Speedway is a typical lightweight Elvis romp from the ‘60s co-starring Nancy Sinatra who plays a sexy IRS agent who comes to audit racecar driver Elvis, whose business manager (Bill Bixby) is an idiot addicted to gambling. She succumbs to the King’s charms, natch. There are songs and even a plucky homeless family living in their car. That’s Speedway‘s plot in a nutshell.
Carl Ballantine from McHale’s Navy and Gale Gordon, best known as Mr. Mooney from The Lucy Show are also part of the cast. One production number, for a song called “He’s Your Uncle, Not Your Dad,” takes place in an IRS office! It’s perfectly dreadful, if entertaining, drivel, but it does have two great numbers in it. Elvis does a rocker called “Let Yourself Go” that was released as a single, but flopped, which is a shame, because it’s one of my own personal very top favorite Elvis tracks. (Glenn Danzig must feel the same way, he recorded a credible cover version in 2007.)
And then Nancy Sinatra performs a swingin’ little number called “Your Groovy Self,” complete with decidedly minimalist mod choreography. It’s also one of her best songs: written and produced by Lee Hazlewood, she’s backed by a brassy configuration of the Wrecking Crew. It’s most certainly one of her best performances on film and the sole track by anyone other than Elvis himself to appear on the soundtrack album to one of his movies.
Two fun facts: First, Speedway was originally written for Sonny and Cher!
Second, take a look at the nightclub: Quentin Tarantino’s set design for Jack Rabbit Slims in Pulp Fiction was inspired by the campy racecar decor of the Hangout, where Speedway’s in-crowd mix.
The plot device that gets Nancy to sing is when Carl Ballantine, the maitre’d of the Hangout shines a spotlight on her, and for some arbitrary Elvis-movie logic, she has to “get up and do something.”
Just watch what she does:
For anyone who thinks Nancy Sinatra had no talent, if you still believe that after viewing the above clip, then go fuck yourself. Never has someone done so much with so little! THIS you have to have in your genes, friends. It cannot be learned.
And speaking of winning the genetic lottery, watch Elvis’s great number from Speedway, “Let Yourself Go”: