Ann-Margret – Fiery Passion for Music

Ann-Margret Olsson, born on the 28th of April, 1941, is a Swedish-American actress, singer, and dancer. She is known for her roles: Bye Bye Birdie (1963), Viva Las Vegas with Elvis Presley (1964), The Cincinnati Kid (1965), Carnal Knowledge (1971), The Train Robbers (1973), Tommy (1975), The Villain (1979), Newsies (1992), Grumpy Old Men (1993), Grumpier Old Men (1995), and Going in Style (2017).

In 1962, Ann-Margret was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best New Artist. She has won five Golden Globe Awards and been nominated for two Academy Awards, two Grammy Awards, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and six Emmy Awards. In 2010, she won an Emmy Award for her guest appearance on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

Ann-Margret started her singing and acting careers in 1961. She had been marketed as a feminine version of Elvis – due to their similar vocal qualities.

She was born in Stockholm, Sweden, as the daughter of Anna Regina (Aronsson) and Carl Gustav Olsson, a native of Örnsköldsvik. Ann-Margret and her mother joined her father in the United States in November 1946. He took her to Radio City Music Hall on the day they arrived. They settled in Wilmette, Illinois, outside of Chicago.

Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Ann-Margret took her first dance lessons at the Marjorie Young School of Dance, showing natural ability from the start. In 1961, she filmed a screen test at 20th Century Fox and was signed to a seven-year contract. She made her film debut in a loan-out to United Artists in Pocketful of Miracles, with Bette Davis.

Her next role in Bye Bye Birdie (1963), made her a major star. She was asked to sing “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home” at President John F. Kennedy’s private birthday party at the Waldorf-Astoria, one year after Marilyn Monroe’s famous “Happy Birthday”.

Ann-Margret began recording for RCA Victor in 1961. Her first RCA Victor recording was “Lost Love”. Her debut album, And Here She Is: Ann-Margret, was recorded in Hollywood, arranged and conducted by Marty Paich. Later albums were produced in Nashville. RCA Victor attempted to capitalize on the ‘female Elvis’ comparison by having her record another version of “Heartbreak Hotel”. She scored the minor success “I Just Don’t Understand” (second LP). The song was later covered in live performances by The Beatles and was recorded during a live performance at the BBC (recorded on July 16, 1963 and broadcast on August 20, 1963).

Ann Margret & Elvis Presley – Virtual mirror images

“We experienced music in the same visceral way. Music ignited a fiery pent-up passion inside Elvis and inside me.“

Ann-Margret and Elvis Presley|GAB Archive/Redferns

Outside of Elvis Presley’s family, Ann-Margret was the most important woman in the entertainer’s life, according to Elvis History blog. Playing opposite Elvis in 1963’s Viva Las Vegas, she became the most memorable of Presley’s leading ladies during his Hollywood career. The personal relationship they shared through the years provides a fairytale interlude in Presley’s life story.

 Ann-Margret  first met Elvis in July, 1963, on the MGM soundstage at Radio Recorders studios in Hollywood. That day they were introduced to the press as the stars of MGM’s upcoming film – Viva Las Vegas. The film is regarded by fans and film critics as one of Presley’s best films, and it is noted for the on-screen chemistry between Presley and Ann-Margret. Directed by George Sidney, it also presents a strong set of ten musical song-and-dance scenes choreographed by David Winters and features his dancers.

Before filming began, they had to record their musical numbers. On July 9-10 they each recorded their separate songs at Radio Recorders. On the 11th of July, they entered the studio together to work on three duets – “The Lady Loves Me,” “You’re the Boss,” and “Today, Tomorrow, and Forever.” It was 28 year-old Presley’s 14th film, while, at age 22, Ann-Margret’s career was starting to explode.

Ann-Margret & Elvis Presley, Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

“Except for a piano, the MGM soundstage where Elvis and I met was empty. In the background, a few of his guys hung around observing their boss, a ritual I would soon come to expect. Under the watchful gaze of director George Sidney, a studio photographer snapped shots of what the film company executives figured would be a historic moment…

Elvis Presley, I’d like you to meet a wonderful young lady, Ann-Margret,’ said George Sidney. ‘Ann-Margret, this is Elvis Presley.’ The significance was lost on Elvis and me. I reached out my hand and he shook it gently. ‘I’ve heard a lot about you,’ we said at the same time, which made us laugh and broke the ice. Autobiography, Ann-Margret: My Story.

According to Ann, the energy of the music drew her and Elvis together, immediately:

„That day we discovered two things about each other – Once the music started, neither of us could stand still. Also, we experienced music in the same visceral way. Music ignited a fiery pent-up passion inside Elvis and inside me. It was an odd, embarrassing, funny, inspiring, and wonderful sensation. We looked at each other move and saw virtual mirror images.“

Ann-Margret with Elvis Presley | Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Ann wrote that during their private time together, Elvis opened up to her, perhaps more than he ever had with any other person in his life. She felt she came to know his heart intimately:

“Like everyone else, Elvis had dreams and desires, hopes and hurts, wants and weaknesses. He didn’t reveal this vulnerable side until everyone had disappeared, until those private moments when we were alone, after darkness had blanketed the city and we’d parked somewhere up in the hills and could look down upon the sprawl of L.A. or up at the stars…

We were indeed soul mates, shy on the outside, but unbridled within… We both lived on the edge and we both were self-destructive in our own ways…In many ways, both of us, despite fame and whatever else we’d achieved so quickly, had remained very childlike, and emotionally dependent.” Ann-Margret: My Story – autobiography, 1994.

Ann said that Elvis sent her a guitar-shaped floral arrangement during her first Las Vegas stage performance in 1967. He continued the gesture for 10 years.