Full name, Ann–Margret Olsson; born April 28, 1941, in Valsjoebyn, Jaemtland, Sweden; immigrated to the United States, 1946; naturalized citizen, 1949; daughter of Gustaav (an electrician) and Anna (a funeral parlor receptionist; maiden name, Aronson) Olsson; married Roger Smith (an actor, director, and producer), May 8, 1967. Education: Attended Northwestern University.
Addresses: Agent—International Creative Management, 8942 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211; William Morris Agency, 1325 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019. Manager—AM Productions & Management, 8899 Beverly Blvd., Suite 713, Los Angeles, CA 90048.
Career: Actress and singer. Ann–Margret Productions, owner. Early in career performed on radio shows and toured with a band; performer at nightclubs such as Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, and in Lake Tahoe; performed with George Burns at the Sahara Hotel, Las Vegas, 1960; performed at MGM Grand, Las Vegas, 2003; performed at Moon River Theatre, Branson, MO, 2004.
Awards, Honors: Golden Globe Award, most promising newcomer, 1962; Golden Laurel Award, top female new personality, 1962; Golden Laurel Award, top female musical performance, 1963, for State Fair; Golden Laurel Award nominations, top female star, 1963, 1964; Golden Laurel 2nd place, top female comedy performance, and Golden Globe Award nomination, best motion picture actress—musical/comedy, 1964, both for Bye Bye Birdie; Most Popular Female Star, Photoplay Awards, Photoplay magazine, 1964; Golden Laurel 3rd place, musical performance, female, 1965 for Viva Las Vegas; Golden Laurel 3rd place, musical performance, female, 1966, for Made in Paris; Golden Laurel Award nomination, female star, 1967; Gold Medal Awards, most popular actress, Photoplay magazine, 1971 and 1972; Golden Globe Award and Academy Award nomination, both best supporting actress, both 1972, for Carnal Knowledge; Golden Globe Award, best motion picture actress—musical/comedy, and Academy Award nomination, best actress, both 1975, for Tommy; Golden Globe Award nomination, best motion picture actress in a supporting role, 1978, for Joseph Andrews; Saturn Award nomination, best actress, Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, 1979, for Magic; Genie Award nomination, best performance by a foreign actress, Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, 1981, for Middle Age Crazy; Golden Apple Award, Star of the Year, Hollywood Women's Press Club, 1983; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding lead actress in a limited series or a special, 1983, Golden Globe Award, best performance by an actress in a miniseries or motion picture made for television, 1984, both for Who Will Love My Children?; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding lead actress in a limited series or special, 1984, Golden Globe Award, best performance by an actress in a miniseries or motion picture made for television, 1985, both for A Streetcar Named Desire; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding lead actress, 1987, Golden Globe Award nominations, best performance by an actress in a miniseries or motion picture made for TV, 1988, for The Two Mrs. Grenvilles; Crystal Award, Women in Crystal Awards, 1987; Emmy Award nomination, best supporting actress in a miniseries or special, and Golden Globe Award nomination, best supporting actress in a series, miniseries or telefilm, both 1993, both for Alex Haley's Queen; Golden Globe Award nomination, best performance by an actress in a miniseries or motion picture made for TV, Emmy Award nomination, outstanding lead actress in a miniseries or a movie, and Screen Actors Guild Award nomination, outstanding performance by a female actor in a TV movie or miniseries, 1999, all for Life of the Party: The Pamela Harriman Story; three–time recipient of Female Star of the Year Award, United Motion Pictures Association; twice named Outstanding Box–Office Star of the Year, Theatre Owners of America; citation for outstanding performances (tours of Vietnam and Far East) from President Lyndon B. Johnson; Royal Command Performance for Queen Elizabeth II of England; Italian Motion Picture Industry Award; Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
(Film debut) Louise, Pocketful of Miracles, United Artists, 1961.
Emily Porter, State Fair, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1962.
