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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Why 20th Century Fox felt that starring him in a Western would be
successful is merely academic
When Elvis broke into gyrations and
song, audiences were electrified
The storyfilmed in black-and-white CinemaScope was about a bunch of Confederate soldiers who stole a Union Army payroll and then discover that, just five days ago, Lee had surrendered to Grant at Appomattox, ending the Civil War
Hiding the money, The Reno brothers (Richard Egan, William Campbell, and James Drury) decide to use it for themselves, and return home to the family farm and their kid brother Clint
Presley was cast as a Texas farm boy who marries his cavalry-man brother's sweetheart when news of his brother's death filters through But the brotherplayed by Richard Egan isn't dead at all and incurs Presley's jealousy by resuming his friendship with his former sweetheart the beautiful Cathy Reno (Debra Paget) The situation went from bad to worse
In his first motion picture, Elvis proved to be a rugged fighting man, a wonderful loving man and a terrific singing man Hear him sing: "Let Me," "We're Gonna Move," "Poor Boy," and "Love Me Tender."
The fanfare of a young Elvis Presley and his first movie certainly was
blinding when it came to
this movie. It was hard for people to see past it, however, upon viewing the
star dims as he takes his seat at the table among some of the acting greats
of cinema. The
viewer relinquishes the idea that it's Elvis and accepts him as the doting
youngest son of the
Dramatic without being maudlin, the picture chronicles the lives of one family post-Civil War, and how each member dealt with the harsh realities of war. Hearing that the eldest son Vance (Egan) has died, Clint (Presley) and Vance's former love (Paget) marry in the aftermath of the murder of her parents and the Reno boys father. As is in wartime, things become increasingly more difficult when he and his two other brothers Brett (Campbell) and Ray (Drury) to find this, as well the spoils of war haunting them shortly upon their return.
It's an honest look at a difficult time in this country, with great performances all around -- from the handsome, impressive lead Richard Egan on down the cast. Egan's portrayal of Vance Reno is an amazing performance -- restrained without being stolid, much as men were during the time. Egan gives glimpses into the inner turmoil that sits just below the characters surface, making the character heartbreakingly sympathetic and admirable.
It's Elvis Presley's best performance and (dare I say only worthwhile) role and film. Upon reflection, his co-stars helped to elevate him into something more than what followed (with films) and Presley really seems to have taken this one seriously. Regardless of whether you're a Presley fan or not, the understated performances, simple but effective storyline and message, and moving conclusion make this a must see.
This was a critically acclaimed introductory role for Elvis. This was
not one of the more cheesy moneymakers that Col. Tom Parker stuck him
with for the remainder of his career (Girl Happy or Blue Hawaii for
Elvis showed great depth as an actor in his role as Clint Reno and also showed the potential to broaden his career from the premier musical superstar of our time into one of the crossover megastars that we see commonly today.
His music is an integral part of the movie but it isn't put on display the way his future movies do. When you watch this film, try to remember he hadn't done any of those 90-minute rock-n-roll videos with the likes of Ann-Margaret and Nancy Sinatra.
LOVE ME TENDER is worth viewing if the viewer is willing to set aside their preconceived expectations of "just another Elvis movie."
My guess would be that the story for Love Me Tender was probably laying
around the offices at 20th Century Fox and would have been a B western
starring Richard Egan. In fact the original title was in fact The
But along came Elvis Presley and when Darryl F. Zanuck signed him for his feature film debut the story had to be reworked to accommodate his presence. Of course four songs had to be added, including the title tune, which was a rewording of the famous Civil War era ballad Aura Lee.
The Reno brothers, Richard Egan, James Drury, and William Campbell go to war, enlisting in the Confederate Army. The youngest brother Elvis Presley stays home to take care of Mother Reno, played by Mildred Dunnock and the family farm. When it's reported that Egan was killed, fiancé Debra Paget marries Elvis.
Of course all three Reno brothers return, sound of wind and limb. The day after the Civil War ended, the brothers and others rob a Yankee paymaster and split the money.
They're outlaws now, but a reasonable carpetbagger administrator played by Robert Middleton is willing to forgive and forget if he gets the money back. That and the return of Egan lead to the ensuing conflicts in Love Me Tender.
I have no doubt that Colonel Tom Parker chose this particular screen property for his star and as usual Colonel Tom chose well. The southern civil war background of the story made perfect casting for Elvis. Of course his hip wiggling gyrations in the post bellum South seem out of place, but that's what the ticket buyers to an Elvis film wanted.
And he certainly sang Love Me Tender real good.
Finally got around to seeing Elvis Presley's debut film in its entirety
and in widescreen, and I think it's a good deal better than it's
usually given credit for. Richard Egan plays Vance Reno, who is serving
in the Civil War and returns home after the war ends to join his family
and reunite with his lover (Debra Paget). But a tragedy ensues when
it's learned that while he was away, his young brother Clint (Elvis)
fell in love with and married his girl, after hearing that Vance had
died. Also factoring into the trouble is that Vance has kept some Union
cash which he never delivered to its destination when he found out the
war had ended in the interim.
This turned out to be a good, solid story with fine performances, especially by Richard Egan. But again, Elvis is amazing as a completely first-time novice actor. He always wanted to be on the big screen from youth, after admiring James Dean, Marlon Brando and Tony Curtis. For a film fan who never had any professional acting training or experience, he's really quite good as Clint Reno. Though he didn't want to sing in this film, Presley was already a big recording star so of course there had to be songs in the movie. The title tune is a classic and it's very emotional as perfromed within the context of the film. I also like the singalong ditty "We're Gonna Move", which is performed by Elvis on the front porch "1950s-style" with his family, even though it's 1865. Other songs include the unremarkable "Let Me" and "Poor Boy". *** out of ****
If you want to avoid the low-quality movies that Elvis unfortunately
made during the 1960's you can still watch this piece. That the "King"
is not in the main role gives the film more credibility and you can
really say that Love Me Tender is a good movie. With Elvis only as a
troubadour works fine and the film remains a proper western too.
