[9 December 2009]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
On September 21, 1956, Elvis Presley made a triumphant return to his birthplace of Tupelo, Mississippi, following his recent, rapid rise from poverty and obscurity to prosperity and celebrity. At the beginning of this documentary, produced by Michael Rose and narrated by Kris Kristofferson, author Elaine Dundy asserts the importance of place in the formation of legendary personalities by stating, “You can hear the soil in Elvis as you can hear the cement in Frank Sinatra.” And, of course, it’s obvious from the details presented in Elvis: Return to Tupelo that the Presleys’ experiences in the rural, Depression-scarred community—just a couple hours south of Memphis, Tennessee, but it may as well have been a million miles from the big city life he would come to know—shaped the boy who would be the King more, perhaps, than anything else that happened later in his life. With this documentary, Michael Rose has done a magnificent job in providing a glimpse of Elvis’ childhood and shining a light on the city and situations that shaped a legend. Elvis: Return to Tupelo will make a cherished gift for anyone who has made the Graceland pilgrimage.