Elvis ‘never got over’ co-star he asked to marry and Priscilla copied her look | Films | Entertainment

January 13, 2024
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Elvis Presley stars in trailer for 1956 film Love Me Tender

Elvis Presley is enjoying another spectacular surge in popularity following Baz Luhrman’s biopic and now the new Sophia Coppola film, Priscilla, based on his wife’s autobiography Elvis and Me.

Fans aren’t just desperate for the music and tangled personal lives of The King and his young bride, searches have rocketed across Pinterest for Priscilla’s iconic hair and make-up.

Like so much in her early life, however, Priscilla’s appearance was completely controlled by Elvis and for many years he was chasing the perfection inspired by another woman he loved and lost.

Elvis and Priscilla wedding day and Debra Paget

Elvis and Priscilla’s wedding day and lookalike Debra Paget (Image: GETTY)

Debra Paget in The Tiger of Echnapur 1958

Debra Paget in The Tiger of Echnapur in1958 (Image: GETTY )

When Elvis met 14-year-old army kid Priscilla Beaulieu in Germany in September 1959 during his military service, she was an avid teenage follower of films, music and fashions from back home.

She would have seen Elvis’ early films, heard reports of his pursuit of beautiful co-star Debra Paget, followed by lookalike Joan Blackman and had started to model her look on them. The King then took over.

In her book, Priscilla revealed: “He taught me everything: how to dress, how to walk, how to apply makeup and wear my hair, how to behave, how to return love — his way. Over the years he became my father, husband, and very nearly God.”

Elvis with Debra Paget and Priscilla

Elvis with Debra Paget and Priscilla in 1960 (Image: GETTY)

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Elvis’ tastes and his entire life had changed in 1956. His self-titled debut album hit the top spot on the US charts in March and on June 5 he appeared on the Milton Berle TV show where he met rising actress Paget.

Within a few months that September, they were flung together on the set of his first film, Love Me Tender – the title hastily changed from The Reno Brothers as supporting star Elvis’ fame rocketed past leading man Richard Egan. It was also the last time Elvis would appear with his natural light brown hair.

The gauche 21-year-old from Tupelo, Mississippi, was instantly smitten and “flirted with Paget almost from day one and followed her around the set like a lovesick puppy.”

Elvis and Debra Paget kiss in Love Me Tender

Elvis and Debra Paget kiss in Love Me Tender (Image: GETTY )

Blue eyes, sculpted features and dark hair had always been a weakness from his first high school girlfriend Dixie Emmons, but Paget set the template. Indeed, many future co-stars like Blackman and Dolores Hart, and then, of course, Priscilla bore a remarkable resemblance.

Unusually, there was no on-screen kiss in Love Me Tender but a frustrated Elvis made sure there was a very passionate, lip-locked embrace in the promotional images and pursued his co-star off-screen.

Paget took him home to meet her parents, who he charmed with his manners, smoothly leaving the room to go and get Mrs Paget a chair: “From the time he first came to the house, my folks considered Elvis a member of the Paget clan – which I believe, he reciprocated.”

Debra Paget in The Ten Commandments

Debra Paget in The Ten Commandments (Image: GETTY )

Another future pattern, Elvis’ jealous, possessive nature, was also established. He would even drive over at night and park nearby, watching the house jealously to see if she had any other callers.

However, it was all in vain. In 1997 Paget revealed: “Following the film, he did ask me to marry him but my parents objected to my getting married. I cared about Elvis, but being one not to disobey my parents, that did not take place.”

She was also, secretly, engaged in an affair with the billionaire industrialist and film producer Howard Hughes.

Elvis and Priscilla leave for their honeymoon

Elvis turned Priscilla into a matching “doll” (Image: GETTY)

Paget always spoke highly of Elvis, saying: “He was a precious, humble, lovely person. Elvis had a lot of talent; there was a lot of depth they never used. He could have been a fine actor.”

Elvis flew Priscilla across to the US in July 1962 and began to mould her in every way, wanting her to dye her hair darker (also to match his own dyed locks) and wear more make-up to accentuate her eyes.

She recalled: “He liked me in red, blue, turquoise, emerald green, and black and white — the same colours he himself wore,” she wrote, adding: “I was Elvis’s doll, his own living doll, to fashion as he pleased.”



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