The film's -- to me -- probably the most entertaining and enjoyable of any of Elvis' '60s musicals. In that category I include most of the films that Elvis shot during the '60s except for the two dramas of 1960 ("Flaming Star" being a particularly excellent film), the two song-sparse movies of 1961 ("Kid Galahad" and the great "Follow That Dream"), and some of the late '60s movies that included only one or a few token songs and had stronger storylines ("Live A Little, Love A Little," "Stay Away, Joe," "Charro!," "The Trouble With Girls," and "Change Of Habit"). Actually, "Viva Las Vegas" is even more enjoyable than most of these ones, too.
Among the supporting actors are Cesare Danova, a beatnik-y Nicky Blair, and William Demarest (Uncle Charlie from "My Three Sons"!), all of whom do a great job. Sharp eyes might also catch Terri Garr, especially in the "C'mon Everybody" scene, though she's in at least one or two others in the film. Red West, Elvis' bodyguard (he also wrote a song -- "If You Think I Don't Need You" -- used in this film) is an extra in the scene that included a bunch of Texas rowdies. Lance Le Gault (a blues singer and Elvis' double in '60s films, inadvertently seen in "Kissin' Cousins" and on full display as a tambourine-player in Elvis' sensational leather-clad 1968 'comeback' shows...he was also Colonel Decker on TV's "The A Team") plays a waiter who, ironically enough, is mistaken for Elvis by Ann Margret's character.
But yeah, when it comes down to it this is a film that succeeds primarily on the strengths of its male and female leads. Some great work by supporting actors doesn't hurt, but Elvis seems inspired to do a good job of acting -- not the walk-through that was becoming increasingly tempting in the face of uninspiring and mediocre storylines and production staff and accountants who didn't care about quality as long as the film was completed on time and on budget to result in the predictable crazy profits that Elvis movies generated in the first half of the '60s. The scene with Elvis waiting on the Count and Rusty exploits Elvis' comedic talents and was a nice touch. I'm surprised, really, that the pairing of Elvis and Ann Margret was never attempted again. They could've done "Grease" in '68!
The film also accomplishes its travelogue role and both it and the title song have become inextricably linked with that desert city. For those of us who have only visited Vegas in more recent years, and to those who remember it as it was in the summer of 1963, this film is a handy time capsule to the Vegas of yore. It was a kick for me to see Elvis and Ann Margret at the Sahara's camel statues because I had my picture taken there, atop one of the camels, back in the '80s (without realizing that it had such a direct Elvis connection). Cool!
All in all, if you haven't yet seen this film you might just enjoy it. It's not going to change your life (then again...who knows?) and it's not "Citizen Kane" (it's a lot more fun, though), but it's a classic of its kind. Scratch that -- it's just a classic. Unfortunately, a couple of months after wrapping "Viva Las Vegas" Elvis began production of "Kissin' Cousins," a film from producer Sam Katzman ("King of the Quickies") that was as cheap and nasty as they come and that showed the way to even greater profit (but at what cost?).