Home Movies by Decade Movies - 1960s Viva Las Vegas (1964)

Viva Las Vegas (1964)

The annual Grand Prix brings racing driver Lucky Jackson (Elvis Presley) to Las Vegas. To meet expenses and buy an engine he has raised some money gambling and is carrying his winnings about with him.

At a garage, he meets two people who will play important roles in his eventful stay in Las Vegas. The first is Italian racing champion Count Elmo Mancini (Cesare Danova) who is preparing his Ferrari for the big race. He soon reveals what a bad sport he is by asking Lucky to agree to come in second, staying close behind him on the track to prevent other cars from passing.

Lucky is voicing his disgust at the proposition when they are joined by a ravishing young redhead (Ann-Margret) who mistakes them for garage mechanics. She leaves before Lucky can find out her name.

Looking for her the next day, Lucky accidentally discovers her working as a swimming instructor at the very hotel he is staying at and learns that her name is Rusty (of course it is). While Lucky and Rusty are having a really good time together, he loses the money he has saved – down the drain of the hotel swimming pool.

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Lucky takes a job as a waiter to pay his hotel bills and finds this makes him eligible to take part in a talent contest which will be held during the annual ball for hotel employees. By the time the contest rolls around, Lucky and Rusty are deeply in love after several romantic adventures and sight-seeing tours together.

They both compete individually in the talent contest – Rusty with a dynamite dancing display and Lucky with a sensational singing contribution – and Lucky is acclaimed the winner, beating Rusty by a small margin. But instead of winning money to pay for his racing engine, he is awarded a gold cup and a honeymoon ticket to Monaco.

He is still determined to get the money to enter the Grand Pix, while Rusty is hatching ways to get him to give up racing forever as she fears for his safety.

This is one of the last great MGM musicals. For once, the fabulous Elvis Presley found himself in the hands of a good director, Kiss Me Kate‘s George Sidney.

The choreography is by West Side Story‘s David Winters, there’s wonderful Panavision cinematography by Joseph Biroc (who was a camera operator on all the Astaire/Rogers musicals) and the whole glossy package is far and away Presley’s best post-Blue Hawaii (1961) movie. Ann-Margret is excellent and the glitter of the gambling city (not yet ruined by commercialism) plus some exciting racing scenes perk up the proceedings.

It was unusual for Elvis to share the limelight with anyone, but here 24-year-old Ann-Margret got equal billing and on-screen time, and Presley is at his best with the only woman who could equal his on-screen energy (Ann-Margret was often referred to as “the female Elvis”).

The onscreen chemistry between the pair is insane. Sometimes they look like they are going to spontaneously combust, and she and Elvis were reportedly also an item off-screen during production.

Margret’s workout to C’mon Everybody and the gentle rock ballad The Lady Loves Me stand out, and there’s also a terrific version of Ray Charles‘s What’d I Say.

Originally released in the UK as Love in Las Vegas. Teri Garr, Lori Williams and Toni Basil appear as (uncredited) dancers.

Lucky Jackson
Elvis Presley
Rusty Martin
Ann-Margret
Count Elmo Mancini
Cesare Danova
Mr Martin
William Demarest
Shorty Fansworth
Nicky Blair

Director
George Sidney