Why The New York Times Compared Elvis’ ‘Viva Las Vegas’ to a Banana Split
No matter how learned they are, film critics can be oh, so wrong. Elvis Presley‘s Viva Las Vegas inspired a review in The New York Times that was critical of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll‘s early work. The New York Times also ignored one of Elvis’ best songs in the review.
The New York Times said Elvis Presley’s singing improved in ‘Viva Las Vegas’
In a 1964 article, The New York Times gave a mixed appraisal of Viva Las Vegas. “Coming on a balmy day, with no pretensions of art, Viva Las Vegas, the new Elvia Presley vehicle, is about as pleasant and unimportant as a banana split,” the article said. “And as fetching to look at, it might be added.
“By now, after some rocky beginnings, the Presley movie formula has leveled off to a series of musical romps that are extremely easy to take,” the article continued. “And where our boy Elvis once stumbled, he now ambles along personably. Not only does he sing better — at least more audibly — but the tunes also continue to improve.” The newspaper really had the gall to criticize the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s singing!
The New York Times singled out 1 of Elvis Presley’s songs for praise
The New York Times also had plenty to say about Elvis’ co-star: Ann Margret. “This time Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer happily teams him with Ann-Margret, a perfect musical foil with her galvanized dancing,” the review said. “The story sets up a breezy romantic triangle involving Mr. Presley, as a speed-racing bellhop, Ann-Margret, as a pool manager, and Cesare Danova, as an Italian racing champion. With the trio trailed by William Damarest and Nicky Blair, the picture, as directed by George Sidney, tools along rosily.”
The review lauded Ann-Margret’s singing in Viva Las Vegas as well as the film’s soundtrack. It singled out Elvis and Ann-Margret’s duet, “The Lady Loves Me,” for praise. The New York Times didn’t mention the track “Viva Las Vegas” once.
The song ‘Viva Las Vegas’ wasn’t a big hit at 1st
The original version of the Viva Las Vegas soundtrack only featured four songs, none of which were “Viva Las Vegas.” In 2007, the soundtrack album for Viva Las Vegas reached No. 54 on the Billboard 200 and stayed on the chart for seven weeks.
The movie’s title track, “Viva Las Vegas,” was a modest hit on the Billboard Hot 100. The tune peaked at No. 29 and remained on the chart for seven weeks. While the song wasn’t a huge hit in the 1960s, it’s one of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s most famous tunes today. ZZ Top released a hard-rock cover of the track as a single. Other artists who recorded the song include Dead Kennedys, Bruce Springsteen, and The Killers. The latter band is from Las Vegas. In 2022, “Viva Las Vegas” appeared in a mashup with Britney Spears’ “Toxic” in Baz Luhrmann’s film Elvis.
The New York Times said Viva Las Vegas was “unimportant” but the title track nevertheless remains a staple.