Viva Las Vegas : MGM 1964

By: Elvis Australia
July 22, 2004

Viva Las Vegas  - MGM 1964
Viva Las Vegas - MGM 1964
Elvis Presley's fifteenth movie was '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' 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. Sporting the impossibly comic-book perfect names Lucky Jackson and Rusty Martin, the two stars forge a romance against the backdrop of the Vegas Grand Prix, which Elvis, naturally intends on winning. Lucky Jordan arrives in Las Vegas for the big Grand Prix race, but has engine trouble. He also falls in love at first sight, with a girl, Rusty Martin. Not knowing her name or address and assuming she is one of the showgirls in Las Vegas, Lucky and his racing rival, Count Elmo Mancini, search various nightclubs for the girl.

'Viva las Vegas' was filmed July 15 - September 11, 1963. It opened nationwide on June 17, 1964 and became Elvis' highest grossing film ever.

Unable to find her, they return to the hotel and Lucky spots the girl again. She is the swimming instructor at the hotel pool. He starts singing and romancing her, while repairing his engine and finally winning the Big Race.

Ann-Margret was Elvis' leading lady, playing Rusty Martin to his Lucky Jackson in the movie. They had a brief romance and then remained friends throughout Elvis' life. The Swedish born singer/actress was raised in Illinois and was discovered by George Burns. She had appeared in 'Pocketful of Miracles', State Fair', and the Elvis-inspired musical 'Bye, Bye Birdie' prior to being cast in 'Viva Las Vegas'. She went on to receive numerous accolades including ten Golden Globe nominations with five wins and five Emmy Award nominations. She also received two Academy Award nominations, one for her work in 'Carnal Knowledge' and the other for 'Tommy'.

Ann-Margret and Elvis Presley
Ann-Margret and Elvis Presley

Elvis' rival for Ann-Margret's affection in the film was Cesare Danova, who had a long career as a character actor in film as well as on television. William Demarest played Ann-Margret's father.

Viva Las Vegas French movie poster
Viva Las Vegas French movie poster
Elvis' long-time movied stand-in/double Lance LeGault played a Son of the Lone Star State in 'Viva Las Vegas'. And in the scene in which Ann-Margret's character pushes Elvis' characther off the diving board it's Lance who actually takes the fall, standing in for Elvis. He can be seen in the Elvis films 'Girls! Girls!Girls!', Kissin' Cousins' and 'Roustabout' and ringside with a tambourine in the 1968 TV special 'Elvis'. He can be heard today as the narrator in Graceland Mansion's audio tour presentation. Lance is a popular character actor and voice artist with a seemingly endless list of credits.

George Cisar played the manager at the Swingers nightclub in 'Viva Las Vegas'. He also appeared in other Elvis movies : as a bartender in 'Jailhouse Rock', a craps shooter in 'It Happened At The World's Fair', the bartender at the Kit Kat Club in 'Girl Happy', and as a portly bald-headed man in 'Speedway'. He went on to play a recurring role on television as Cyrus Tankersley in 'The Andy Griffith Show ' and 'Mayberry RFD'.

Teri Garr played a showgirl in 'Viva Las Vegas'. The dancer/actress can also be seen in the Elvis films 'Fun In Acapulco', Kissin' Cousins', Roustabout' and 'Clambake'. She was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress for her role in the film 'Tootsie'.

Jack Cummings was the producer of 'Viva Las Vegas' and had previously produced such movies as 'Kiss Me Kate', Teahouse of the August Moon', and 'Seven Brides For Seven Brothers' for which he received an Academy Award nomination in 1955. He won a Golden Globe 'Honor Award' in 1954 for his 30 years as a producer for MGM. Although a nephew of MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer, Cummings started his career as an office boy and worked his way up to script supervisor, to assistant director and eventually a producer.

Ann-Margret and Elvis Presley in 'Viva Las Vegas'.
Ann-Margret and Elvis Presley in 'Viva Las Vegas'.

George Sidney was the director and he too had a long career directing musical productions.

The screenplay was written by Academy Award nominated writer Sally Benson, who also wrote such movies as 'Meet me In St. Louis', The Singing Nun' and 'Anna and the King of Siam'.

The cinematographer was Joseph F. Biroc, who later won an Academy Award for his work in 'The Towering Inferno'. He was also nominated for an Academy Award for his work in 'Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte'.

