Elvis Presley first met Priscilla Presley (Beaulieu at the time) in 1958 while he was stationed in Friedberg, Germany. The star had been drafted into the US Army and, before long, struck up a relationship with the young 14-year-old woman. Two years later, Elvis left the army and returned to the USA. Priscilla couldn’t stand being away from her lover, so began visiting him periodically.
In 1963, Priscilla moved into Graceland permanently. But the young woman then started seeing another side to the King of Rock and Roll.
By 1963, he had shot 13 movies where he – usually – played the musical love interest. The King later admitted he was frustrated by the movies’ simplistic content, but nevertheless, he worked hard on the film sets.
Priscilla recognised Elvis’ passion for the work and refused to go and see him in Los Angeles and California on movie sets. Instead, she remained at Graceland, in Memphis, Tennessee.
The young woman opened up about her relationship with Elvis in the August 1973 edition of Ladies Home Journals.
Priscilla wrote: “I didn’t think that he could do his best if I was around. I felt that was his job, his business, and it was not my place to be there.”
She added: “Most of the time I stayed in Memphis and occupied my time at the dance studio, or went to dinner with a girl friend. I was perfectly happy the way it was.”
Priscilla respected Elvis’ work, and never wanted to get in his way. But this consideration for his job may have set her up to fail.
A year later, in 1964, Elvis started work on a new film: Viva Las Vegas.
On paper, Viva Las Vegas was just another musical romantic comedy flick for Elvis’ fans. He sang, he danced, he had spectacular new locations to croon on.
But the major difference was the inclusion of one hot up-and-coming star: Ann-Margret. The Swedish-American actress had recently starred in the movie “Bye Bye Birdie” and was quickly becoming one of the biggest stars in Hollywood.
However, it wasn’t her acting prowess that made Viva Las Vegas such a legendary movie. Ann-Margret caught Elvis’ eye in a significant way. Sparks “flew” between them on just their first meeting, and they quickly began a passionate love affair.
The Hollywood heartthrobs spent almost every waking moment in Las Vegas together. And Elvis’ pals, The Memphis Mafia, welcomed her into their group.
But no good thing lasts forever. Soon enough, news about their affair got out.
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Just over a year after Elvis and Ann-Margret started dating behind Priscilla’s back, the press caught wind of what was going on. When the actress was asked about the relationship, an answer got misconstrued that ultimately seemed as if she was engaged to Elvis.
The news went around the world that Elvis had become engaged to the star he was working with on his new movie. And Priscilla was furious.
She recalled in her memoir, Elvis and Me, that her anger grew into a spiteful rage. She was tired of “the secrets and lies” that she had been subjected to.
In a blind fury, Priscilla threw a vase across the room and it broke against a wall. This drastic act opened Elvis’ eyes to the gravity of the situation. And he responded in kind.
Priscilla claimed Elvis “grabbed her and threw her on the bed” before assuring her he didn’t know his escapades with Ann-Margret would hit headlines as severely as they had done. But still, he was not happy with Priscilla’s actions. He demanded to know whether she would let this go or not.
He said: “I want a woman who’s going to understand that things like this might just happen. Are you going to be her or not?”
After agreeing, Elvis assured her again that the relationship between him and Ann-Margret was over.
Elvis told Priscilla: “It’s over, Cilla. I swear to you. It’s over.” He noted how he simply got “caught up in a situation that was out of hand from the beginning”.
Ann-Margret gave her opinion on the event in her own memoir, My Story. She wrote: “There were other factors in Elvis’s life that forced him apart from me, and I understood them. Elvis had always been honest with me, but still, it was a confusing situation. We continued to see each other periodically until we had dated for almost a year. Then everything halted. We knew the relationship had to end, that Elvis had to fulfill his commitment.” (sic)
Elvis proposed to Priscilla a year later, in 1966. They married six months later on May 1, 1967.