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Recently released photos of legend Ann-Margret

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Ann Margaret Olson LIFE
Grey Villet/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

Not many stars can pull off the whole first-name-only thing. Before Cher, before Madonna, and before Shakira, there was Ann-Margret.

The Swedish-born actress starred in Bye Bye Birdie and Viva Las Vegas, iconic films that turned her into a legend, but she wasn’t always the commanding presence we’ve seen onscreen. LIFE recently released never-before-seen photographs of a young Ann-Margret, shot for a 1961 profile, right before she hit it big in State Fair. It’s fascinating to check out the now-72-year-old star before the rest of the world could see her shine.

Check out the beautiful snapshots and Ann-Margret’s chat with retired LIFE and People editor Richard Stolley here.