Sunday, July 31, 2022

Elvis & Ann-Margret Rock ‘Viva Las Vegas’ 1964

Ann-Margret & Elvis Presley are a dynamic duo in 1964's "Viva Las Vegas."


Viva Las Vegas is a fun bit of fluff, and all the credit goes to its well-paired stars, Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret. There's virtually no plot, even for an Elvis movie. Yet, when the two stars banter and bicker, or sing and dance, you marvel at their youthful beauty, sex appeal and energy, and charismatic talent. They're a high-voltage wow together. 

Elvis Presley& Ann-Margret's chemistry was red hot in 1964's "Viva Las Vegas."

Elvis Presley's character Lucky Jackson is so multi-talented. He's a race car driver who also sings and plays guitar. He can fly a helicopter and he's also a waiter on the side. Side hustles, as the kids say today. Ann-Margret is Rusty Martin, a children's swimming instructor who just happens to sing and dance as well. A “lucky” coincidence!  A-M’s dancing is so energetic that audiences can burn calories by just watching her. Her singing, however, is a matter of taste. I am just not a fan of A-M’s babykins voice with that exaggerated vibrato.

Elvis' Lucky knows his way around a chopper as well as race car in "Viva Las Vegas."

Elvis is a most dapper dresser and dons some unusual suits and mod boots. Ann-Margret is utterly adorable as the kitten with the whiplash hair! And for most of the movie, A-M is at her ‘60s slinkiest, with sleek outfits that show off her figure and a simple, long wave of hair. It’s only in later scenes that she is teased, lacquered, or bewigged, and then the artificial ‘60s Ann-Margret intrudes. It's great fun to watch the stars rock the 1964 fashions in their glorious youth. There’s great humor and chemistry between Elvis and A-M, which was much noted at the time.

Ann-Margret looks simply lovely here as Rusty Martin in "Viva Las Vegas." scenes like this, Ann-Margret looks like Jiffy-Pop! 

The padding is mostly tolerable, but the merry chase through casino showrooms looking for Rusty is a total time waster. Lucky and Rusty’s date day is just watching the stars clowning, but they make it fun. That Elvis sings "Viva Las Vegas" three times in an 85-minute movie speaks volumes to the filler in this slight feature film.

The title tune "Viva Las Vegas" is performed three times in less than 90 minutes!

Presley and A-M’s numbers together are great fun and the highlight of the Viva Las Vegas. The midsection has the best of them, where Elvis sings and gyrates, as Ann-Margret whips herself into a sexy frenzy. In the background is Teri Garr in a black and white dress for “That's What I Say.” And the girl “with the red dress on” is Toni Basil. The three song medley is a mashup of high energy fun.

That's Teri Garr in B&W on the left, looking rather glum throughout this number!

After that, it's a lot of slapstick, and A-M going from her most appealing to comically caterwauling through a couple of numbers. Ann-Margret was one of many female stars promoted as the next Marilyn, after Monroe's recent death. Her "Appreciation" number is a weak take off on some previous MM numbers, particularly of a bad MM number, "Specialization" from Let's Make Love. The shellacked, artificial A-M in these scenes was considered sophisticated. Most likely this came from director George Sidney, who was enamored/obsessed with A-M, when they made three films together. It was said that Colonel Tom Parker had to remind Sidney that this was an Elvis movie. Note the finale, where Elvis and A-M share a split screen together to sing the title tune, and one wonders if even Presley was tired of vying for the screen with A-M.

Ann-Margret in ruffles and a fall; Cesare Danova, sporting Tony Polar's
"Valley of the Dolls" nightclub act suit?

Elvis Presley is at his mid-movie career best: he sings and looks great, plus his natural self-deprecating humor is put to good use in the boy-meets-girl scenario. This may have been Presley’s introduction to Las Vegas, where Elvis would be a top attraction in the next decade, as would Ann-Margret.

Elvis Presley's Lucky is gambling on love in 1964's "Viva Las Vegas."

Craggy William Demarest (My Three Sons) plays A-M’s father, amusing, since he was 72 at the time to her fresh-faced 23—hey, that’s show biz! Cesare Danova is Elvis’ rival on the race track and for Ann-Margret’s Rusty. Since A-M’s hard to get attitude toward Presley’s Lucky is practically non-existent, Danova’s not much of a threat.

Director George Sidney displays all of Ann-Margret's charms in "Viva Las Vegas."

Viva Las Vegas is no musical classic, but is a tasty trifle. Just enjoy these great stars in their prime, some fun song and dances, and nostalgic Las Vegas scenery—forget the rest!

Here’s my look at one of Elvis Presley’s best, Loving You: 

Love this candid shot of Ann-Margret & Elvis Presley on set of "Viva Las Vegas."


  1. Jiffy Pop!!! LOL With all due respect to Cesare.... there was just no comparison when it came to any decision-making over the men! I love the ladies' clothes from this era. Often such clean lines, off-set by statement hair and/or jewelry. I'm not as gaga over A-M as some people are, but she was indeed at her gyrating best here and had infectious energy. The King seemed to be saddled with lesser-known or even nondescript female costars (Nancy Sinatra being one exception) that it's no wonder this pairing stood out.

    1. The scenes where A-M is dressed more casually, she's so fetching. But some later scenes with the teased/falls, where she's performing over the top as well, is too much. I much prefer later A-M, frankly. Yes, not sure how long-faced Cesare was chosen as Elvis' rival, wasn't Tab Hunter available? I loved EP's clothes in the movie, especially that black wind breaker in the beginning scenes... Cheers, Rick

  2. Pairing Elvis with Ann-Margret was pure genius. She was the only leading lady he had who could match his charisma. This movie is fluffy and delightful.