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Elvis article in 2/26 NY Post

Mon Feb 27, 2006 5:50 pm

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February 26, 2006 -- 'LOVE Me Tender," Elvis Presley's first movie, is also his most unusual. It was the only time the King played a supporting role, and it was the only movie not originally conceived with him in mind.
According to a documentary accompanying a new 50th-anniversary DVD out this week, "Love Me Tender" began life as "The Reno Brothers," a script that had been kicking around 20th Century Fox for a while.

It got dusted off when producer Hal Wallis and MGM - who had signed Presley to separate contracts - got bogged down in developing what became two of the best Elvis movies: the semi-autobiographical "Lovin' You" and "Jailhouse Rock."

So Wallis loaned Presley to Fox for a B-western with a post-Civil War setting, starring the forgotten Richard Egan and Debra Paget. Elvis landed a third-place, "and introducing" credit as Egan's brother. Elvis' character marries his sibling's girlfriend (Paget) while wrongly believing his brother's been killed.

Presley originally told reporters he wouldn't sing in the movie, but Fox decided to maximize the impact of his debut by adding four musical numbers, three of which - "We're Gonna Move," "Let Me" and "Poor Boy" - were accompanied by Presley's anachronistic pelvic thrusts.

The big hit, though, was "Love Me Tender," which matched new words with an actual Civil War-era song. Elvis' first major ballad was a No. 1 hit when "Love Me Tender" arrived in theaters in November 1956 - and the movie recouped its $1 million budget in three days. The King's teenage fans defied generally negative reviews.

"Appraising Presley as an actor, he ain't," said an anonymous reviewer for Variety. "Not that it makes much difference."

The New York Times headlined its review "Culture Takes a Holiday" and critic Bosley Crowther declared that "Mr. Presley's dramatic contribution is not a great deal more impressive than one of the [horses]."

The Post's critic, Archer Winsten, declared the King "surprisingly able in his portrayals of love and love turning to hatred "He has all the emotions that he has heretofore expressed merely with larynx and pelvis."

Mon Feb 27, 2006 7:26 pm

There's a much better and fairer appraisal of "Love Me Tender" in "The Elvis Film Encyclopedia". by Eric Braun.

We were not expecting an Oscar performance by a young 21 year old man making his movie debut.

I remember the very long line of teenagers waiting to see the movie and the air of expectation as we waited to get our FIRST glimpse of Elvis in action on the big screen! It was a major event for millions of us outside America.

We are Looking forward to seeing it in colour.

Mon Feb 27, 2006 9:20 pm

Thanx, E4L, 8)
great reding!

Tue Feb 28, 2006 1:07 am

I wonder where the writer got the idea that LMT was the only Elvis movie not conceived with him in mind. "Trouble With Girls" and "Flaming Star" had been kicking around for years- the former as a vehicle for Dick Van Dyke and the latter for Marlon Brando- before Elvis got them. Hal Wallis had originally conceived "King Creole" as a vehicle for James Dean before tailoring it to Elvis and even "Wild in the Country" was briefly seen as a Fabian movie before Elvis got the role.

Tue Feb 28, 2006 1:13 am

Thanks for posting that.