It’s no secret that I’m completely enamored with mid-20th Century Las Vegas. If I could take a time travel vacation, one of my top choices would be a late 1950s or early 1960s Las Vegas. So it was inevitable that I watch Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956) so I could swoon over all the glitz and glamour of a Las Vegas that no longer exists and to be entertained as well.
I won a copy of this movie in a Warner Archive Kumbuya giveaway. Shout out to the lovely Aurora of Once Upon a Screen... who runs the Kumbuya platform for Warner Archive and does a splendid job at that. I do encourage you to sign up and become a part of that community.
Meet Me in Las Vegas was an MGM production directed by Roy Rowland and stars Cyd Charisse as Maria Covier. Maria is a ballerina who’s preparing for her Las Vegas debut. She’s all business. When she’s not rehearsing, she’s resting and when she’s not resting, she’s rehearsing. Her life revolves around her various dancing gigs and the only people who inhabit her world, other than her fellow dancers, are her assistant Sari (Lili Darvas) and her manager Pierre (Paul Henreid). Maria’s world is small and she likes to keep it that way.
Las Vegas doesn’t agree with Maria. She’s annoyed by the noisy casino and the slot machine in the bedroom of her hotel suite. On the flip side, no one loves Las Vegas more than rancher Chuck Rodwell (Dan Dailey). Chuck is known for his bad luck but that doesn't stop him from gambling away his hard-earned profits. He has so much fun at the casinos, gambling, flirting, drinking and signing, he's still hopeful that his bad luck streak will end and he comes back for more. His luck is about to change when he meets Maria. All he needs to do is hold her hand and he’ll win at any game: roulette, black jack, you name it he’ll win it. At first Maria is not amused by Chuck who urgently seeks her out as his good luck charm, but they start to warm up to each other. Maria finds that she’s missed out on a lot of fun and is making up for lost time with Chuck. The two start to fall in love. Will their lucky streak last forever?
This film has plenty glamorous shots of 1950s Las Vegas just waiting to be devoured. Any nostalgic Las Vegas enthusiast will love all the glorious shots of the different casinos, the marquees, the city streets, rows and rows of slot machines, the gambling tables, the pools and the lounges. During the movie, viewers take a short trip to Chuck’s ranch just outside of Las Vegas where we meet his feisty mom Miss Hattie played Agnes Moorehead, a familiar face for fans of the classic TV show Bewitched. And you’ll find plenty more familiar faces in this movie. There are cameo roles performed by Frank Sinatra, Peter Lorre and several others (I won't spoil them all for you because part of the fun is being surprised by a recognizable star). Cyd Charisse's real life husband Tony Martin has a small part as a secret admirer. Fans of West Side Story will recognize George Chakiris who plays a newlywed spending his honeymoon in Las Vegas with his new bride (Betty Lynn). Jim Backus, of Gilligan's Island fame, plays the casino manager who has his hands full with the opinionated Maria. Sammy Davis Jr.’s voice (not body) makes an appearance in a dance number. And there are plenty of dance numbers that showcase Cyd Charisse’s terrific skill as a dancer and her long toned legs. There are musical performances by Lena Horne, Dan Dailey and many more.
I had a lot of fun watching this movie. Meet Me Las Vegas is a feast for the eyes and entertaining to boot. Even though the plot line isn’t all that realistic (if it were many of us would be looking for a lucky hand to hold so we can gamble our way into becoming millionaires) it’s still a lot of fun.
Spoiler Alert! For those of you who have written off the 1950s as a backwards time, check out this film. Classic film fans often find ourselves frustrated by this all too common ending: a successful woman gives up her career to be with the man she loves. Female (1933) anyone? I found it very refreshing that the couple in this story avoids this ending by coming to a compromise. They decide that each of them will work 6 months out of the year, with the other person by their side for support. That way Chuck can continue to be a rancher and Maria can continue to travel as a ballerina but they can still be together. It’s important to note that the screenwriter Isobel Lennart was a career woman herself which I’m sure had something to do with the ending of this film. End Spoiler Alert.
Meet Me In Las Vegas (1956) is available from the Warner Archive as a DVD-MOD which includes a trailer and two deleted musical numbers: It's Fun to Be in Love and Lena Horne's You Got Looks.
Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. I received Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956) as part of a Warner Archive Kumbuya giveaway.