Viva Las Vegas

Viva Las Vegas is a 1964 American musical film directed by George Sidney and starring Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret. The film is regarded by fans and film critics as one of Presley's best films, and it is noted for the on-screen chemistry between Presley and Ann-Margret. It also presents a strong set of ten musical song-and-dance scenes choreographed by David Winters and features his dancers.[2] Viva Las Vegas was a hit at film theaters, as it was #14 on the Variety year end box office list of the top-grossing films of 1964.[3]

Viva Las Vegas
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGeorge Sidney
Produced by
Written bySally Benson
Music byGeorge E. Stoll
CinematographyJoseph F. Biroc
Edited byJohn McSweeney, Jr.
Jack Cummings Productions
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • May 20, 1964 (1964-05-20) (US)
Running time
85 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$9,442,967[1]


Lucky Jackson (Elvis) goes to Las Vegas, Nevada to participate in the city's first annual Grand Prix Race. However, his race car, an Elva Mk.6 Maserati, is in need of a new engine in order to compete in the event.

Lucky raises the necessary money in Las Vegas, but he loses it when he is shoved into the pool by the hotel's nubile swimming instructor, Rusty Martin (Ann-Margret). Lucky then has to work as a waiter at the hotel to replace the lost money to pay his hotel bill, as well as enter the hotel's talent contest in hopes of winning a cash prize sizable enough to pay for his car's engine.

During all this time, Lucky attempts to win the affections of Rusty. His main competition arrives in the form of Count Elmo Mancini (Cesare Danova) and his Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta. Mancini attempts to win both the Grand Prix and the affections of Rusty. Rusty soon falls in love with Lucky, and immediately tries to change him into what she wants.



George Sidney later said "that was one of those cases where we had no script and we had a commitment. Originally it was something about an Arabian or something... But we turned it around and we wrote the script in about eleven days... We changed the whole thing and decided to do it in Las Vegas."[4]

In March 1963 MGM president Robert O'Brien announced Viva Las Vegas starring Elvis would be one of 20 made at the studio the following year.[5] By May Ann Margret signed to co star.[6] She was paid $15,000 a week over ten weeks.[7] Viva Las Vegas was filmed during the summer of 1963, before production of Presley's film Kissin' Cousins, but was released after Kissin' Cousins in the summer of 1964.

In Great Britain, both the film and its soundtrack were sold as Love In Las Vegas, since there was another, different film called Viva Las Vegas that was being shown in British cinemas at the same time that Presley's was released.

The chemistry between the two stars[2] was genuine during filming. Presley and Ann-Margret began an affair, and this received considerable attention from film and music gossip columnists. This reportedly led to a showdown with Presley's worried girlfriend Priscilla Beaulieu. (Elvis and Priscilla married in 1967.) In her 1985 book Elvis and Me, Priscilla Presley describes the difficulties that she experienced when the gossip columnists erroneously "announced" that Ann-Margret and Presley had become engaged to be married.

In her memoirs, Ann-Margret refers to Elvis Presley as her "soulmate" and stated: "We felt there was a need in 'The Industry' for a female Elvis Presley."[8][9]

In addition, the filming of Viva Las Vegas reportedly produced unusually heated exchanges between the director, film veteran George Sidney, and Presley's manager, Colonel Tom Parker, who was not credited as a "Technical Advisor" in the film's credits.

The arguments reportedly concerned the amount of time and effort allotted by the cinematographer, Joseph Biroc, to the song and dance numbers that featured Ann-Margret, ostensibly on the orders of the director. These scenes include views of Ann-Margret's dancing taken from many different camera angles, the use of multiple cameras for each scene, and several retakes of each of her song-and-dance scenes.

David Winters from the original cast of West Side Story was the film's choreographer and was recommended by Ann-Margret for the job. This was Winters' first job as a choreographer on a feature film and Ann-Margret was his dance student at the time.[10] Because the film went over budget, Parker would slash budgets for all remaining films in Presley's career.

Little Church of the West, the oldest wedding chapel in Las Vegas, is the location used in the closing scene.

The scene where Presley sings "Viva Las Vegas" is performed in one single unedited shot—the only known example of such a technique in Presley's film career.


The film grossed $9,442,967 at the box office,[1] earning $5 million in U.S. theatrical rentals.[11]

For his role in Viva Las Vegas, Elvis Presley received a third place prize 1965 Laurel Award for best male performance in a musical film. Viva Las Vegas also received the 1965 Laurel Award for runner-up in the category of the best musical of 1964. Ann-Margret was praised for her on screen chemistry with Elvis, as she nearly stole the film from him.