Kim McAfee, Bye Bye Birdie, Columbia, 1963.
Jody Dvorak, Kitten with a Whip, Universal, 1964.
Fran Hobson, The Pleasure Seekers, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1964.
Rusty Martin, Viva Las Vegas (also known as Love in Las Vegas), Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer, 1964.
Laurel, Bus Riley's Back in Town, Universal, 1965.
Melba, The Cincinnati Kid, Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer, 1965.
Kristine Pedak, Once a Thief (also known as Les tueurs de San Francicso), Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer, 1965.
Maggie Scott, Made in Paris, Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer, 1966.
Suzie Solaris, Murderers' Row, Columbia, 1966.
Dallas, Stagecoach, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1966.
Kelly Ollson, The Swinger, Paramount, 1966.
Carolina, The Tiger and the Pussycat (also known as Il tigre), Embassy, 1967.
Maggie, Il profeta (also known as Mr. Kinky and The Prophet), 1968.
Leticia, Sette unomini e un cervello (also known as Criminal Affair, Criminal Symphony, El gran robo, Il rubbamento, and Seven Men and One Brain), 1968.
Singer, Rebus (also known as El crimen tambien juega, Heisses Spiel fuer harte Maenner, and Laberinto), 1969.
Rhoda, R.P.M. (also known as R.P.M. [Revolutions Per Minute], Columbia, 1970.
Ann McCalley, C. C. and Company (also known as Chrome Hearts), Avco–Embassy, 1971.
Bobbie Templeton, Carnal Knowledge, Avco–Embassy, 1971.
Nancy Robson, The Outside Man (also known as Un homme est mort and Funerale a Los Angeles), United Artists, 1973.
Mrs. Lowe, The Train Robbers, Warner Bros., 1973.
Charlie Minerva, The Twist (also known as Folies bourgeoises, Pazzi borghesi, and Die verrueckten Reichen), UGC/Parafrance, 1976.
Lady Booby, Joseph Andrews, Paramount, 1977.
Lady Flavia Geste, The Last Remake of Beau Geste, Universal, 1977.
Jezebel Dezire, The Cheap Detective (also known as Neil Simon's The Cheap Detective), Columbia, 1978.
Peggy Ann Snow, Magic, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1978.
Charming Jones, The Villain (also known as Cactus Jack), Columbia, 1979.
Sue Ann, Middle Age Crazy (also known as Heartfarm), Twentieth Century–Fox, 1980.
Stephanie, I Ought to Be in Pictures, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1982.
Patti Warner, Lookin' to Get Out, Paramount, 1982.
Jenny, The Return of the Soldier, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1983.
Audrey Minelli, Twice in a Lifetime, Yorkin, 1985.
(In archive footage) That's Dancing!, 1985.
Barbara Mitchell, 52 Pick–Up, Cannon, 1986.
Rose Butts, A Tiger's Tale, Atlantic Entertainment, 1988.
Jackie Giardino, A New Life, Paramount, 1988.
Medda Larkson, Newsies (also known as The Newsboys), Buena Vista, 1992.
Ariel Truax, Grumpy Old Men, Warner Bros., 1993.
(In archive footage) Mrs. Walker, The Who's Tommy, the Amazing Journey, 1993.
Ariel Gustafson, Grumpier Old Men (also known as Grumpy Old Men 2), Warner Bros., 1995.
Margaret Pagniacci, Any Given Sunday, Warner Bros., 1999.
Mira Wexler, The Last Producer (also known as The Final Hit), Artisan Entertainment, 2000.
Mrs. James, Interstate 60 (also known as I–60 and Interstate 60: Episodes of the Road), Samuel Goldwyn Films, 2002.
Taxi, Twentieth Century–Fox, 2004.
Television Appearances; Series:
Amanda "Maggie" Wyatt, Four Corners, CBS, 1997–1998.
Television Appearances; Miniseries:
Ann Arden, The Two Mrs. Grenvilles, NBC, 1987.
