Cast & Crew
Upon graduating from Princeton University, Andy Smith arrives in Las Vegas to visit his father, A. C., the owner-operator of Caesars Palace, one of the most successful of Vegas' ornate gambling hotels. Not having seen his son in some years, A. C. is disturbed by what he considers to be Andy's unmasculine appearance and unbusinesslike attitude. To prevent Andy from going to Europe, A. C. challenges him to a cut of the cards, beats him, and then forces him to work at the hotel for the summer. After A. C. has tested his son's interest in women by sending a voluptuous chorus girl named Phyllis Horrigan to his room, Andy enters into mild flirtations with his father's mistress-turned-wife, Diana Mayhew, as well as with his secretary, Molly Hirsch. Andy is sent to Zurich on business matters, and he demonstrates, almost overnight, that he has his father's talent for wheeling and dealing; and by the time he returns to Las Vegas he is adept enough to negotiate a deal whereby he gains control of Caesars Palace. Furthermore, he has become wise enough in the ways of love to decide in favor of Molly over Diana. Although A. C. is furious at being bested by his son, he is nevertheless delighted to discover that the boy has apparently inherited some of his own shrewd business acumen. Andy, however, was only interested in proving that he could do whatever he pleased, and once his father has been taught this lesson he arranges for A. C. to win back the hotel during a game of cards. With a new rapport established between father and son, Andy leaves Las Vegas with Molly to pursue graduate studies at Princeton.
Richard C. Bennett
John C. Chulay
William R. Finnegan
Everett A. Hughes
Ralph S. Hurst
John L. Jensen
Emile La Vigne
Where It's At
In Where It's At David Janssen and Robert Drivas play a father and son (A.C. Smith and Andy "A.C. Jr" Smith, respectively) in Las Vegas in 1969, the father running a casino, the son just leaving college. A.C. wants his son to eventually take over the casino but Andy seems to be more interested in loafing than anything else. Eventually he comes around and not only starts running things but forces his father out of his job, becoming the kingpin of the casino right under Daddy's nose. And the casino? Caesar's Palace, which is credited in the film as an actual cast member and that acknowledgment isn't as crazy as it sounds. Caesar's Palace is shown extensively throughout the movie, often while the viewer hears public address system pages performed by The Committee, an improvisational comedy group from the late sixties.
After A.C. forces a showgirl (Edy Williams) on Andy to prove his manhood, Andy becomes more interested in his dad's secretary, Molly (Brenda Vaccaro), who now works for him. As father and son clash with each other constantly, Molly becomes more attracted to Andy and, eventually, falls for him completely. All that waits to be answered is will Andy stay in the casino business or walk away from it, leaving it to his father to run as he did before.
One of the most interesting things about Where It's At comes in the casting. David Janssen, born in 1931, plays the father of Robert Drivas, born a whopping seven years later in 1938. The other interesting thing about that is they almost pull it off. David Janssen, from The Fugitive to Harry O, his two hit TV shows, always seemed older than his real age. And Robert Drivas, despite not looking 22, is convincing enough for the part to work. And why not? He was only 30 at the time of filming, the same age as Dustin Hoffman when he played the title character in the seminal Mike Nichols comedy The Graduate (1967).
Sadly, Drivas (who portrayed many memorable characters in movies from Cool Hand Luke (1967) and The Illustrated Man (1969) to 1974's Road Movie) and Janssen had something else in common as well. Both actors would die before reaching their fiftieth birthday. Janssen died of a heart attack at the age of 48 and Drivas died from complications due to AIDS in 1986 at the age of 47, one year shy of the age Janssen lived to be. Drivas led a very private life and while his death from AIDS is widely known now, at the time, whether by mistake or personal family request, the Los Angeles Times listed Drivas' death as the result of cancer.
Brenda Vaccaro, providing one of the best performances in Where It's At, would have a big year in 1969, playing in both this feature as well as that year's Oscar® winner for Best Picture, Midnight Cowboy. Through television, theatre and film, Vacarro has remained active ever since.
Also featured are Edy Williams, the former wife of softcore exploitation king Russ Meyer who became romantically involved with Janssen during the course of the film, and Don Rickles in what might be considered a dry run for his performance in Casino (1995) over twenty years later.
And Garson Kanin, while not receiving the career boost his wife was getting for her return to film acting, revived by an Oscar® win for Rosemary's Baby (1968), would receive mildly good notices for Where It's At and have more successes to come with the novel and miniseries of Moviola just a few years later. But Where It's At's real strength comes from that other cast member, the one mentioned at the top of this piece, Caesar's Palace and, by extension, Las Vegas. Watching the scenes of the casinos and Vegas in the years just before it got taken over by corporations intent on turning it into a family fun park and international tourist destination is a pleasure in and of itself. It's a fascinating time capsule of sin city, when it was at the height of sinfulness, glitz and glamour and none of it was family friendly. Nor did it want to be. It was a place for grownups to smoke, drink, have sex and lose their money. By 1969 standards, the city of Vegas was truly where it's at.
Producer: Frank Ross, Dick Ross (Associate Producer)
Director: Garson Kanin
Screenplay: Garson Kanin
Cinematography: Burnett Guffey
Art Direction: Albert Brenner
Music: Benny Golson
Film Editor: Stefan Arnsten
Cast: David Janssen (A.C. Smith), Rosemary Forsyth (Diana Mayhew Smith), Robert Drivas (Andy 'A.C. Jr.' Smith), Brenda Vaccaro (Molly Hirsch), Don Rickles (Willie), Edy Williams (Phyllis Horrigan).
by Greg Ferrara
The Los Angeles Times, Obituaries, July 5, 1986
Where It's At
Location scenes filmed in and around Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
Released in United States Spring May 1969
Released in United States Spring May 1969