Loving You (1957)
I've been alone all my life, I need somebody - Deke Rivers
For those who remember Elvis Presley before he got hooked on a few bad habits and became the bloated Las Vegas showman, watching "Loving You" is a sheer pleasure. We get to watch a young Elvis strut his stuff as Deke Rivers and woo us with his wonderful songs in a movie which loosely relates to Elvis's own rise as undoubtedly the most famous singer in history. Plus it also attempts to reflect on the initial disapproval of the older generation when Rock n Roll started to become popular. As such "Loving You" is a pleasant movie, surprisingly engaging as with the combination of the music and the drama of Deke Rivers being manipulated by his agent providing a perfect blend.
Deke Rivers (Elvis Presley - Love Me Tender) a delivery boy in a small Texas town is persuaded to take to the stage and sing at an election rally, becoming an instant hit with the crowd. Spotted by Glenda Markle (Lizabeth Scott) a publicity agent, she instantly offers him the opportunity of hitting the road with a cowboy band she represents. As the band and Deke perform across the county his Rock n Roll songs gain him a legion of fans, in particular Susan Jessup (Dolores Hart - King Creole) the young female singer who performs with the band. Realizing that in Deke she has a pot of gold, Glenda does anything and everything to manipulate him as well as those around him, to do what ever she wants.
In all honesty "Loving You" has some weaknesses, a bit of over acting in places and an underplayed love story that simmers in the background never really coming to the fore. But it's good old fashioned entertainment, easy on the eye and the ears which won't over tax you with complexities. In a world where we now have movies full of CGI it is a joy to watch a good old-fashioned movie, which doesn't rely on action, violence, special effects, swearing or any other modern traits that filmmakers employ to keep you entertained.
In only his second movie Elvis isn't actually terrible as Deke Rivers a character which feels loosely based on himself. It's a raw performance in places, a little shy too but in many ways the rawness and shyness works making the character of Deke Rivers believable as someone suddenly thrown into the limelight as well as being a little naive when it comes to his agent's intentions. The good thing is that "Loving You" understandably trades heavily on Elvis's singing and this is where the movie and the star shine.
Although "Loving You" feels like a vehicle written to showcase Elvis, it's the performance of Lizabeth Scott as Glenda Markle the agent who really steals the show. Scott portrays the manipulative agent beautifully balancing that manipulative streak with a slightly more compassionate one to make a rounded character. Fortunately Scott appears in many of the movies scenes supporting Elvis wonderfully when he appears to be struggling slightly with nerves. As well as Lizabeth Scott there are some adequate supporting performances from the likes of Wendell Corey as band leader Walter Warner, Dolores Hart as singer Susan Jessup and Jana Lund who has the honour of giving Elvis his first screen kiss.
As you would expect, the soundtrack to "Loving You" is nearly all Elvis. We get to hear such songs as "Teddy Bear", "Party", "Got a Lot of Livin' to Do", "Hot Dog", "Mean Woman Blues" and of course the title track "Loving You". Even for someone who is not an Elvis fan, there is at least one song in the movie that you will recognize. What is nice is the way director Hal Kanter who also helped with the screenplay manages to combine them into the movie without it spoiling the balance between the storyline and the music. It's a nice balance making the movie jaunt a long at a perfect pace, perked up with a musical number when it feels like it's lulling a bit.
What this all boils down is that although at times his acting ability in "Loving You" is a bit wooden, it should not spoil what is basically a vehicle to show boat Elvis's musical talents and sex appeal. With a reasonable story and good performances from the other cast members, this is an enjoyable nostalgic movie. Part of the beauty of "Loving You" is in its purity, there are no special effects to dazzle you and you are left to enjoy the music, performances and story. I doubt there are many movies created in the last 25 years, which could keep you entertained without using special effects, violence and other modern techniques in the same way that "Loving You" achieves.
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