“It was a sweaty show, I’ll tell you for sure.”
– Elvis Presley, 1970
Elvis: That’s The Way It Is happens to be a documentary that showcases Elvis’s return to live performances. The film follows Elvis around as he records sessions, rehearses, and finally makes his way onto the stage in Las Vegas. It was directed by Denis Sanders and released November 11th, 1970. This was Elvis’s first film that did not require him to act. Elvis was raw and it gave the fans a chance to get to know the real Elvis.
The beginning of the film shows Elvis and the band in the recording studio rehearsing. For the most part, Elvis is goofing around and just having fun. It has been so long since he had been in this environment that he wanted to make the most of it. There were times when he would explain to the band what he wanted and what he would like changed. It really showcased Elvis’s real talent and the ear he had for the music.
Just after the rehearsing in the studio, the film transitions to Elvis rehearsing on stage at the International Hotel. He performs songs and fans have an opportunity to see Elvis and the Memphis Mafia interact with one another. The film shows Elvis’s fun-natured, goofy side that the audience has been unable to see. There is another scene where Elvis’s backup vocalists are seen listening to Elvis’s recording and singing along with those trying to find the key. Once they all begin rehearsing, this is when Elvis makes the final say of how he would like it to sound.
Finally, it is opening night. There is footage of multiple stars arriving at the hotel and all the fans that are waiting for Elvis to arrival. It cuts to Elvis backstage reading telegrams from friends and trying to calm down. He is clearly nervous. Elvis begins to express his uncertainty of the words to I Just Can’t Help Believing and repeats them over and over.
“I just hope I don’t forget the words to I Just Can’t Help Believin’ man. I hope I don’t forget the words. I just can’t help believin’, when she’s lying close beside me, and my heart beat with the rhythm of her sighs. If I get through the first one, I’ve got it, I’ve got it made, man.”
– Elvis Presley, 1970
I Just Can’t Help Believin’ – Live
The backstage footage then transitions to Elvis making his way to the stage. He begins performing. The engagement began August 10th, 1970 and had two shows a day on August 11th, 12th, and 13th. Footage from the shows took place over four days. This is why Elvis is not wearing the same outfit throughout the film. Watching Elvis perform in front of an audience is unlike anything else. It is really neat to watch the entire process of a song. For instance, one of my favorites, Words.
Words – Rehearsal Recording Studio
Words – Rehearsal on stage
Words – Live Performance
It is honestly incredible to see the entire process and also hear small changes Elvis made that made a huge impact on the song. Especially if you are familiar with the Bee Gee’s original version of this song. So very different. Elvis: That’s The Way It Is is one of my absolute favorite Elvis things to watch. The best way to appreciate it is to watch it! These videos are not even the best! I love watching his live performances and seeing just how talented he was. I still remember the first time I watched it.
Patch It Up – Live
My family and I were staying at the Heartbreak Hotel. I was extremely tired as we had been traveling all day. I walked out of the room and found my parents watching this. My parents are not huge Elvis fans, but they took me on this trip just for me. They turned it to channel 17, which played Elvis all day. This was the first time I had ever heard Just Pretend.
Just Pretend – Live
It completely changed my life and even increased my love for Elvis. I was not that familiar with his off-the-wall songs since I was only 9 and my parents had access to what was mainstream. I then was fascinated to learn more and find more things about Elvis that I did not know. There is still so much I do not know about Elvis and learning new things (especially with this blog) brings me so much joy!