Guralnick is also upfront about Elvis's many dates and love affairs with women/girls who were often much younger than he. His relationship with Priscilla comes to be seen as the norm, rather than an anomaly. His relationships with younger women also tie into the vulnerability that was omnipresent within him: it seems like he was more comfortable opening himself up to people who were not a perceived threat to him. He could never open up to the guys because they would just laugh off his concerns and he would lose his advantage over them as the leader of the pack. He couldn't really date women his own age (mid-twenties) because it might get serious fast and then he'd be expected to commit, which clearly he was not ready to do.
Although the reader does see a lot of Elvis's eccentric behavior early on in the book, Guralnick also continues the thread he started in Last Train to Memphis that shows Elvis's commitment to good work and good music and his intellectual curiosity. He writes of the artistic success of Elvis is Back! (even though it wasn't as commercially successful) and the command Elvis has over his recording sessions. I was intrigued to learn that Charlie Hodge had an influence on Elvis's singing style, providing him with informal voice lessons while they were stationed in Germany. I didn't know about Charlie's formal training until I read about it here. His involvement in Elvis's recordings and concert performances makes way more sense within this context.
In every Elvis biography you read about Elvis's disgust with his movies. What Guralnick adds to the discussion is a critique of Elvis's performances and behind-the-scenes business details that reveal how formulaic the films really were and the fact that they were that way on purpose. Hal Wallis and Colonel Parker wanted to make money. Period. They did not expect Academy Award-worthy pictures. While they were making deals, Elvis was listlessly going through the motions to get the movies done. He did the best he could with the material he was given, but the sense of entrapment and defeat is evident in Guralnick's retelling. His dreams of becoming a serious actor seem to have started slipping away. On p. 171, Guralnick quotes an article published in the Las Vegas Desert News and Telegram on April 20, 1964 that "confirmed all of Elvis' worst fears."
Would you believe that Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole owe part of their current success to Elvis Presley? These two brilliant Shakespearean-trained actors, winning worldwide acclaim for their performances in Becket, might not have had the opportunity to star in the picture, were it not for Sir Swivel Hips. ... Producer Hal Wallis, who has made Presley's biggest hits, also produced Becket. And were it not for the revenue from Elvis' movies, there might not have been the wherewithal to film Becket. Says Wallis, "In order to do the artistic pictures, it is necessary to make the commercially successful Presley pictures. But that doesn't mean a Presley picture can't have quality, too."
After reading the article, Elvis "was unhappy and disillusioned, profoundly dissatisfied with the way his life was going." Leading up to this point, the reader gets the impression that the Colonel's and Elvis's priorities have been diverging and, sadly, it seems that the Colonel's priorities are taking precedence. From this point forward, Elvis will be filming "quickie" movies aimed at making money for himself, the Colonel, and the studio. As the reader, you want this to be a turning point where Elvis puts his foot down and starts to determine his own creative path, but because you already know how the story ends, you just feel frustrated and sad for Elvis that he couldn't take charge and make changes in his own life and you understand why his life turned out like it did.
To be continued...