Ann-Margret

Made in Paris (1966)

Made in Paris 1966

Maggie Scott (Ann-Margret) works at Barclay’s Department Store as an assistant fashion buyer. When the head fashion buyer Irene (Edie Adams) suddenly leaves to get married right before she’s supposed to go to Paris for some fashion shows, Maggie is sent in her place. Maggie isn’t sure she’s up to it, but Irene thinks she can handle it and her boss’s son Ted (Chad Everett) recommends her for it, even though he’s been trying to pursue her romantically and she keeps turning him down.

Maggie has never been to Paris before so Ted asks his friend Herb (Richard Crenna) to take her out and make sure she’s okay. It turns out Herb has designs on her, too. Before Maggie leaves, Irene tries to tell her that fashion designer Marc Fontaine (Louis Jourdan) needs special attention, but she leaves before she can elaborate. Once Maggie arrives in Paris, she’s brought to a lovely apartment to stay in. While she’s sleeping, who should walk in but Marc Fontaine. It doesn’t take long before Maggie finds out Marc and Irene had been seeing each other and he didn’t know she wasn’t coming to Paris.

When Maggie goes to see Marc’s fashion show, they have yet another tense encounter, but they eventually make peace with each other and Maggie begins to fall in love with Marc. Before long, Maggie’s stuck in the middle of a crazy love triangle.

Made in Paris may be total nonsense of a movie, but it’s at least fun nonsense. Well, at least it’s fun if you like Ann-Margret and 1960s fashion. Ann-Margret and the fashion are the two biggest redeeming values Made in Paris has going for it, so if you’re not a fan of either of those, you might want to sit this one out. It’s not a great movie by any stretch of the imagination and it’s certainly not one of the best movies for Ann-Margret or Louis Jourdan, but I was pleasantly surprised that I had as much fun with it as I did. Not the kind of movie I’d go out of my way to watch, but I’d watch it again if nothing else was on.

Viva Las Vegas (1964)

Lucky (Elvis Presley) has come to Las Vegas to participate in the big Grand Prix race.  The only problem is that his car needs a new engine.  He’s able to win the money he needs for a new engine, but his luck runs out while pursuing swimming instructor Rusty Martin (Ann-Margret).  While singing a song to her, he ends up taking an unexpected dip in the pool and loses his money.  Now not only does he need money for his engine, he needs money to pay his hotel bill, so he and his friend Shorty (Nicky Blair) get jobs as waiters at the hotel.  An added benefit of working at the hotel is now he can enter the employee talent show and win the money for his engine.

When Lucky first set eyes on Rusty, it was love at first sight, but Rusty isn’t so quick to fall for Lucky’s charms (no pun intended.)  But as she spends more time with him, she falls pretty hard for him, too.  The only problem is that Rusty doesn’t like Lucky racing cars, she’s afraid of him getting hurt.  Lucky doesn’t want to quit racing, but his rival Count Elmo Mancini (Cesare Denova) is also attracted to Rusty and would be willing to give up racing if the right woman came along.  She goes on a date with Mancini, but her heart still belongs to Lucky.

When the big talent show rolls around, Lucky and Rusty end up competing against each other.  Lucky wins, but it turns out there isn’t a cash prize after all.  But with some help from Rusty’s father (William Demarest), Lucky is able to get his engine, Rusty learns to stop worrying and love auto racing, and Lucky and Rusty can live happily ever after.

Elvis movies generally don’t have the best reputations, but Viva Las Vegas is one worth seeing.  From beginning to end, it’s nothing but fun.  Elvis truly found his perfect leading lady in Ann-Margret, it’s really too bad Viva Las Vegas was the only movie they made together.  The script has issues, but the chemistry between Elvis and Ann-Margret is so great, it’s easy to overlook those issues and just have fun with it. Not only does it have two fantastic leads, the songs are excellent.  I’m sure I’ll have the song “Viva Las Vegas” running through my head the next couple of days.  I’d say this and Jailhouse Rock are the two Elvis movies most worth seeing.

Bye Bye Birdie (1963)

When rock star Conrad Birdie (a very thinly veiled Elvis-type) is drafted by the U.S. Army, the news isn’t just devastating to his legion of teenage fans.  It’s also bad news for songwriter Albert Peterson (Dick Van Dyke), who was supposed to write a song for Birdie’s next movie.  But Albert’s quick thinking secretary and fiancée Rosie (Janet Leigh) manages to convince Ed Sullivan to have Conrad Birdie give a farewell performance on his show, during which he would sing the song “One Last Kiss” (written by Albert, of course) and Conrad would kiss one lucky teenage fan.  Ed Sullivan agrees and Rosie chooses Kim McAfee from Sweet Apple, Ohio to be the lucky girl.  When Conrad arrives in Sweet Apple, his presence wreaks all sorts of havoc in the small town.  Passed out teenage fans litter the streets, Kim’s boyfriend Hugo is insanely jealous, and Kim’s father (Paul Lynde) is not at all thrilled about having a rock star staying in his house.  And to make things worse for Albert and Rosie, Albert’s overbearing mother (Maureen Stapleton) also comes to town bent on splitting up Albert and Rosie.  Kim’s father’s worries are quickly put to ease when he’s promised an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.  Albert’s mother, on the other hand, is a harder problem to solve.  The visit to Ohio turns outright disastrous when Conrad’s performance on the Ed Sullivan Show is canceled to give the Russian ballet more time.  But because Albert just happens to also be interested in chemistry, he’s able to find a way to get Conrad back on the show.  Of course, Conrad’s performance can’t go the way it’s supposed to.  But everything ends up working out so that everybody goes home happy.

Up until recently, Bye Bye Birdie was a movie that just hadn’t really shown up on my radar.  Considering how much I love musicals and 1960s rock music, you’d think a musical about a 1960s rock star being drafted would rank high on my “to watch” list, but nope.  It wasn’t until I saw an episode of Mad Men that I became oddly intrigued by Bye Bye Birdie.  If you don’t watch Mad Men, there’s an episode where Sterling Cooper is asked to make a commercial for Patio, a precursor to Diet Pepsi, and Pepsi wants the commercial to be an exact copy of the beginning of Bye Bye Birdie. Of course, all the men in the room can’t wait to start casting the Ann-Margret look-alike, but Peggy thinks Ann-Margret is shrill and tries to convince everyone the commercial is a disaster waiting to happen.  (To watch the scene in question, watch the first 50 seconds of this video.)  I had never seen Bye Bye Birdie before, but just from the clip featured in the show, I agreed with Peggy and thought it was kind of annoying.  But seeing that clip actually made me curious about the movie.  Yes, there is part of me that will think, “Wow, this looks obnoxious.  I want to see this!”

When I finally did see it, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the movie.  Once I got into it, I didn’t find Ann-Margaret quite as shrill anymore.  Instead, I found her vivacious and fun to watch.  I also thought it was fun to see Janet Leigh in such a lighthearted role because when I think of Janet Leigh, I think of things like The Manchurian Candidate and, of course, Psycho.  Janet wasn’t the greatest singer or dancer, but it was fun.  Even though the movie is firmly set in the 1960s, I think it’s a movie all generations can still relate to.  Every generation has their teen heart-throb du jour, so even if you weren’t around to see Elvis get drafted, all you have to do is imagine what it would have been like if one of the New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys, or Jonas Brothers got drafted and you’ll get this movie.  No matter how old you are, Bye Bye Birdie is simply a great bit of light, frothy entertainment.  Although, I can see how you might find the movie shrill and annoying if you don’t like super lighthearted stuff.