The lady is ambivalent, but she doesn’t know it yet

This summer will mark my 30-somethingth trip to Vegas. (Disclaimer: last year I celebrated my 30-somethingth trip to Vegas.)  I first started going in 1988, when I finally got enough vacation that I didn’t use it all up going home to see my family at Christmas.  I chose Las Vegas because I had seen it so many times in movies and on TV.  For me, travel is about seeing things in person that I have seen in movies and on TV.  I’ve been to London and Los Angeles, and spent my time there looking for things I would recognize, so I would feel like I was traveling. I’ve also been to Milan, Vienna, and Vancouver.  I remember nothing about them.  (Disclaimer: I was in Vancouver in 1986. I’m sure if I went back, I would recognize stuff, since about 60% of TV shows are now shot there.)

One of the reasons I recognize Vegas is the 1964 film Viva Las Vegas, starring Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret.  (Disclaimer: Most of the landmarks in the movie has since been destroyed, and the rest have been extensively remodeled.  Do not watch this movie and then go to Vegas expecting to see stuff you recognize.)  I was only 3 when the movie came out, but I remember it being on TV a lot of Saturday afternoons in the early 1970’s.  As a result, it’s one of only two movies I really remember from my childhood.  (The other is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.)

This is the plot synopsis from IMDB:

Race car driver Lucky Jackson goes to Las Vegas to earn money to pay for a new engine for his motor car. Working as a waiter, he still finds the time to court young Rusty Martin.

This is the plot synopsis from me in the early 1970’s:

Ann-Margret wears skimpy outfits while stuff happens around her. Sometimes she goes away for a while, but then she comes back in a different skimpy outfit.

I developed a lifelong crush on Ann-Margret from this movie.  (Note to self: We actually got to see her perform in Vegas back in 1990.  When we finally have to execute my bucket list, find something else to do that day.)

The clip above is my favorite song from the movie, “The Lady Loves Me”.  1970’s me describes the scene this way:

Ann-Margret changes from a skimpy red swimsuit into skimpy yellow shorts, while stuff happens around her.  Maybe.  And I think there’s music of some sort.

To put the scene in context, earlier in the movie, Ann-Margret walked into a scene in skimpy white shorts, and stuff happened around her.  (Note to self: Shut up, 1970’s me!  I’m trying to make a point!)  Lucky (Elvis) is a race car driver/mechanic who tried to pick up Rusty (Ann-Margret) by telling her her car needed repair work when it didn’t.  She found out and is still angry.  Then he bumps into her at his hotel, where she works as a pool manager.  So he attempts to compensate for his earlier petty fraud by wooing her with song.

Anyway, as I was watching this scene, 2016 me noticed a few things that 1970’s me missed.

  1. At the beginning of the scene, Rusty steps out of the pool after helping some kids.  There is a continuous walk-and-talk shot from the pool to the dressing room.  As she closes the door behind her, you can see that she was standing in the pool in white high heels.  (She wears the same heels through the rest of the song.)
  2. Rusty dresses faster than the Flash.  She is still wearing the red swimsuit when he sings “I’m her ideal, her heart’s desire” at 0:49 in the clip.  At 0:56, seven seconds later, she tosses the swimsuit on the screen as he sings, “She’d like to cuddle up with me”, and her hair is already tied back with a yellow ribbon.  By the time she starts her verse at 1:09, she’s wearing the yellow shorts and top outfit.  That’s a complete change of wardrobe in 20 seconds, and when she comes out from behind the screen, we see she’s still wearing her sensible white pool heels.
  3. Why does the inside of a women’s dressing room (which I’ve never seen) look like the women’s department at J.C. Penney (which I have seen)?  Do they still look like that half a century later?  And who owns all those clothes?  Aren’t they worried that someone will steal them, like at J.C. Penney?  Do they have those clip-on RFID tags?  Did they even have clip-on RFID tags in 1964?
  4. Lucky is clearly sure of himself, and it appears that his assumption about her feelings is not unfounded.  He has chosen to serenade her with what is clearly a duet, and she’s clearly willing to play along.  If she truly “loathed him”, wouldn’t it make much more sense to ignore him, or call the lifeguard?  He’d look pretty foolish just walking around singing “The lady loves me, but she doesn’t know it yet.” at random intervals with no lady around.
  5. Wait a minute, isn’t she a lifeguard?  If not, it’s pretty unsafe for her to be teaching small children to swim.  The hotel is probably looking at some sort of lawsuit.
  6. Notice how there is no background noise in the pool area.  We just saw Rusty teaching small children to dive less than a minute ago.  How are their parents keeping them quiet enough for a musical interlude?  I would expect at least one overheard conversation like this:
    • Mother: Kids, gather up your things.  It’s time to go.
    • Susie: Mommy, why was Miss Martin giving us swimming lessons in high heels?
    • Mother: For the same reason your father wears a suit to change the oil — it’s the Sixties.  Now hurry up.  I have to go put on a dress and pearls and start dinner.
  7. And when did this become a lost parental art?
  8. Rusty sings, “He’s one man I could learn to hate.”  Earlier she indicated that she loathes him.  How much of a learning curve does that require?
  9. Lucky is so focused on Rusty that he fails to notice that he has walked backward onto a diving board.  1970’s me wouldn’t have noticed the diving board, either.  Or the pool.  Or the guitar.

The biggest question of all is this: HOW DOES RUSTY KNOW THE LYRICS? Lucky is apparently making the song up as he goes, and yet she knows exactly when to come in with her lines. I’ve watched my old improv group make up songs on the fly, so I know how hard that is.  This seems too effortless.  It’s almost as if Rusty knows the song already.   Hmmm, is it possible that she has already seen Viva Las Vegas?  Maybe even has a recording of the soundtrack? And if so, how does Lucky know to pick one of the songs from that LP? I believe that either Lucky or Rusty (or both of them?) are trapped in a time loop, and forced to repeat the day over and over until they end up together.*

* Or maybe not.  Maybe Ann-Margret is supposed to end up with Cesare Danova, the Italian racing count.  Or maybe learning to hate Lucky isn’t as easy as it seems given her loathing, and she’s still trying to get it right.

General trivia note: Among the uncredited background people in Viva Las Vegas are singer Toni Basil (“Mickey”), actress Teri Garr (Young Frankenstein), and actors Kent McCord (Adam-12) and Lance LeGault (you’d know him if you saw him).  If you are under 40, you have no idea who I’m talking about, do you?

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