LOVE ME TENDER – Elvis Presley's First Film Role (Part 7)

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A million orders for an album that hasn’t been released yet…

Even if we agree with the critics who called Elvis’ first film role “small” (or even symbolic) and not “very demanding“, it must be noted here that Presley himself was at that time one of the busiest and overworked people from the entire cast .

The time that the other actors spent on the film set was divided between visits to recording studios and appearances in television programs.

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Only in the first days of September (September 1 – 3) 1956, i.e. just a few days after finishing recordings for 20th Century Fox, Elvis had to return to the recording studio. This time not to record one more song for the film, but to collect almost all the material for his second longplay as well as a few singles promoting it.

The three-day session took place at Hollywood Radio Recorders and brought as many as fourteen new tracks, including such later hits as “Love Me“, “Paralyzed“, “Too Much“, “First In Line” and “Ready Teddy.”

A week later, on September 9, Presley made his first appearance on Ed Sullivan’s television show. In the episode inaugurating the next season of the format.

This event was special in many ways…

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Firstly, if only because of the backstage of the conclusion of the contract for Elvis’ participation in the program. For many people, the visit of the famous singer in the now legendary “The Ed Sullivan Show” seemed only a matter of time. Especially that his earlier performances in “The Dorsey Brothers Stage Show“, “The Milton Berle Show” or “The Steve Allen Show” drew thousands of viewers in front of television sets and made the ratings columns soar to the top.

In fact, however, the question of inviting a controversial vocalist to the studio was not as obvious as it might seem…

Sullivan – a popular New York columnist and host of the show, for many months consistently maintained that he ” would not touch Presley even with a long stick ” and would never show his performance to his viewers.

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All the more so that the show broadcast by CBS on Sunday evenings was watched by whole families.

So what made the host so suddenly convinced of Elvis?

Michael David Harris, in his biography of Sullivan, claims that his decision was changed only by the ratings of a competing program. ” Sullivan signed Elvis because he competed intensely with Steve Allen for viewers ,” the author explained. ” And when the latter hosted the singer on July 1, it turned out that Sullivan had lost the ratings .”

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On the second day after Harris’s broadcast of the show on which Presley appeared in front of the cameras wearing a tuxedo (singing “Hound Dog” to a real dog), Sullivan sent Allen a telegram that read: “Steven Presley Allen . NBC Television, New York. you bastard. I love you and kiss you. Ed Sullivan .”

That same morning, it was also decided to book Presley for the next episode. In fact, for three sections, negotiated by Colonel Parker, for which Sullivan had to pay the then exorbitant amount of fifty thousand dollars * 1 !

Ironically, however, on August 6, 1956, Sullivan was hospitalized. The injuries he suffered as a result of a head-on collision with another passenger car turned out to be so serious that their treatment and subsequent convalescence prevented him from leading the program.

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For this reason, on September 9, he had to be replaced in front of the cameras by the acclaimed British actor and director Charles Laughton (who won an Oscar for his role in “The Private Life of Henry VIII“).

In the New York studio, from where “The Ed Sullivan Show” was broadcast continuously since 1948, Elvis was also absent that day, about which the host informed the audience announcing his performance. ” And now we’re going to Hollywood to meet Elvis ,” viewers heard.

Presley was still in California, where he was shooting his first film. ” The show aired from New York City, but we played our segments at the CBS studios in Los Angeles ,” explained Scotty Moore in his book Scotty & Elvis. Aboard The Mystery Train.

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Thank you, Mr Laughton. Ladies and gentlemen, this is probably the greatest honor I’ve ever received in my entire life ,” declared Elvis shortly after taking the stage. A moment later, he performed his new hit – “Don’t Be Cruel“.

Right after it, breaking through a storm of applause and squeals of teenage fans, he announced another song – ” different from anything we’ve done so far “, “Love Me Tender” 3*.

In an instant, everyone was crazy about this captivating yet painfully simple (arranged only for acoustic guitar and vocals) ballad from the soundtrack of the new 20th Century Fox production.

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Both the legions of Elvis fans – and in particular his female fans ready at any moment to assure him of their undying love, as well as radio journalists. The latter, so far unfavorable to Presley, sensing that the song would be the next great hit of the artist, reportedly recorded it on tapes and then successfully played it in their broadcasts.

David Stanley, Presley’s half-brother, in his book “The Elvis Encyclopedia” even quoted the story of Bruce Vanderhoot, a radio host from San Francisco, who played “Love Me Tender” on air as many as fourteen times! For his feat, he was … fired by the station management.

As a result of these and many other promotional efforts, by the end of September, RCA Victor had received close to one million pre-orders for a single featuring a new Elvis song 3*. And that’s before the album even went on sale!

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Nobody in the history of the record industry has ever caused as much excitement as Elvis Presley and his ‘Love Me Tender’ ,” reported RCA in a promotional booklet produced by 20th Century Fox for film distributors and theaters. After Presley performed the title song on the Ed Sullivan Show on September 9, he set an all-time record that is unlikely to be repeated by anyone . After his performance, RCA was inundated with over a MILLION RECORDING ORDERS BEFORE THE RECORD WAS ALL MADE. This phenomenal achievement is just another sign that Elvis Presley “is the hottest figure in showbiz right now .”

1* This was the record wage ever paid to anyone for an appearance on television. At the same time, it is worth adding that just a few months earlier, Ed Sullivan had rejected the possibility of engaging Elvis for the amount of five thousand dollars

2* Later in the show, Elvis also sang “Ready Teddy” and “Hound Dog”

3* According to the press of the time, a week before the premiere of the single, RCA Victor received 856,327 orders.

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

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