why did Elvis make such a terrible movie as “speedway”?

Es­ti­mated reading time is 2 min­utes.

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER QUESTION ON QUORA about Elvis that needed an­swering. The ques­tion was, “I watched Speedway today. Why did Elvis make such a ter­rible movie?” More than forty years after his death, that re­mains a dif­fi­cult ques­tion to an­swer. Most people—even fans that should know better—blame the Colonel. Once, I did, too.

But I have been an Elvis fan for a looooong time and see things a lot dif­fer­ently as a ma­ture, older man (ac­tu­ally, as a just plain old man) than I did back at the time he was making these movies and recording their often im­me­di­ately for­get­table sound­track songs. Here is my an­swer to the question:

“I have been an Elvis fan for sixty years. I paid money to sit in nearly-empty the­aters in 1966–1969 to watch many a wretched Elvis movie. Once upon a time, I blamed Parker, too, but no­body forced Elvis to make a single one of those lame movies and no one forced him to record those limp songs.

De­spite using mod­i­fiers such as ‘limp’ and ‘lame’ to de­scribe many an Elvis movie, I ac­tu­ally pulled my punches writing this answer.

As Presley did not keep a diary/journal, nor did he write an au­to­bi­og­raphy, nor did he give lengthy, thoughtful in­ter­views, we will prob­ably never know why he didn’t put his foot down after G. I Blues or It Hap­pened at the World’s Fair or Girl Happy and say, ‘Enough!’

What we do know is that, for years, mil­lions of people bought tickets to those movies and hun­dreds of thou­sands of them bought those records, so he kept churning them out. When the lame movies and the limp records stopped making big bucks, he started making better movies and better music.

Make of that what you will . . .”

De­spite using emas­cu­lating mod­i­fiers such as “limp” and “lame,” I ac­tu­ally pulled my punches writing this an­swer: I didn’t use “ter­rible” or “atro­cious” or “piece of schidt. (And, yes, I know the last one isn’t an adjective).

Should you want to read the piece on Quora and follow any com­ments made there, click here.

De­spite using mod­i­fiers such as ‘limp’ and ‘lame’ to de­scribe many an Elvis movie, I ac­tu­ally pulled my punches writing this an­swer. Click To Tweet

Terrible movie: scene of Elvis as Steve Grayson in the movie SPEEDWAY from 1968.

FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page was cropped from this photo, which is a scene from Speedway. The Turner Classic Movies web­site sums this movie up as “A race car driver tries to outrun the beau­tiful tax au­ditor out to settle his ac­count.” How did they fail to men­tion he is a singing race car driver?

Pres­ley’s fe­male co-star was Nancy Sinatra, who—as lik­able as she was—had al­most zero “screen pres­ence,” as anyone who sat through The Wild An­gels a couple of years ear­lier should have known.

Fi­nally, this mini-article is ded­i­cated to an­other long-time Elvis fan, Mr. Joe Spera . . .



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Let’s keep in mind, that Elvis was only twenty-five when he re­turned home from the army. I don’t blame Parker, but Vernon didn’t help Elvis ei­ther. Vernon was a good-hearted man, but he wasn’t the person to manage Elvis’ fi­nances. It would have been nice if Vernon had more of a back­bone and had helped Elvis get away from Parker in­stead of going along with everything.

Elvis on the set of G.I. Blues in 1960 receiving a copy of his new album ELVIS IS BACK.