Sally Jackson, Alex Haley's Queen (also known as Queen), CBS, 1993.
Belle Watling, Scarlett, CBS, 1994.
Patsy's mother, Perfect Murder, Perfect Town: JonBenet and the City of Boulder, CBS, 2000.
Queen Cinderella, The 10th Kingdom (also known as Das 10te Koenigreich and Das Zehnte Koenigreich), 2000.
Della, Marilyn's grandmother, Blonde (also known as Marilyn Monroe), CBS, 2001.
Television Appearances; Movies:
The Way They Were, 1981.
Lucille Fray, Who Will Love My Children?, ABC, 1983.
Blanche DuBois, A Streetcar Named Desire, ABC, 1984.
Luanne Barnes, Our Sons (also known as Too Little, Too Late), 1991.
Ingalill Lundquist, Following Her Heart (also known as Sing Me the Blues, Lena), NBC, 1994.
Carol Stephens, Nobody's Children (also known as A Race against Time), USA Network, 1994.
Maggie Yearwood, Blue Rodeo, CBS, 1996.
Title role, Seduced by Madness: The Diane Borchardt Story (also known as Seduced by Madness), 1996.
Title role, Life of the Party: The Pamela Harriman Story, Lifetime, 1998.
Lorraine Petrovich, Happy Face Murders, Showtime, 1999.
Claire, A Woman's a Helluva Thing, 2001.
Tula Bouvier Jeeters, A Place Called Home, Hallmark Channel, 2004.
Also appeared as Ruby, Dames at Sea.
Television Appearances; Specials:
The Andy Williams Special, NBC, 1962.
Host, The Ann–Margret Show, CBS, 1968.
Host, Ann–Margret: From Hollywood with Love, CBS, 1969.
Jack Benny's Birthday Special, NBC, 1969.
The Bob Hope Show, NBC, 1969, 1970, 1973.
Swing Out, Sweet Land, NBC, 1971.
Host, Ann–Margret: When You're Smiling, NBC, 1973.
Host, Ann–Margret Smith, NBC, 1975.
Host, Ann–Margret Olsson, NBC, 1975.
Perry Como in Las Vegas, NBC, 1975.
Host, Memories of Elvis, NBC, 1977.
Host, Ann–Margret ... Rhinestone Cowgirl, NBC, 1977.
Las Vegas Entertainment Awards, NBC, 1977.
The George Burns One–Man Show, CBS, 1977.
Bob Hope's All–Star Comedy Spectacular from Lake Tahoe, NBC, 1977.
The 49th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 1977.
Herself, A Tribute to Neil Simon, 1978.
Herself, Cinderella at the Palace, CBS, 1978.
Herself, Rockette: A Holiday Tribute to Radio City Music Hall, NBC, 1978.
Happy Birthday, Bob, NBC, 1978.
Las Vegas Palace of Stars, CBS, 1979.
Host, Ann–Margret's Hollywood Movie Girls, ABC, 1980.
Bob Hope's Overseas Christmas Tours: Around the World with the Troops—1941–1972, 1980.
George Burns' Early, Early, Early Christmas Show, NBC, 1981.
Bob Hope's 30th Anniversary TV Special, NBC, 1981.
Hollywood's Private Home Movies, ABC, 1983.
Perry Como's Christmas in England, ABC, 1984.
America's Tribute to Bob Hope, NBC, 1988.
George Burns' 95th Birthday, CBS, 1991.
Our Sons, ABC, 1991.
Jack Benny: Comedy in Bloom, HBO, 1992.
What about Me? I'm Only 3!, CBS, 1992.
Presenter, Essence Awards, 1993.
Tina Turner: Going Home, The Disney Channel, 1993.
Host, Golden Globe's 50th Anniversary Celebration, 1994.
Presenter, Screen Actors Guild Awards, 1995.
