This is Elvis’ first movie in color and his only one in color out of the first four he made before going into the army in 1958. Elvis is even more beautiful in color, especially with his newly dyed black hair slicked back and glistening! Being my fifth favorite Elvis movie, I watch Loving You frequently. It is in my rotation of 11 Elvis movies I watch all the time. It was a very significant to Elvis’ movie career as well as to Hollywood in general. Elvis’ acting had improved in his second movie. Loving You is almost autobiographical with Elvis playing a singer (Deke Rivers) and the older generation thinking Deke is vulgar and even threatened to cancel a show as happened in Elvis’ life. Because Deke was misunderstood and was shown as a good guy at the end, Loving You shows that Elvis is also a good guy and has been misunderstood. Even his manager Glenda (played by Lizabeth Scott) was reminiscent of the Colonel with her phony publicity stunts and taking 50% of Deke’s earnings. Loving You gives a glimpse into the impact Elvis had on America and of the impact fame had on him.
Unlike Love Me Tender, Elvis had top billing in Loving You as he would for rest of his movies. Unlike in Elvis’ first movie, Love Me Tender, Scotty Moore, Bill Black and DJ Fontana were in Loving You as Deke’s band – and Bill even had a couple of lines. This was the first of two movies Dolores Hart (who played Deke’s love interest Susan) costarred with Elvis – the other is King Creole. She was just 17 and a freshman in college at the time. Elvis had his first on screen kiss in his second movie Loving You, there was no kiss in his first movie. Oddly enough his first on screen kiss was with neither one of his character’s love interests, but with an aggressive fan named Daisy, played by Jana Lund. Loving You also showcased Elvis’ first fight scene, which would become part of the Elvis movie formula in the rest of his movies. Wendall Corey, who plays Tex Warner Glenda’s ex-husband and former lead of the show, was also in my favorite Christmas movie Holiday Affair with Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh. Elvis’ parents were prominently shown in the audience at the end of the movie during the television show. It is said Elvis never watched Loving You again after his mother died – although I doubt he ever watched any of this movies after he finished filming.
Loving You was based on a short story by Mary Agnes Thompson titled “A Call for Mitch Miller” that appeared in the June 1956 issue of Good Housekeeping. Producer Hal Wallis bought the rights to it because he saw this story of a young Oklahoma singer’s rise to stardom as a perfect movie for Elvis, his first of nine with Elvis. Titles considered for the movies were The Lonesome Cowboy or Something For The Girls or Running Wild (which Ed Sullivan announced on his January 9th show as the title) before deciding on naming it after Leiber and Stoller’s “Loving You.” To make the movie more closely suited for Elvis, Wallis sent Director and Co-Writer Hal Kanter to Memphis on December 12, 1956 just a month before filming was to begin on Loving You to spend time with Elvis to get a sense of who he was. They hung out with Elvis’ parents at their home on Audubon Drive, visited friends and fellow entertainers Jim Ed Brown and his sister Maxine (whom I met and talked with extensively years ago – what a great lady!) in Arkansas on their way to Shreveport to watch Elvis perform on the Louisiana Hayride. Kanter was able to see first-hand the girls excitement for Elvis. He saw twin sisters high-fiving each other to the beat and used that in the movie.
On January 10th, Elvis left Memphis by train for Hollywood. He first went to Radio Recorders to record songs for the soundtrack then to Makeup and Wardrobe at Paramount Legendary Edith Head was Costume Designer on Loving You as well as on eight subsequent Elvis movies. Filming for Loving You lasted two months from January 14th to March 6th, 1957 at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, California. The set was closed during filming to make Elvis comfortable because he did not like being interrupted by reporters. They only left the Paramount lot once for a location shoot for scenes at the Jessup Farm, which according to Delores Hart were some of her and Elvis’ favorites times while working on the movie. During filming, Elvis dated Rita Moreno and Yvonne Lime.
