April 5, 1973. The NY Times. Presley Pure Showbiz in 'Aloha Hawaii'
By JOHN J. O'CONNOR
The National Broadcasting Company does, I suppose deserve credit. In this season of repeats, it turned out two original specials last night. One, from 8:30 to 10, was "Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii." The other, from 10 to 11, was "Ann-Margret──When You're Smiling." Trivia collectors will immediately pounce upon the fact that Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret were co-stars in a mid- sixties movie that had something to do about Las Vegas.
Mr. Presley──no, that sounds downright silly──Elvis is the more proven entertainment commodity. Bursting out of country music's relatively youthful strain of "rock-a-billie" around 1960, he bumped his way to national notoriety with such hits as "Hound Dog" and "Blue Suede Shoes." Appearing on Ed Sullivan's TV variety show, he was generally restricted to camera shots not going below the belt. Those were the television days of innocence and total absurdity.
But Elvis has survived. He is still churning out hit records, and his relentlessly unmemorable movies have made millions of dollars. He is now allowed full-body shots on the home screen and, not surprisingly, none but the hyper-uptight is likely to be shocked.
That particular evolution could prompt learned dissertations on the spread of permissiveness in these United States. There are no restrictions on nonsense. A more pertinent point, however, would be the evolution, with the careful orchestration of his mentor, Col. Tom Parker, of Elvis as calculated and calculating showman.
Elvis, at 38 years of age, is schmaltz. His white jumpsuit costume is adorned, in jeweled studs, with American eagles. His repertory includes a medley of "Dixie," "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "Hush Little Baby." His fingers are clogged with flashy rings. His act includes tossing scarves, dabbed in sweat from his chest, to aging teeny boppers. It is pure showbiz in the style of Radio City Music Hall, reeking of apple pie or, more precisely, peanut butter and jelly, distinctly grape.
That is precisely the act captured on the N.B.C. special "Aloha From Hawaii," which with minor changes in locale could have been transformed easily into "Shalom From the Bronx." Most of the program was put together from tapes of a benefit performance in January before 6,000 persons at the Honolulu International Center. That concert, incidentally, was transmitted live by satellite to a potential TV audience of 1.5 billion people in nearly 40 countries.
About 30 minutes of last night's special consisted of material taped outside the concert. For the most part, this consisted of Elvis singing in one corner of the screen, surrounded by travelogue scenes of Hawaii. The executive producers were Elvis Presley and R.C.A. Record Tours. Elvis records for R.C.A. Records, which is owned by the RCA Corporation, which is the parent of N.B.C., which needs no further comment.
Smartly produced and directed by Marty Pasetta, the program maintained an effective and attractive fluidity, not easy with "live" concerts on TV. Elvis fans should have been delighted. The less committed may have been impressed, however reluctantly, by the shameless old fangled showmanship of it all.