Elvis in the Movies: Love Me Tender (1956)

Elvis’s first motion picture was Love Me Tender, but that wasn’t the original title. Elvis being cast in the film changed its course. Read on to learn how.

“I’ll be yours through all the years, till the end of time.”

– Elvis Presley, Love Me Tender

Love Me Tender premiered on November 15, 1956, with Elvis in his first acting role. This is the only film where Elvis received second billing. Watching the film, it is clear that Elvis’s performance was influenced by Marlon Brando and James Dean. It was often radical, emotional, passionate, and sometimes even difficult to watch. Nonetheless, Elvis was a star and was ready to be onscreen.

Originally titled The Reno Brothers, this film was transformed the moment Elvis was cast. Elvis’s manager Colonel Tom Parker was told there would be no singing in the film, but clearly, that changed. Once Colonel Tom Parked demanded songs for Elvis, the title of the film changed to Love Me Tender.

The song Love Me Tender was inspired by the Civil War ballad, Aura Lee, originally published in 1861. The musical director for the film Love Me Tender, Ken Darby, is believed to be the writer of the new lyrics. Instead, he gave credit to his wife Vera Matson and Elvis Presley.

*If you have yet to see this film, be warned there are spoilers if you continue reading.

Love Me Tender Elvis Presley and Debra Paget © 20th Century Fox International TV
Elvis Presley and Debra Paget
© 20th Century Fox International TV

The Plot to Love Me Tender

The story is set in Texas following the American Civil War. Elvis played Clint Reno, the younger brother of a Confederate soldier. Richard Egan and Debra Paget co-starred alongside Elvis. Richard Egan portrayed Vance Reno, whom everyone presumed dead when he did not return after the war. Vance was the eldest brother and in a relationship with Cathy, portrayed by Debra Paget, before he left. Things quickly changed when Vance returned home to see Cathy was married to his younger brother Clint.

As the story unfolds, Clint finds himself in a situation he cannot handle and dies dramatically. As this scene stretched across movie screens, fans voiced their outrage as they watched Elvis die on screen. This influenced other Elvis films to ensure fans would not see their idol in another death scene again.

Elvis Death Scene - Love Me Tender

Love Me Tender

I remember the first time I watched this film. It was early Sunday morning before we would begin getting ready for church. I was never much of an early riser back then, but when my mother woke me up to say there was an Elvis movie on TV, I didn’t hesitate to get up. As my mom fixed my hair for church, I sat on the floor and cried while watching Elvis die on screen. I was about 6 or 7 at this time, but it was the first time I was introduced to an Elvis movie. I was not disappointed to learn there were more.

Do you remember the first time you watched Love Me Tender? Share your story with us!

Until we meet again,

TCB and TCE,

Ashley Renay Moody Blue Signature

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