Peter Allen: The Boy from Oz, 1995.
Bob Hope ... Laughing with the Presidents, NBC, 1996.
Jack Lemmon, PBS, 1996.
The 1996 Espy Awards, ESPN and ABC, 1996.
A Conversation with Burt Reynolds, TNN, 1997.
MDA Jerry Lewis Telethon, syndicated, 1997.
Stars over Mississippi, with Prince Edward, PBS, 1999.
Bobby Rydell: Wild about Bobby (documentary), Arts and Entertainment, 2001.
Also appeared in The Barbara Walters Special, ABC.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
Herself, "Variety Show," The Jack Benny Program, CBS, 1961.
The Ed Sullivan Show, 1962, 1963.
Voice of Ann–Magrock, "Ann–Magrock Presents," The Flintstones (animated), 1963.
Herself, "Lucy and Ann–Margaret," Here's Lucy, 1970.
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, NBC, 1971, 1980, 1984, 1987, 1991.
Herself, Omnibus, 1980.
Herself, Saturday Night Live, NBC, 1985.
Herself, The Rosie O'Donnell Show, 1996.
Angela, "Millennium," Touched by an Angel, CBS, 2000.
God, "Are You There God? It's Me, Ann–Margaret," Popular, The WB, 2000.
Barbara Halsted, "Goodbye to All That," Third Watch, NBC, 2003.
Barbara Halsted, "Surrender," Third Watch, NBC, 2003.
Barbara Halsted, "Payback," Third Watch, NBC, 2003.
Made television debut as a contestant on Ted Mack's Amateur Hour; also appeared as guest, Reflections on the Silver Screen with Professor Richard Brown, AMC.
Stage Appearances; Major Tours:
Miss Monda Stangley, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, U.S. cities, 2000–2001.
And Here She Is—Ann–Margret, RCA, 1961.
On the Way Up, RCA, 1962.
Bachelor's Paradise, RCA, 1963.
(With Al Hirt) Beauty and the Bird, RCA, 1964.
Songs from "The Swinger" and Other Swinging Songs, RCA, 1966.
The Cowboy and the Lady, 1969.
Many Moods of Ann–Margret, 1984.
Hits and Rarities, Teenager Records, 1990.
Hits and Rarities, Volume 2, Teenager Records, 1992.
Lovely Ann–Margret—Hits and Rarities, Marginal Records, 1995.
Let Me Entertain You, RCA, 1996.
Ann–Margret 1961–69, Bear Records, 1999.
God Is Love: The Gospel Sessions, Greenhaw Records, 2001.
Recorded Bye Bye Birdie (original soundtrack), Victor.
(With Todd Gold) Ann–Margret: My Story, Putnam, 1994.
Also wrote Exercises for the Tired Businessmen.
International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Volume 3: Actors and Actresses, St. James Press, 2000.
Peters, Neal, and David Smith, Ann–Margret: A Photo Extravaganza and Memoir, Delilah Books, 1981.
Entertainment Weekly, November 26, 1993; October 9, 1998, p. 65.
Interview, April, 1993; January, 1996.
New Yorker, February 3, 1992.
TV Guide, February 24, 1996.
Ann–Margret Official Site,http://www.ann-margret.com, August 4, 2004.
