Elvis Presley sings his way around the race circuit as successful speedway driver Steve Grayson. All is fine and dandy until the tax return submitted by a wise-cracking Bill Bixby (as Steve's manager) is scrutinised by the IRS. Will Elvis be able to raise the $145,000 to pay his tax bill? Will he succeed with his advances to IRS inspector Nancy Sinatra? Will the songs get any worse? Well, you didn't expect the likes of Hamlet did you?
Elvis Presley ... Steve Grayson
Nancy Sinatra ... Susan Jacks
Bill Bixby ... Kenny Donford
Gale Gordon ... R.W. Hepworth
William Schallert ... Abel Esterlake
Victoria Paige Meyerink ... Ellie Esterlake (as Victoria Meyerink)
Ross Hagen ... Paul Dado
Carl Ballantine ... Birdie Kebner
Poncie Ponce ... Juan Medala
Harry Hickox ... The Cook
Christopher West ... Billie Jo
Beverly Powers ... Mary Ann (as Miss Beverly Hills)
Richard Petty ... Himself
Buddy Baker ... Himself
Dusty, repetitious stock car comedy-musical with Elvis Presley as the driver being hounded by an IRS agent looking for taxable winnings. According to all the Elvis books I've read, "Speedway" opened with the usual Presley fanfare but died out quickly. Why? With sexy white-blonde Nancy Sinatra as the love-interest, ostensibly rousing locales and races, and the usual quota of songs, this should've been another "Viva Las Vegas". Unfortunately, the two stars are a surprisingly icy match, creating no sparks, and Bill Bixby gets stuck with the agonizing part of the proverbial flunky. The stock car sequences are visually dull and, although director Norman Taurog supplies a few funny comic touches, the film has no life, no pep. It is also curiously anachronistic, playing like something coy from 1963, but this was 1968! No wonder Elvis was so unhappy in Hollywood.
This is basically a neat reworking of IT HAPPENED AT THE WORLD’S FAIR (1963) by the same director, no less: Bill Bixby replaces Gary Lockwood as Elvis’ scoundrel sidekick (and results in being quite amusing), Nancy Sinatra stands in for (and easily upstages) Joan O’Brien – Ol’ Blue Eyes’ daughter, a singing star in her own right, makes a better-than-usual match for The King – and, instead of one Asian child, we get six homeless kids and their ex-racer father, etc. Besides, the songs are also above-par and rockier than usual and even Sinatra gets her own “impromptu” number.
The instances of crazy comedy – usually brought on by Elvis’ frustration with I.R.S. ”agent” Sinatra’s doggedness – are also present here and anticipate the next, and last, Presley/Taurog collaboration, LIVE A LITTLE, LOVE A LITTLE (1968); among the highlights are Elvis punching through a hotel-room door and knocking out a passerby and then punching his racing rival in the hotel lobby who consequently slides on his back all the way into an empty elevator! The racing-car scenes themselves are okay – a milieu with which Elvis was quite familiar, having already played similar roles (or so I hear) in both VIVA LAS VEGAS (1964) and SPINOUT (1966).
When Elvis filmed 'Speedway' in June of 1967 it was a time of change. He had been married just over a month, Priscilla was pregnant with Lisa-Marie and this film would be his biggest hit since 1965.
Elvis looked great, had a leading lady of star quality but mostly he seemed to find joy in making movies again. The rapport with Bill Bixby (sadly lost on 'Clambake') is excellent and their banters and on screen one-up-manship make for some delightful exchanges.
The title track is sung with gusto while 'Let Yourself Go' and 'Your Time Hasn't Come Yet Baby' are other stand-out tracks.
A year later in the June of 1968 history would be made when Elvis once again entered a stage for the first time in 7 years to record his TV special for NBC now affectionately known as 'the Comeback'.
* 'Nancy Sinatra' sings the song "Your Groovy Self" in this movie. The song was also included in the soundtrack LP, making it the first and only song by another artist to be released on an official Elvis Presley record.
* Script originally offered to Sonny Bono and Cher.
* Director Norman Taurog had his granddaughter in the film as an extra.
* Racing sequences was filmed with 10 cameras.
* Petula Clark was the first choice for the female lead but she turned it down.