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You can't really classify Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956) as a Frank Sinatra picture since he only makes a brief cameo appearance in it but it certainly has a "Frank in Vegas" vibe because it was filmed at the Sands Hotel, which became Sinatra's favorite Las Vegas performance venue in the fifties. The film also captures the glitz and glamour of the neon-lit gamblers' paradise in its martini-era prime.
Front and center in this Joe Pasternak concoction are Dan Dailey as a Nevada rancher addicted to roulette and Cyd Charisse as a ballerina who turns out to be his "Lady Luck" at the gaming tables. While the crux of the plot hinges on their teaming up for untold fortunes at the casinos, and eventually romance, the fun of the film is spotting the various celebrity guest spots. Yes, that's Sinatra hitting the jackpot on a slot machine. Look over there, it's Debbie Reynolds sharing a coke with singer Vic Damone. Isn't that Peter Lorre at the blackjack table snarling, "Hit me, you creep!" If you stay on your guard, you'll also catch glimpses of other Las Vegas entertainers like Dean Martin, Jerry Colonna, and Tony Martin. The Oscar® nominated score by George Stoll and Johnny Green is also a plus and includes guest appearances by Lena Horne performing "If You Can't Dream," and Frankie Laine singing "Hell Hath No Fury."
The real show-stopper in Meet Me in Las Vegas is Sammy Cahn's thirteen minute bop parody of the ballad of "Frankie and Johnny." At the time, MGM was under the relatively new management of Dore Schary and he was against producing more musicals because they were too expensive in relation to their box office returns. According to Cyd Charisse, Schary, with little prior notice, showed up on the set one day to watch the rehearsal of the "Frankie and Johnny" number, which was still in the planning stages. Despite the pressure she felt, Charisse, with the help of choreographer Hermes Pan, put on a spectacular presentation that convinced Schary to keep the costly number in the film. "I went back to my dressing room and I was absolutely drained," Charisse recalls in The Two of Us by Tony Martin and Cyd Charisse. "My head ached and I saw lights flashing in front of my eyes. I had to go home and, when I got there, I couldn't see, or just barely. Half my vision was gone. Tony was frightened for me and quickly sent for a doctor. The diagnosis was that it was just exhaustion, coupled with nervous strain...I needed rest. I was fine the next day. I think it was all worth it, because the "Frankie and Johnny" number made the movie and both became big hits. The vocal to that number, special lyrics by Sammy Cahn, was done by Sammy Davis, Jr. whose rendition could never be topped."
Director: Roy Rowland
Producer: Joe Paskternak
Screenplay: Isobel Lennart
Cinematography: Robert Bronner
Editor: Albert Akst
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Urie McCleary
Music: Nicholas Brodszky, Johnny Green, George E. Stoll
Cast: Dan Dailey (Chuck Rodwell), Cyd Charisse (Maria Corvier), Agnes Moorehead (Miss Hattie), Lili Darvas (Sari Hatvani), Jim Backus (Tom Culdane).
C-113m. Letterboxed. Close captioning.
by Jeff Stafford