Nationality: American. Born: Ann-Margaret Olsson in Stockholm, Sweden, 28 April 1941; spent her first five years in Valsjobyn; became U.S. citizen 1949. Education: Attended New Trier High School, Winnetka, Illinois; Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois. Family: Married the actor Roger Smith, 1967, now also her manager. Career: 1946—at age five, emigrated to the United States; 1957—appeared on Ted Mack's Amateur Hour on television; 1960—made first appearance on the Las Vegas nightclub circuit; 1961—made film debut as ingenue in Pocketful of Miracles with Bette Davis, and in subsequent roles established persona as a sex kitten; 1968—The Ann-Margret Show, the first of many prime-time specials in the sixties and seventies, created a sensation on American network television, and Ann-Margret established career as major Las Vegas headliner; 1971—breakthrough performance in Carnal Knowledge inaugurated critical reevaluation of her dramatic abilities and garnered Academy award nomination; 1972—suffered near-fatal fall during nightclub performance and recovered, with much publicized plastic surgery; 1983—took lead role in Who Will Love My Children?, an acclaimed TV movie, beginning a series of TV films with serious subjects and a collaboration with director John Erman; 1987—in TV mini-series The Two Mrs. Grenvilles, Alex Haley's Queen, 1993, and Scarlett, 1994. Awards: Golden Globe Award for Supporting Actress, for Carnal Knowledge, 1971; Golden Globe Award, for Tommy, 1975.
Films as Actress:
Pocketful of Miracles (Frank Capra) (as Louise)
State Fair (José Ferrer) (as Emily Porter)
Bye-Bye Birdie (Sidney) (as Kim McAfee)
Viva Las Vegas (Sidney) (as Rusty Martin); Kitten with a Whip (Heyes) (as Jody Dvorak); The Pleasure Seekers (Negulesco) (as Fran Hobson)
Bus Riley's Back in Town (Harvey Hart) (as Laurel); Once a Thief (Ralph Nelson) (as Kristine Pedak); The Cincinnati Kid (Jewison) (as Melba)
Made in Paris (Sagal) (as Maggie Scott); Stagecoach (Gordon Douglas) (as Dallas); The Swinger (Sidney) (as Kelly Olsson); Murderers' Row (Henry Levin) (as Suzie Solaris)
The Criminal Affair; Rebus (Zanchin); Il Tigre (The Tiger and the Pussycat) (Dino Risi) (as Carolina); Il Profeta (The Prophet; Mr. Kinky) (Dino Risi)
Sette uomini e un Cervello (Criminal Symphony; Seven Men and One Brain) (Edward Ross)
C.C. and Company (Chrome Hearts) (Robbie) (as Ann McCalley); R.P.M. (Stanley Kramer) (as Rhoda)
Carnal Knowledge (Mike Nichols) (as Bobbie); Dames at Sea (for TV)
The Train Robbers (Burt Kennedy) (as Mrs. Lowe); Un Homme est Mort (The Outside Man; Funerale a Los Angeles) (Deray) (as Nancy Robson)
Tommy (Ken Russell) (as Nora Walker Hobbs)
Folies bourgeoises (The Twist) (Chabrol) (as Charlie Minerva)
Joseph Andrews (Tony Richardson) (as Lady Booby); The Last Remake of Beau Geste (Marty Feldman) (as Lady Flavia Geste)
The Cheap Detective (Robert Moore) (as Jezebel Dezire); Magic (Attenborough) (as Peggy Ann Snow)
The Villain (Needham) (as Charming Jones)
Middle Age Crazy (John Trent) (as Sue Ann)
The Return of the Soldier (Alan Bridges) (as Jennie Baldry); I Ought to Be in Pictures (Herbert Ross) (as Stephanie); Lookin' to Get Out (Ashby) (as Patti Warner)
Who Will Love My Children? (Erman—for TV) (as Lucile Fray)
A Streetcar Named Desire (Erman—for TV) (as Blanche DuBois)
Twice in a Lifetime (Yorkin) (as Audrey Minelli)
52 Pick-Up (Frankenheimer) (as Barbara Mitchell)
A Tiger's Tale (Peter Douglas) (as Rose Butts); A New Life (Alda) (as Jackie Giardino)
Our Sons (Erman—for TV) (as Luanne Barnes)
Newsies (Ortega) (as Medda Larkson)
Grumpy Old Men (Donald Petrie) (as Ariel Truax)
Following Your Heart (Lee Grant—for TV); Nobody's Children (Wheatley—for TV) (as Carol Stevens)
Grumpier Old Men (Deutch) (as Ariel Truax Gustafson) Seduced by Madness: The Diane Borchardt Story (John Patterson—for TV) (title role); Blue Rodeo (Peter Werner III—for TV) (as Maggie Yearwood)
Life of the Party: The Pamela Harriman Story (Hussein—for TV) (as Pamela Harriman); Four Corners (as Amanda Wyatt—for TV)
Happy Face Murders (Trenchard-Smith—for TV) (as Lorraine Petrovich); Any Given Sunday (Stone) (as Margaret Pagniacci)
Blonde (Carol Oates—for TV); Perfect Murder, Perfect Town (Schiller—for TV) (Patsy's Mother); The Last Producer; The 10th Kingdom (David Carson/Herbert Wise—for TV)
By ANN-MARGRET: book—
Ann-Margret: My Story, with Todd Gold, New York, 1994.
