Last time, I mentioned that Elvis was in Las Vegas when he “discovered” the song “Hound Dog.” After his gig in Vegas was done, he went to Los Angeles to audition for the movies. He really didn’t care what movie he might be in, he had always wanted to be an actor, even more so than a singer. Just to show what kind of talent Elvis had, he walked away with a 7-picture contract with Paramount. He tested for Hal Wallis, a famous producer who had done such films as Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon. Wallis signed Elvis to do one movie right away with an option for six more. The first movie would be Love Me Tender.
Work began on the movie Love Me Tender in August of 1956. The movie was originally called The Reno Brothers and starred Richard Egan and Debra Paget. Looking at a poster for the movie, it shows a big picture of Elvis with his guitar, singing a song. Down below the names of the two stars, it says “Introducing Elvis Presley.” The text says “Mr. Rock ‘N’ Roll in the story he was born to play.” This would be the only movie for which he did not get top billing.
The name of the movie was changed to Love Me Tender to promote the record which was coming out at the same time as the movie. Elvis wanted to be treated as a serious actor and at first resisted singing in his movies, but Colonel Parker, knowing what the public wanted to see, convinced him to sing and, of course, he sang in every movie he made. In a lot of cases, the soundtrack for the movie did better than the movie itself did.
Love Me Tender was a Civil War drama about four brothers, of which Elvis is the youngest. The older three go off to war, and Elvis stays home. Word comes down that one of the brothers has been killed and the woman, who is waiting for him, in her grieving, falls for Elvis on the rebound. Then it turns out that the brother is alive, and he comes home to find his girl married to Elvis. Drama and singing ensues, and Elvis is killed at the end.
“Love Me Tender,” the song, hit the charts on November 3, 1956 and spent five weeks at number one. The movie was released just a few days later on November 15. The movie cost about $1 million to make and grossed $540,000 in just the first week. Needless to say, the film made money and insured Elvis’s career in movies for years to come.
I couldn’t find a video of an actual clip from the movie, but here is a version from a 1970 concert. It’s fun to see him interact with the audience. Who would like to say, they’ve kissed Elvis.
Next: “The Green Door” – Jim Lowe