Some critics in 1964 were lukewarm about Viva Las Vegas, such as one for The New York Times, who wrote: "Viva Las Vegas, the new Elvis Presley vehicle, is about as pleasant and unimportant as a banana split."[12] However, many others deduced the reasons why many members of the North American public liked the movie so much. Variety magazine stated in its review: "Beyond several flashy musical numbers, a glamorous locale, and one electrifying auto race sequence, the production is a pretty trite and 'heavyhanded' affair".[2] Critical reaction notwithstanding, Viva Las Vegas has become one of Elvis Presley's most popular and iconic films.

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:


DVD releases

Warner Home Video, August 1, 2000.

This was the first DVD release. It contains the movie in two formats on a flipper disc. One side contains the movie in the Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 (4:3), the other side is in Widescreen (Letterbox). The soundtrack is presented in mono.[15]

Viva Las Vegas Deluxe Edition, Warner Home Video, August 7, 2007.
  • Commentary by Steve Pond, rock journalist and author of Elvis in Hollywood
  • Restored and Digitally Remastered in a 16x9 master, enhanced for widescreen televisions. Color/16x9 Anamorphic transfer 2.4:1
  • New featurette Kingdom: Elvis in Vegas
  • Remastered soundtrack in Dolby Digital 5.1 from original production elements and original mono theatrical soundtrack.[16]

This film is the first of only two Elvis movies (the other being Jailhouse Rock) to be officially released onto every home video format ever distributed in the U.S. (Beta, VHS, CED Disc, Laserdisc, DVD, HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc)

  • The iconic classic racer anime character Gō Mifune (aka Speed Racer), and his racer image, complete with neckerchief and black pompadour, was directly based on Elvis's character in this movie.
  • The 2000 film The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas is a play on the title of this film. Ann-Margret also appears in the movie and performs a version of "Viva Las Vegas" for the soundtrack, but retitled "Viva Rock Vegas".
  • In Angel, the fourth season episode "The House Always Wins" highlights the song when Angel, Gunn and Fred drive to Vegas to visit (and eventually rescue) their friend Lorne, who is an unwilling performer in a mystical lounge act.
  • Elvis, a 2005 TV miniseries about the life of Elvis Presley, depicts the supposed Elvis/Ann-Margret affair during the filming of Viva Las Vegas.
  • The suit Elvis Presley wears in the movie is depicted in Fallout: New Vegas (2010), worn by an Elvis impersonator who goes by the moniker "The King".
  • Viva, also known as Viva Las Vegas, is an AIDS Services of Austin fundraiser that traditionally features faux gambling. In 2009, the event began featuring a fashion show, labeled by Austin American-Statesman social columnist Michael Barnes as the "Best Austin fashion show ever."[17]

See also


  1. "Box Office Information for Viva Las Vegas". The Numbers. Retrieved May 19, 2013.
  2. Variety Staff (January 1, 1964). "Viva Las Vegas". Variety. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved May 31, 2016.
  3. Victor, Adam (2008). The Elvis Encyclopedia. New York City: The Overlook Press. ISBN 978-1585675982.
  4. Davis, Ronald L. (2005). Just making movies. University Press of Mississippi. p. 79-80.
  5. MGM Plans 20 Films Los Angeles Times 20 Mar 1963: C16.
  6. Janet Leigh Wins Hal Wallis Film Role: Ann-Margret and Elvis Presley to Co-Star in 'Viva Las Vegas' Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times 23 May 1963: C10.
  7. Meet Ann-Margret: Hard Work, Ambition Propel a Young Actress To the Top in Hollywood By DAVID H. KELSEY Wall Street Journal 7 Apr 1964: 1.
  8. Gamson 1994, p. 46.
  9. Lee Harrington and Denise Bielby 2000, p. 273.
  10. "IMDb Pro : David Winters Business Details". August 5, 1939. Retrieved January 12, 2012.
  11. "In 1964 Elvis Presley Abdicated His Throne as King of the Charts". Elvis History Blog. Retrieved May 31, 2016.
  12. Thompson, Howard (May 21, 1964). "Elvis-Presley Teams With Ann-Margret". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. p. 42. Retrieved May 31, 2016.
  13. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-13.
  14. "AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-13.
  15. "Viva Las Vegas: Elvis Presley, Ann-Margret, Cesare Danova, William Demarest, Nicky Blair, Dallas Johann, Rickey Murray, Robert Aiken, Holly Bane, Larry Barton, John Burnside, Carl Carlson, Joseph F. Biroc, George Sidney, John McSweeney Jr., Jack Cummings, Sally Benson: Movies & TV". Retrieved May 21, 2013.
  16. "Cajun Tornado Finally Released – CD / Vinyl". Retrieved May 21, 2013.
  17. "Out & About". Retrieved May 21, 2013.


Further reading

  • Monder, Eric (1994). George Sidney: A Bio-Bibliography. Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0-313-28457-1.
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