Zestig jaar geleden begon Elvis Presley met het draaien van zijn eerste film, “The Reno Brothers”, in een regie van Robert D.Webb.

“The Reno Brothers?” zal je zeggen, “daar heb ik nog nooit van gehoord.” En inderdaad, de film is uiteindelijk  op 15 november 1956 uitgekomen onder een andere titel, namelijk “Love me tender”. Voice-actor Eddie Deezen schrijft op Neatorama: “As a teenager, Elvis had been an usher in a movie theater. He studied his silver screen idols: Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, and above all, James Dean. Elvis watched Dean’s iconic performance in 1955’s Rebel Without a Cause dozens of times. It was reputedly his favorite film of all time and he knew the entire movie’s dialogue verbatim. Dean’s tragic death at the age of 24 in September of 1955 profoundly affected young Elvis (Elvis was to call Dean ‘a genius’). There seems little doubt that Elvis’ fervent hope at this early point in his career was to become the movies’ next James Dean.”

“Early in 1956, after two screen tests, Elvis was put under contract to Paramount Studios. But Elvis’ film debut was to be a ‘loan out’ to 20th-century Fox. Although Elvis had signed a multi-picture deal with Paramount, his manager Colonel Tom Parker had shrewdly incorporated a clause allowing him to work with other studios.” (As a matter of fact Elvis was under contract to independent producer Hal B. Wallis.)

The Reno Brothers was a Western, set in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War. Elvis’ co-stars were veteran actors Richard Egan, Robert Middleton, William Campbell, and Mildred Dunnock. His leading lady was the lovely Debra Paget, who Elvis developed a huge crush on. (…) Elvis flirted with Paget almost from day one, following her around the set like a lovesick puppy. Unfortunately for Elvis, the young starlet was already involved in a relationship (with Howard Hughes) and she kept Elvis at arm’s length. Although nothing was ever to become of Elvis’ first ‘movie crush’, he never really got over the sexy Miss Paget. He later married Priscilla Beaulieu, who bore an uncanny resemblance to Paget.”

Op Wikipedia leren we dan weer dat “the Reno Gang, also known as the Reno Brothers Gang and The Jackson Thieves, were a group of criminals that operated in the Midwestern United States during and just after the American Civil War. Though short-lived, they carried out the first three peacetime train robberies in U.S. history. Most of the stolen money was never recovered. The gang was broken up by the lynchings of ten of its members by vigilante mobs in 1868. The murders created an international diplomatic incident with Canada and Great Britain, a general public uproar, and international newspaper coverage. No one was ever identified or prosecuted for the lynchings.”

“Elvis’ role (as youngest Reno brother Clint) was expanded from one that had just a few lines,” zo gaat Eddie Deezen verder. “Clint Reno was one of the Reno brothers who stayed home while his brother went to fight in the Civil War for the Confederate army. When his brother Vance comes back from the war, he finds that his old girlfriend Cathy has married Clint. The family has to struggle to reach stability with this issue. Vance is involved in a train robbery, while a Confederate soldier, of Federal Government money. There is a conflict of interest, when Vance tries to return the money, against the wishes of some of his fellow Confederates,” aldus Pat McCurry op de Internet Movie Database.

“Also, with superstar Presley coming aboard, the movie’s title was changed from The Reno Brothers to Love Me Tender, to capitalize on Elvis’ hit song. Several other songs were added to the movie after Elvis joined the project. Reportedly, Elvis didn’t know he would be singing so many songs in the picture and believed he would just be doing a straight acting role. This would be a sad pattern for the rest of Elvis’ movie career, with him wanting to do serious acting and the studios wanting to cram in as many new Presley songs as possible in every film.” (Eddie Deezen) On the other hand, Elvis Presley was credited as co-writer of the film’s four songs, but in fact had little to do with writing them; it was just for purposes of royalties. Elvis did reveal at a 1968 press conference , when asked about his ” lack of songwriting, in general” that he did contribute one line of lyrics to the title song, “Love Me Tender”. Elvis Presley’s real-life back-up musicians Scotty Moore, Bill Black and D.J. Fontana, however, were not allowed to play the roles of the band in the movie because according to the casting director they didn’t look like country musicians.

Een niet nader genoemde bron op de IMDb schrijft: “The title song “Love Me Tender” was taken from the Civil War ballad “Aure Lea”, written by W.W. Fosdick (words) and George R. Poulton (music). That song first appeared on the screen in the 1936 film Come and Get It (1936), sung by Francis Farmer. It was adopted, almost from its beginning, as the “school song” of the US Army Military Academy at West Point (NY) and was part of the soundtrack for the West Point-themed films The West Point Story (1950) and The Long Gray Line (1955).”

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“Elvis got cold feet during the picture when he saw his character died in the end. His girlfriend June Juanico recalled persuading him by saying that she tended to remember the characters who had a tragic fate far longer than those who lived happily ever after.” Goed opgemerkt van June, een opvatting die ik ook al op jonge leeftijd deelde, want toen wij met de Blommenkinders de diafilm “Zijn eerste opdracht” draaiden, had ik er voor mezelf ook een sterfscène in gestoken…

52 Een dode met z'n knie omhoog

In the end it was one of only two films in which Elvis Presley’s character dies (and the only one in which his character dies on-screen). The other is Flaming Star (1960). “Love Me Tender also turned out to be the only film in which Elvis did not get top billing,” gaat Eddie Deezen verder en inderdaad, die ging naar Richard Egan als de oudste broer Vance, terwijl ook Debra Paget Elvis nog voorafgaat. “It is also the only film in which he played an out-and-out anti-hero (as opposed to his future roles: a good guy with redeemable character flaws). In the film’s original ending, Ma Reno rings the dinner bell and the three remaining Reno brothers come in for dinner (Elvis had been shot and killed in a previous scene). At an early Love Me Tender screening, the Elvis fans hated seeing their idol die and a new ending was cooked up. At the film’s conclusion, as the end credits roll, Elvis’ ghostly presence appears and sings the title song.” 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, leren we op de IMDb.

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“After watching an early preview of Love Me Tender, Elvis’ mother Gladys was reportedly hysterical after watching her son die onscreen. It took Elvis several minutes to calm her down and reassure her it was only a movie,” merkt Eddie nog op. Although the movie proved to be a box office bonanza, Elvis was to be disappointed with his screen debut, later saying “It was an old, old picture, story wise, and I shouldn’t have been in it from the beginning.”

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