Elvis made four films before going into the army. His earlier works were more serious, more dramatic than the ones that would follow after he returned. Ironically, in the media, and in the movies, he was portrayed as this rebellious troublemaking hothead, but in reality, his costars raved about how polite and kind he was.
The first four movies were:
- Love Me Tender 1956
About: Elvis plays Clint Reno, the youngest of four brothers in the civil war era. His older brothers come home after the end of the war and the oldest, Vance (who the family had been told died), finds Clint married to the girl he loves.
Side note: When word leaked that Elvis died at the end, fans were so distraught that the studio decided to add an image of him singing “Love Me Tender” on screen as the movie was ending with the scene of his loved ones walking away from his grave.
My favorite song from the movie: Let Me
One of my favorite scenes: When he’s on the porch singing We’re Gonna Move. He was so cute, with his adorable smile and the way he interacted with his family.
- Loving You: 1957
About: Elvis plays Deke Rivers, an orphan who is discovered by an ambitious woman in the music business. She launches Deke to stardom. Deke thought he’d found true friends after a lifetime of searching, but he is crushed to learn she only cares about success.
Side notes: Elvis’ parents, Gladys and Vernon, were visiting the set and the director put them in the movie as audience members in the final scene. A year later, Elvis would be in the army, and five months after that, Gladys would pass away. Dolores Hart, who played Susan, also co-starred in King Creole. She would eventually become a nun. Elvis’ band, Scotty Moore, Bill Black, DJ Fontana, and the Jordanaires appeared in the movie.
My favorite song from the movie: Mean Woman Blues
One of my favorite scenes: Deke is in a café and this a-hole is giving him a hard time, insists he sing. Deke does, then he asks the guy what he does for a living. The guy tells him he works for his old man installing seat covers. Deke says, well, I normally get paid to sing. How about you do for me what you do for a living and go out there and put a set of seat covers on my car. The guy says sure, I bet your color is yella. Deke proceeds to beat the crap out of him and knocks him into the juke box. The guy is unconscious, leaning back against the juke box and Deke hooks a foot under his leg and tugs, and the guy slides to the ground. I loved Elvis’ fight scenes, and I thought that one was so cool.
- Jailhouse Rock: 1957
About: Elvis plays Vince Everett. Early in the movie, he kills a man in a fistfight and is sent to prison, where he meets a washed up country singer who plants the seed of Vince singing professionally. When Vince gets out of prison, he meets a young woman in the music business who helps launch his career, and Vince becomes famous. The fame goes to his head and he ends up hurting the people he loves. (But, it has a happy ending :))
Side note: Elvis’ co-star, Judy Tyler, and her husband were killed in an automobile accident on the drive home from Hollywood to New York after filming.
My favorite song from the movie: Don’t leave Me Now
My favorite scene: One of my favorite scenes in any Elvis movie. Watch the clip.
- King Creole 1958
About: Elvis plays Danny Rivers, a young guy from a poor background whose mother passed away when he was young, and his father fell to pieces and lost one job after another, launching the family into poverty. Danny sees his father as a weakling, and he wants to make something of himself. He gets involved with Maxi Fields, a crime boss, and falls for Maxi’s girl.
Side note: This was the only movie Elvis was really proud of. He did an amazing job, and it was a phenomenal film. He admired actors like James Dean and Marlon Brando, and had hopes of becoming a serious actor, but the roles he was given afterward were pretty much all fluff (However, they were ‘fluff’ that I loved, and he still did a great job in them).
My favorite song from the movie: Don’t Ask Me Why or Young Dreams or As Long as I Have You.
One of my favorite scenes: Danny is in the club sweeping up and these guys are being mean to Roni, who, as it turns out, is Maxi Fields’ girl. They insist Danny sing and he does, then they ask him what he does for an encore. He ignores them and is leaving when the one guy slaps Roni. Elvis turns around and grabs her and is taking her out when the guys start to rush him. He grabs two beer bottles off a table and breaks off the bottoms and brandishes them at the guys. One of the men says, “You’re a pretty fancy performer, ain’t ya kid?” and Vince says, “Now you know what I do for an encore.”
Elvis made 31 feature films and I have seen each one of them umpteen times. I’m watching them again, as a refresher, and I think I’m enjoying them now more than I did back then. I only own 26 of the 31 on DVD, but will soon have them all. 🙂