VIVA LAS VEGAS, beyond hosting that sensational title tune, was Elvis Presley’s biggest hit, bringing in around $9,443,000 in 1964, scoring the years 14th spot in ticket sales. Ironically, as a high point it also marked the King’s reluctant passing the crown to the new rock royalty, namely those four guys from Liverpool, who beat this up with A Hard Days Night.
Elvis plays a race car driver named ‘Lucky Jackson’. Ann-Margret is ‘Rusty Martin’.
He’s somewhat enlivened here, thanks to a fiery co-star and a decent production crew, but the formula was set (flanked in the same year by the goofy fun of Kissin’ Cousins and the attempted toughness of Roustabout ) and what had been enjoyable lightness plunged into drivel from there on out (thanks, Col. Parker ). Race car driver. Hot chick. Smooth competitor, this time from Europe–watch out, Lucky-they have table manners (Cesare Danova). Lip-synching. A fast 85 minutes (good call).
The save here, and it’s a big one, is the dynamism of Ann-Margret, dancing like a tornado, looking to die for. She all but steals the movie right out from under El (their off-screen romance fueling their energy and the press coverage).
When I was a youth I was wowed by the actress insofar as her appearance but I always felt un-moved by the acting. To be fair to her, the vehicles mostly stunk. She later showed she could deliver in Carnal Knowledge, but what moved me into greater appreciation for her as a performer was catching one of her live shows, in Reno or Tahoe, must have been around 1974-75. Front row seat, too many martinis, but holy earth-tremor–could she move! Very impressive. I have it on good authority that she’s a pretty cool lady as well, so ‘Viva Las Margret’.
Directed by George Sidney, co-starring William Demarest (taking a break from being ‘Uncle Charley’),Nicky Blair, Jack Carter and Red West. Somewhere in the crowd, Teri Garr is dancing away.