Yesterday was Elvis Presley’s 75th birthday. It’s a matter of agreement that most of his films weren’t very good on the whole, largely due to Col. Tom Parker’s insistence on sticking to tame vehicles that wouldn’t risk offending fans. Still, not all the films are bad and many have fine moments.
“King Creole” and “Jailhouse Rock” have their devotees, but my favorite is “Viva Las Vegas.” Directed by the somewhat underrated George Sidney (“Bye Bye Birdie,” “Scaramouche“), it has a great deal of style and some decent humor on its side. More important, it’s got Ann Margaret, a performer who was every bit Elvis’s match and then some in every department except singing, though she wasn’t bad there either. Guys don’t usually squeal when they see a sexy female performer, but if they were ever going to do that, it would have been for Ms. Margaret in the early-to-mid sixites. (“Mad Men” viewers will know about this.)
Moreover, Elvis and Ann Margaret had real screen chemistry together and, in a probably not unrelated fact, had a real life romance that prompted rumors of marriage. Here, they exchange pleasantries around the pool of what I’m guessing is either the Flamingo or the Tropicana.
Their feelings are a bit more mutual here.