Love Me Tender
Cast & Crew
Robert D. Webb
On April 10 1865 at the Greenwood, Louisiana, train station, a battalion of Union soldiers are awaiting the arrival of the payroll train when news comes that the war has ended. Their jubilation is cut short, however, when a band of Confederate soldiers attack, steal their uniforms and then trick the payroll guards into turning the money over to them. Unaware that the Confederacy has disbanded, the rebels, led by Vance Reno, ride to deliver the money to Gen. Randall. Upon arriving at their destination, they discover that Gen. Lee has surrendered and so decide to split the cash among themselves. Vance and his brothers, Ray and Brett, then ride home to their family farm in Texas, where Vance plans to marry his sweetheart Cathy, while Mike Gavin and the others head their separate ways. Along the trail, Vance stops at a general store to buy a wedding suit and a gift for his bride. As they near the family farm, the brothers encounter their neighbor Jethro, who tells Vance that everyone thought he was killed in the war. At the farm, the brothers are greeted by their mother, Cathy and Clint, their youngest sibling. Vance is stunned to learn that Cathy, believing him dead, married Clint. Heartbroken, Vance tries to reassure a jealous Clint that he never loved Cathy. One week passes, and the brothers decide to bury the money in the barn. Cathy, who still loves Vance, pleads with him to forget the past and try to accept her marriage to his brother. That night, a sleepless Vance informs his mother that he is leaving for California, driven away by his love for Cathy. The next day at a picnic, Vance is about to tell Clint that he is leaving when Maj. Kincaid, Marshal Ed Galt and Siringo, a Pinkerton detective, arrive to question the brothers about the robbery. When Vance denies the charges, the marshal declares that they are under arrest, and that he is taking them to Tyler to stand trial. That night, Gavin and his rebel compatriots appear at the Reno farm and introduce themselves to Clint. Believing that his brothers have been framed, Clint joins Gavin and the others in an attempt to free them. On the train bound for Tyler, meanwhile, Siringo promises Vance that all charges will be dropped if he returns the money. When Siringo produces as evidence the twenty dollar bill that Vance paid the shopkeeper, Vance confides that he has only the brothers' share, and Siringo responds that all the money must be returned. Just then, Gavin and his cohorts board the train and free the brothers at gunpoint. Furious, the major gives orders to shoot them on sight, but Siringo and the marshal are convinced that the brothers were ignorant of the escape plan. When Vance relates Siringo's offer to Gavin and the others, they refuse to turn over their share of the money, prompting Vance to pull his gun and demand its return. After entrusting Clint with a message for Siringo, directing him to meet them at the mill the following afternoon, Vance rides back to the farm to retrieve the brothers' share. Discovering that the farm is being watched by soldiers, Vance asks Jethro to fetch the money, and Cathy finds him digging in the barn. When Jethro tells Cathy that Vance is hiding in his cabin, Cathy hurries to warn him that the major has ordered him shot on sight. As Cathy and Vance try to evade the soldiers, Clint meets with Siringo and then rejoins Gavin and the others. Upon learning that Cathy and Clint are married, Gavin vindictively incites Clint to violence by telling him that Cathy and Vance have run away together. Feeling betrayed, Clint rides after them, followed by his brothers and Gavin and his gang. Vance, meanwhile, hides Cathy in a cave and then rides to the mill to consummate his deal with Siringo. Suddenly remembering their old boyhood hiding place, Ray and Brett head for the cave and find Cathy there. When Cathy hears that Clint believes that she has betrayed him, she insists that Ray and Brett take her to him. Crazed with jealousy, Clint refuses to believe her explanation and throws her to the ground. After Brett sends Cathy home, Gavin convinces Clint that she is riding to meet Vance and the two ride to the cave, seeking revenge. Ray and Brett warn Vance, who gives Ray's money to Siringo and instructs him to return with reinforcements. Brett and Vance then proceed to the cave, where Vance tries to reason with Clint. Goaded by Gavin, Clint levels his gun at Vance and shoots him. As Gavin and the others pounce on Vance's prone body, Clint, feeling remorse, charges at them, firing his gun. Just as Siringo and his men arrive, Gavin guns down Clint. With his final breath, Clint begs Vance's forgiveness and then dies in Cathy's arms. Later, at her son's gravesite, Martha weeps, and is comforted by Cathy, Vance, Ray and Brett.
