Viva Ann-Margret!

ann_margret

She skyrocketed to fame as a teenage girl smitten with an Elvis-like rock star in “Bye Bye Birdie” – then seduced The King himself in “Viva Las Vegas.” She wreaked havoc as a bad, bad girl in “Kitten With a Whip” – and was immortalized as “Ann-Margrock” on “The Flintsones.”

She went from powerhouse Las Vegas nightclub star to Oscar-nominated dramatic actress. Her forty year career has spanned every conceivable style of performance from low kitsch to high comedy, nightclub dazzle to serious drama, acid rock surrealism to Tennessee Williams.

Anyone who loves film has a favorite image of Ann-Margret: as the pathetically needy sexpot in “Carnal Knowledge,” or writhing in a sea of soap suds, baked beans and chocolate pudding in the rock opera “Tommy.”

The 68 year-old, flame-haired Ann-Margret is still wowing audiences in live performances in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Miami, and Lake Tahoe.

For this film fan, the sight of the voluptuous, desire-crazed teenage girl singing “Bye Bye Birdie” against a bright blue background, the wind whipping through her flame red hair and skin tight pink dress, was a turning point in my life. In that moment, I fell in love with movies, musicals, the color blue and Ann-Margret.

“That scene almost wasn’t in the movie,” the star told me during a recent interview. “The studio didn’t want it but (director) George Sidney wanted to shoot that prologue and closing for the movie so much that he put up his own money to film it.” When the studio brass saw the finished sequence, they liked it – and reimbursed Sidney.

with Elvis in "Viva Las Vegas"

with Elvis in "Viva Las Vegas"

 

Ann-Margret claims that the jump from playing a girl obsessed with the Elvis-esque Conrad Birdie to starring opposite Elvis himself was not as strange as one might expect.

“I had never seen Elvis perform or met him until I did ‘Viva Las Vegas,'” she said. “But he had seen ‘Bye Bye Birdie,'” she added with a smile. “He liked it.”

“Bye Bye Birdie” was the first of many turning points in Ann-Margret’s fabled career, followed by the 1967 debut of her Las Vegas nightclub act. Her Oscar-nominated role in Mike Nichols’ “Carnal Knowledge” established her as a serious actress.

The actress recalls her Emmy-nominated performance in the true story “Who Will Love My Children” as another turning point in her acting career, playing the terminally ill mother of ten who must find homes for her children.

“I had three stepchildren who were three, six and seven at the time. I couldn’t imagine being the mother of ten and having to give them away,” she said. “That film was a very rewarding experience.”

But her most challenging role was Blanche du Bois in the 1984 television version of “A Streetcar Named Desire.” “I’m such an emotional actress I can’t just turn it on and turn it off,” she says of the Tennessee Williams heroine who descends into madness.

“We filmed it in sequence but by the third to the last day I was really out there,” she says. “(Director) John Erman came to my trailer and said, ‘you have to remember, this is not real, it’s just a movie.'”

The ageless redhead, who is surprisingly shy in person, claims that she will go on working for the rest of her life. “I can’t work a computer, I can’t sew, I can’t cook, but this is what I do and I love doing it. It’s my passion.”

ann-margrock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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