15 Things You Didn’t Know About “Viva Las Vegas”

On May 20, 1964, “Viva Las Vegas,” starring Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret, was released.

Fifty-two years later, the film remains inexorably woven into the fabric of its namesake city. Las Vegas. Please try and keep up.

Viva Las Vegas

“Viva Las Vegas” translates as “Long live the meadows!” Thanks for ruining everything, knowledge.

Here’s an attention span-friendly list of some things you may not know about this delicious wedge of Las Vegas cheese.

1. “Viva Las Vegas” was made for a million dollars. It grossed $10 million, a massive amount of profit for the era.

2. Director Steven Spielberg named “Viva Las Vegas” one of his all-time favorite movies.

3. There’s a scene in the film where Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret marry. Tabloids of the day shared photos of the movie wedding, claiming the two had actually gotten married.

Viva Las Vegas

The public loved this pairing. Priscilla, not so much.

4. While they didn’t wed, Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret did begin an affair on the set of “Viva Las Vegas.” Ann-Margret later said Elvis sent her flowers in the shape of a guitar whenever she began a new Las Vegas engagement.

5. The movie’s most recognizable song, “Viva Las Vegas,” is the de facto theme song of Sin City. In the movie, when Presley performs the song, it’s done as a one long, unedited shot. It’s the only time that technique was used in any Presley movie.

6. One of the guitar players on the “Viva Las Vegas” soundtrack was singer and actor Glen Campbell.

7. Actress Teri Garr appeared in “Viva Las Vegas” as a showgirl extra. Garr appeared as an extra in nine Elvis Presley films. She went on to star in “Tootsie,” “Young Frankenstein” and “Mr. Mom.”

8. The film’s director was George Sidney. He also directed hit musicals like “Bye Bye Birdie” (which Ann-Margret starred in), “Pal Joey” and “Show Boat.”

9. In Great Britain, “Viva Las Vegas” was sold as “Love in Las Vegas.” That’s because another film called “Viva Las Vegas” was already showing in British theaters.

10. In the film’s closing scene, the stars are married in the Little Church of the West, which is still around today (although it’s moved location a couple of times). It’s the oldest wedding chapel in Las Vegas.

12. In the movie, Ann-Margret’s character was named Rusty Martin. Presley’s nickname for her was “Rusty Ammo.” He also called her “Scoobie” and “Thumper.”

Ann-Margret

Photos of Ann-Margret were the precursors of Internet porn.

13. During the filming of “Viva Las Vegas,” the movie’s director took heat because it seemed he was giving Ann-Margret favorable camera angles at The King’s expense. Presley’s manager, Colonel Parker, confronted the film’s producers to ensure Presley remained the movie’s featured performer.

14. In the film, Presley’s character loses the money he needs to replace his race car’s engine when he’s pushed in the Flamingo’s pool by Rusty. Presley’s longtime double, Lance LeGault, actually fell into the pool. LeGault’s voice is the one used in the audio tour at Graceland. LeGault later became a character actor, with recurring roles in shows like “The A-Team” and “Magnum, P.I.” Just nod like you know what we’re talking about, Millennials.

Viva Las Vegas

Ann-Margret’s full name was Ann-Margret Olsson. She saved a lot on ink by using just Ann-Margret.

15. Filming was done in numerous Las Vegas locations. They include the parking lot at the Sahara Hotel (where the cast stayed during the shoot, now SLS Las Vegas), Lake Mead marina, the Frontier Hotel, the University of Nevada Las Vegas gym, McCarran airport, the aforementioned Flamingo’s pool and, oddly, at a skeet shooting range at the Tropicana.

Yes, at one time, the Tropicana had a skeet range, despite it being quite close to the Las Vegas airport. Now, you know!

Happy birthday to “Viva Las Vegas,” a true cinematic classic. And by “classic,” of course, we mean “you probably shouldn’t try to watch it all at once, but it’s fairly entertaining in small doses, assuming you’re drink, and let’s face it, that’s a pretty safe bet.”

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  • William Wingo

    Teri Garr was a versatile and talented dancer. The legend goes that at the audition she winked at Joe Esposito, who turned to Elvis and said, “Hey–hire her!” Another version is that one of her best friends happened to be the choreographer on many of the Elvis movies.
    Sadly, in 1999 she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, but was still appearing in movies as late as 2007. She has 150 acting credits at IMDB.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teri_Garr
    http://www.biography.com/people/teri-garr-9542408

    I saw “Viva Las Vegas” first run at the age of 18, when I thought of Las Vegas as some magical emerald city in the movies. It would be another 5 years before I actually got there.

    Another bit of trivia is that the finished-but-not-yet-opened Landmark Hotel is visible in a couple of shots in “Viva.” When I saw the Landmark up close in February 1969, it was still not opened, but Howard Hughes had just bought it and it finally opened in July of that year.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Landmark_Hotel_and_Casino
    Good luck and good counting to all.

  • Bouldersteve

    While many of the movies Elvis made were not good Viva Las Vegas is a exception..its a classic.Thanks for sharing the behind the scenes trivia about this great movie.

    • Yeah, putting him into bad movies probably makes Elvis fans nuts. So many missed opportunities.

  • Troy Swezey

    I was in the ‘Elvis Suite’ at Sahara and took a picture of myself and my friend lying on the floor where the bed was and looking up at the mirrors on the ceiling. Oh the magic that must have happened in that spot…

  • Funkhouser

    A great movie by the King and hands down the best leading lady in any Elvis movie. Rumor was Elvis had proposed to her and Ann blabbed it to the press while in LA while Priscilla was visiting during the film PR tour. Elvis had to quickly break off the affair and go back to Memphis to clean up his relationship. Ann Margaret was the only one of his leading ladies to attend his funeral. BTW Scott where did you find that movie poster image. I had never seen that version.