In the final scene of the last non-documentary movie of his career, 1969’s Change of Habit, Presley is shown strumming away at a guitar in church while Mary Tyler Moore—playing a nun with a big decision to make—looked on. As Moore tries to make up her mind on which man to choose, the camera pans from Elvis to Jesus, then back and forth until the two images blend together.
It was into this theater that Elvis, the "Hillbilly Cat" as he was called, strode with amused, defiant cool—his hips quivering a thousand times quicker than the CBS eye—and suddenly everything was at stake. Suddenly America was in the midst of a game of chicken, because Elvis was playin' for keeps and takin' his dreams very, very seriously. And, just as suddenly, so were those of us who listened to him. He was all erotic genius, both discovering and uncovering himself, his voice burning into the suburban bushes of Eisenhower’s America with otherwordly images of abandoned pleasures and back-alley thrills.
His music bled menace and lust, but also tenderness and vulnerability and an overpowering romantic lyricism. He was all contradiction: the raunchy roadhouse rocker who loved mom and Jesus, the yes-sir/no-sir Southern boy with the swaggering carelessness, the smoldering sex symbol with the self-mocking smile. And, like Fitzgerald's Gatsby, he was all magnetism: “There was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promise of life—as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away.” He was, and is, the stuff that American Dreamers are made of.