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As We See It

Ask Dead Elvis: Old Vegas films

I saw a film a few months ago, Moon Over Las Vegas. It wasn’t very good, but it was interesting to see the look of Vegas before Bugsy Siegel made it the more modern Vegas. Anything before that?

What exists even before this is pretty much thin pickings, but there are still some interesting surprises. Las Vegas Nights (1941) was a low-budget Bert Wheeler (yep, THAT Bert Wheeler) vehicle that featured a very young Frank Sinatra in his film debut, singing “I’ll Never Smile Again” as “the singer” for Tommy Dorsey’s Band.

Film buffs always enjoy the early commentary on Las Vegas in Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels (1941). One character asks another “What do they do in Las Vegas?” and the reply is “Everything, doctor. It’s an education!” Finally, we know this shouldn’t count, but one of the earliest film premieres in Southern Nevada happened in Boulder City for a small B-film called Boulder Dam (1936). A few of the actors—actress Patricia Ellis for sure, and reportedly actor Ross Alexander—made an appearance at the Boulder City Theater (which still stands) for an historic footnote of pomp and ceremony.


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