FESTIVAL REVIEW: Tricky Dicky and the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll

Will Nixon tread on his blue suede shoes?
Will Nixon tread on his blue suede shoes?

In December 1970, a meeting took place between two of the most well-known men in the world: a hugely popular musical star and the other, soon to become one of the most disliked politicians.

This clash of titanic egos resembling a chess game played by two silverback gorillas inspired ‘Elvis and Nixon’ which was screened at the Abbeygate Cinema as part of the Bury St Edmunds Festival.

A photograph of Nixon smiling as he shook hands with Presley is the most requested item from the National Archives although he might not have felt so magnanimous towards the star had he known that the Presley motives weren’t as civic-minded as he was led to believe.

Presley approaches the President via a hand-delivered letter to the White House security gate to ask if he might become an undercover ‘Federal Agent at Large’. This would have given him a badge that his ex-wife Priscilla later went on to claim would allow him to pass freely through airport security with guns and drugs.

In a funny scene between the two men, played by Michael Shannon (Elvis) and Kevin Spacey (Nixon), Presley trash-talks The Beatles and criticises Woodstock as full of people wanting to ‘get laid and get naked’ – apparently Presley could be fairly old-fashioned about such things.

Shannon’s resemblance to Presley is slight but he possesses great charismatic force, drawing the audiences eye in every scene.

Other critics have accused the script-writers of treating the encounter as a historical event instead of a mutual delusion which completely misunderstands what history is even though actual reports of what went on in the Oval Office that day are scanty.

The film is part-conjecture although we know that Nixon was an arch-manipulator and Elvis leaves the building having taken Nixon on and won.