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November 25, 2018

Rare Color Photographs of a Bearded Elvis Presley During Shooting for 'Charro!', 1969

Charro! is a 1969 American western film starring Elvis Presley shot on location at Apacheland Movie Ranch and Old Tucson Studios in Arizona. Uniquely, Presley did not sing on-screen, and the film featured no songs at all except for the main title theme, which was played over the opening credits. It was also the only movie in which Presley wore a beard.

With its gritty look, violent antihero, and cynical point of view, Charro! was obviously patterned after the grim Italian westerns of the 1960s. Elvis’ character, Jess Wade, is costumed similarly to Clint Eastwood’s notorious Man with No Name from Sergio Leone’s Italian westerns.

Both wore a scruffy beard and dust-covered western garb, and both kept a well-worn cigar in their mouths. The music in Charro! was scored by Hugo Montenegro, who was responsible for the memorable score of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Unfortunately, director Charles Marquis Warren was no match for Sergio Leone, and Charro! suffers from poor production values.

At the time, much was made about the absence of songs in the film, as though that fact proved Charro! was a serious effort. Advertisements for the film declared Charro! featured “a different kind of role... a different kind of man.” Elvis granted more interviews and generated more publicity for Charro! than he had for any film in a long time. One interview quoted him as saying, “Charro! is the first movie I ever made without singing a song. I play a gunfighter, and I just couldn’t see a singing gunfighter.” Eventually, Elvis did agree to sing the title tune, but there are no songs within the body of the film.

Charro! was filmed in the late summer of 1968 after Elvis’ comeback special had been shot for television, though the special would not air until December. Elvis seemed to have taken stock of his career that year: He recorded music that was not merely fodder for soundtrack albums, and he starred in a prestigious television special. Perhaps Elvis was hoping to upgrade his acting career as well by appearing in a completely different type of film. Unfortunately, the film was a dismal critical failure; much of the blame was placed at the feet of director Charles Marquis Warren. Warren had been a writer, director, and producer for several western television series during the 1960s. Though he had not worked in the cinema since the 1950s, he chose to produce, direct, and write the screenplay for Charro!



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