Thursday, April 28, 2011

Happy Birthday, Ann-Margret!

I'm certifiably nuts about this lady. I have been since I was a kid, endlessly rerunning Ken Russell's Tommy, Mike Nichols' Carnal Knowledge, and George Sidney's Bye Bye Birdie (these are her three signature roles, to me). She's always possessed the perfect combination of cute and sexy, and has held on to it even in her later years (in movies like 1993's Grumpy Old Men). She's a two-time Oscar nominee, a top-40 recording artist who's been nominated for two Grammys, a five-time Golden Globe winner (for Tommy, Carnal Knowledge, 1983's TV movie Who Will Love My Children, as well as for playing Blanche DuBois in 1984's TV version of A Streetcar Named Desire and for being 1962's Most Promising Female Newcomer--an award she shared with Jane Fonda). And, last year, Ann-Margret Olsson (ya, she's a little Swedish girl) won her first Emmy--after five nominations--for a guest shot on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. She also happens to be the only woman who could match Elvis Presley's charisma on-screen and off (the two stars shared a famous and loving tryst). Here's Ann and Elvis together in perhaps the most dynamic scene from arguably Elvis' best film, Viva Las Vegas:

She's indefatigable, brave, confident, and loyal (she's stayed by her husband Roger Smith's side for over 40 years, helping him fight a debilitating neuromuscular disease that finally went into remission in 1985). She's also a movie star of the highest order, and of the ultimate degree in talent even if her movie choices--like 1966's The Swinger, pictured above--haven't always been particularly wise. But this intense scene, as the depressed beauty queen Bobbie trying to nab cad Jack Nicholson in Mike Nichols' stunning 1971 movie Carnal Knowledge, might be her crowning moment on camera:

And did I mention she's ridiculously beautiful? I really adore her. I could drink a case of her. And so I wish her a happy 70th birthday today. In celebration, I've gathered together a gallery of frame grabs from some of her best movies, and a few clips (some from TV variety shows and specials she did) to show you what a dynamic performer she is on stage.

The first five screen shots I've chosen are my favorite images of her as the starry-eyed, teenaged Conrad Birdie fan in Bye Bye Birdie (George Sidney, 63):

A strawberry blonde frame from The Pleasure Seekers (Jean Negulesco, 64)

Looking sweetly at Elvis in Viva Las Vegas (George Sidney, 64)

As Karl Malden's wife, trying to seduce gambler Steve McQueen in The Cincinnati Kid (Norman Jewison, 65)

Her shy strip tease finally bears fruit in The Swinger (George Sidney, 66)

Sexily disheveled after some argumentative hanky panky in Carnal Knowledge (Mike Nichols, 71)

Five of my favorite moments from what will probably remain her most challenging role: as the mother of that deaf, dumb and blind kid named Tommy (Ken Russell, 75):

Radically arousing--this is one lady who's never been afraid to show her body--as the tempting Lady Booby in Joseph Andrews (Tony Richardson, 77)

Showing more than great comedy chops in The Cheap Detective (Robert Moore, 78)

As the troubled ventriloquist's long-lost love Peggy Ann Snow in the underrated Anthony Hopkins thriller Magic (Richard Attenbourough, 78)

Ann as the dying mother of a brood of kids in Who Will Love My Children? (John Erman, 83)

A woman in jeopardy, opposite Roy Schieder, in 52 Pick Up (John Frankenheimer, 86)
As St. Nick's mother-in-law in The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (Michael Lembeck, 2006)

Ann's mesmerizing 1961 screen test, singing "It Might As Well Be Spring" for her role in Roger and Hammerstein's State Fair (Jose Ferrer, 62):

An early 60s guest appearance on television, singing a saucy version of "Mack The Knife":

From her TV special From Honolulu, With Love, at first performing "The Look of You," and then singing "Put A Little Love in Your Heart" for the troops (who were, no doubt, expecting to see some early morning dew, if you know what I mean): 

And, finally, a fresh-faced Ann assaying the standard "I Ain't Got Nobody," from 1961:

Wow! If all this don't get your grill burning, then you best see to that fire, man! Thank you, Ann-Margret, for being your own sweet self. And, again, happy birthday!

1 comment:

Juliette said...

Enjoyed that, I liked her in Magic 1978, but had no idea of her illustrious career, so will look out for the other movies.