1956 was a good year for Elvis Presley. He was young, good-looking, could sing, and wasn’t yet binging on those peanut butter, banana and bacon Dagwood sandwiches he loved so much. He had also moved from Sun Records to RCA Victor, where he had signed a then record-breaking $35,000 contract.
On January 28th, “Elvis the Pelvis” made his first screamtastic television appearance on Stage Show. This was quickly followed by hip-shaking performances on The Milton Berle Show, the The Steve Allen Show, and The Ed Sullivan Show.
By March he was in talks to make a movie, which led directly to a series of screen tests at Paramount Studios. In the first, Elvis performed a scene from William Inge’s play The Girls of Summer. According to the biography Down at the End of Lonely Street: Life and Death of Elvis Presley, his drama coach, Charlotte Clary described the singer thusly:
“Now that is a natural born actor.”
The second screen test was for a supporting role in the Burt Lancaster movie, The Rainmaker. According to the film’s screenwriter, Presley only showed the acting ability of “the lead in a high school play.”
Then came Presley’s third screen test, where the King lip-synched to “Blue Suede Shoes” in front of a set of rather shiny curtains. It was a wild audition, with Elvis giving his trademark gyrations and sneer. This time, Weiss was bowled over by Presley’s performance and later said:
“The transformation was incredible…electricity bounced off the walls. ... [It was] like an earthquake”
The studio was similarly all shook up and offered Presley a three-picture deal on the spot, with an option to make three further films. Though he was not offered the role in The Rainmaker (that went to Earl Holliman), the “Blue Suede Shoes” screen test did lead to Elvis’ first movie Love Me Tender. Two weeks after his audition for Paramount, Presley had his first million selling single, “Heartbreak Hotel.”