Robert D. Webb
L. Q. Jones
Joe Di Reda
Hugh S. Fowler
Harry M. Leonard
Colonel Tom Parker
Edward B. Powell
Walter M. Scott
Lyle R. Wheeler
Love Me Tender
Wallis had been under contract to Warner Bros. during the Golden Age of the 1930s and 1940s, when the star system was the primary means of promoting and marketing movies. Wallis produced some of the studio's best films, including Casablanca (1942), Sergeant York (1941), King's Row (1942), and Now, Voyager (1942). In 1944, he formed his own production company, releasing his films through Paramount and later Universal. As an independent producer, he signed several prominent entertainers to personal contracts, including the team of Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin, Shirley MacLaine, Charlton Heston, and Elvis. His talents as a producer included his ability to match a performer to material that would showcase the newcomer's unique qualities. To Wallis, this strategy was a guaranteed path to long-term stardom.
After Wallis signed Elvis to a contract, he realized he needed time to develop the right material for America's newest sensation--material that would serve as a vehicle tailored to Presley's image and talents. In the meantime, he loaned Elvis to Twentieth Century Fox to costar in a Civil War western originally titled The Reno Brothers. Anxious to become an actor, Elvis eagerly accepted the role of young Clint Reno, giving him secondary billing for the only time in his acting career. More melodrama than western, the story revolves around a love triangle between Clint, older brother Vance (Richard Egan), and Cathy (Debra Paget).While his three older brothers went off to fight the war, Clint stayed home to take care of their widowed mother and to work the Reno homestead. He married Cathy, Vance's sweetheart, after the family received word that Vance had been killed in battle. The film opens with Vance, Brett, and Ray Reno robbing a Yankee train with their fellow Confederates only to discover that the war is over. The brothers return home with their share of the money. Vance plans to marry Cathy, but when he learns that his little brother has taken his place at the altar, he decides to leave for California. The brothers' involvement in the train robbery comes back to haunt them, while tension over the marriage results in a series of bad decisions and tragic mistakes in judgment by a jealous Clint.
Pairing Elvis with established actors helped him to learn the ropes of film acting and to mask his inexperience onscreen. Star Richard Egan mentored the novice actor, who worked hard to construct a credible character. As for Paget, Elvis developed a crush on the young starlet, and he tried his best to win her affections. Elvis and Paget got along well on the set, but she didn't return his romantic feelings, primarily because her mother had bigger plans for her daughter's career. Elvis went on to make 30 more feature films, and during the production of many of them, he became attracted to someone in the cast, often his leading lady.
In many ways, Elvis's first film is an anomaly in his career, because it was not a vehicle tailored to his talents and image. Other young actors had been considered for the role of Clint Reno, including Robert Wagner. Not only was Love Me Tender (1956) not a Presley vehicle, but the singer was cast in a supporting role, the film was a period picture, and his character died at the end. These characteristics would not be typical for future Presley movies. Still, concessions were made because of Elvis's participation, including the addition of four songs to appeal to his fans and to exploit his appearance. Not surprisingly, Elvis's rockabilly singing style was at odds with the period in which the story is set, and most of the songs actually detract from the drama. When Clint cuts loose on the front porch of the Renos' 19th-century farmhouse with a hip-shaking rendition of "We're Gonna Move," it disrupts the narrative instead of enhancing it.
Of the four songs added to the film, the ballad "Love Me Tender" was best suited to the storyline. Songwriter Ken Darby reworked the Civil War song "Aura Lee" as "Love Me Tender," adding new lyrics but retaining the melody. The ballad was released with slightly different lyrics as a single record. After Elvis sang the ballad on The Ed Sullivan Show in the fall of 1956, the single sold a million copies in advance, reaching the top of the Billboard Top 100 chart. Its success prompted the studio to change the title of the movie from The Reno Brothers to Love Me Tender.
. During production, fan magazines leaked the rumor that Elvis's character was slated to die during the climax of the film. The final scene supposedly featured Mother Reno (Mildred Dunnock) solemnly ringing the dinner bell as her three sons toil in the fields. Their faces are marked by pain and sorrow over the loss of Clint as the scene fades to black. Elvis's fans were disturbed by reports that their idol was to be killed off in his first movie. To counter an adverse public reaction, the studio shot an alternative ending in which Clint is spared, but this version was rejected. Finally, a compromise ending was written in which Clint is killed, but in the final moments, a ghostly close-up of Elvis crooning "Love Me Tender" is superimposed over a shot of his family walking slowly away from his grave. With this ending, the fans were left with a final image of Elvis Presley doing what he was famous for--singing his latest hit.
