When it comes to the King of Rock and Roll, we all know that Elvis’ queen was his beautiful wife Priscilla. But just four years before their wedding, Elvis made headlines with another leading lady: Ann-Margret. The pair met while filming Viva Las Vegas in 1963, and sparks flew the moment they locked eyes across an empty soundstage.
What really has us all shook up is the messy love triangle that would unfold between Elvis, his then-girlfriend Priscilla, and his co-star Ann-Margret.
The Female Elvis
Swedish-born Ann-Margret grew up in a remote town full of “lumberjacks and farmers high up near the Arctic Circle.” Known for her sultry and soulful singing voice and swinging dance style, she was initially billed as the “female Elvis.” Soon after her vocal career took off, Ann-Margret began landing starring roles in classic films like Bye Bye Birdie and of course, Viva Las Vegas.
Elvis and Ann-Margret first met on the set of Viva Las Vegas and immediately hit it off. According to Ann-Margret’s autobiography, the two were in sync from the moment they met, as they both exclaimed at the same time: “I’ve heard a lot about you!”.
Can’t help falling in love
Ann-Margret was surprisingly calm around her larger-than-life costar, later writing, “I’m not really sure why I was so calm about meeting ‘the King.’ After all, this was Elvis – a man who had captured the heart of almost every woman in America. Little did I know he would soon capture mine.”
Even though sparks were flying on the set of Viva Las Vegas, Elvis was already in a committed relationship with his soon-to-be wife Priscilla. But nearly everyone who saw Elvis and Ann-Margret together could tell their chemistry was undeniable. The King had a choice to make.
According to Ann-Margret, her relationship with Elvis was hot and cold. Feeling like she was being led on, she turned to Elvis’ close friend Marty for advice, explaining: “One minute we’re in love, and the next minute I don’t hear from him again. He won’t even take my calls.”
All the while, the rumors about Elvis’ affair with Ann-Margret began to take over the media. The gossip left Priscilla feeling heartbroken, betrayed, and confused, but an even greater story would soon leave her feeling enraged.
Trouble in paradise
Priscilla wasn’t the only one feeling betrayed by Elvis. Fed up with being led on, Ann-Margret leaked a fake rumor to the tabloids that she and Elvis were engaged. Elvis immediately told Priscilla, and she became so angry she threw a vase against the wall.
Elvis pinned Priscilla down and asked: “I didn’t know this was going to get out of hand. I want a woman who’s going to understand that things like this might just happen. Are you going to be her – or not?”. Ultimately, the couple patched things up and went on to marry in 1967. Any chance that Ann-Margret had with Elvis was ruined following the engagement rumors she began.
But this wouldn’t be the last time Priscilla would find herself in between her husband and another cheating scandal. Less than a year after their wedding, Priscilla was pregnant with their daughter Lisa Marie, and new rumors appeared in the tabloids about a possible affair between Elvis and Nancy Sinatra.
Through thick and thin
Priscilla found herself heartbroken and angry once more, and after confronting her husband they both reconciled for the sake of their growing family. Unexpectedly, Nancy Sinatra decided to throw Priscilla a baby shower – likely as a show of good intentions to help repair the damage the tabloid rumors had caused.
Eventually, Priscilla warmed up to Nancy, and as she got to know her she realized the rumors were far from true. While Elvis and Ann-Margret remained close, Ann-Margret wed actor Roger Smith exactly one week after Elvis and Priscilla’s wedding on May 1, 1967. Ann-Margret and Smith remained married for 50 years until Smith’s death in 2017.
Even though Elvis and Ann-Margret started off on the wrong foot, they still maintained a caring relationship. Just one month after his marriage to Priscilla, Elvis sent Ann-Margret a guitar made of flowers in celebration of her Las Vegas debut. He continued to show his support for the young actress’ blossoming career through many more ornate floral arrangements.
While Ann-Margret never spoke publicly about her relationship with Elvis, it was clear they both cared for each other. Supposedly, Elvis even tried to get back together with Ann-Margret but she remained faithful to her husband. Following Elvis’ death in 1977, Ann-Margret went against recommendations to avoid the funeral and attended to show her support to his family.
She spoke briefly about her relationship with the King of Rock and Roll during a 1994 interview with Charlie Rose. Ann-Margret explained, “Our relationship was very strong and very serious and very real. We were together for one year… And I don’t want to betray his trust even in death.”
Through all the drama and rumors, Elvis and Ann-Margret never sacrificed their friendship. Even today, Ann-Margret hopes to ensure Elvis’ legacy and memory live on.