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The decades may pass but our love for Elvis never dims. all eyes are back on him this week with the home entertainment release of Baz Luhrmann’s biopic, as well as the start of Elvis Week at Graceland. The King famously flirted (and often more) with his numerous female co-stars, but none had the same impact on him as Ann-Margret. On the screen she held her own, demanding as much attention as him and receiving equal billing – unheard of in Elvis vehicles. The Swedish-American beauty later described their extraordinary connection as being “mirror images”. When a bewildered Elvis struggled to understand her extraordinary effect on him, one of the Memphis Mafia bluntly told him “she’s the female you.”
Ann-Margret described how their connection was irresistible from the moment they met: “We both felt a current, an electricity that went straight through us. It would become a force we couldn’t control…
“Little did we know we shared a devil within. We were quiet, polite, careful. But I knew what was going to happen once we got to know each other. Elvis did, too.”
She said that Elvis wanted to marry her: “his wish was that we could stay together.”
Back at Graceland, Priscilla was increasingly suspicious and furious back at Graceland and threw a vase at the wall after hearing the rumours.
Ann-Margret was already an acclaimed singer and dancer by the time she was cast in 1964’s Viva Las Vegas, having caused a worldwide sensation in the 1963 film Bye, Bye, Birdie.
She said: “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. When Elvis thrust his pelvis, mine slammed forward, too. When his shoulder dropped, I was down there with him. When he whirled, I was already on my heel.”
Away from the film set their chemistry was just as explosive.
They would play in front of Elvis’s entourage, cat-dancing across the floor, putting on sexy voices with Elvis teasing, “You’ve got me running,” and Ann-Margret replying, “You’ve got me hiding.”
Elvis called her Thumper (which she would use as a code name when she called Graceland) and she called him EP.
They shared a love of riding powerful motorbikes and daredevil Ann-Margret continued her passion for decades, even after she broke three ribs in an accident in 2000.
But it wasn’t just fun and games, they also consoled each other when John F Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963.
Pink was Ann-Margret’s signature colour. Although she never publicly confirmed they had a physical relationship, The King bought her a round pink bed for her apartment in Beverly Hills.
He would also send her lavish guitar-shaped floral arrangements and continued the tradition until the end of his life. The flowers would always arrive on the opening night of her Las Vegas shows.
When she opened at the Hilton on August 15, 1977, for the first time in 10 years, no flowers came. She later revealed she immediately knew something was wrong.
The next day, Ann-Margret called Graceland and found out Elvis had died before the news was released to the press.
Elvis and Ann-Margret’s affair ended as explosively as it had started. When the UK press reported that the Viva Las Vegas pair were planning to marry, The King accused her of leaking the story, which she denied.
He was also under pressure from Colonel Parker to ‘make an honest woman’ of Priscilla, who he would finally marry in 1967, just days before Ann-Margret also tied the knot.
Many of the Memphis Mafia have claimed that Elvis might have lived and avoided his spiral into addiction if he had stayed with Ann-Margert, who battled and beat her own drink dependency.
Others, though, point out that Elvis always preferred relationships with less fiery, more amenable women in the long term and ultimately would have always chosen Priscilla over Ann-Margret.
The actress spoke of how painful it was even revisiting their split in her own 1994 autobiography, My Story, many years later: “It was extremely difficult for me to write and it’s even harder for me to talk about.”
Ann-Margret has spoken very little about Elvis over the years but explained why she had finally decided to discuss their relationship.
She said: “There’s been so much, for some reason, negative situations surrounding his name that I wanted to show the man that I knew – generous, loving, funny, talented, gifted – and only show complete respect.”
Ultimately, of course, Elvis’s relationship with Priscilla did not last.
Just a few weeks after their marriage, Ann-Margret married actor Roger Smith on May 8, 1967. The couple remained happily together for fifty years until he passed away in 2017.