|Elvis Presley was 22 when he made 'Loving You' in 1957. 20 years later, he was gone.|
At age 42, Elvis Presley died Aug. 16, 1977. I remember that day vividly. I was almost 18, babysitting my cousins that day, and it was all over the news—back then, that meant radio and TV. When my aunt came home from work, she quietly and immediately started playing her Elvis albums. Back home, I remember watching the evening news, and how shocked we were, despite the fact that Elvis hadn’t looked well the last few years. Mom was also a huge fan, and she had a DA haircut in high school. When Mom watched the Aloha from Hawaii TV special, her ‘70s kids thought his rhinestone jumpsuits were totally uncool. We’d laugh and roll our eyes when the afternoon movies played his “drive-in” flicks.
Still, when our local station ran some of his early movies, we had to admit the songs from Jailhouse Rock and King Creole, that made Elvis the King of Rock, were still pretty rockin’. When Elvis died, CBS bought the broadcasting rights to 1957’s Loving You. With our bowls of popcorn, my mom, sister, and I watched our first Elvis movie in the evening! Ah, TV’s olden, golden days, with only CBS, ABC, NBC, and PBS to entertain us.
|Nearly all of Elvis Presley's pre-Army pictures were his biggest hits.|
Loving You is a musical fairy tale, though based on a magazine story, is a riff on Elvis Presley’s own rags to riches story. It may not be the most sophisticated movie, but it’s surprisingly sweet and good-natured, like the star himself. Loving You was Elvis Presley’s second movie, and though he has lots of rough edges, Elvis is filled with innocence, energy, and a joy of performing.
|Lizabeth Scott's PR pro gives Elvis' Deke a makeover.|
Elvis Presley is introduced as Deke Rivers, a delivery guy dropping off beer at a governor’s campaign rally that PR rep Glenda Markle (Lizabeth Scott) is spinning. The next thing you know, Deke/Elvis is up onstage! Deke is persuaded to just jump up onstage in his work denim and black boots, and wow everybody with the rockabilly “Got a Lot O’ Livin’ to Do.” Naturally, the young people go wild, while the older folks look bewildered, at best.
|Elvis delivers more than beer when he's pulled onstage to sing "Let's Have a Party!"|
Glenda sees dollar signs, and offers Deke a job with ‘Tex’ Warner (Wendell Corey) and his Rough Ridin’ Ramblers, but he’s reluctant to give up his steady job. Glenda gets him canned on the sly, so that he will show up the next morning to join them. At warp speed, Deke goes from “called up” on stage from the audience, to joining the group, to becoming the big draw. Ordinarily, this would be a farfetched, except Elvis’ own rise to fame was a rocket ride, too.
One fun moment in the montage of Deke hitting all the Texas cow towns is singing “Hot Dog” at a gig in Towanda, which always makes me think of Kathy Bates’ rallying cry in Fried Green Tomatoes.
|Elvis/Deke performing 'Hot Dog!'|
|Imagine 'Fried Green Tomatoes' Kathy Bates as Elvis' biggest fan!|
I always thought it was hilarious that Elvis got dared to sing in many of his early movies. Loving You had the best version of Elvis “taking requests.” Presley’s Deke is sitting in a restaurant, trying to eat his BBQ ribs, when a local “fast girl” goes gaga over seeing heartthrob Rivers in the flesh. Her jealous boyfriend, Wayne, tries to goad Deke to sing. After some trash talk, Deke agrees to Wayne’s strong-arming. FYI, Kenneth Becker played a similar stooge in three other Elvis movies. In a memorable battle of wits, Wayne taunts, “Well, sing, Sideburns!” “Alright, I’ll sing,” Deke mumbles. He goes to the jukebox and picks a song. Luckily, it’s one Deke knows: “Mean Woman Blues.” Even luckier, The Jordanaires are singing back up! In a matter of seconds Deke/Elvis has the place hopping, with his crazy rockabilly singing and sexy moves, which includes not just hip swiveling, but holding his wrists limp (a move Cher later stole) and dragging a leg across the floor like it fell asleep. Kidding aside, Elvis ROCKS! Even in a lip-synched movie musical number, Presley’s energy is electric. After wowing the crowd, Deke asks Wayne what he can do, which leads to a surprisingly rough and tumble movie fight.
|Once again, Elvis is goaded to sing!|
|Luckily, the jukebox has just the right number for Elvis to rock along with!|
Deke is basically good-natured, unless someone pries into his background. When Tex teases the young singer that he’s getting so successful that he’ll need to change his name to Tab or Rock—as if Deke isn’t distinctive enough!—he gets irate. About halfway through Loving You, Deke reveals his origins to Glenda. As Jimmy Tompkins, he ran away from an orphanage the night it burned down. He hid in a cemetery, where Jimmy saw a tombstone with an inscription that inspired him, one that belonged to Deke Rivers. At age 11, Jimmy became “Deke Rivers.”