By ANN-MARGRET: articles—
"A Weep in the Deep," interview with Arthur Bell, in Village Voice (New York), 31 March 1975.
"Pro-Ann-Margret," interview, in Films Illustrated, July 1975.
"Ann-Margret," interview with R. Hartford, in Ciné Revue (Paris), 7 August 1975.
"Something to Offer: Ann-Margret," interview with Gordon Gow, in Films and Filming (London), January 1976.
Interview with Merrill Shindler, in Los Angeles Magazine, July 1988.
"Ann-Margret a Go-Go," interview with Paul Rosenfield, in Vanity Fair (New York), October 1991.
On ANN-MARGRET: book—
Peters, Neal, Ann-Margret: A Photo Extravaganza and Memoir, New York, 1981.
On ANN-MARGRET: articles—
Current Biography 1975, New York, 1975.
"La vedette de la semaine: Ann-Margret," in Ciné Review (Paris), 11 August 1977.
Sarris, Andrew, "Films in Focus: Magic and Ann-Margret: The Alter-Ego Meets the Icon," in Village Voice (New York), 13 November 1978.
Veljkovic, M., "Dancebiz: Las Vegas Seen," in Dance Magazine, June 1983.
Bulnes, J., "Les immortels du cinema: Ann-Margret," in Ciné Revue (Paris), 8 December 1983.
Farber, Stephan, "TV Is Polishing Ann-Margret's Image," in New York Times, 17 July 1984.
Canby, Vincent, "Film View: Ann-Margret Produces Yet Another Surprise," in New York Times, 17 February 1985.
Robinson, Jeffrey, "Shy and Silent Superstar Ann-Margret," in McCall's, October 1988.
Clark, John, "Ann-Margret," in Premiere (New York), September 1989.
Oney, Steve, "A Vegas Valkyrie Alights at Radio City," in New York Times, 20 October 1991.
"Optimism," in New Yorker, 3 February 1992.
"Ann-Margret," in Stars (Mariembourg), June 1992.
Hampton, Howard, "Elvis Dorado: The True Romance of Viva Las Vegas," in Film Comment (New York), July 1994.
* * *
The Swedish-born Ann-Margret began her film career as the ingenue in the Frank Capra film Pocketful of Miracles, holding her own opposite luminaries Bette Davis and Glenn Ford, an omen, certainly, of her considerable presence and ability. A more important personal success was achieved with the musical Bye, Bye, Birdie, in which Ann-Margret exhibited her abundant skills as a singer and dancer, energizing the film with her powerful sexuality as well as with her innocence and fresh charm.
In Viva Las Vegas, one of the most underrated musicals of the American cinema, Ann-Margret played opposite Elvis Presley—providing Presley one of his few memorable co-stars. Indeed, in Viva Las Vegas, Ann-Margret exuded an undulating sexuality and unbridled energy so overwhelming that her musical scenes with Presley reflect the Zeitgeist of the sexual revolution of the sixties.
