Presley plays Clint Reno, one of the Reno brothers who stayed home while his brother went to fight in the American Civil War for the Confederate Army. The family is mistakenly informed that one of the brothers, Vance, has been killed on the battlefield. When his brother Vance comes back from the war, he finds that his old girlfriend, Cathy, has married Clint. Although Vance accepts this wholeheartedly (“We always wanted Cathy in the family”), the family has to struggle to reach stability with this issue. As a Confederate soldier, Vance is involved in a train robbery, in which he steals Federal Government money. A conflict of interest ensues when Vance tries to return the money against the wishes of some of his fellow Confederates. The film reaches its tragic conclusion with a gunfight between the two Reno brothers, ironically ending with Clint’s murder.
This was Elvis Presley’s first movie role. Love Me Tender is the only film in which Presley’s character dies on-screen. Love Me Tender is also the only one in which Elvis did not get top billing. He came third, after Richard Egan and Debra Paget.
Love Me Tender is a western drama set immediately after the Civil War. In Elvis Presley’s first film, he appears in the secondary role of Clint Reno. This was the only time in his acting career that Elvis received second billing. Clint, the youngest of the four Reno brothers, stayed behind to run the family farm during the war while his older brothers were off fighting for the Confederacy.
Star Richard Egan plays Vance Reno, the eldest brother whom the family believes to have been killed in battle. Upon returning home, Vance is shocked to discover that Clint has married Vance’s former sweetheart, Cathy, played by Debra Paget. The love triangle, complicated by the greedy actions of some unscrupulous ex-Confederates, eventually pits brother against brother, resulting in Clint’s death. The downbeat ending is tempered by the brothers’ reconciliation as Clint dies in Cathy’s arms.
Actor Richard Egan who played Vance Reno, older brother to Elvis’ character, Clint, was a high ranking officer in the U.S. Army during W.W.II. He received a master’s degree at Stanford and taught school at Northwestern before deciding to become an actor. He won a Golden Globe award in 1953 as Most Promising Male Newcomer.