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Love Me Tender
film poster by Tom Chantrell
Directed by Robert D. Webb
Stanley Hough (Ass't)
Produced by David Weisbart
Written by Maurice Geraghty (story)
Robert Buckner (screenplay)
Starring Elvis Presley
Debra Paget
Richard Egan
Music by Lionel Newman
Cinematography Leo Tover
Editing by Hugh S. Fowler
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date(s) 21 November 1956 (Nationally)
15 November 1956 (Premiere)
Running time 89 min.
Language English
Followed by Loving You

Love Me Tender is an American black and white CinemaScope motion picture directed by Robert D. Webb, and released by 20th Century Fox on November 21, 1956.[1] The film, named after the song, stars Richard Egan, Debra Paget, and Elvis Presley in his film debut. It is in the Western genre with musical numbers. Because it was Presley's movie debut, it was the only time in his acting career that he did not receive top billing.[2] Love Me Tender was originally to be titled The Reno Brothers, but when advanced sales of Presley's "Love Me Tender" single passed one million—a first for a single—the film title was changed to match.[2]


Presley plays Clint Reno, one of the Reno brothers who stayed home while his brother went to fight in the American Civil War for the Confederate Army. The family is mistakenly informed that one of the brothers, Vance, has been killed on the battlefield. When his brother Vance comes back from the war, he finds that his old girlfriend, Cathy, has married Clint. Although Vance accepts this wholeheartedly ("We always wanted Cathy in the family"), the family has to struggle to reach stability with this issue. As a Confederate soldier, Vance is involved in a train robbery, in which he steals Federal Government money. A conflict of interest ensues when Vance tries to return the money against the wishes of some of his fellow Confederates. The film reaches its tragic conclusion with a gunfight between the two Reno brothers, ironically ending with Clint's murder.

Primary cast[]

  • Elvis Presley: Clint Reno
  • Richard Egan: Vance Reno
  • Debra Paget: Cathy Reno
  • Robert Middleton: Mr. Siringo
  • William Campbell: Brett Reno
  • Neville Brand: Mike Gavin
  • Mildred Dunnock: Martha Reno
  • Russ Conway: Ed Galt


Before success as a singer Presley had shown interest in becoming an actor.[2] He had worked as a cinema usher in his youth and would often watch his screen idols James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Tony Curtis[2] during shifts, studying their acting and learning lines from their movies.[2] When he first met his future manager, Colonel Tom Parker, he expressed an interest in the movies and his desire to be an actor.

In interviews during his rise to fame, Presley would often talk about his hopes of attending somewhere like the Actors Studio.[2] He also insisted that he would not like to sing in any of his movies because he wished to be taken seriously as a film star.[2] However, Parker had a plan to cross-promote Presley's films with his music and this led to soundtracks being as important, if not more important, as the scripts.[2]

Presley screen-tested for Hal Wallis on March 26, 1956 at Paramount Studios.[3] The test lasted three days[3] and included Presley performing two scenes from The Rainmaker,[3] and lip-syncing to Blue Suede Shoes.[3] Wallis' partner, Joe Hazen, commented: "As a straight actor, the guy has great potentialities."[2]

On April 2, Wallis offered Presley a contract for one motion picture, with options on six more.[3] The contract was finalized on April 25, and also stipulated that Presley was free to make at least one picture a year for other studios.[3] On April 10, Presley confidently announced during a radio interview that his debut feature would be The Rainmaker with Burt Lancaster and Katharine Hepburn.[4] However, despite this belief, and due to Wallis being unable to find a project "good enough for the debut of Elvis Presley", he was loaned out to 20th Century Fox on August 13 and began work on Love Me Tender on August 22.[5]

Presley's role had originally been turned down by both Jeffrey Hunter and Robert Wagner[2] because the part was too small, but when Presley signed up to the picture the role was expanded to take advantage of his current popularity.[2] A somewhat more realistic film telling the story of the Reno Brothers, Rage at Dawn starring Randolph Scott, had been released by RKO Radio Pictures only the year before.[2] According to Presley's then girlfriend, June Juanico, he was reluctant to take the role after realizing that his character died at the end,[2] but he was persuaded to do it after she told him that the characters audiences were most likely to remember were the ones who had a tragic fate.[2]

Presley arrived for filming with all of his lines learned, as well as the lines for all the other parts.[2] He found filming quite tasking, once commenting to a friend that he had spent a whole day "behind a team of mules".[6] In little more than a month Presley had recorded all the songs for the film and had finished filming his scenes.[7]

When Presley appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show during a break in filming the movie, on September 9, he performed Love Me Tender for the first time.[6] Two weeks later RCA confirmed that advanced sales of the single had resulted in it going Gold before even being released—an industry first.[7]

Test screenings of the film resulted in people being upset at the death of Presley's character. Attempting to reach a compromise between the death and pleasing his fans, Presley filmed an extra scene and recorded an extra verse to the title track to be played over the end credits.[7]

