Viva Ann-Margrock!

The spectacular Ann-Margret babysat for Pebbles, danced with Fred and Barney, and generally made the sixties extra super groovy.

Ann-Margret Olsson, who turned an enchanting 82 this year, charmed and enticed the film, TV, recording, and live entertainment industries, and still fires up the road on her Harley-Davidson. Billed early in her career as “the female Elvis,” she and Presley ignited the screen in the 1964 hit, Viva Las Vegas, where she danced in the distinctive style that inspired Saturday Night Live’s Kristen Wiig.

There is an enigmatic duality to Ann-Margret’s persona that is among the reasons she has fascinated audiences for generations. She is the shy, demure girl next door in the narrative portions of the 1963 film version of the Broadway musical, Bye Bye Birdie, as well as the alluring, sizzling extrovert in the “A Lot of Livin’ to Do” dance sequence, as well as the film’s title song bookend sequences. Ann-Margret herself has expressed the dichotomy in various interviews.

This was evidenced in her animated debut on the fourth season premiere episode of The Flintstones, “Ann-Margrock Presents.” Her cartoon counterpart, designed by Jonny Quest’s creative beacon Doug Wildey, was essentially split into a dual role as a sweet babysitter out of nowhere named “Annie,” and the “big star who is really nice in real life” who does a big TV special in Bedrock. Her versatility is further emphasized when her cartoon agent (voice of Howard Morris), twice exclaims, “She can do ANY kind of music!”

Two songs were written for the episode, but never officially released on records. “Annie” sings the gentle, tender “The Littlest Lamb” to lull Pebbles to sleep.

Once her identity is revealed, superstar Ann-Margrock brings down the house with the sassy “I Ain’t Gonna Be Your Fool.” According to H-B historian Earl Kress, both songs were recorded in stereo and were planned for Rhino’s “Modern Stone-Age Melodies” Flintstones soundtrack CD, but final approval was not granted. The mono version of “Lamb,” direct from the finished film, and the stereo version of “Fool” were both released in Germany by the Bear Family label in a boxed CD set called Ann-Margret 1961-1966.

The episode itself was rocketed into production ahead of schedule. It was slated for later in season four, but ABC asked for it to be completed in time for the September premiere week. Lots of attention was given to Ann-Margret’s involvement in the production, including a photo spread showing her visit to the H-B studios on Cahuenga Blvd.

Joe Barbera, Ann-Margaret and Bill Hanna

Her appearance on The Flintstones is almost as much of a Columbia/Screen Gems crossover as Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick York’s participation in The Flintstones “Samantha” episode. Director George Sidney, whose association with Hanna and Barbera dates back to the stunning live-action/animated dance with Gene Kelly and Jerry the mouse in 1945’s Anchors Aweigh, was a business partner with Hanna-Barbera Productions. He and his father Louis K. Sidney were instrumental in helping H and B survive at MGM in the waning days of animated shorts and with their forays into TV animation.

Sidney was the director of Bye Bye Birdie, and there are H-B touches throughout much of the film. In “The Telephone Hour,” the Colpix Yogi Bear soundtrack album is clearly visible in one of the teen’s rooms.

During “How Lovely to Be a Woman,” Hanna-Barbera toys grace Kim McAfee’s room.

Bye Bye Birdie also contains animation, most likely from the H-B artists, including a “melting” ending to “The Telephone Hour” and cartoon happy faces for Dick Van Dyke and Janet Leigh for the song, “Put on a Happy Face” (Van Dyke’s first interaction with animation came as the on-camera host of CBS Cartoon Theater, a 1956 network summer replacement series – with Van Dyke as host, who would interact with Terrytoon co-stars via a television in his studio. Birdie marked Van Dyke’s first animation/live-action movie sequence, albeit not as elaborate as the one in Mary Poppins a year later). Even the pink outfit Ann-Margret wears in “A Lot of Livin’ to Do” bears a resemblance to Judy Jetson’s groovy outfit.

Three decades later, Universal produced a sequel to Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster live-action version of The Flintstones with a smaller budget and less hoopla. The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, with its smaller budget and reduced media support, received mixed reviews and was not as successful as its predecessor, yet some found it slightly more faithful to the original series. Loosely based on the episodes “Honeyrock Hotel” and “The Gambler,” it concludes with the wedding of Fred and Wilma (note John Stephenson dubbing the minister) and the splashy “Viva Rock Vegas” song parody.

To bring things full circle, Ann-Margret herself recorded “Viva Rock Vegas” for the end credits and the soundtrack album. Director Brian Levant told Frank Santopadre and Gilbert Gottfried on their “Amazing Colossal” podcast visiting her home and seeing that she had an “Ann-Margrock” animation cel on display.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN

“The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas”
This read-along recording featuring soundtrack dialogue and script adaptation by yours truly was licensed and produced by Walt Disney Records for their Buena Vista label (as was Jim Carrey’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas). It is the only Disney-produced recording that features a Hanna-Barbera sound effect, provided for the page-turning signal.