Musical Monday: Speedway (1968)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
“Speedway” (1968)– Musical #566

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Norman Taurog

Starring:
Elvis Presley, Nancy Sinatra, Bill Bixby, William Schallert, Gale Gordon, Ross Hagen, Victoria Paige Meyerink, Carl Ballantine, Charlotte Stewart, Burt Mustin (uncredited)
Themselves: Richard Petty, Buddy Baker, Cale Yarborough, Tiny Lund

Plot:
Steve (Presley) is a successful racecar driver and his best friend Kenny (Bixby) is his manager. Steve frequently tries to help people out of financial jams, from helping a single dad and his family with groceries and a car to helping a young couple get married. But as it turns out, Steve doesn’t have as much money as he through due to gambling and mismanagement by Kenny. IRS worker Susan Jacks (Sinatra) is there to collect the money.

Trivia:
-Race scenes filmed at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, NC. Elvis races in the Charlotte 100 at the beginning of the film.
-Race car drivers Richard Petty, Buddy Baker, Cale Yarborough, Tiny Lund are featured in the film.
-The film premiered in Charlotte, NC in June 1968
-The lead roles were originally offered to Sonny and Cher, according to NotStarring.com
-Nancy Sinatra’s role was offered to Petula Clark, according to NotStarring.com
-Nancy Sinatra’s last film

Elvis Presley plays a race car driver driving on the Charlotte Motor Speedway in “Speedway”

Highlights:
-Uncredited role of Burt Mustin as a janitor, who sings a little after Elvis sings

Notable Songs:
-“Speedway” performed by Elvis Presley
-“Your Time Hasn’t Come Yet, Baby” performed by Elvis Presley
-“Let Yourself Go” performed by Elvis Presley
-“Your Groovy Self” performed by Nancy Sinatra

My review:
After more than 10 years in films, “Speedway” nears the end of Elvis Presley’s film career. The formula is similar to other frothy, colorful Elvis musical comedies, but at the same time, it seems a little phoned in.

Elvis Presley and William Schallert in Speedway

The whole point of the film is Elvis’s IRS issues, and that doesn’t come into play until nearly 40 minutes to an hour in the film. For the first 30 minutes, I actually found myself thinking “So what is this about.” While race car driving is Elvis’s career, it isn’t really even the central theme of the film like it is in “Spinout” (1966). Elvis starts race car driving, then we meet Nancy Sinatra, then we meet homeless William Schallert with his four baby daughters and there are cute scenes with Elvis and the children, and then finally we learn of Elvis’s IRS issues.

I love actor Bill Bixby, but his character isn’t terribly lovable in this film. While he as a lot of screen time, I did feel his comedic talents were a bit wasted.

As someone living in North Carolina, my favorite part of this film is that the race scenes are set at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, the NASCAR racetrack in Concord, NC. While I never have been to a race on this track, I’ve been to car shows and a 5K at the track.

Despite my criticisms, Speedway is a pleasant film to watch. It’s colorful and I was entertained throughout.

Nancy Sinatra and Elvis Presley in “Speedway”

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3 thoughts on “Musical Monday: Speedway (1968)

    • It’s not really great but the little kids with William Schallert are cute! I was curious why Nancy Sinatra didn’t make any more films, as well. I was pretty surprised by that, actually. She still was really active on TV though.

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  1. I think this was the first Elvis movie I ever saw. I guess I must have been 5 or 6 at the time. Even then I wasn’t impressed with it! Fortunately I’d see Jailhouse Rock and Viva Las Vegas when I was a little older.

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