Sin City celebrates 50th anniversary of 'Viva Las Vegas'

"Viva Las Vegas" is turning 50, and in typical Vegas fashion, the flashy, if formulaic movie that turned the spotlight on then-sleepy Sin City will be celebrated.

Even five decades later, most everyone knows at least some of the lyrics to the tune written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman and sung by a youthful Elvis Presley, who turned it into Sin City's unofficial anthem.


Bright light city gonna set my soul

Gonna set my soul on fire

Got a whole lot of money that's ready to burn,

So get those stakes up higher!

The movie "Viva Las Vegas" tells the story of race car driver Lucky Jackson, who needs money to make his car worthy for the Las Vegas Grand Prix. He loses the money he needs for repairs so he's forced to work as a waiter, where he continually encounters Rusty Martin, played by Ann-Margret. Sparks fly on screen. (They also apparently flew off-screen.)

There's a thousand pretty women waitin' out there
And they're all livin' devil may care
And I'm just the devil with love to spare
Viva Las Vegas, Viva Las Vegas.

The film premiered May 20, 1964. The critical reception wasn't overwhelming, but this  film was generally considered one of Presley's best.

Fifty years later, visitors still break into song, chanting the catchy refrain upon landing at McCarran Airport or while wandering through the vast resorts.

Presley died of a heart attack Aug. 16, 1977, at the age of 42, his death hastened by drug abuse. Elvis--or at least his scores of impersonators--clearly have not left the buildings of Vegas, where they perform and, in some venues, preside over weddings.

The movie will be screened at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Clark County Library, on Flamingo Road about two miles east of the Strip.

Sean Clark, a local screenwriter, producer and film professor, will discuss the movie's significance during the free presentation.

Pete Vallee, also known as Big Elvis, will perform three special shows Tuesday in tribute to the 50th anniversary of the release of "Viva Las Vegas." He'll perform various songs from the movie and, in between, share some trivia about the film. The free show at Harrah's will be staged at 2, 3:30 and 5 p.m.

And if your sweet tooth starts twanging, head to Crush at MGM Grand for a sweet treat that honors the King and his banana and peanut butter obsession.