The costumes were by Don Feld, who also worked on Elvis' movies 'Wild In The Country' and 'Double Trouble'. Feld received Academy Award nominations for his designs in 'Days of Wine and Roses', They Shoot Horses, Don't They?', Tom Sawyer', and 'Prizzi's Honor'.

Japanese Viva Las Vegas Movie Poster
Japanese Viva Las Vegas Movie Poster

Location filming took place in Las Vegas area locations including: the parking lot of the Sahara Hotel, Lake Mead Marina, a drag strip in the suburb of Henderson, at the old frontier hotel on the las vegas strip, a skeet shooting range at the Tropicana Hotel, the University of Nevada-Las Vegas gymnasium, McCarran Airport and the swimming pool at the Flamingo Hotel. The wedding scene was shot at the Little Church of the West, which is a famous wedding chapel in Las Vegas listed on the U.S. National Registry of Historical Places as the oldest existing structure on the Las Vegas Strip. It has been the scene for many real celebrity weddings since the first one, the 1943 marriage of Betty Grable and Harry James.

Ann-Margret and Elvis Presley
Ann-Margret and Elvis Presley

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'.

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.

French Viva Las Vegas Movie Poster
French Viva Las Vegas Movie Poster

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' 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' 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.

Viva Las Vegas EP
Viva Las Vegas EP

Elvis Presley Lyrics Viva Las Vegas
Elvis Presley Lyrics What'd I Say
Elvis Presley Lyrics If You Think I Don't Need You
Elvis Presley Lyrics The Lady Loves Me (with Ann-Margret)
Elvis Presley Lyrics I Need Somebody To Lean On
Elvis Presley Lyrics C'mon Everybody
Elvis Presley Lyrics Today, Tomorrow And Forever
Elvis Presley Lyrics Santa Lucia
Elvis Presley Lyrics Do The Vega
Elvis Presley Lyrics Night Life
Elvis Presley Lyrics Yellow Rose Of Texas / The Eyes Of Texas

Recorded at: Radio Recorders Studios, 7000, Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood. July 1963.


Elvis Presley (vocals), Scotty Moore, Tiny Timbrell, Billy Strange, Alton Hendrickson, Glen Campbell (guitars), Bob Moore, Ray Siegal (bass), D.J. Fontana, Buddy Harman, Frank Carlson (drums), Roy Hart (percussion), Floyd Cramer, Artie Cane, Calvin Jackson (pianos), Oliver Mitchell, James Zito (trumpets), Randall Miller, Herb Taylor (trombones), Boots Randolph, William Green, Steve Douglas (sax), the Jordinaires, the Jubilee Quartet and the Carole Lombard Quartet (vocals). Elvis was surrounded by the largest number of musicians he had ever worked with for part of the sessions. For a number of the tracks Elvis overdubbed his vocals seperately. This was the first time he had done this which considerably enhanced the quality of the recording. Among the guitarists at this session was Glen Campbell, later to become a famous recording star in his own right.

Viva Las Vegas (aka Love In Las Vegas) - MGM 1964

Directed George Sidney
Writing Credits Sally Benson
Producers Jack Cummings and George Sidney
Music by George Stoll
Assistant Director Milton Feldham
Choreographer David Winters
Hair Styles Sydney Guillaroff
Recording Supervisor Franklin Milton
Panavision and Metrocolor

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


Elvis Presley Video Interview with Ann-Margret
Interviews with or about Elvis Presley Interview with Lance LeGault


Photos Photos : Ann Margret and Elvis Presley


Buy Viva Las Vegas DVD
Buy Elvis 75th Anniversary Collection (17 films) DVD Set [NTSC Format]
Buy Elvis DVD Movies
Buy DVD Movie Box Sets


Buy Viva Las Vegas FTD Special Edition CD


Buy Viva Las Vegas! hardcover book

Also of interest, The Elvis Files series of book, seven volumes ...

Buy The Elvis Files Volume 1, 1953-1956
Buy The Elvis Files Volume 2, 1957-1959
Buy The Elvis Files Volume 3, 1960-1964
Buy The Elvis Files Volume 4, 1965-1968
Buy The Elvis Files Volume 5, 1969-1970
Buy The Elvis Files Volume 6, 1971-1973
Buy The Elvis Files Volume 7, 1974-1977

Plus the dedicated movie book series, >> Frame By Frame ...

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