Viva Las Vegas (1964)

Elvis is at the wheel but Ann-Margret drives him wild!

Lucky Jackson arrives in town with his car literally in tow ready for the first Las Vegas Grand Prix - once he has the money to buy an engine. He gets the cash easily enough but mislays it when the pretty swimming pool manageress takes his mind off things. It seems he will lose both race and girl, problems made more difficult by rivalry from Elmo Mancini, fellow racer and womaniser

Viva the King and Annie.
Elvis Presley movies, by and large, aren't very good. Thirty one feature length pictures he made, of which arguably only half a dozen are jointly watchable and entertaining. But even the stinkers have fans, and not just fans of the King in general, also cinema fans happy to embrace the cheese and kind of just run with it. Yet to totally dismiss Presley's input into the world of cinema is doing a disservice to the small number of movies he made that actually hold up well under scrutiny. One such film is Viva Las Vegas. A film that is of course a frothy hip shaking colourful bonanza, but one that also shows that given a quality co-star to work off, Presley had it in him to move successfully away from the cash cow dirge that his manager Colonel Tom Parker was binding him to.
The plot sees Presley as race car driver "Lucky Jackson" who arrives in Vegas for the Grand Prix that is being held there. But his car is in need of engine repair and he just hasn't got the money to fix it. Taking a job as a waiter, things are further complicated when he meets sexy pool attendant/dance teacher Rusty Martin {Ann-Margret}. Not only is she spurning his advances, but he has a rival for Rusty's affection; Count Elmo Mancini (Cesare Danova), who is also a fellow race driver and is set on winning the Grand Prix himself.
That's really all there is to it, plot simplicity at its finest. Naturally the film is an excuse for Presley to chase the girl, sing some tunes and become a race car hero too. But Viva Las Vegas has a real fun quality that is so lacking in most of his other musicals, it's vibrant, savvy and, yes, sexy. Due in no small part to the chemistry between Presley and Margret. It's believed there was an affair between the two, but casting aside that fact, there was also to be a friendship between them both that lasted up until Presley's sad and untimely death. This film serves as a fitting testament to the birth of that friendship. Old professional George Sidney directs the piece unfussily, even if we perhaps get one too many camera shots of the lovely Miss Margret's derrière (seriously, see how many rear shots you can spot). While Joseph F. Biroc is on hand for cinematography duties as the Vegas piece is brought to life in Panavision & Metrocolor.
The film is also notable for two other points of worth, it's one of Elvis' highest grossing pictures and it contains arguably the best set of songs assembled for one of his film's. Along with the wonderful title song we also get the likes of "The Lady Loves Me", "Come On Everybody", "The Yellow Rose Of Texas", "The Eyes Of Texas Are Upon You", "I Need Somebody To Lean On", "Today, Tomorrow And Forever", "What'd I Say", "If You Think I Don't Need You" & Margret weighs in too with the delightful "Appreciation" & "My Rival". Oddly, and the subject of much criticism over the passing decades, RCA pretty much ignored the soundtrack for the film. Cutting some highly regarded tunes from the film and failing to truly market and utilise what was on offer. The fools.
With both stars looking and sounding terrific (Presley looks like he is cut from porcelain), and Margret matching the King for energy and ants in your pants dancing, Viva Las Vegas is a ball of fun. An ode to love, joy and music, so really there's no excuse to not let the Pelvis and the Derriere take you to foot tapping Nirvana. 7/10

Jack Cummings Productions, Winters Hollywood Entertainment Holdings Corporation, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer by George Sidney, Sally Benson.
Stars: Elvis Presley, Ann-Margret, Cesare Danova, William Demarest.

Genres: Comedy, Musical

Keywords: elvis presley music las vegas

02/08/1964

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