Viva Las Vegas (1964) is an American romantic musical motion picture co-starring American singers Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret. The movie is regarded by fans as one of Presley's best and is noted for the on-screen chemistry between Presley and Ann-Margret. However, according to a contemporary review in the New York Times, "Viva Las Vegas the new Elvis Presley vehicle, is about as pleasant and unimportant as a banana split." Notwithstanding, "Viva Las Vegas" has become one of Presley's most iconic phrases.
The chemistry between the two stars was apparently real during the filming. Presley and Ann-Margret allegedly began an affair which received considerable attention from gossip columnists and led to a showdown with a worried Priscilla Beaulieu. In her 1985 book, Elvis and Me, Priscilla described the difficulties she experienced when the press announced that Ann-Marget and Elvis were engaged to be married. However, there may have been other reasons for the great publicity campaign about the romance between Elvis and Ann-Margret during the filming of Viva Las Vegas and the following weeks. It primarily helped to increase the popularity of the young Hollywood beauty. In her memoir, Ann-Margret only refers to Presley as her "soulmate", but very little is revealed about their long-rumored romance. In his critical study on the "dream machine" that publicists, tabloid newspapers, journalists, and TV interviewers use to create semi-fictional icons, often playing with inauthenticity, Joshua Gamson cites a press agent "saying that his client, Ann-Margret, could initially have been "sold ... as anything"; "She was a new product. We felt there was a need in The Industry for a female Elvis Presley."
In addition, the filming produced unusually-heated exchanges between Presley's manager Colonel Tom Parker (who is not shown as "Technical Advisor" in the opening credits for this film) and the movie's director, the highly experienced George Sidney, concerning the time and effort allotted by the cinematographer, ostensibly on Sidney's orders, to the musical scenes involving Ann Margret, which included views from many different angles, re-takes and the use of several cameras for each shot.
Presley's screen charisma was nevertheless there for anyone to see. The scene in which he delivers the title song remains the only one in his career to depict him performing an entire song, in one uncut take, and as shot by the lens of a single camera.
Lucky Jackson (Elvis Presley) goes to Las Vegas, Nevada to participate in the city's first annual Grand Prix. However, his race car is in need of a new engine in order to compete. Jackson raises the money but mislays it when distracted by Rusty Martin (Ann-Margret). Soon, Jackson's main competition, Count Elmo Mancini (Cesare Danova), enters the picture to steal both the race and Rusty.
The soundtrack songs were recorded in July 1963 at Radio Recorders Studios in Hollywood, California and are regarded by some as among Presley's best. In addition to Presley's vocals, Ann-Margret performs two solos in the film. Three songs, "Night Life", "Do The Vega" and "You're The Boss", were recorded for the film but never used. "You're The Boss" is a duet by Elvis and Ann-Margret.
RCA Records has been heavily criticized (in Elvis: The Illustrated Record and other retrospectives) for mishandling what was considered by critics to be the best set of songs recorded for an Elvis film for years. None of the vocals involving Ann-Margret was released at the time, although she was a successful RCA recording artist in her own right and had performed two solo numbers in the film ("Appreciation" and "My Rival"). The only recordings released simultaneously with the film were the theme song plus a cover version of "What'd I Say?" on a single; and a few additional songs on an EP entitled Viva Las Vegas, even though the title track was not included. Additional songs recorded for the film would appear scattered about later album compilations, while the Ann-Margret duets with Presley - "The Lady Loves Me", the deleted "You're the Boss", and an unused version of the ballad "Today, Tomorrow and Forever" - would not be officially released until long after Presley's death (the ballad would not be released until 2002). The version of "C'mon Everybody" released on record is a different version than the one used in the film, lacking Ann-Margret's backing vocals, a whistling interlude, and the closing bars.
Although bootleg LP's began to appear in the 1970s, purporting to contain the complete soundtrack, RCA did not officially release anything approaching a full soundtrack until 1993, when it began to reissue Presley's film soundtracks on a series of "Double Features" CDs, the pairing of Viva Las Vegas soundtrack with that of Roustabout being in the first batch. These CDs do not include the solo Ann-Margret performances or "The Climb" by the The Forte' Four. An almost complete soundtrack from the film was released on Follow That Dream Records (the Danish division of BMG) in 2003. It includes all master takes plus alternate versions. "The Climb" is also included, but the Ann-Margret solo tracks are not. At present, the Ann-Margret solos are available only on the 5-CD box set: Ann Margret 1961-1966 from Bear Family Records in Germany, but her "You're the Boss" duet with Elvis is on her otherwise solo cd album, "Lovely Ann-Margret: Hits and Rarities," digitally remastered and released 1995 by Marginal Records MA 022, Brussels, Belgium.
According to Elvis historian Steve Pond, in an interview for Kingdom : Elvis in Vegas, a featurette included with the 2007 DVD release of the film, only the lead singer of the Forte Four was actually recorded singing "The Climb", not the rest of his group. Instead, the backing vocals were provided by the Jordanaires and by Elvis Presley himself.
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.
This film is the first of only 2 Elvis movies (the other being "Jailhouse Rock") to be officially released onto every home video format ever ditributed in the U.S. (Beta, VHS, CED Disc, Laserdisc, DVD, HD DVD and Blu-Ray DVD)