54 Years Ago….

Viva Las Vegas opened starring Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret. Some feel (not me) this is the King’s best sixties movie and a lot of the credit went to sex kitten Ann-Margret who more than held her own singing and dancing opposite him. Their chemistry lit up the screen and continued once the cameras stopped rolling as Elvis famously romanced the redhead throughout the entire shoot only to fade out once production wrapped.

Elvis played Lucky Jackson a racecar driver in town to compete in the Vegas Grand Prix. Lucky is immediately attracted to Rusty Martin (Ann-Margret) a red-headed stunner who wiggles her way into his garage with car trouble. Lucky’s racing rival Count Elmo Mancini (Cesare Danova) also flips for her charms. Guess who wins the big race and the girl?

Christopher Riordan recalled making the movie in my book Talking Sixties Drive-In Movies:

“Elvis was delightful—right from the very beginning. He was the kind of man that if he saw that you had some kind of talent or had dedication or what have you, he’d zero in on that immediately…Ann-Margret is shy, but a sweet, sweet lady and not at all pretentious. She was having a grand time on Viva Las Vegas even though she worked really hard on this. I wound up working with Ann-Margret two more times.”


Comments: 4

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  • John Black

    Okay, what is your favorite Elvis sixties film? I think mine is ROUSTABOUT, although Joan Freeman isn’t one of the King’s greatest co-stars.

    Surprisingly, Joan Freeman showed up in one of the 1980’s FRIDAY THE 13TH horror flicks. I found her really beautiful in that, so she aged very well. Much later, she appeared in a lengthy FRIDAY THE 13TH documentary retrospective about that entire series, and she still looked great even then.

    • Funny, I just tweeted about this today. Paradise, Hawaiian Style was my favorite but Roustabout over the years has closed in on it due to the intersting story and acting. This is the one Elvis film Pamela Tiffin should not have turned down especially if Barbara Stanwyck was willing to act opp Elvis. If Pamela had the lead, it would definitely be my fave. Joan Freeman is capable and OK in the part but Pamela had that extra something special that burst from the screen.

  • Michael H

    King Creole followed closely by Jailhouse Rock were his best movies by a mile. It all went downhill after he returned from overseas and the Colonel Parker money grab took over. Yes, Roustabout was one of his best musicals and there was something irresistible about the picture postcard appeal and catchy songs of Blue Hawaii. But the success of that film was his downfall. Any chance Elvis had of becoming a serious actor was over after Parker saw the boxoffice numbers and album sales for Blue Hawaii. The Elvis movie formula was set and that was it.

    • Yes, you are spot on. Though as good and popular Blue Hawaii was, it set the standard pretty much for all subsequent Elvis musicals: lots of bouncy but not too memorable songs; pretty starlets; colorful scenery; a fistfight or two; and a happy ending.

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