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The promotional posters for Viva Las Vegas (1964) proclaimed "It's that Go-Go Guy and That Bye Bye Birdie Gal in the Fun Capital of the World!" but for fans, this inspired pairing was long overdue. Ever since the press had tagged Ann-Margret as "the female Elvis," the public had been waiting for these two to stage a showdown, and if you want to see dueling pelvises, look no further than this sunny time capsule from the mid-sixties.
Elvis stars as Lucky Jackson, a penniless race car driver who wants to win the Las Vegas Grand Prix but is currently working as a singing waiter to pay the bills. Once he spots swimming instructress Rusty (Ann-Margret), an elaborate mating dance begins that culminates in the wild, orgiastic production number, "C'Mon Everybody." Other musical highlights include the rousing title song (written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman) over the garish neon credits, Elvis giving Ray Charles a run for his money with his own version of "What'd I Say," Ann-Margret performing "Appreciation," and an impromptu version of "The Yellow Rose of Texas."
When musical numbers were first being considered for the film, there was some talk about having Elvis do a cover of "Sukiyaki" (a number one hit that year for Kyu Sakamoto) with English lyrics. That didn't pan out but Elvis and Ann-Margret did perform a dynamic version of the Leiber and Stoller tune "You're the Boss," which for some strange reason got left out of the finished film.
During the making of Viva Las Vegas, Elvis and Ann-Margret began an offscreen romance which they took great pains to hide from the press even though the rumors were flying. In her autobiography, Ann-Margret (G.P. Putnam's Sons), the actress admits that "From day one, when we gathered around the piano to run through the film's songs, Elvis and I knew that it was going to be serious. That day, we discovered two things about each other. Once the music started, neither of us could stand still. Music ignited a fiery pent-up passion inside Elvis and inside me. It was an odd, embarrassing, funny, inspiring, and wonderful sensation. We looked at each other move and saw virtual mirror images. When Elvis thrust his pelvis, mine slammed forward too. When his shoulder dropped, I was down there with him. When he whirled, I was already on my heel. 'It's uncanny,' I said. He grinned. Whatever it was, Elvis liked it and so did I."
Producer: Jack Cummings, George Sidney
Director: George Sidney
Screenplay: Sally Benson
Cinematography: Joseph F. Biroc
Editing: John McSweeney, Jr.
Art Direction: Edward C. Carfagno, George W. Davis
Music: George E. Stoll, Doc Pomus, Bernie Baum, Stanley Chianese and other uncredited writers.
Cast: Elvis Presley (Lucky Jackson), Ann-Margret (Rusty Martin), Cesare Danova (Count Elmo Mancini), William Demarest (Mr. Martin), Nicky Blair (Shorty Fansworth), Jack Carter (Himself), Teri Garr (Showgirl, uncredited).
C-85m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. Descriptive Video.
by Jeff Stafford