On this day in 1966, Elvis Presley’s 22nd film, a rock ‘n’ roll musical called “Spinout” in which Elvis played a singing race car driver, opens in theaters across the U.S. The movie was the year’s 57th highest-grossing film. “Spinout” was released on DVD in August 2004.
In the movie, Elvis played Mike McCoy, the lead singer in a touring rock band and a race car driver. Toward the end of a weeklong gig in Southern California, McCoy goes for an afternoon spin in his Cobra racer and gets run into a ditch by Cynthia Foxhugh, a crazed fan (played by Shelley Fabares, who had starred in “The Donna Reed Show” and later had a big part in the sitcom “Coach”). Cynthia happens to be the daughter of local auto magnate Howard Foxhugh. She spends the rest of the film trying to win McCoy’s heart, but she has competition: The snobbish intellectual Diana St. Clair (played by actor Diane McBain), who has just completed a book called “The Perfect American Male,” and Les (played by Deborah Walley), the drummer in McCoy’s band, are also vying for the suave singer/racer’s affections. Meanwhile, Cynthia’s father is pressuring McCoy to drive his fancy new “Fox Fire” car to victory in an upcoming race. In the end, McCoy manages to pair each of his admirers up with someone else, while he remains a happy bachelor, free to hit the road again in search of love.
Presley’s films are rarely noteworthy for their writing or their acting, but many people think that “Spinout” was better than average: The songs were catchy, and the racing scenes were comparatively exciting. Even some critics genuinely enjoyed the film. “Unusual for an Elvis comedy,” one wrote, “‘Spinout’ is actually funny. Intentionally.” The film is harmless enough,” another said, “if about as deep as the stream Presley crashes his jaunty sports car into during the opening sequence.” (On the other hand, the film was included in the book “The Fifty Worst Films of All Time (And How They Got That Way),” so it’s clear that not everyone shares this point of view.)
“Spinout” was filmed on location at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and the Ascot Motor Car Racing Ground, a well-known dirt track nearby. Two hundred extras had bit parts in the road race scene.