Viva Las Vegas!
"You're talking about counting cards?!" Jim Sturgess deduces as he's inducted into a very different kind of math club in the movie 21. When? Every weekend. Where? Smug smiles from Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth and the gang…
Welcome to Sin City!
Just a couple of years younger than Hollywood, 225 miles to the West, Las Vegas seems to exert a magnetic hold on filmmakers - and has done ever since the mafioso Bugsy Siegel built the Flamingo Hotel for his girlfriend, the actress Virginia Hill, in 1946. This was the first block in what became the Strip, a four and a half mile stretch of casinos, bars and mega resorts in the middle of the desert.
The desert is crucial to this history. Once the silver mines began to run out, Nevada had next to nothing to recommend it to settlers, and in the early years of the twentieth century its already small population was shrinking steadily. That's when the state authorities began to get creative.
Nevada became the easiest place in the US to get married, and, more importantly, to get a divorce. Prostitution was legalized on a county-by-county basis. And in 1931, so was gambling. You still might not want to live there, but many Americans decided these were excellent reasons to drop in for a visit.
Between them, the gangster movies Bugsy, The Godfather II and Casino take up the story, and help to explain how a small railroad town in the middle of nowhere became the self-styled 'Entertainment Capital of the World'.
"Running a casino is like robbing a bank with no cops around," Ace Rothstein (Robert De Niro) says in the Scorsese film. "For guys like me, Las Vegas washes away your sins. It's like a morality car wash."
You can see why Hollywood would be interested. This is the American Dream writ large: a hedonist's mirage in concrete, steel and flashing neon; the pursuit of happiness translated into endless banks of slot machines, each promising that elusive jackpot.
In the last year alone we've seen Lucky You, with Eric Bana romancing and ripping off Drew Barrymore to get into the World Series of Poker; Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd sampled the high life and compared chairs in Knocked Up; the city was home to Nic Cage as Frank Cadillac, a magician blessed with precognition in Next; and its most famous citizen, Howard Hughes, was the elusive subject of The Hoax, a true story about a fake autobiography. Danny Ocean and crew returned to the scene of the crime in Ocean's 13. Then there was Resident Evil: Extinction, which prophesized that the desert will reclaim the Strip, leaving Luxor's pyramid, Lady Liberty and The Eiffel Tower poking through the sand to remind us that, as the city's slogan puts it, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas."
The Las Vegas Collection
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