Las Vegas & The Movies

To be completely fair, the early 60’s weren’t really the first screen action days in Las Vegas. Frank Sinatra’s first movie, Las Vegas Nights was set back in 1941. However, the Rat Pack Days are always a good point to start.

The Rat Packs

Five gentlemen in Las Vegas: Sammy Davis Jr, Peter Lawford, Dean Martin, Joey Bishop and Frank Sinatra. Good friends. Loved to party. And of course, they had their own favourite place to hang out, that was Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas (which was demolished in 1996, nowadays the site of the Venitian).

The Rat Pack Days begun in late 50’s, somewhat as a reaction to the Cold War early days; the guys came up with the idea of having their own “summit of cool” in Las Vegas; it lasted seven years. As the Sands performing scene wasn’t enough for them, the mighty five moved further to movies and recordings.

The seven years brought out seven films: Some Came Running, Ocean’s 11, Sergents 3, 4 For Texas, Robin and the 7 Hoods, Marriage on the Rocks, and Cannonball Run II. Ocean’s 11 (1960) is the most famous one, and also benefited from a modern remake (2001), starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts. The action in new Ocean’s 11 involves robbery scenes at Bellagio. The Rat Pack, released in 1998 for cable TV, includes scenes from The Sands.

The King

The good old days gave us the classic Viva Las Vegas (1964), featuring Elvis Presley, who sings his heart out for the beloved “sin city”.

Later, in 1970, the King starred a documentary filmed at the International Hotel, nowadays Las Vegas Hilton (Elvis: That’s the Way It Is).

The 1979 Elvis, a memorabilia to The King, stars Kurt Russell. The story goes on in 1988 with Elvis and Me, inspired by Priscilla Presley’s autobiography. The 1995 BBC documentary The Burger and the King: The Life and Cuisine of Elvis Presley seems to have closed the Elvis & Las Vegas series, up to this moment.


This one, released in 1995, is the classic. It approaches “sin city” the way nobody dared before. The story is based on the almost fabulous life of Frank Rosendhale (impersonated by Robert de Niro), the best handicapper of all times, and his beautiful wife Gery (impersonated by Sharon Stone). Las Vegas made them rich and television made them famous.

“Casino” hit the box-offices, but Frank said director Martin Scorsese brought the spotlights on his own chopped vision of Las Vegas; blamed him that he was not really interested to either understand casinos or be faithful to the real story; thus, Frank Rosenthale would have told it differently.

The Winner

Las Vegas footage has proven a good luck charm for Francis Ford Coppola’s famous nephew, Nicholas Cage. He started with Honeymoon in Vegas in 1992, grabbed an Oscar on the road with Leaving Las Vegas and made a come-back with Con Air in 1997; literally, Nick Cage forced his landing on the Hard Rock Hotel guitar…

Just another subjective list

  • 1971 – Diamonds Are Forever, from the James Bond (Sean Connery) series
  • 1974 – The Godfather Part II
  • The Rocky series (parts III and IV) included brief glimpses from Las Vegas
  • 1987 – Heat, 100% Las Vegas made, starring Burt Reynolds
  • 1988 – Rain Man, with Dustin Hoffman, action set mostly inside Caesars Palace
  • 1991 – Bugsy, the story of Bugsy Siegel and the making of the Flamingo. Casts Warren Beatty and Annette Bening
  • 1993 – Indecent Proposal. Some reviews advice to “save the money for slots”
  • 1995 – Heat, this time starring Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino, the only movie the two “monsters” have met
  • 1995 – Showgirls, mostly a movie about… girls, including many scenes at Stardust

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