailhouse Rock and Mary Tyler Moore in Change of Habit are two other examples.) That said, here is what a couple of Elvis’s old cronies have written about his relationship with Ursula Andress.

Billy Smith: “She scared him a little. She wasn’t his kind of woman because she wasn’t petite and she wasn’t dark-haired. Elvis was more fascinated by her than anything. She had those big shoulders, you know. He was laughing about it one day. He said, ‘I was embarrassed to take off my damn shirt next to her!’

“But they flirted with each other some. She was married to John Derek, but she used to call Graceland a lot. She wouldn’t ask for Elvis because she knew Priscilla was there. So she’d ask for Alan [Fortas]. And then the secretaries would tell Alan that Ursula called, and Alan would call her back, and Elvis would get on the phone.”

Marty Lacker: “There’s a picture of Elvis and Ursula … where they’re gazing at each other on the movie set, like they’re ready to gobble each other up. But that wasn’t any real big romance. He just enjoyed being with her. She came to visit him on the Roustabout set later on and maybe on another picture.”

So there it is. You decide. Did that qualify as “dating,” or was it just a friendly relationship? As for Raquel Welsh, she and Elvis crossed paths fleetingly when she had a bit part in Roustabout in 1964. She didn’t draw widespread attention, though, until 1966, when she wore that doe-skin bikini in One Million Years B.C. I can find no reference to any encounter, romantic or otherwise, between Elvis and Raquel.

From Trina:

“I enjoyed reading your book, Elvis '57, and your great website!

“I am working on my first non-fiction book, which happens to be on Elvis, and I had a question about photos. Do libraries allow authors to publish photos from their archive collections for free? Or does fair use apply? It's extremely challenging finding free photos to use of Elvis. Any advice would be appreciated.”

My response to Trina:

I can relate to your frustration with finding photos to use in your book. I ran into the same problem when I was working on Elvis ’57: The Final Fifties Tours. There are thousands and thousands of Presley photos out there, so it’s not difficult to identify some that will work in your book. The problem, though, is getting permission to use them. And you do need permission. Before publication, all reputable publishers require either permission statements from the copyright owners of photographs to be used or evidence that photos are in the public domain. Book publishers want to be protected from copyright infringement suits.

(“Fair use” does not apply, unless you’re actually critiquing the quality and content of the photograph as a piece of art. Pictures used to illustrate general text and make a book more appealing are not covered under “fair use.”)

So, if you find an Elvis photo you want to use in your book, how do you determine who owns the copyright? The initial copyright belonged either to the photographer or to his employer. For example, the classic black and white photos taken of Elvis in 1956 by Alfred Wertheirmer still belong to him. If the photographer was working for a company, such as a newspaper, than the employer owned the photos. The original copyright owner can later sell or transfer ownership. An example is when freelance photographer Andrews Norton donated all of his photos from Elvis’s 1957 concert in Ottawa to the City of Ottawa Archives.

My advice, Trina, is to be prepared to pay for permission to use photos of Elvis in your book. Search the internet to find Elvis photos that are currently owned by libraries and museums. They’ll charge the least for permission to publish. Newspaper archives are the next least expensive source.

Now, everybody knows that hundreds of Elvis photo books have been published with little if any regard to identify the owners of the pictures or to get their permission to use. Most of these volumes are self-published, so the authors or editors don’t bother with the ethics of ownership. They often credit the Elvis photos used to various “collections.” I’m guessing these “collections” are simply the large accumulations of Elvis photos that some fans have gathered over the years. Just the ownership of photographic prints, however, does not give the owner the legal right to publish the images, or to give someone else the right to publish them.

Of course, the biggest collection of Elvis Presley images is owned by Elvis Presley Enterprises. So, Trina, you could try asking them for permission to use some of their Elvis photos in your book. Be prepared, though, for EPE to slam the door in your face. They did it to me twice—and rather rudely—when I asked for some information from their archives when I was researching Elvis ’57.

The bottom line, Trina, is this. If you’re an ethical author, which you appear to be, accept that you must have the legal right to use the photos that appear in your book. If you can find some Elvis images that are in the public domain, that’s great. Other than that, search out the sources that charge the smallest royalty payments.

Now, I know what some of you are wondering. Does Hanson have the legal right to use the hundreds of Elvis photos he’s posted on Elvis History Blog? Well … Trina didn’t ask about that, so until someone does, let’s just leave that subject for another day.

I always enjoy reading and responding to reader feedback on Elvis History Blog. If you are so inclined, please take the time to let me know how you feel about any blog or article you find on the site.  | Alan Hanson(© June 2015)

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"There’s a picture of Elvis and Ursula … where they’re gazing at each other on the movie set, like they’re ready to gobble each other up. But that wasn’t any real big romance. He just enjoyed being with her."