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Elvis Presley Movies

Viva Las Vegas

Elvis and Ann-Margret in Viva Las Vegas
Elvis and Ann-Margret make a
dynamic team.

In Viva Las Vegas, perhaps his best musical comedy, Elvis Presley was finally teamed with a costar whose singing and dancing matched the intensity of his own performing style. As Rusty Martin, dynamic Ann-Margret perfectly complemented Elvis’s character of Lucky Jackson. Lucky, a race-car driver whose car desperately needs a new engine, arrives in Las Vegas for the Vegas Grand Prix.

He and fellow driver Count Elmo Mancini, played by Cesare Danova, are rivals on the track as well as off the track, competing for the affections of Rusty. Rusty works at the same hotel as Lucky, who throughout the film is trying to raise money to fix his car. Rusty is reluctant to become seriously involved with Lucky because of the dangers of his occupation. Eventually, she changes her mind and assists him in his last-minute efforts to complete his repairs. Lucky lives up to his name and wins the Grand Prix.

Behind the Scenes of Viva Las Vegas

Elvis was not restricted to working only for Hal Wallis and Paramount, since the contract he signed with them was not an exclusive one. Elvis also worked for other producers at other studios, including MGM, United Artists, and Allied Artists. Interestingly, the producers from these other studios tended to follow the musical comedy formula that Wallis had developed for Elvis, and occasionally even improving on it. Though Viva Las Vegas follows the familiar formula of the "Presley travelogue," the inclusion of dynamic Ann-Margret made it a cut above the rest. Shot predominantly in Las Vegas, the film made effective use of such locations as the Flamingo and Tropicana hotels and the drag strip at Henderson, Nevada.

Viva Las Vegas is perhaps best remembered for the romance between Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret. The romance was played out on the front pages of the newspapers after the two were noticed attending restaurants and nightclubs together in Las Vegas. The publicity surrounding the romance was a dream come true for the producers of Viva Las Vegas. Even Elvis’ hometown newspaper, the Memphis Press-Scimitar, ran stories with such sensational headlines as "It Looks Like Romance for Elvis and Ann-Margret" and "Elvis Wins Love of Ann-Margret."

Elvis and Ann-Margret posing for Viva Las Vegas publicity shot
The chemistry between Elvis and
Ann-Margret is readily apparent
even in the publicity stills.

Ironically, Elvis was not happy at first to be teamed with Ann-Margret, although he was flattered that she was known as "the female Elvis Presley." Supposedly, someone on the production team of Viva Las Vegas had dated her during an earlier film venture and was still smitten by her charm and beauty. This crew member assisted with the photography on Viva Las Vegas and seemed to favor Ann-Margret with better lighting and camera angles.

When Elvis complained to the Colonel, the big guns came to the rescue and the crew member was soon chastised. Elvis ultimately realized it was not the fault of Ann-Margret, and the two young performers quickly grew close. The obvious chemistry between them was an asset to their performances on-screen. The two generated an electricity during their musical numbers seldom matched in Elvis’s later films.

Ann-Margret shared many things in common with Elvis, including the pressures of a show business career. Both enjoyed similar activities, such as riding motorcycles, and she got along well with Elvis’ group of buddy-bodyguards. They called her "Rusty Ammo," or "Ann-Margrock."

The romance between these two high-profile stars did not survive the production of the film. Rumors abound as to what split them up, ranging from Elvis’ relationship with Priscilla Beaulieu to Ann-Margret’s hasty confession to the press that she and Elvis were engaged. Though the relationship did not work out in the long term, Elvis and Ann-Margret remained friends for the rest of his life. Elvis would later marry Priscilla Beaulieu, and Ann-Margret would marry actor Roger Smith. According to Ann-Margret, Elvis sent her flowers in the shape of a guitar on the opening night of every one of her Las Vegas engagements.

Cast of Viva Las Vegas
Lucky JacksonElvis Presley
Rusty MartinAnn-Margret
Count Elmo Mancini Cesare Danova
Mr. Martin
William Demarest
Shorty Farnsworth Nicky Blair
Jack CarterHimself
Mr. Swanson Robert B. Williams
Big Gus OlsonBob Nash
Mr. Baker
Roy Engel
Barnaby Hale
Ford Dunhill
Master of Ceremonies
Eddie Quillan
Manager at Swingers
George Cisar
Delivery Boy
Rick Murray
The Forte Four
Aleane Mambi Hamilton, Beverly Powers, Kay Sutton, Ingeborg Kjeldsen, Teri Garr

Songs Featured in Viva Las Vegas

  • Viva Las Vegas
  • The Yellow Rose of Texas
  • The Lady Loves Me
  • C’mon Everybody
  • Today, Tomorrow and Forever
  • What’d I Say
  • Santa Lucia
  • If You Think I Don’t Love You
  • I Need Somebody to Lean On
  • My Rival (sung by Ann-Margret’s character)
  • Appreciation (sung by Ann-Margret’s character)
  • The Climb (sung by The Forte Four)

Credits for Viva Las Vegas

  • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
  • Produced by Jack Cummings and George Sidney
  • Directed by George Sidney
  • Screenplay by Sally Benson
  • Photographed in Metrocolor by Joseph Biroc
  • Music by George Stoll
  • Choreography by David Winters
  • Released June 17, 1964
To learn more about Elvis Presley, see: