King of the Road: Five Great Elvis Travel Movies

Lists: Eva Holland and Eli Ellison go traveling with The King on his 75th birthday.

Viva Las Vegas (1964)

A Trip Fit for The King: When we think of Elvis in Vegas, we prefer to forget about gaudy jumpsuits, barbiturates, bungled lyrics and peanut butter-and-banana bloat. Give us a svelte Presley playing Lucky Jackson, a cool-cat race car driver in town for the Las Vegas Grand Prix. Lucky’s sights are set on first place, but the underhanded Count Elmo Mancini, Italian racing champ, has other ideas. 

Love Me Tender: Hotel swimming instructor Rusty Martin (Ann-Margret) is the object of E’s desire, on screen and off. The King’s brief yet infamous affair with the ‘60s sex kitten generates some genuine celluloid heat, rare for an Elvis flick. Also uncommon for a Presley leading lady: Ann-Margret can actually sing and dance.

Best Song: You can’t beat the classic title track. But “C’mon Everybody” and the playful “The Lady Loves Me” (a duet with Ann-Margret at the Flamingo Hotel pool) are strong runners-up.

Worst Song: Elvis dons a cowboy hat, bangs a bass drum and tames a casino full of Lone Star State rowdies with a cover-your-ears version of The Yellow Rose of Texas/The Eyes of Texas.

Does Elvis Leave The Building? “Viva” was primarily shot in and around Vegas. Lucky and Rusty do some skeet shooting at the Hotel Tropicana, ride mopeds in the shadow of the old Landmark Hotel and take a day trip to Hoover Dam. The Grand Prix cars roar around Mount Charleston and cross the finish line on Fremont Street. If you’re a fan of 1960s-vintage Vegas, it’s hard to top the opening titles.

Eva Holland is co-editor of World Hum. She is a former associate editor at Up Here and Up Here Business magazines, and a contributor to Vela. She's based in Canada's Yukon territory.

Eli Ellison

2 Comments for King of the Road: Five Great Elvis Travel Movies

Matt 02.01.10 | 4:56 PM ET

Surely you forgot the most important Elvis travel movie of all!

Eli 02.05.10 | 2:15 AM ET

Elvis battles Royal Mounties and Hustler magazine? Sounds like a winner to me. Thank for the tip, Matt.

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