Elvis stars as Deke Rivers, a local delivery man who has a hidden talent for singing, shaking his hips, and playing guitar which catches the interest of a women named Glenda (Lizabeth Scott) who’s a manager for a country band. Glenda asks Deke to join the band on their tour, and despite having second thoughts, Deke eventually tours with the band after being fired from his first steady job. Deke quickly becomes the hit of the show by attracting crowds of screaming young girls. But as Deke's popularity begins to grow, Glenda stages a few publicity stunts (such as paying people to bad mouth him, and pick a fight with him) so that he would gain more attention among people. As he deals with the stress of his career, he starts to have a love relationship with a country singer touring with him named Susie (Dolores Hart) only to discover that she will be fired from the group because of his fame towards audiences. From this point on, Deke finds himself struggling with his career where he isn't sure if he should leave it, or stick with it.
Given the film's concept, this in my opinion should have been Elvis' first movie! Instead of casting Elvis as a supporting character where we have to wait almost a half hour for his first appearance, he's the star and focus of the film, where his first on-screen appearance only takes a few minutes. And rather then setting the film in the old west and have him sing very little where his overall presence feels out of place, the film is set in modern times and gives him 7 songs to sing instead of four. And to top off everything else, the film's story is centered on a fictional take of Elvis' career at the time, as opposed to being a drama of Elvis getting in the middle of a failed robbery. Plus the film is shot in beautiful Technicolor, instead of being shot in black and white. So the film does sound like a great upgrade to Elvis' first film in his career, and in many ways it is.
Even though Elvis seems to be playing himself, that's because he is pretty much is judging by the premise, and the film does seem perfectly aware of that. Sure the film twists a lot of things around, and even gives Elvis a different name so people don't mistake it as personal biography that stars Elvis, but there are still plenty of things that are similar to his career. He was a musician who came from nothing, and became big for his hidden talent of singing and dancing. The reception that his character gets from the older crowd and young crowd (Especially girls) by his singing and movements was pretty much same the reactions that he received in real life. And the manager Glenda who was stirring up controversy to make Elvis' character stand-out to people everywhere, is very similar to how Elvis' real life manager Colonel Tom Parker made Elvis both famous and infamous by causing some of the controversy that surrounded Elvis at the time. So it all makes perfect sense why Elvis would be playing himself considering that a good chunk of the film is loosely based on his career and reception among audiences. And despite that Elvis is playing Elvis; he still knows how to carry an emotion as an actor. You feel his happiness with his success. You sense the stress that he has with his career. And you fall under the emotion whenever Elvis confronts his manager. His best moment where his acting becomes powerful is when he tells his manager about his secret past, which is a subtle but very deep scene that Elvis nails. Elvis also gets a badass scene where he fights a teenager (Who looks older than the cast of "Grease") where he knocks him into jukebox that starts to play rock music as he finishes the fight.
Elvis' acting is great in this movie, but as good as his acting is, his best moments are when he sings and dances, which is what he does best of all! The film may have 7 songs (Which is more than what "Love Me Tender" had to offer), but he does sing many of the 7 songs that he's given more than once. The song "Loving You" that the film is named after is sung three times in the film. The first time it’s sung in the film is during the opening credits, but instead of being slow moving like how he later sings it in the film, it’s sung a little faster with more of rockin' beat that still keeps its romantic approach. I will say that I do like the opening credits version of the song a lot better than the actual song itself, but that doesn't at all mean that the regular version of the song and how he performs it is bad because it isn't! Actually it’s quite enchanting, where it starts out nice and quite, to going full out romantic when the music kicks in and just builds and builds as Elvis is singing it. The first time we ever see Elvis sing on-screen in the film is when he sings "Got A Lot Of Livin' Do", that's also the last song that he sings in the film; and the song and the way Elvis sings it is so catchy and energetic that it makes for solid bookends for the amount of times he sings in the film. The best moment when he sings the song is the last scene where he sings it in a theater as he walks and dances down the aisles as the audience claps along to the song. Then you have the song "Mean Women Blues" that stands-out as the coolest musical scene in the movie that has a hip rhythm and beat as Elvis turns on the jukebox to play the background music for his song as he performs it for a crowd of (Old looking) teenagers in the middle of a restaurant. The song "Let's Have A Party" is another rockin and catchy tune where Elvis sings and swings his hips around in front of an audience of screaming girls as he comically breaks his guitar strings when the song ends. But as good as the song is I found it pretty lazy that the writers and editors decided to have him sing the song literally back to back. Sure they have him sing different lyrics when he sings the song directly after the scene when he first sings it, but could they have him sing a different song instead, and have him either sing the full song the first time he sings, or have him sing the second version later on in the film? It just feels unnecessary. The least good song that Elvis sings in the film is "Hot Dog" and even though it’s not bad or forgettable for that matter, it’s really just a standard 50's song that only runs for a very short period of time. I don't even think its two minutes long.
