Ann-Margret: A Legend Looks Back

In honor of the screen legend's 70th birthday, take a look back at her career in film.

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    GettingDirection

    Ann-Margret looks over a script with the screen test's director, Robert Parrish, and the actor who would read opposite her, David Hedison. The movie Fox was casting, State Fair, had been made twice previously, including a 1945 version starring Jeanne Crain as a sweet girl in love. Ann-Margret remembers: "The first half [of the test] was me with David doing a scene -- me in the Jeanne Crain part with my long, dark brown hair. But when I did the [second half of the test] where I was in the black leotard and the sweater, I got the other part: the woman on the other side of the tracks. . . . And they bleached my hair vivid orange." Click here to see the full slideshow at LIFE.com. (Photo: LIFE)
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    ChorusLine

    LIFE's Grey Villet captures the actress with her relatives in Fox Lake, Illinois. Ann-Margret, her parents, and her aunts and uncles had all immigrated to the United States from Sweden. Click here to see the full slideshow at LIFE.com. (Photo: LIFE.com)
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    ALegUp

    A scene from 1967's "The Tiger and the Pussy Cat." Click here to see the full slideshow at LIFE.com. (Photo: Hulton Archive/LIFE.com)
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    SplendorGrass

    "Splendor in the Grass," 1965   Click here to see the full slideshow at LIFE.com.   (Photo: Archive Photos/Getty Images/LIFE.com)
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    BodiceandBoa

    Bodice and Boa, 1995 (Photo: Harry Langdon/Getty Images/LIFE.com)
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    SodaShop

    From LIFE's story: "Countless other girls, just as pretty and eager as Ann-Margret, try Hollywood, hoping for the Cinderella ending. Only one in a multitude makes it. But whenever the legend stands a chance of coming true, the girl and all who watch are drawn into a complex of hope and tension." Click here to see the full slideshow at LIFE.com. (Photo: LIFE.com)
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    RedinBed

    Red in Bed: Ann-Margret, 1964   Click here to see the full slideshow at LIFE.com.   (Photo: Camerique/Getty Images/LIFE.com)
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    VivaAnnMargaret

    Swedish-born dancer/singer/actress Ann-Margret poses in 1968, at a time when the 26-year-old is transitioning from film stardom ("Viva Las Vegas," "Kitten With a Whip") to becoming the queen of Las Vegas. Click here to see the full slideshow at LIFE.com. (Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images/LIFE.com)
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    BuddingStarlet

    LIFE had the fortune of capturing quite a few famous faces before they became Hollywood bywords. Check out little ol' Ann-Margret Olson, here an Illinois-raised 19-year-old belting out a tune for her screen test for the movie State Fair. Soon enough, she'd be ditching her last name to become simply Ann-Margret. Click here to see the full slideshow at LIFE.com. (Photo: Grey Villet/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images/LIFE.com)
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    BlackTights

    Ann-Margret launches into the song-and-dance half of her screen test, during which she performed the old jazz standard "Bill Bailey" wearing that memorable combo of lambswool sweater and black leotard. Her look was a hit with just about everybody -- including George Burns, the legendary entertainer who'd given Ann-Margret her first break as a singer and dancer in a Vegas show. Ann-Margret remembers: [Auditioning for Mr. Burns,] "I wore the light blue lambswool sweater and the black stockings and little black one-inch shoes that I had worn all through the summer, because that's all I had! And that's the way Mr. Burns saw me. So on opening night, that's what I wore. But then. . . I searched all over the place for something that I thought would be really nice in Las Vegas, and it was more money than I had ever spent. It was an orangey-red velvet pantsuit, and pantsuits were just coming into style.  And at dress rehearsal Mr. Burns saw this outfit, and he said, [mimicking Burns' famous rasp] 'Where's the sweater and pants that you wore on the audition -- the tight sweater and the tight pants?' And I said, 'Well, I thought that this was really nice and that you'd like it and. . . ' Then he said, 'People don't want to only hear your voice, they want to see where it's coming from!' [Laughs] And I never forgot that one." Click here to see the full slideshow at LIFE.com. (Photo: Life.com)
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