Elvis Loves it in Reno
Best known for being Elvis's first movie "Love Me Tender" is in fact a competent movie in its own right. With a storyline surrounding betrayal and love between two brothers and a woman it is a movie full of drama and with just the right amount of action as it includes a payroll robbery. And whilst yes "Love Me Tender" was Elvis Presley's first movie and one full of some raw but wonderful acting from the young star he is outshone by Richard Egan who leads the movie brilliantly as a conflicted brother who finds himself battling his feelings over the love of the woman who married his brother.
The year is 1865 and with the war declared over brother's Vance, Brett and Ray (Richard Egan, William Campbell and James Drury) head home where Vance plans to marry his sweetheart Cathy (Debra Paget - Broken Arrow). But on returning home Vance learns that not only did everyone believe him to have been killed in action but Cathy has married his younger brother Clint (Elvis Presley - Change of Habit). Heartbroken by the loss of the woman he loves Vance tries to keep his feelings in check for the good of the family, although it is obvious to everyone except Clint that he is still in love with Cathy. To make matters worse Vance and his brothers along with some other soldiers had robbed an enemy Payroll train before discovering that the war is over and having shared it out between themselves now find that they are being hunted down by the law for it's return.
Ignoring for the moment that "Love Me Tender" was Elvis Presley's first movie; it is actually a pretty competent western drama in its own right. The storyline surrounding Vance Reno returning from civil war not only to learn that people thought he had died but that his youngest brother Clint has married his sweetheart Cathy is ripe for plenty of emotional drama. And to be honest it delivers it as we watch Vance trying to keep his feelings, those of being in love, disappointment and also emotional hurt in check for the good of the family. Of course this all comes to a head when the truth comes out about how Vance still feels for Cathy and the brothers inevitably end up confronting each other but it works because the confrontation is wrapped up in a secondary storyline that of Vance and his brothers Brett and Ray having stolen money as soldiers and are now being pursued by a General. It means that "Love Me Tender" has a good storyline and whilst the final third seems to drag things out for a little too long the storyline still engages you whilst serving up a couple of surprises.
And being what you could call a Civil War western "Love Me Tender" has plenty of standard western action which works nicely with the drama. The opening scenes where we watch Vance, Brett and Ray along with some other soldiers rob the payroll from a train has a nice amount of energy and action. And the same can be said of later on when those who robbed the payroll find themselves being pursued by the law. It may all be rather expected and there is nothing new when it comes to the action but the way it blends with the emotional drama is spot on as is the pacing of it all.
But of course "Love Me Tender" is know best known for being Elvis Presley's first movie and to be honest there is much to like about the young legends performance. Yes early on he looks incredibly nervous in front of the camera and you can almost get a sense that he was sweating buckets and suffering clammy hands as he tried to deliver his lines without cocking up but he grows in confidence as the movie goes on. And by the end of "Love Me Tender" Elvis is delivering a solid performance with a nice raw edge that makes the rage which his character is feeling as he learns about Vance and Cathy believable.
But sadly with "Love Me Tender" being an Elvis Presley movie there are a couple of musical scenes which to be honest feel seriously out of place. Now watching Elvis doing his iconic hip shake and singing on stage at some form of barn raising picnic is entertaining and listening to him singling "Love Me Tender" is always a joy. But it just doesn't fit in with the storyline of the younger brother left home to look after the farm whilst his brothers went to war. It turns a believable character into one which most certainly isn't as he turns into a polished showman and it spoils what is otherwise a good movie.
Aside from Elvis well you have to say that Richard Egan delivers a solid performance as Vance and whilst that big grin he deploys in every scene ends up being both distracting and annoying he gets across the inner turmoil of his character. You do believe that Vance is still in love with Cathy yet battles himself and does whatever he can to keep his emotions in check for the good of the family. And to be honest Debra Paget as Cathy gets across the emotion of her conflicted feelings quite brilliantly, well quite brilliantly after a rather slow start where she seems to have been cast just to look pretty and say nothing. But sadly whilst Egan and Paget end up being very believable as a couple who are conflicted by their feelings for each other the chemistry between Paget and Elvis ends up being zilch.
What this all boils down to is that "Love Me Tender" is not only an enjoyable Elvis movie but also an enjoyable drama in it's own right. It has an interesting storyline as well as a nice blend of emotional drama and action. And to be honest my only criticism comes from the musical scenes as whilst watching Elvis sing is always a treat they just don't fit in to the actual story, appearing to be thrown in purely because Elvis was cast in the role of Clint.