The color in the film looks bright and colorful with the sets, costumes, and lightning that makes the film more visually interesting than "Love Me Tender". The best scenes where the color and lightning are at their prettiest are in two scenes of the movie when Elvis sings. The first one is when Elvis performs “Lonesome Cowboy” on a dimly lit stage, where the scene is mostly driven with blue, purple, and yellow, from the lightning, the costume that Elvis is wearing, and the guitar he's carrying. My favorite moment during that sequence is the opening where the spotlight immediately hits Elvis as we jump cut to him a few times as we find ourselves getting closer and closer towards him. And when the song finally picks up with its beat and choir, the dark stage where the only source of light is the spotlight on Elvis, begins to slowly light up on the musicians in the background. As for the song itself it’s beautifully sung by Elvis and his backup singers, has a nice country beat, and carries the tempo of a cowboy riding his horse. The second scene of the film where the color looks gorgeous, and is overall the best song and scene of Elvis performing in the film all together is when he sings the song "Teddy Bear". The set for the stage and the lighting mixed together with the flashy Cowboy suit that Elvis wears looks colorful and dreamlike. The song itself is so fun and catchy that it will never leave your brain once you hear it. And Elvis' on-stage presence as he coolly moves his hips and hits his guitar to the beat while singing is so incredible that you can't keep your eyes off him, as well as his movement and attitude making the song come out as a bit suggestive, instead of harmless and playful as many of us would think of this song as we listen to it. It's truly the highlight of the movie. If Elvis performing songs on stage throughout the film isn't enough for you, the film even treats us to a nicely edited together montage where we see Elvis perform short portions of his songs as we look at the highway and various signs to the town's where Elvis' character has been traveling too to perform.
Now as great of an upgrade as the film is to Elvis' first movie, there are still many problems with it. As spot on as the acting is in this film, the supporting cast of characters aren't that interesting, or even memorable. Deke's love interest Susan is cute, but nothing special. The band members that joke around are entertaining, but very forgettable. And the fading musician Tex (Wendell Corey) who's part of the tour and has a struggling love relationship with Glenda has a boring personality; his goal to get his career back on track, and fix his relationship with Glenda isn't at all engaging; and the scene when he and Glenda suddenly break-up in the film’s third act just felt forced in to add more drama to the picture. The only supporting character that's interesting and who I still found myself remembering after not seeing this film in years is Lizabeth Scott as Glenda. She has a fun sassy personality. Her attempts of causing controversy that could possibly lead to Deke's downfall is captivating. And her relationship with Deke and how she slowly changes her heart feels natural and at times emotionally powerful (Especially during their final confrontation). The set-up for the film of having it being loosely based on Elvis' career is more fitting for a film starring Elvis, than casting him as cowboy. And it does capture how his fame, success, and dispute towards people greatly despite the story being a complete work of fiction. But the story itself isn't really all that special. It actually gets pretty boring at times (Especially in the scenes that Elvis isn't in), and the film's pacing on a handful of occasions either move too slow, or feel rushed to the point where they feel hammered in (Particularity when Elvis is being called on stage to sing for the first time, just because he dances a bit, and his crazy workmate tells Glenda that he can sing). At least in "Love Me Tender" the story was interesting as the scenes of drama didn't feel dull or phoned in.
"Loving You" maybe a flawed film, but it's still in many ways better than "Love Me Tender", and is probably one Elvis' best films. Elvis' acting is great. The film's concept feels more like an Elvis movie. Lizabeth Scott gives a performance just as great Elvis'. The songs and how Elvis performs them are unforgettable. And film's use of color makes it look visual distinct. If you can get past the forgettable cast of supporting characters (Not counting Scott); the simplistic and not so interesting plot line; and scenes that either move too slow or too fast, you'll find yourself enjoying this movie (Especially if you like Elvis). Unfortunately the film is hard to find on DVD, so until the film gets a re-release on DVD or Blu-ray, the only way to see the film is through "YouTube".