Friday, July 1, 2016

Glitter Gulch Meets the Silver Screen

Las Vegas is an iconic location known the world over. Sin City has also spawned some equally iconic films over the years. Here’s a list of some of our favorite Vegas-centric movies in no particular order.

Ocean’s 11 (1960)
The quintessential heist film, Ocean’s 11 is an ode to Old Vegas. The Rat Pack filmed the majority of the scenes on location in Las Vegas at the Flamingo, Sands, Desert Inn, Riviera and Sahara casinos. Sadly, the Flamingo is the only surviving Strip property.

Diamonds Are Forever
One of the best in the Bond Catalogue, Diamonds Are Forever starred Sean Connery as the swarthy MI6 agent. Howard Hughes being a friend of the Broccoli family allowed the studio to shoot all the Las Vegas scenes in his casinos. Those properties have all since been demolished to make way for Wynn Las Vegas, The Venetian, The Mirage, Treasure Island and another parking lot for the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Rain Man
For millions of people, envisioning Las Vegas means envisioning the famous scene in which the brothers Babbitt descend a Caesars Palace escalator before taking the house for tens of thousands of dollars. Always remember… “casinos have house rules. They don't like to lose. So you never show that you're counting cards. That is the cardinal sin, Ray!”

Con Air
This 1997 action flick produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and starring Nicolas Cage featured Las Vegas prominently. During the later stages of the movie, the prisoners are forced to crash land the prison transport aircraft, Jailbird, on the Strip, which promptly runs into a casino. That casino was actually the Sands. During the time of production, the Sands was scheduled to be imploded to make way for The Venetian. Bruckheimer reached out to Sands owner, Sheldon Adelson, who agreed to let the crew fly a plane into the historic property.

The Hangover
It took only 15 days of shooting in Las Vegas to burden the city with a lifetime of would-be Alan Garners. Every casino sundries shop has a shades-sporting Carlos t-shirt for sale. You can typically find two to three Zach Galifianakis look-alikes posing for photo-ops along the Strip. The majority of the movie is filmed at and around Caesars Palace. The scene in which a very naked Asian man jumps out of the trunk of a car took place in the empty lot across Las Vegas Boulevard from Mandalay Bay. You can also visit Stu’s “wedding chapel.” It’s a security agency’s office on Paradise Road near the Stratosphere.

Viva Las Vegas
The classic 1964 musical starring Elvis and Ann-Margret is a campy celebration of Las Vegas’ glamour and excess. The duo’s characters were married at the Little Church of the West, the oldest wedding chapel in Las Vegas. You can visit the chapel, which looks exactly as it did when constructed in 1942, at its current location on Las Vegas Boulevard and Russel Road near the Las Vegas welcome sign.

This is the second Barry Levinson directed movie on this list. Bugsy is the larger-than-life story of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, who helped the East Coast mobs set up shop in the desert. His casino, Flamingo, was named after his mistress Virginia Hill, who had long legs and red hair. Siegel called her his fabulous flamingo. Annette Bening played Hill in the movie. The actual Bugsy’s rose garden is still on property and features a memorial plaque honoring the fallen mobster.

Martin Scorsese’s epic crime drama stars Robert De Niro as a Jewish gambling handicapper tapped by the Chicago outfit to run the Tangiers Casino in Las Vegas. De Niro’s character is based on the life of Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, the real-life mobster who ran the Stardust. Unfortunately, the only thing left of the Stardust today is a large open pit just south of Circus Circus. As legend has it, Rosenthal got the nickname Lefty because if he caught you cheating in his casino, he’d break your left hand with a rubber mallet.

Honeymoon in Vegas
Sorry, but we just love Las Vegas resident Nicolas Cage. He and Sarah Jessica Parker were filmed primarily at Bally’s, which aside from a monorail station and a new outdoor mall, has gone largely unchanged since the early 1980s. The movie also stars a very young Bruno Mars as a little Elvis impersonator.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Perhaps the only movie to truly capture the simulacrum that is Glitter Gulch, the Hunter S. Thompson adaptation starring Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro portrays Vegas as a crude caricature of the American Dream. The drug-fueled opus was filmed at the Stardust. The production crew was only allowed to film inside the casino between 2 and 6 a.m., and the extras around the tables were required to actually gamble.

With a location like Las Vegas, it's easy to understand the appeal. The over-the-top extravagance lends itself well to imaginative story telling. Share your favorite Vegas movies in the comments section, and browse VegasDaze for tickets to the city’s best tours and shows!

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