Love Me Tender had its premiere on November 15, and was released nationally on November 21, 1956.[1] 20th Century Fox released 575 prints, a record for its studios at the time.[1] Presley attended a private screening of the film on November 20 at Loew's State Theater in Memphis prior to its national release.[1] During this private screening Presley's mother, Gladys, cried at the death of her sons character at the end,[1] leading Presley to insist that his characters would never die on screen again.[2]

In its first week of release the film grossed $540,000, beaten only by James Dean's posthumous release Giant.[2] Despite being released in November, the film finished 1956 as the 23rd highest grossing film of the year.[2] Despite many critics giving it a lukewarm reception, a number of critics viewed it in a positive light. The Los Angeles Times wrote: ""Elvis can act. S'help me the boy's real good, even when he isn't singing."[8] Presley would later express regret at making the film, and was disappointed that the additions of songs had setup the future of his Hollywood career.[2]

In his book, "Me And A Guy Named Elvis", Jerry Schilling recounts the atmosphere inside Loew's State Theater in Memphis during the premiere screening: "The screams of the girls around me made it just about impossible to follow the story—this was the first time I'd seen an audience treat a film like it was a live concert, loudly responding to every move made and word uttered by their favorite star."[9] Presley would later tell his friend Cliff Gleaves that he found this type of reaction from his cinema-going fans embarrassing, and that it had prevented him from being accepted as a serious actor.[9]


Template:Infobox Album The film was originally intended to be a straight acting role for Presley,[2] but due to the popularity of the single Love Me Tender and Colonel Tom Parker's desire to promote Presley's films with a soundtrack and vice versa,[2] four songs were added to the film.

Instead of a full long-playing album soundtrack, for Love Me Tender the four songs appearing in the film were released as an extended-play, seven-inch 45 RPM record on RCA Records, Love Me Tender, catalog EPA 4006, during November 1956.[2] It peaked at #9 on Top Pop Albums chart with sales of over 600,000,[2] as well as making it to #35 on the singles chart. The four EP soundtrack songs were recorded at Fox's Stage One in Hollywood, at three sessions in August 24, September 4, and October 1, 1956.

The title song had already been released as a single on September 28, 1956, and went to #1 on the singles chart. The music was based on the Civil War ballad "Aura Lee," with new lyrics by Ken Darby.[2] Darby, in fact, wrote all of the soundtrack songs, but credited them to his wife, Vera Matson, while Parker cut his publishing company, Hill and Range, in on the royalties by further crediting the writing to Presley as well.[2] A reprise of "Love Me Tender" was recorded on October 1 and is heard at the end of the film; this short track was not released until after Presley's death.[2] The sessions for these songs were the only time in the decade that Presley recorded with musicians outside his regular coterie.[2]


  • Elvis Presley - vocals
  • Vito Mumolo - guitar
  • Luther Rountree - banjo
  • Dom Frontieri - accordion
  • Carl Fortina - accordion
  • Mike "Myer" Rubin - bass
  • Richard Cornell - drums
  • Rad Robinson - backing vocals
  • Jon Dodson - backing vocals
  • Charles Prescott - backing vocals

Track listing[]

Side one[]

Track Recorded Song Title Writer(s) Time
1. 8/24/56 Love Me Tender Vera Matson and Elvis Presley 2:41
2. 9/4/56 Let Me Vera Matson and Elvis Presley 2:08

Side two[]

Track Recorded Song Title Writer(s) Time
1. 8/24/56 Poor Boy Vera Matson and Elvis Presley 2:13
2. 8/24/56 We're Gonna Move Vera Matson and Elvis Presley 2:30

DVD releases[]

In the summer of 2006, the film was released on DVD in a special 50th anniversary issue. It was featured in a slipcase, and included a set of 4 lobby card reproductions. The disc contains the movie in its original widescreen letterbox format, plus audio commentary by noted Elvis historian, and Memphis Mafia member, Jerry Schilling. The disc also includes 3 featurettes: "Elvis Hits Hollywood", "The Colonel & The King", and "Love Me Tender: The Birth & Boom Of The Elvis Hit". Also part of the disc are original trailers for "Love Me Tender", "Flaming Star" and "Wild In The Country".

See also[]

  • List of Elvis Presley films
  • Elvis Presley discography

External links[]

Movie reviews[]

DVD reviews[]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Guralnick/Jorgensen, Elvis:Day by Day, p. 91
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 2.22 2.23 2.24 2.25 2.26 Victor, The Elvis Encyclopedia, pages 314/315
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Guralnick/Jorgensen, Elvis:Day by Day, p.67
  4. Guralnick/Jorgensen, Elvis:Day by Day, p.68
  5. Guralnick/Jorgensen, Elvis:Day by Day, p.82
  6. 6.0 6.1 Guralnick/Jorgensen, p.83
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Guralnick/Jorgensen, p.84
  8. Early Elvis,, Retrieved 2010-02-18
  9. 9.0 9.1 Elvis: The Official Collectors Editions part 88, p.2092/2093

Template:Elvis Presley

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