LOVE ME TENDER – Elvis Presley's First Film Role (Part 1)

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“I would like to become a good actor. That’s my ambition.”

Elvis Presley

As a regular actor, this guy has a lot of potential .” In this otherwise apt way, Joe Hazen, a close associate of Hal B. Wallis, summed up several days of screen tests with twenty-one-year-old Elvis Presley. Apparently, his opinion was also shared by the producer himself, because shortly after the end of the auditions, on April 2, 1956, he offered the singer’s manager preliminary terms of cooperation.

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Elvis’ first Hollywood contract was to make one film for Paramount Pictures with the possibility of making six more. In addition, the document also assumed the possibility of Presley performing once a year for another film studio (which was especially important to the singer’s manager).

On the financial side, which was taken care of by Colonel Parker, things looked as follows. Elvis was to receive fifteen thousand dollars for his participation in his first picture. $20,000 for the next, $25,000 for the third. The young, then extremely popular vocalist, but still, what is worth emphasizing, an unknown actor, was to receive the biggest fee in the case of the making of the last, seventh film. The amount Parker had negotiated was no less and no more than… one hundred thousand dollars.

The deal was finally finalized three weeks later on April 25, 1956. “ I never thought this would ever happen to me in my life ,” commented her signing Elvis. ” It just goes to show that you can never predict what’s really going to happen to you in life .”

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By then, Presley had already informed the public about his film debut. In a radio interview given on Tuesday, April 10, he convinced listeners that viewers would soon be able to see him on the big screen in the film adaptation of N.Richard Nash‘s play “The Rainmaker“.

Unofficially, it was said that Elvis would play the younger brother of the main character, Lizzy Curry (played by Katharine Hepburn) – Jim. Only, according to Bernard Dick, Wallis’s biographer, it was impossible from the beginning. ” Audiences would immediately wonder how two siblings who are so different from each other – even in speech – could have the same parents, ” he wrote in his book.

Apparently, however, unaware of this, Elvis maintained for many weeks that “The Rainmaker” would be his film debut. What he passionately talked about during subsequent meetings with journalists.

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For example, in an interview with Kenn Kennamor of the Lubbock Avalanche Journal (April 10), Elvis assured that filming would begin in June, and when Bea Ramirez of the Waco News Tribune asked him if he will sing in it, he vehemently denied. ” Certainly not ,” he would say. “ I’m co-starring with Katharine Hepburn and Burt Lancaster, and I’m not singing. I do not want it. He wants to be an actor .”

The fact that his name will not appear in the cast of the film, however, the singer probably learned only at the end of April in Las Vegas (during his two-week tour of performances for the New Frontier Hotel) from Hal Wallis during their first meeting together. “ Our first meeting was delighted to discover that he (Elvis, author’s note) was completely different from what I expected ,” recalled the producer years later. “ He was a quiet, kind, and humble man, not a screaming rock artist; and that was the impression he made at his public concerts .

During the conversation, Wallis also noted Presley’s approach to filmmaking. “ My ambition, sir, is to become a good film actor ,” the young vocalist reportedly stated during the meeting. At the same time, he was supposed to suggest to the producer in which role he would feel best. In response, Wallis promised him that he would try to find a suitable script for him.

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Mr. Wallis asked me what role I wanted ,” he explained to a Minneapolis reporter two weeks after meeting Elvis. “ I replied that I wouldn’t have to play too much. So Mr. Wallis asked someone to write that role for me .”

Thus, Elvis finally corrected the information circulating for many weeks about his alleged participation in the movie “The Rainmaker” (Henry Earl Holliman was finally given the role of Jim Curry).

Finding the right role for Elvis, however, turned out to be more difficult than it might initially seem. Despite Wallis doing his best to bring his new star to the big screen as soon as possible, the right scripts still weren’t forthcoming.

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Instead, there was a proposal from the MGM studio, which was just preparing to make a new western set during the Civil War (1861-1865). Persuaded, the producer agreed to resign and very reluctantly agreed to Elvis’ participation in this project.

Information provided by Marius Ogieglo of EP Promised Land (Poland)

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