Glenda offers Deke an exclusive contract, which he gladly signs. Tex later finds out her cut is 50 percent, which raised my eyebrows, as it was rumored that Elvis’ infamous Colonel Parker got a similar exorbitant take. In fact, many of Glenda’s PR shenanigans are worthy of the wily Parker.
|Elvis/Deke & Lizabeth Scott's Glenda form a mutual admiration society, to the chagrin of her ex, Tex (Wendell Corey)!|
Amusingly, Markle refers to Deke’s unhinged fans as “lovely little creatures,” echoing Lady Gaga’s much later dubbing her fans “little monsters.” Glenda comment that it’s hard to believe the screaming girls will be grandmothers someday, made me think of my mom and aunt. One scene that gave me a smile was Elvis reading a Bible in his hotel room. Imagine a pop star today passing the time that way!
The movie mirrors and editorializes on Deke’s scandalous reputation to Elvis’ own image at the time. One town refuses to let Deke perform, which gives Glenda the opportunity for her biggest PR boost yet: a national hook up with locals and Deke’s crew to promote freedom of speech and defend him against the older generation. Deke bolts when he can’t handle all the attention and is further agitated to find out that Glenda and Tex were once married and divorced. Glenda tracks him down, comes clean, and convinces Deke to go back, for his own sake. Just in a nick of time, Deke River performs, is redeemed in the eyes of the public, and the back stage drama is swiftly resolved.
|Stars of 'Loving You': Wendell Corey, Elvis Presley, Dolores Hart, and Lizabeth Scott.|
While Loving You was Elvis’ second movie, this was essentially Lizabeth Scott’s final film, and Wendell Corey’s last starring role. Also, just five years after her film debut, Dolores Hart gave up movies, and began her journey as a nun. Ironically, Elvis Presley’s last movie was 1970’s Change of Habit, where his co-star is Mary Tyler Moore, as a nun!
|Lizabeth Scott as Glenda Markle, in a rare departure from film noir.|
Loving You was made at Paramount by producer Hal Wallis, who made stars of Lizabeth Scott and Wendell Corey, and would make a movie star out of Elvis. Scott plays Glenda Markle, a sharpie press agent who’s a little too good at her job. Scott looks timeless in her tailored, stylish Edith Head wardrobe. Also, Scott’s husky voice and sharp delivery makes the dialogue seem snappier than it really is. I noticed that, despite their totally different images, Lizabeth’s voice—not just the huskiness, but her enunciation—is almost identical to June Allyson’s. As for her performance, Scott finds a convincing balance in her character’s questionable ethics, but retaining some redeeming and empathetic qualities.
|Wendell Corey's Tex finds out Scott's Glenda has already signed Deke/Elvis. |
Can I tell you how much I love Elvis' shirt and jacket combo here?!
Wendell Corey, as Walter ‘Tex’ Warner, is the leader of the country band that Scott’s press agent is strenuously trying to spin to stardom. Corey has a way with a laconic, wry line. This was Scott’s and Corey’s third time together as a team, and they have a realistic rapport that grounds the movie. By this point in their careers, I’m sure Scott and Corey knew that 22-year-old Elvis was the show, but they have their moments and seem to be enjoying themselves.
|Aside from Elvis co-star, Dolores Hart was a huge hit in 'Where The Boys Are!'|
As kids, we loved the fact that Dolores Hart, a two-time Elvis co-star, later became a nun. My Mom joked that she had to, after working with Elvis! Seriously, Dolores is genuinely fresh-faced and sweet in her first film, looking a bit like a girl-next-door version of Grace Kelly.
|Elvis Presley and Lizabeth Scott are all smiles here in 'Loving You.'|
As for Elvis Presley, imagine with training and encouragement, what Elvis might have accomplished as an actor? As Deke, Elvis is wobbly in some of the more dramatic moments, but he’s not bad at all in the graveyard scene, confessing to Glenda his true identity. In the rest of Loving You, Elvis’ natural sweetness and sense of humor come through, and need I say that Presley had charisma to spare? If Presley had pushed back against being assigned all the later glorified “B” movies, Elvis could have been one of the great movie star personalities of the ‘60s, I think.
|Elvis Presley looks and sounds great in his second film, here performing 'Teddy Bear.'|
Elvis Presley’s numbers in Loving You are all simply staged, but all that’s needed is Elvis’ energy, enthusiasm, and magnificent voice. “Lonesome Cowboy” is the most dramatically put on, with Presley all duded up, singing in a solo spotlight. Two of Elvis’ classics are performed: “Teddy Bear” and “Loving You.” The latter is one of my favorite Elvis songs, not just for its simple but beautiful song, but Elvis’ sincere and subtle vocals. The rockabilly songs are a real blast: “Got a Lot O’ Livin’ To Do,” “Let’s Have a Party,” “Mean Woman Blues,” and “Hot Dog.” Presley’s playfulness and 22-year-old high energy is something to see!
Loving You is a legacy as to why fans will always remember Elvis.
|Elvis Presley stops peddling a moment to share a hug with Lizabeth Scott.|
FYI: I put all the movie overflow on my public FB movie page.
Check it out & join! https://www.facebook.com/groups/178488909366865/