Perhaps there has been better westerns too but the storyline in this one is enough interesting: a man returns from the American Civil War and finds his wife at home married to another man. With this marital mess and some other problems being solved Elvis drops in and offers some fresh music, or the music that was still fresh when the movie was being made. It is anyway relaxing to see the "King" in a most unspoiled context.
I didn't expect this movie to rise above a campy Western with lots of
Elvis thrown in, but I was WRONG! The story is SOLID: Confederate
raiders rob Union payroll by overpowering and posing as the Yankee
guard. Unbeknownst to them, the Civil War ended the day before and when
they come to deliver the cash to a beleaguered Reb HQ, they find out
the truth. They keep the cash (natch!), divided squarely, and head for
their homes. What follows is alternately surprising, rousing, touching,
and even heroic. The love angles and heartbreaks are true without being
either overbearing or oversentimental; the chase scenes are
mercifully-short; sub-text characters are given enough delineation to
evoke interest and sympathy without burdening the main plot. No threads
are left dangling, and suspension of disbelief is at a minimum, except
(of course) Elvis' swaying hips in 1865 Dixie! The ending was
purposedly refinish to accommodating insulted Elvis fans, but it
doesn't matter, even if Elvis' hair is a different color than in the
Perhaps the least interesting part of the film (for me) was Elvis' singing, although his swiveling never fails to amaze.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When it was announced that 21-one year old Elvis Presley would make his
debut as a film actor, the publicity was huge. Some predicted that he
would become a new James Dean; Dean had tragically died in a car
accident the year before. Montgomery Clift had not made a new film in
the last few years. Paul Newman was still struggling to find his style.
Marlon Brando was still very much around, of course, but there was
definitely room for another "sensitive young male rebel" in 1950's
Hollywood. In at least one interview, however, Elvis appeared somewhat
uncomfortable with the James Dean-comparison; "James Dean was a genius
at acting," he declared. Dean was also a trained actor by the time he
became a star, whereas the thought of making Elvis Presley into an
actor was clearly based on a wish to capitalize on his popularity as a
The result, LOVE ME TENDER, was a decent enough start. It's a straight-forward western, covering the lives of four brothers, three of whom have just returned home from service during the Civil War in 1865. Both their mother and fourth and youngest brother Clint (Elvis Presley...) are extremely happy to see them back. However, one of the brothers, Vance, is hurt when he discovers that Clint has married his former sweetheart Cathy, though he insists it doesn't matter to him, in order to make his younger brother happy. Many more problems soon arrive, however, leading to a dramatic climax with murder being the eventual outcome. In the very last scene, we witness Clint (or really, Elvis) singing "Love Me Tender" to us through a ghost-like image. Elvis's real-life mother reportedly cried at the end; and I'll admit that a few tears did come down my cheeks as well.
However, the main reason why the ending works so well with Elvis singing, is probably due to his charisma as a singer. Even later on, when he appeared in far more indifferent films than this one, one could not argue against his skills with voice and rhythm. This is confirmed also in other places in LOVE ME TENDER, when he performs "We're Gonna Move," "Let Me" and "Poor Boy" (none of them classics on par with the title song, perhaps -- but still very enjoyable). As an actor, however, Presley is somewhat less extraordinary. Please do not interpret this as too harsh criticism, because it is not meant to be; his performance is by all means good enough to work for a straight-forward western of this kind. But he does not quite prove himself to be a new James Dean (or Clift or Brando). In his next three films, LOVING YOU, JAILHOUSE ROCK and KING CREOLE, it works better, I guess partly because he in these films played a role that he could more easily identify with (a contemporary rock'n'roll-talent, just as in real life). However, LOVE ME TENDER is quite enjoyable, with the ending being rather moving. (This review has later been somewhat updated and revised, Dec. 2012)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film is a solid Civil war drama w/ a strong cast and a realistic
and believable main story and supporting subplots. In my opinion, the
major drama unfolds from the train robbery early on in the film.
Subsequent to that there's the subplot of shifting alliances among the
ex-Rebel soldiers and the Union effort to recover the stolen $12,250
followed by the three angle romantic drama involving the Presley, Egan,
and Paget characters. I think at first this subplot appears to be the
main drama, but I watched the film twice and argue that it is a subplot
(although the film title & title tune suggest differently). Neville
Brand gives strong support as his greedy character is pivotal to the
Presley's character arc. I wonder why Presley didn't have a flashback
scene (to when the Egan character assures him "Deep from my heart" that
he would never lie to the Presley character) after he's been convinced
by the Brand character that the Egan character betrayed him.
The movie has a nice quick pace. In the picnic scene when Presley learns Egan is leaving for California I like how in the background the Union soldiers subtly appear and the main story resumes. However, it's here in the picnic sequence that an earlier scene produces UNINTENDED LAUGHS when Presley is up on stage swinging his pelvis and singing 50's music to a clearly 50's female teen crowd AND it is is supposed to be 1865! It gets even funnier when there's a reaction shot of his "Ma" (who based on her Southern puritan values should be horrified at the sight) smiling happy as a clam. TOTALLY LAUGH OUT LOUD!
Though this is the one film that Elvis didn't receive top billing for, his tremendous singing and acting ability go a long way toward making it a lot of fun to watch. He shows us here that he was a terrific actor as well as a gifted singer. The story starts off a little slow but hits the mark after the first ten to fifteen minutes and leads to a well crafted climax. Worth watching for any Elvis fan.
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