At a charity auction a couple of weekends ago I bid for and won three nights in Las Vegas. So to inspire my wife I thought what could be better than finding some songs from Elvis’s “Viva Las Vegas”! Needless to say there were plenty on YouTube and iTunes and I was particularly struck by the energy and brightness of the film, not to mention a title track that has been recorded by everyone from Bruce Springsteen to ZZ Top.
Released in 1964, “Viva Las Vegas” was Elvis's 17th of 31 movies he made in 11 years (for an average of three a year)! “Viva Las Vegas” is generally considered to mark the end of the better films (by Elvis standards) and the beginning of an overall decline in quality. Nevertheless, “Viva Las Vegas” has a lot going for it. The director, George Sidney, was a man with serious musical credentials (“Anchors Aweigh”, “Annie Get Your Gun”, “Show Boat”, “Kiss Me Kate”, “Pal Joey” and “Bye Bye Birdie”) who knew how to shoot wide screen color and stage a dance number.
“Viva Las Vegas” makes ample use of real Vegas locations at a time when The Strip was only about a mile long with headliners playing in low-lying hotels in a fairly unphotogenic part of the city. But above all, “Viva Las Vegas” has a stunning Ann-Margret who steals the show. Colonel Parker (Elvis’s manager) was particularly concerned with this, and from then on Elvis movies had no competing female leads. The movie has the usual early 60s political incorrectness with Elvis walking a fine line between girl-chasing and stalking, but as a cheerful period piece, and not discounting Elvis's enduring appeal, it’s a hoot.
Below: Elvis' friend, George Klein, discusses the making of the film.