Film Review // Viva Las Vegas (1964) - Character Relations

figure 1. Viva Las Vegas Film Poster

In another of MGM's star-studded musical comedies, Viva Las Vegas gradually becomes a romance in itself from the performance of Ann Margret & Elvis Presley and their inexplicably un-ignorable on-screen charisma. Light-hearted and often at times completely goofy the fast-paced ventures of Rusty and Lucky begin tenfold! With a story that doesn't look back, director George Sidney, who had also directed Bye Bye Birdie, uses the same allowance of fun coupled together with heaps of spontaneous "let's do this now!" to last a life-time. Perhaps whilst not a film to overly analyse for it's script, camera technique or even it's pacing; the purely character film focused on showing off Ann Margret & Elvis Presley with shameless glee delivers endless laughable moments.

Within ten minutes of opening bright lights, flashing words & the introduction to Lucky's (played by Elvis) garage the wild-goose chase to find Rusty (played by Anne) begins. Stardust, Sahara, Flamingo, Tropicana, checking show after show for the woman who had appeared shortly at his garage all but seems after all not to be a performer in the heart of Las Vegas. As Lucky sings for a club of rowdy dancers in order to coax out the location of Rusty he comes up empty handed once again.. But in a rather suave movie style, and especially to musicals, coincidence is everything. Rusty's voice is heard from down poolside from Lucky's hotel room - and before we know it "The Lady Loves Me" is being sung between Lucky & Rusty. Albeit jumping the gun, feelings that the characters - especially Lucky - have for one another are made clear with the musical number and any discrepancies in the script though minimal at this stage are corrected in lyric. 

"The lady's got a crush on me
The gentleman's crazy obviously"

figure 2. Rusty & Lucky sing "The Lady Loves Me" Poolside
In innocent adoration the relationship between Lucky and Rusty is one sided in story but on screen though Rusty is seemingly denying any confessions of Lucky's, Ann Margret & Elvis's chemistry shrines through. - All in all creating a loving hatred. From this song and the scene it seems as if Lucky has all but forgotten about his racing career; and that his wants completely revolve around  Rusty. On the other hand the story at this point does not make room to know about Rusty personally and shows her as a target to be sought after, however, regardless of this George Sidney uses comedy to lighten up as simple scenario as Viva Las Vegas.

The character depth of this MGM Musical is questionable (if not surprising) as their individual relation with themselves and the environment is close to nil. So if so where does the conflict come from?  Much later in Rusty & Lucky's singing and dancing adventure around Las Vegas Lucky's conflicting desires cause Rusty to become angry at him for being careless but at the same time shows Rusty in selfish light.  "You choose me or racing!"  Money becomes a major theme of Viva Las Vegas as Lucky tries desperately to clamber the money together for a new racecar. Duing this time he completely disregards Rusty and is seen as being selfish as well. As both characters oppose each other but continually find themselves back together there is a duel of who can subside their own stubbornness first. The most conflict arises at the midpoint of Viva Las Vegas; with Rusty & Lucky dancing between chasing eachother back and forth as the Italian race car driver Count Elmo Mancini (played by Cesare Danova) acts as a shape-shifting Casanova towards Rusty, further stirring Lucky's want for Rusty to belong to him and not Mancini.

figure 3. Rusty & Mancini have dinner together; Lucky waits them.
As the rest of Viva Las Vegas plays out with childish motive the personalities of both Lucky and Rusty become entirely engulfed by the environment. Hustled and bustled through a seemingly faster paced third quarter they compete against each other for a less than pleasurable reward; only pushing them further apart. Unable to obtain the money Lucky needs for his race, he returns to the garage. Meanwhile; Rusty's affection for him comes back to full swing, -with some stubbornness mind - and after writing his name all over pieces of bread (oh how romantic..) she decides to give in to Lucky's racing hobby. In the case of Viva Las Vegas, Rusty does not have any glaring flaws minus an old case of purposely giving people the cold shoulder when she see it fit; whereas Lucky's comes from his split wishes to love Rusty but also continue his racing career. In the end however akin to MGM it may be everything works itself out and shortly after a won  race they become wed. Cut to split-screen dancing!


  1. another fab, eclectic choice, Eva!

  2. I agree Eva...a fun choice of movie. As you say though there is not a lot of depth to these characters (generally not for a film in this genre).