Dec 24, 2013

Viva Las Vegas: Elvis and Cesare Danova Find Each Other

Viva Las Vegas (1964) is a comedy-drama produced during the height of early-1960s cool, when Vegas still meant gambling, booze, and the Rat Pack.  And at the height of the 1960s Italian craze.  How could it go wrong?

Two racing enthusiasts, working-class country boy Lucky (Elvis Presley) and elite Italian Count Elmo Mancini (Cesare Danova) accidentally encounter each other at an auto garage.  They know each other by reputation, but have never met before.  Mancini offers Lucky a job driving his car in upcoming Las Vegas Grand Prix, and Lucky refuses.  He will drive his own car.  They will be competitors.

The association would usually end there, but not in Lucky Las Vegas. Both guys have fallen in love at first sight with a girl named Rusty (Ann-Margret), but they don't know much about her.  They decide to join forces to try to track her down.

They spend the next several days together, hitting the Vegas nightspots, ostensibly looking for Rusty, but obviously having a wonderful time without her.

Then they find her.  They are in Mancini's hotel room, getting dressed -- wait, have they been sleeping together?  -- and Elvis says it's time to say goodbye.

Only he doesn't leave.

The two "competitors" spend the rest of the movie vaguely competing over the race and the girl, but it's obvious that they don't care much who wins, as long as they can cling together like long-lost brothers.

The final scene involves a wedding, but Mancini, Lucky, and Rusty are so tightly enclinched that one is not entirely certain who is marrying whom.

The gay subtext is blatant, yet so dependent upon intonation and gesture, that one wonders if Elvis and Cesare Danova were really into each other.  Elvis has long been rumored to be bisexual.  I haven't heard a lot of gay rumors about Cesare Danova, only that he became a born-again Christian in the 1970s, and had his tombstone inscribed with "Praise the Lord."

The music is energetic, and the dance numbers are great. Ann-Margret steals the show.  Highly recommended.