The Swinger

It’s not easy to upstage Elvis Presley, but that’s exactly what Ann-Margret did in Viva Las Vegas.  I think it’s because no matter who you are, or what era you grew up in, you know what to expect from Elvis.  And don’t get me wrong, he delivers in that movie.  But Ann-Margret catches the viewers completely off guard with her energy in that film.  The director of Viva Las Vegas, George Sidney, was apparently impressed as well since he made his next film a vehicle for Margret, 1966’s The Swinger.

Don’t be fooled, the title has nothing to do with the partner swapping lifestyle often called “swinging,” but Margret’s character, Kelly Olsson, does end up trying to play the part of a…shall we say “adventurous” young woman.  Kelly is a writer who is desperate to have her work published.  Though she seems to be someone who is repulsed by the sexual objectification of women, she, for some reason, has come to the offices of Girl-Lure Magazine to submit her work.  Girl-Lure seems to be a Playboy wannabe controlled by a handsome young editor, played by Tony Franciossa, and a dirty old British coot, played by Robert Coote (no pun intended).  They think Kelly is one of the many girls in the office anxious to take their clothes off for the camera, but when she informs them she is a writer, they quickly dismiss her work as being too innocent for their publication.

Kelly storms back to her home, a large house that she seems to share with various artists and people who figure why walk from room to room when you can dance.   With a selection of pulp novels as inspiration, she pieces parts of them together to create a story called “The Swinger.”  She figures that Girl-Lure will go for this story, thus proving that they don’t really care about quality.  When she is turned down again, she blurts out that the story was based on her own life.  This catches the attention of the old British fart.  If what she says is legit, he will publish her work.  This leads to Kelly and her housemates staging an elaborate gathering to convince him how depraved she really is.  It involves a bikini clad Ann-Margret being used as a human paint brush.  I fear I may have just lost all my readers who are searching for this title on NetFlix streaming now.

The rest of the film involves Kelly trying to keep up the charade, meanwhile Francisossa’s character is trying to pull a My Fair Lady and reform the young lady.  Why the editor of a girlie magazine feels the need to reform this particular young woman whilst publishing scantily clad pictures of others is a mystery.  All the while, both are starting to fall for each other.

This movie is a bit strange.  I mean, at the beginning Ann-Margret comes across as a bit of a feminist, yet she goes to pretty extreme lengths to try and convince people that she’s a wild woman.  Whatever point her character is trying to prove…well, it’s lost on me.  And if the movie truly is trying to make some sort of a feminist statement, it sure goes out of it’s way to show Miss Margret in a wide variety of revealing attire.  Meanwhile, the men in the film don’t come off well at all.  Robert Coote’s Sir Hubert Charles is an especially terrible character who would most likely be behind bars were he an actual person in today’s world.

There are several strange tangents that the filmmakers take.  There are a few scenes where Margret bursts into song, but not enough to say the film is a musical.  You’re watching the movie and then all of the sudden…oh, we’re going to sing now.  Even more jarring are two strange montages that use still photos rather than filmed sequences.  One of them features Margret shopping and modeling different outfits at Saks Fifth Avenue (as indicated by the opening credits, no less).  As beautiful as Ann-Margret looks…the sequence is goofy.  And then there’s the very end of the film, where the narrator actually rewinds the film and does the last scene over after the ending is deemed no good.

Ann-Margret managed to steal Viva Las Vegas from Elvis, but there’s no stealing here.  This one’s all hers, and unfortunately The Swinger is more like a Stinker.

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