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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”