Ann-Margret Olsson, famously known as Ann-Margret, emerged as a megastar of the silver screen with an unmistakable blend of talent, charisma, and beauty.
Born in Sweden and raised in the United States, she captivated audiences with her magnetic presence in the entertainment world.
But it wasn’t just her acting prowess that enthralled; it was her multifaceted talent—an actress, singer, and dancer—that solidified her as an icon.
Her singing and acting careers span seven decades, starting in 1961. Initially, she was billed as a female version of Elvis Presley.
She has a sultry, vibrant contralto voice. She had a Top 20 hit song in 1961 and a charting album in 1964, and she scored a disco hit in 1979.
In 1961, Ann-Margret filmed a screen test at 20th Century Fox and was signed to a seven-year contract. She made her film debut in a loan-out to United Artists in Frank Capra’s Pocketful of Miracles with Bette Davis; it is a remake of Capra’s own Lady for a Day (1933).
For her performance, Ann-Margret was awarded her first Golden Globe, for New Actress of the Year alongside Jane Fonda and Christine Kaufmann.
Then came a 1962 remake of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical State Fair, in which she played the “bad girl” role of Emily opposite Bobby Darin and Pat Boone.
She had previously tested for the part of Margie, the “good girl”, but she was deemed to be too seductive for that role by the studio bosses.
In her autobiography, Ann-Margret wrote that the two roles seemed to represent the two sides of her real-life personality.
She was shy and reserved offstage but wildly exuberant and sensuous onstage, transforming “from Little Miss Lollipop to Sexpot-Banshee”, in her words.
Her performance as the all-American teenager Kim in Bye Bye Birdie (1963) made her a major star.
Its premiere at Radio City Music Hall, 16 years after her first visit to the famed theater, was the highest first-week grossing film to date at the Music Hall.
Life magazine put her on the cover for the second time and announced that the “torrid dancing almost replaces the central heating in the theater.”
Her performance earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress. She was then asked to sing “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home” at President John F. Kennedy’s private birthday party at the Waldorf Astoria New York, one year after Marilyn Monroe’s famous “Happy Birthday to You”.
Ann-Margret met Elvis Presley on the MGM soundstage when the two filmed Viva Las Vegas (1964). Filmink argued “She had so much energy and pep that she had blown her previous three male co-stars off screen, but Elvis could match her. He was the best on-screen partner she ever had, and she was his.”
She recorded three duets with Presley for the film: “The Lady Loves Me“, “You’re the Boss“, and “Today, Tomorrow, and Forever“.
Only “The Lady Loves Me” made it into the final film and none of them were commercially released until years after Presley’s death, due to concerns by Colonel Tom Parker that Ann-Margret’s presence threatened to overshadow Elvis.
In the ’90s, Ann-Margret alternated between TV and films. She was introduced to a new generation with her role in the 1993 comedy hit Grumpy Old Men, and its equally popular 1995 sequel Grumpier Old Men.
She continued her television success, receiving her fourth Emmy nomination for the miniseries Queen (1993), in which she portrays a woman who ages 60 years over the course of the series.
During her career, Ann-Margret has been romantically linked to Eddie Fisher, Hugh O’Brien, Frankie Avalon, Vince Edwards and Hollywood businessman Burt Sugarman, to whom she was briefly engaged in 1962.
She was married to Roger Smith 1967 until his death in 2017. The couple raised three children, from Smith’s previous marriage.
(Photo credit: Pinterest / Wikimedia Commons).