The studio received 500 calls and 2000 letters every day Elvis was filming. The Colonel’s secretary would sort the mail, giving some to Elvis to read and respond to with autographs and photos. Elvis arrived at the studio every day at 8am and sometimes wouldn’t leave until 7pm signing autographs and taking photos with the hundreds of fans waiting for him by the gate. Six extra security guards were called in to clear the way for Elvis to leave. During filming, Elvis was almost seriously injured when a light structure crashed to the ground where he had just been standing. Elvis rode around the studio on his bicycle called the “Hound Dog” given to him by Hal Wallis. He visited Sal Mineo (from Rebel Without A Cause), Shirley Booth and Eileen on the set of Hot Spell.
In the middle of filming on February 15th, Elvis’ parents Vernon and Gladys left Memphis for a month in Hollywood to visit with their son and subsequently appear in the end of the movie in the audience of the live television show. They were supposed to leave sooner, but Glady was hospitalized for a couple of days “for a check up.” A year and half later, she would be dead. It was interesting to see in every photo, candid and posed, Gladys and Elvis are touching.
Loving You set the formula for future Elvis movies. Hal Wallis had Elvis sing ten songs evenly spread out throughout the movie. The Box Office receipts validated this strategy again and again. Loving You also changed the way Hollywood would distribute future films. It was the first movie to have mass theater releases with a saturated booking in 90 neighborhood theaters (rather then one downtown showing) preceded by a media advertising blitz. This new strategy made Loving You one of the top 20 grossing movies of 1957 bringing in $3.7 Million. They opened the movie in July ensuring teenagers off from school could attend in full force. Loving You premiered on July 9, 1957 in Memphis at The Strand Theater breaking every attendance record. Movie goers tore down billboard displays for souvenirs. Elvis did not attend the Memphis premiere, rather he enjoyed a midnight showing with his parents. Loving You opened nation wide on July 30th peaking at number 7 in Variety.
Elvis performed seven songs in Loving You. They were, in order of appearance, “Got a Lot a Livin’ to Do,” “(Let’s Have a) Party,” “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear,” “Hot Dog,” “Lonesome Cowboy,” “Mean Woman Blues” and “Loving You.” Of course the songs “(Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear” (written by Kal Mann and Bernie Lowe) and “Loving You” (written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller) were extremely popular. “Teddy Bear” hit #1 on the Billboard Top 100 chart in July 1957 and stayed there for seven weeks with a total of 24 weeks on the chart, selling 12.5 million copies in one week. While its flip side “Loving You” debuted on the Billboard Top 100 chart in June and remained there for 22 weeks peaking at #28. I actually prefer the more uptempo version of “Loving You” than the traditional ballad version. I have three versions of the Loving You soundtrack on vinyl. I have the original issue 1957 7-inch 45rpm record, but apparently there is another version because mine says Vol 1 and has just three songs on it: “Loving You,” “Party,” “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear” and “True Love,” which isn’t even from Loving You. Although over 60 years old, that old 45 still plays great (and even though I don’t have Vol 2 at least I have the biggest hits on mine “Teddy Bear and “Loving You”). In fact, I have all of Elvis’ first four movie soundtracks on vinyl, original issue 45s. I bought them from Jerry at River Records in Memphis back in 1999 or the early 2000s. (** Side Note** I googled to make sure I had the name and store correct and found out Jerry in his early 80s was murdered in his store in 2016, and his last name was Gibson. His brother Lowell is the founder of Gibson Donuts! I remember Jerry being a sweet man who was really helpful to me in my first days of collecting. He must have been great for me to remember his name and store name after 20 years. I remember his store being just packed with vinyl, and Jerry helped me sort through everything.)
Ok back to the other two Loving You records I have. I do have the complete soundtrack on a full length reproduction 12-inch 33 1/3 rpm record. I also have a French production called Loving You The Alternative Album, which is two 10-inch albums – one is a picture disc. These albums play all different versions of the soundtrack songs including the movie versions and alternative versions, hence the title. Ben Weisman wrote “Got a Lot O’ Livin’ To Do” and then went on to write 56 more songs for Elvis, more than any other songwriter.
**I consulted Elvis The Movies, The Elvis Files Vol 2, Reel Elvis, Elvis in Hollywood, Elvis Films Faq, Elvis Presley the Hollywood Years, The Elvis Movies for more information**
To read my take on all of Elvis’ movies, please click HERE.