Viva Las Vegas

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Viva Las Vegas
Viva Las Vegas 1964 Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by George Sidney
Produced by
Written by Sally Benson
Starring
Music by George E. Stoll
Cinematography Joseph F. Biroc
Editing by John McSweeney, Jr.
Studio Jack Cummings Productions
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • May 20, 1964 (1964-05-20) (USA)
Running time 85 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $9,442,967[1]

Viva Las Vegas is a 1964 American musical film starring Elvis Presley and actress Ann-Margret. The film is regarded by fans and by film critics as one of Presley's best movies, 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 featuring his dancers, and a reasonably interesting story.[2] Viva Las Vegas was a hit at movie theaters, becoming the number 14 movie in the list of the Top 20 Movie Box Office hits of 1964.[3]

Plot[edit]

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. VI, 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), who 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.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

In Great Britain, both the movie and its soundtrack were sold as Love In Las Vegas, since there was another, different movie 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 quite real during the filming of Viva Las Vegas. Presley and Ann-Margret began an affair, and this received considerable attention from movie 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."[4]

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 in Viva Las Vegas include views of Ann-Margret's dancing taken from many different camera angles, the use of multiple movie 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.[5] Due to the film going over budget, Parker would slash the budgets for all the 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 movie career.

Reception[edit]

The film grossed $9,442,967 at the box office,[1] earning $5 million in US theatrical rentals.[6]

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."[7] 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.

Soundtrack[edit]

Viva Las Vegas
EP by Elvis Presley
Released May 1964
Recorded July 1963
Genre Soundtrack
Length 10:31
31:31 (2010 Re-release)
Label RCA Records
Producer George Stoll
Elvis Presley chronology
Kid Galahad
(1962)
Viva Las Vegas
(1964)
Tickle Me
(1965)

Recording sessions took place on July 9, 10, and 11, 1963, at Radio Recorders in Hollywood, California. By now film and soundtrack obligations were starting to back up on each other, and six weeks after the aborted "lost album" sessions of May 1963, the stable of Presley songwriters were required to come up with another dozen songs for yet another new picture.[8] Song quality took a back seat to the need for volume, and Presley's filming schedule made it difficult for song publishers to live up to obligations.[9] Memphis Mafia pal Red West had written a "Ray Charles-styled" number, but so little good material had surfaced that an extra session was scheduled on August 30 for an actual Ray Charles song, later released as a single to promote the film with its title song.[9]

Fifteen songs were recorded for the film, nine were used in the film, but only six were issued on records. The idea of a full-length soundtrack long-playing album was not considered, which has garnered much criticism from various accounts, including Elvis: The Illustrated Record.[citation needed] "Night Life", "Do the Vega", and a medley "The Yellow Rose of Texas/The Eyes of Texas" would be released on Elvis Sings Flaming Star in 1969, and the Neapolitan song "Santa Lucia" would be placed on Elvis for Everyone.[10] "The Lady Loves Me" would be issued on Elvis: A Legendary Performer Volume 4 in 1983, and the duet between Presley and Ann-Margret "You're the Boss" on Elvis Sings Leiber & Stoller in 1991.[11] The other duets between the pair in the film, along with Ann-Margret's solo numbers, would wait until later retrospectives to appear on record.

Two songs were released as a single, catalogue 47-8360 on April 28, a cover of the Ray Charles rhythm and blues classic from 1959, "What'd I Say", with the film title song "Viva Las Vegas" by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman on the b-side. The strength of both sides caused it to split the difference on the chart, with "What'd I Say" peaking at disappointing #21 and "Viva Las Vegas" faring even worse at #29. The four-song soundtrack appeared as an extended play single in May 1964 to coincide with the film's premiere. The soundtrack EP barely made the Billboard Hot 100 at #92, the lowest-charting release of Presley's career to this point.[12] RCA had not released an Elvis EP single in two years; given that it was a dying format, and given the disastrous chart performance of Viva Las Vegas, the company would only issue two more for the remainder of Presley's career.[13]

Released during Beatlemania and the beginning of the British invasion, none of the music made an impact on the new direction in which popular music was moving. Even the most jazzed-infused song of Presley's illustrious career, I Need Somebody to Lean On went practically unnoticed. North American box office receipts of $9,442,967 were markedly lower than The Beatles' first motion picture, A Hard Day's Night, which was released two months later worldwide, earning $12,300,000 in North America (£5,125,000 U.K).

In January 2010, as part of the 75th anniversary of Elvis' birth, Sony Music finally released an official complete full-length soundtrack album for the first time on CD, which features all twelve songs recorded for the film. The front cover to the CD insert reproduces the images used for the original EP release, and also adds the words "...AND MORE" as part of the text.

Track listing[edit]

Original Release
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "If You Think I Don't Need You" (recorded July 9, 1963) Red West, Joe Cooper 2:07
2. "I Need Somebody to Lean On" (recorded July 10, 1963) Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman 3:03
3. "C'mon Everybody" (recorded July 9, 1963) Joy Byers 2:21
4. "Today, Tomorrow And Forever" (recorded July 11, 1963) Bill Giant, Bernie Baum, Florence Kaye 3:27

Personnel[edit]

DVD releases[edit]

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.[14]

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.[15]

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 DVD)

In popular culture[edit]

  • 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.
  • 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 mini-series 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."[16]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Box Office Information for Viva Las Vegas. The Numbers. Retrieved May 19, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c "Viva Las Vegas", By VARIETY STAFF, 1 January 1964, webpage: Variety-Vegas-144.
  3. ^ Based on the Box Office Report database. The movie was #14 on the Variety year end box office list of the top-grossing movies of 1964. Adam Victor, The Elvis Encyclopedia. Overlook, 2008.
  4. ^ See Joshua Gamson, Claims to Fame: Celebrity in Contemporary America (University of California Press, 1994), p.46. See also C. Lee Harrington and Denise D. Bielby, Popular Culture: Production and Consumption (2000), p.273.
  5. ^ "IMDb Pro : David Winters Business Details". Pro.imdb.com. 1939-04-05. Retrieved 2012-01-12. 
  6. ^ "Big Rental Pictures of 1964", Variety, 6 January 1965 p 39.
  7. ^ New York Times, May 21, 1964, p.42
  8. ^ Jorgensen, Ernst. Elvis Presley A Life in Music: The Complete Recording Sessions. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998; p. 183.
  9. ^ a b Jorgensen, p. 184.
  10. ^ Jorgensen, p. 182.
  11. ^ Jorgensen, p. 183.
  12. ^ Jorgensen, p. 416.
  13. ^ Jorgensen, p. 172, 199.
  14. ^ "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". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2013-05-21. 
  15. ^ "Cajun Tornado Finally Released - CD / Vinyl". ElvisNews.com. Retrieved 2013-05-21. 
  16. ^ "Out & About". Austin360.com. Retrieved 2013-05-21. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]