Love Me Tender (1956) – THE PREMIERE
By Bob Pakes
In this article we take a look at the big premiere of Elvis’ first movie at the Paramount Theatre in New York. No expenses were spared in order to launch Elvis’ moviecareer and further deepen his already meteoric rise to fame in late 1956.
With the premiere of Love Me Tender, Elvis had now also arived in Hollywood, and he had arived with a big bang! Elvis seemed to be all over the place at the same time (either in the flesh or in a cardboard version).
Due to the clever marketing schemes by Presley’s management, Elvis ruled the media. And not just on the eastcoast!
October 28, 1956
On this day a HUGE Elvis cut-out on top of Paramount‘s marquee was unveiled.
On the photo to the right we can see that the cut-out is about to be covered up.
The movie would not premiere until 2,5 weeks later. So in the weeks that followed, this cardboard Elvis Presley would take control of Times Square.
Here we have some pictures of the unveiling of the not so mysterious ‘mystery-man’.
Apart from the signs mentioning local Elvis Fan Clubs, all other signs were clearly not a product of homemade creativity but merely the result of the very clever marketing scheme thought out by one Tom Parker.
On the marquee we can see that The Girl He Left Behind was playing at the Paramount in the week the cut-out was unveiled.
It starred Natalie Wood, and even though it’s all a coincidence it’s interesting to note that Elvis dated her for a while, that both Natalie and Elvis are linked to RCA Victor, that Elvis was asked to play the role of Tony in West Side Story (opposite Natalie in 1961), and that Elvis gave one of his most memorable answers during the March 1960 Graceland press conference when he referred to Priscilla as “The girl he left behind“.
This photo is interesting for a couple of reasons.
First of all, it was taken by someone who was inside the Paramount Theatre at that moment of the unveiling of the Elvis cut-out.
But we can also see good old Sgt. Bilko across the street on the Camel billboard, as a silent witness to Elvis Presley’s first ever movie Premiere!
Early November, 1956
This is probably the only image available that shows us how the Paramount looked like between October 28 (the unveiling) and November 15 (the premiere).
The people on the foreground (and also on the other side of the street) were there for a political reason, and that sign (aimed at democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson) was not provided by The Colonel.
The reference to Love Me Tender on the front of the marquee (“STARTS THURS. NOV. 15 AT NY PARAMOUNT”) is gone and the marquee is back to how it will remain until the day of the premiere.
This photo hands us a real nice overview of Times Square, and we can see how large the cut-out actually is.
November 13, 14 and 15, 1956
In the days prior to the big premiere, these ads appeared in New York’s newspapers.
To the right the ad of tuesday the 13th.
Below to the left we have the one for wednesday the 14th. And next to that we see the ad from the day of the premiere (thursday the 15th).
November 15, 1956
Love Me Tender premiered on this day at the Paramount.
We can see that the names on the marquee have changed, Elvis is now 3rd billed (“and introducing …”) after Richard Egan and Debra Paget. But all the focus is stull fully on the boy from Tupelo.
November 16, 1956
Here we have a review of the premiere at the Paramount from next day’s paper.
The article confirms that the movie would be a commercial success no matter what. The huge promotion-campaigns had made sure of that.
Presley’s “network of spastic ligaments” is one way of describing Elvis’ acting abilities, but the author also mentions that “even his severest critics can’t rightly accuse him of being a bad actor”.
More interesting is that the tone for Elvis’ entire moviecareer was already set with his first film. In Fox’s original script Presley would not sing, and he would also die in the end. However, due to public pressure (which can be translated as: commercial value) some important changes were made. And here we have the concept for all upcoming Presley-vehicles …
November 21, 1956
Los Angeles, CA
A similar marketing campaign was held on the westcoast of the USA were a huge cardboard Elvis (though much less tall) accompanied the movie. And also the fans holding the signs that screamed Elvis’ name were present!
November 29, 1956
There were no hysteric fans dressed up in EPE wear holding up signs. But there was a cardboard Elvis that decorated the marquee in Texas.
In this photo we can see that Love Me Tender is being announced in Elvis’ hometown.
Presley watched a private screening of the movie here, prior to its nationwide release, on November 20.
Fort Wayne, IN (?)
I am not sure if this is actually the Embassy Theatre in Fort Wayne.
Can anybody confirm the (real) location of this theatre?
Not much is known about this interesting image. It appears to be taken in front of a cinema that is next to a beauty salon, and the girls are dressed up (in their working clothes? At least one of them appears to be an usher). But the city and date are unknown to me.
Josep Rulló (Spain) for sharing many rare (and color!) images.
James V. Roy (USA) for his additional information. Check out http://www.scottymoore.net for all you want know about the 50′s Elvis.
Most of the photographers are unknown. And I was only able to identify the historical work of:
The color image outside Studio 50, was published in The Australian Women’s Weekly, courtesy of the National Library Of Australia.
Some images were scanned from Marvin’s brilliant book, Elvis Presley 1956, which comes highly recommended.