The mainstream press had scrutinized and criticized Presley's personal deeds and professional accomplishments for most of 1956, and his first foray into movie stardom proved to be no different. The pre-release promotion, which included publicity over a 40-foot likeness of Elvis as Clint Reno erected atop New York's Paramount Theater, sold magazines and created excitement among fans. It also generated loathing among movie reviewers, who seemed to be lying in wait for the film. Elvis's performance may have been a bit raw and uneven, but the talented cast cushioned the ragged edges. However, reviews of his performance were downright hateful. Some were so intent on skewering Elvis the Pelvis that their comments made little sense as film reviews. The critic for Time magazine offered one of the most ridiculous movie reviews on record: "Is it a sausage? It is certainly smooth and damp looking. . .Is it a Walt Disney goldfish? It has the same sort of big, soft beautiful eyes and long, curly lashes. . .Is it a corpse? The face just hangs there limp and white with its little drop-seat mouth, rather like Lord Byron in the wax museum."
If studio executives were upset over the reviews, then they cried all the way to the bank. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Love Me Tender recouped its production costs within two weeks of its national release, setting a record.
Producer: David Weisbart
Director: Robert D. Webb
Screenplay: Robert Buckner, based on a story by Maurice Geraghty
Cinematography: Leo Tover
Editor: Hugh S. Fowler
Art Directors: Lyle R. Wheeler and Maurice Ransford
Costume Design: Charles LeMaire with Mary Wills
Music: Lionel Newman
Vocal Supervision: Ken Darby
Technical Advisor: Colonel Tom Parker
Cast: Vance Reno (Richard Egan), Cathy Reno (Debra Paget), Clint Reno (Elvis Presley), Mr. Siringo (Robert Middleton), Brett Reno (William Campbell), Mike Gavin (Neville Brand), Martha Reno (Mildred Dunnock), Ray Reno (James Drury), Major Kincaid (Bruce Bennett), Pardee Fleming (L.Q. Jones).
by Susan Doll
Love Me Tender
Title was changed from "The Reno Brothers" to promote the title song sung by Elvis.
Of all the movies starring Elvis Presley, this is the only one in which he didn't get top billing. He was billed third, after 'Egan, Richard' and Debra Paget.
The footage of Elvis singing "Love Me Tender" at the end was shot after preview audiences reacted badly to his character's fate. This new footage created a continuity error as Elvis had dyed his hair black by the time of the additional shooting, while in the movie his hair color was closer to blonde.
Elvis' real life backing musicians Scotty Moore, Bill Black and D.J. Fontana were not allowed to play the roles of the band in the movie because according to the casting crew they didn't look like country musicians.
Fox contract players 'Robert Wagner' and 'Jeffrey Hunter' were offered Elvis Presley's part before Presley got it on loan to Fox from Hal Wallis, to whom he was contracted.
Presley is credited as co-writer of the film's four songs, but in fact had nothing to do with writing them; it was just for purposes of royalties.
The working title of this film was The Reno Brothers. According to Twentieth Century-Fox publicity notes contained in the production files at the AMPAS Library, the film was initially conceived as a post-Civil War story without songs. Once internationally popular rock and roll idol Elvis Presley was cast as the younger brother, however, four songs, including Love Me Tender, were worked into the script. RCA-Victor was so impressed with Presley's rendition of that song that it decided to release it as a single prior to the opening of the film. After Presley sang the ballad on the Ed Sullivan Show, Fox decided to retitle the film Love Me Tender. Love Me Tender marked Presley's screen debut.
Although most reviewers were critical of Presley's acting abilities, the film was so popular that it recouped its cost just two weeks after its national release, setting a record, according to a November 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item. A September 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item states that Robert L. Jacks was originally to produce the picture. Although a Hollywood Reporter news item places John Epper and Tom McDonough in the cast, their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed.
Released in United States Fall November 1956
Elvis Presley's film debut.
Released in United States Fall November 1956