On this day, November 15, 1956, “Love Me Tender” , a 1956 American black-and-white CinemaScope motion picture directed by Robert D. Webb, premieres at the Paramount Theater in New York City, and was released nationally on November 21, 1956. Named after the song of the same name, it starred Richard Egan, Debra Paget, and Elvis Presley in his film debut.
A Western genre film with musical numbers, because it was Presley’s movie debut, it was the only time in his acting career that he did not receive top billing.
Originally entitled The Reno Brothers, when advanced sales of Presley’s “Love Me Tender” single passed one million—a first for a single—the film title was changed to match. 20th Century Fox released 575 prints, a record for its studios at the time; normal releases were only 200-300.
Attending a private screening of the film on November 20 at Loew’s State Theater in Memphis prior to its national release, Presley’s mother, Gladys, cried at the death of her son’s character at the end. Presley insisted that his characters would never die on screen again.
In its first week of release the film grossed $540,000, #2 at the box office for that week, beaten only by James Dean’s posthumous release Giant, and had made back the money it cost the studio to produce it. Within weeks it had recouped the costs of the negatives, and despite being released in November, the film finished 1956 as the 23rd highest grossing film of the year.
Despite many critics giving it a lukewarm reception, a number of critics viewed it in a positive light. The Los Angeles Times wrote: “Elvis can act. S’help me the boy’s real good, even when he isn’t singing.”
Presley later expressed regret at making the film, and was disappointed that the additions of songs had set up the future of his Hollywood career
1919 – Carol Bruce (actress: WKRP in Cincinnati; died Oct 9, 2007)
1934 – Joanna Barnes (actress: The Trials of O’Brien, 21 Beacon Street, Spartacus, Parent Trap, Goodbye Charlie)
1937 – Yaphet Kotto (actor: Two If by Sea, The Puppet Masters, Extreme Justice, Midnight Run, The Running Man, Eye of the Tiger, Fighting Back, Alien, Raid on Entebbe, Shark’s Treasure, Live and Let Die, The Thomas Crown Affair, Five Card Stud, Nothing But a Man, Blue Collar, Homicide: Life on the Street, For Love and Honor)
1940 – Sam Waterston (actor: The Killing Fields, Law & Order, Friendly Fire, I’ll Fly Away, The Great Gatsby, Serial Mom)
1951 – Beverly D’Angelo (actress: Coal Miner’s Daughter, Paternity, Hair, Annie Hall, Every Which Way but Loose, National Lampoon’s Vacation series, Captains and the Kings)
1963 – Kevin J. O’Connor (actor: The Mummy, Peggy Sue Got Married, The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, Birdland, Gideon’s Crossing)