Gotta Find My Baby!

May 17, 2022

Elvis Conquers Hollywood: Love Me Tender


Love Me Tender
June - August 1956
November 15, 1956
Running time:
Production company:
20th Century Fox
US$ 1.250,000
US$ 4,5 million
Main cast:
Elvis Presley
Debra Paget
Richard Egan
"Love Me Tender" (single)
[b/w Any Way You Want Me]
(September 28, 1956)
"Love Me Tender" (EP)
(November 15, 1956)
"Love Me Tender" (CD)
[b/w "Jailhouse Rock"]
(April 15, 1997)
"Love Me Tender" (2xCD)
(FTD, 2014)

After the excellent repercussions of his appearances on shows like "The Milton Berle Show" and "The Ed Sullivan Show", it was only natural that the next step would be to take Elvis to Hollywood. And the idea was not bad for the singer, sensation of the moment, as he himself had been an usher during his adolescence and wanted, among many other things, to become a movie actor to follow in the footsteps of his idols who were none other than Marlon Brando. , James Dean and Tony Curtis.

On March 26, 1956, Hal Wallis gave Elvis the golden opportunity with his first audition.

Wallis and his partners at Paramount Pictures were stunned by the naturalness that the young singer passed in his performance and seriously considered him for serious roles in many films (but as you know, after "King Creole" Elvis started to make mediocre films).

On April 6, Elvis was offered a contract for a film and six others that could be negotiated, with the freedom to shoot one production a year with any other production company. It was signed on April 25, but Elvis was so confident in his signing that he made it clear in an interview on the 10th that he would be in one of Paramount's upcoming productions.

Elvis and Debra Paget pose for a promo still

Wallis promised Elvis he would do some serious drama to get his film career off the ground and he hoped to star in "The Rainmaker" opposite Burt Lancaster, but changes in plans landed him in a then-small role that had already been turned down by Robert Wagner and Jeffrey Hunter.

The film was "The Reno Brothers", an adaptation of the Reno brothers' story that was unlikely to be successful since an adaptation of the same story had been released the year before by RKO Radio Pictures.

According to Jane Juanico, Elvis' girlfriend at the time, he wasn't too happy with the idea of starting with a supporting role and that he would die at the end. Upon learning that Elvis had accepted the proposal, the producers increased his lines and appearances in the film, but could not change the ending as it was a true story. On August 13, 1956, Elvis was loaned to 20th Century Fox and filming would finally begin on the 22nd of the same month.

Elvis gets instructions by director Robert Webb

Elvis arrived on location not only with all of his lines memorized, but with the lines of the rest of the cast as well. At first he found it very difficult, declaring at one point that he had spent "all day after a pack of mules". But in less than a month Elvis had already recorded all his scenes showing that he was a very serious person when it came to work. In fact, he even corrected colleagues when they got their lines wrong.

On September 9, during a break from filming, Elvis performed "Love Me Tender" for the first time on The Ed Sullivan Show. Two weeks later RCA confirmed the release of the single. The tremendous success of the record caused the film's title to be changed to "Love Me Tender".

Première in New York; November 15, 1956

But the film didn't seem to go so well, as the fact that Elvis' character died was not welcomed by the audience selected to give the initial review. Trying to find a compromise between keeping the death scene and pleasing the fans, the production edited the ending by placing an extra verse of the title song over the scene. Even so, at the premiere on November 20, 1956 in Memphis, Gladys, Elvis' mother, wept copiously as she watched him die on screen. This made Elvis swear never again to make a film in which his character died at the end (which was not fully fulfilled).

In another unprecedented fact, 20th Century Fox produced 575 copies of the film when in general the great films received only 200 copies. In the first week of showing, the film had already recouped the expenses of the production and by the beginning of December it was already making thousands of dollars.

"Love Me Tender" came in at No. 2 at the box office, just behind James Dean's posthumous film "Giant," ending the year at No. 23 in grosses, another movie record.

Elvis and Richard Egan relax during a filming break

In his book "Me and a Guy Named Elvis", Jerry Schilling describes the atmosphere inside Loew's Theater in Memphis at the November 20 premiere: "The screams from the fans were so loud I couldn't understand what was going on in the movie. It was the first time I saw an audience behave as if they were at a live show, responding loudly to every move and word uttered by the idol."

Elvis later confessed to Cliff Gleaves that he found these fan statements embarrassing and highly detrimental to his acceptance as a serious actor.

Above: Elvis and Debra Paget relax between scenes.
Below: Elvis does "We're Gonna Move".



The film was originally going to be a serious drama for Elvis, but due to the singer's popularity, the Colonel wanted to try to make more money by promoting the film with songs and the songs with the film. Thus, four tracks were added to the production.

On September 28, 1956, RCA released the single for "Love Me Tender", with "Any Way You Want Me" on the B-side.

This single generated an unprecedented fact in the history of music until today: Without even having been produced yet, it had already been certified Gold for pre-orders.

"Love Me Tender", being a reimagining of the Civil War-era ballad "Aura Lee", had wide commercial appeal. Although the lyrics were written by Ken Darby, he ceded the rights to his wife, Vera Matson, and Elvis.

On November 27, 1956 RCA released the "Love Me Tender" EP containing the four songs featured in the film: "Love Me Tender", "Let Me", "Poor Boy" and "We're Gonna Move".

This album reached the 9th place in sales, with 600 thousand copies sold.

The four songs were recorded during 3 sessions between August and October 1956. The extra excerpt present at the end of the film was only sold after Elvis' death.




Debra was born Debralee Griffin on August 19, 1933 and had her first contact with the stage at the tender age of 8. She worked in radio between 1950 and 1956, when she acted alongside Elvis Presley. According to her, Elvis proposed to her during filming.

Paget didn't like the Hollywood system that locked the actor under contract to a particular studio and broke several clauses several times. With no studios that wanted her permanently, the actress ended her career in 1965.

Debra became a Born-again Christian in 1987. The same year she received the Golden Boot Award for her contribution to western films and starred in her own show, "Interlude with Debra Paget" on the evangelical TV network TBN.

Currently (2022), at age 88, she lives alone.


Egan was born in San Francisco, California on July 29, 1921 and began his career in 1949 acting in biblical films and Westerns. He suddenly became famous after winning a Golden Globe in 1953. He played opposite Elvis in 1956 and participated in several series and films for various production companies. In his career, he became well known for introducing new actors to cinema, such as the famous boxer Ryan O'Neal.

The actor married actress Patricia Hardy in 1958. He was involved in theater and television from 1974 to 1987. Richard Egan died of prostate cancer in 1987, aged 65.


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