In addition to launching the couple’s professional relationship, the meeting was the beginning of a personal one, as well
STORIES FROM CLASSIC HOLLYWOOD
- Home page
- web advisor
Outside of Elvis Presley’s family, Ann-Margret was the most important woman in the entertainer’s life. Playing opposite Elvis in 1963’s Viva Las Vegas, she became the most memorable of Presley’s leading ladies during his Hollywood career. The personal relationship they shared through the years provides a fairytale interlude in Presley’s curious life story, which ended so sadly in 1977.
The Life & Times of Hollywood
The Swedish immigrant first met Elvis in early July 1963 on a soundstage at Radio Recorders studios in Hollywood. That day they were introduced to each other and the press as the stars of MGM’s upcoming film, Viva Las Vegas. It was 28-year-old Presley’s 14th film, while, at age 22, Ann-Margret’s career was just starting to explode. Her previous film, Bye Bye Birdie, released just three months before she reported for work onViva Las Vegas, made her an instant star. (Birdie cast member Dick Van Dyke said a more fitting title for the movie would have been The Ann-Margret Story.)
“Except for a piano, the MGM soundstage where Elvis and I met was empty. In the background, a few of his guys hung around observing their boss, a ritual I would soon come to expect. Under the watchful gaze of director George Sidney, a studio photographer snapped shots of what the film company executives figured would be a historic moment.
“‘Elvis Presley, I’d like you to meet a wonderful young lady, Ann-Margret,’ said George Sidney. ‘Ann-Margret, this is Elvis Presley.’ The significance was lost on Elvis and me. I reached out my hand and he shook it gently. ‘I’ve heard a lot about you,’ we said at the same time, which made us laugh and broke the ice.”
“I’m not really sure why I was so calm about meeting ‘the King,’” Ann-Margret noted. “After all, this was Elvis, a man who had captured the heart of almost every woman in America. Little did I know he would soon capture mine.”
Before filming began, the two had to record their musical numbers. On July 9-10 they each recorded their separate songs at Radio Recorders. Then, on July 11, they entered the studio together to work on three duets-“The Lady Loves Me,” “You’re the Boss,” and “Today, Tomorrow, and Forever.”
Three days later the cast and crew traveled to Las Vegas, where they checked in at the Sahara Hotel. On July 15 local filming began in the city and continued until July 26. After a weekend move back to Los Angeles, filming resumed at MGM studios and ran through August into the first week of September.
Ann-Margret could tell the partnership was working. “I’m sure that the producers knew that the fast-paced, boy-meets-girl musical would certainly be improved if the chemistry between Lucky and Rusty were right. Initially, Elvis and I might’ve admitted that the only heat between us came from the hot desert sun. But others saw sparks from the start.” Soon it became obvious to all. AP correspondent wrote, “They hold hands. They disappear into his dressing room between shots. They lunch together in seclusion.”
“We experienced music in the same visceral way. Music ignited a fiery pent-up passion inside Elvis and inside me. It was an odd, embarrassing, funny, inspiring, and wonderful sensation. We looked at each other move and saw virtual mirror images. When Elvis thrust his pelvis, mine slammed forward too. When his shoulder dropped, I was down there with him. When he whirled, I was already on my heel.”