Ann-Margret followed Viva Las Vegas with a series of films that cemented—rather unfortunately for her—her reputation as a sex kitten. Films such as Kitten with a Whip and Bus Riley's Back in Town created a rather tawdry image which critics of the time found necessary to ridicule. Not surprisingly, her often sensitive performances—as, for instance, the vulnerable wife in Once a Thief, opposite Alain Delon—were ignored. The critical nadir to her career occurred at the end of the sixties, when, after a series of foreign films disrespected by Hollywood, she returned to the United States to star opposite the rather wooden football player, Joe Namath, in a motorcycle melodrama, C.C. and Company, produced by her husband Roger Smith; and in Stanley Kramer's R.P.M., an unconvincing Vietnamera drama about student protest on a college campus. Rather unfairly, Ann-Margret had become a joke.
Her critical comeback occurred in 1971, when Mike Nichols cast her opposite Jack Nicholson in Carnal Knowledge. As Nicholson's mistress, Bobbie, Ann-Margret played a woman whose very essence had been defined by her large breasts and sexuality. Nichols's film, based on the script by Jules Feiffer, showed persuasively how that simplistic definition was forced upon Bobbie by a sexist, male-dominated culture which refused to acknowledge or value other possibilities for a woman. That there was a certain autobiographical resonance to the role could not but help Ann-Margret to deliver what has been considered her greatest, most subtle, performance: vulnerable, hard-edged, pathetic, direct, emotional, brutally honest—a breakthrough Academy award-nominated performance which has prevented critics since from denigrating Ann-Margret's talents or seeing her only in terms of her considerable sensuousness.
In fact, so rehabilitated was her reputation that Ann-Margret could afford to take the music and sex-oriented role of Tommy's mother in Ken Russell's version of the rock opera Tommy—in which a key scene had a sensuously clad Ann-Margret writhing in perhaps tons of baked beans. Her knockout performance was again nominated for an Academy Award.
Ann-Margret's career since has alternated between her high-powered live Las Vegas shows spotlighting her singing and dancing with film and television roles generally requiring her to provide more subdued characterizations in serious drama. Her much-lauded performance in Who Will Love My Children? as a dying Iowa farm woman attempting to find homes for her ten children was heartbreakingly expressive—and indeed, was publicly praised by Barbara Stanwyk at an Emmy Awards ceremony as one of the best performances ever in the American cinema, as Stanwyck disparaged her own award for a competing performance. And as Blanche du Bois in a television version of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire, Ann-Margret again received critical accolades, holding her own against the sacred memory of Vivien Leigh. Moving and honest performances can be found as well in The Return of the Soldier (playing an old maid opposite acting heavyweights Glenda Jackson and Julie Christie and comparing well), Twice in a Lifetime, The Two Mrs. Grenvilles, and the AIDS drama Our Sons.
Indeed, Ann-Margret's confluence of sexuality with innocence and vulnerability is even more appealing as she moves through her mature middle-age. Yet if other performers who have drawn upon sexual personas or aggressive femininity have tended to display a coyness or self-consciousness (if they have not self-destructed, like Marilyn Monroe), Ann-Margret must be seen as always projecting a natural grace and intelligence, coupled with a sincerity and honesty so straightforward and unapologetic as to be almost unnerving.
Certainly, one must note that only a remarkably unselfconscious performer could take on so many roles which so shamelessly commented upon or exploited her own image—her comic turn in The Swinger, for instance, in which she plays a character with her own real last name (Olsson), who only pretends to be promiscuous to garner success; or roles that lampoon her own physical attributes—such as Lady Booby in Joseph Andrews, or Charming Jones in The Villain (which crosses Road Runner cartoons with Al Capp caricatures). Other elements also present in her trouper image—which have undoubtedly helped Ann-Margret sustain her popularity over the decades—are a certain coarseness; a connection to the blue-collar world; a populist appeal to women as well as men, straights as well as gays; and a lack of taste sometimes so outrageous as to itself become classy, if not camp.