Elvis plays Clint Reno, one of the Reno brothers who stayed home while his brother went to fight in the Civil War for the Confederate army. When his brother Vance comes back from the war, he finds that his old girlfriend Cathy has married Clint. The family has to struggle to reach stability with this issue. Vance is involved in a train robbery, while a Confederate soldier, of Federal Government money. There is a conflict of interest, when Vance tries to return the money, against the wishes of some of his fellow Confederates.
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User Reviews: Headed by a cast that includes Richard Eagen, Debra Paget, Mildred Dunnock, Bruce Bennet, James Drury, and, oh yes, a young crooner making his film debut, Elvis Presley, "Love Me Tender" is a tidy post-Civil War western. Directed by Robert D. Webb from a screenplay by Robert Buckner, the story follows the Reno family in the period just after the War between the States. Four of the Reno brothers were Confederate soldiers, who, on the day after Lee’s surrender, steal the Union payroll from a military train. When the brothers realize that the war is over, rather than deliver the cash to their Confederate superiors, they decide to keep it as spoils of war. When the three brothers reach home, they face several unexpected changes that propel the rest of the film.
Without Presley as Clint, the youngest Reno brother, who stayed home with their mother, "Love Me Tender" would likely have gathered dust in the vaults of Twentieth Century Fox. Not that the film lacks merit. Ruggedly handsome Eagen is a strong lead as the eldest brother, and the story holds viewers’ attention, as does solid acting from veteran actress Dunnock as the boys’s mother. Another major asset is Leo Tover’s luscious black and white cinematography, which captures the period in images that often merit freezing and framing. However, even before the inclusion of Presley, the film had anachronisms with Paget, whose hair, costumes, and demeanor have more to do with the mid-1950’s than the post-civil-war era.
While Elvis Presley is the film’s major asset, he is also a major detriment to credibility. As an actor, the young rock and roll singer is quite good in the dramatic scenes; he has an easy natural quality, and the camera loves him. Unfortunately for the film, but fortunately for his fans and music history, "Love Me Tender" features several songs by Presley, which have nothing to do with the Civil War. He delivers the rock songs with his trademark hip swiveling, which sent audiences wild on the Ed Sullivan show, but might have merited strong disapproval from Ante-Bellum Southerners. Only the title tune, beautifully sung to Clint’s mother and wife on the family porch, arguably fits into the film. However, without Presley and his songs and his hip swivel, "Love Me Tender" would not have received the care and visibility that it has. A mixed bag, but all on the positive side, "Love Me Tender" showcases a young actor with dramatic potential, some 1950’s rock and roll hits, and an engaging western story. That’s good entertainment value for 52 cents, the average cost of a movie ticket in 1956.