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With a tagline blaring, "It's Elvis with his foot on the gas and no brakes on the fun!" Spinout roared into theatres in 1966. Elvis twenty-second film within a ten year span was originally titled California Holiday, but as one MGM exec pointed out, "They don't need titles. They could be numbered." Not surprisingly, Spinout doesn't break a whole lot of new ground in the Elvis genre. As in Viva Las Vegas (1964), he plays a racecar driver and moonlighting singer with . . . what is it again? Oh yeah, multiple females running around trying to snag him against the colorful backdrop of the race track while the King and his hot combo croon songs like "Adam and Evil," "Beach Shack," and "Am I Ready?." Shelley Fabares, Deborah Walley, Diane McBain and Dodie Marshall play the marriage-minded women this time around. Norman Taurog returned to direct; it was his sixth Presley flick and he would eventually helm a total of nine Elvis movies. An Oscar winning director, Taurog was best known for two of his earlier films, Boys Town (1938) and Skippy (1931).
Spinout was Shelley Fabares' second Elvis film (she also starred in Girl Happy (1965) and Clambake, 1967). Elvis claimed she was his favorite co-star, and, not surprisingly, a long-running rumor of a hot-and-heavy affair between the two persisted for years. Perhaps the rumor was not completely unfounded: during a romantic scene in Spinout, the two continued kissing for three minutes in front of the full cast and crew after Taurog had yelled cut. Prior to her Elvis days, Fabares was best known for her work in the television series The Donna Reed Show. Her clean and sparkly image served her well throughout the sixties; she even had some musical success with a number one hit record in 1962, "Johnny Angel." In a twist, Carl Betz, the actor who played her father on the TV show, also plays her dad in Spinout.
With his other two co-stars, Diane McBain and Deborah Walley, Elvis shared his philosophical thoughts, not kisses. The rocker instructed McBain in the spiritual ways of Yogananda and gave her a copy of his favorite self-discovery book, The Impersonal Life; an ironic touch since McBain plays a writer in the film and the author of The Perfect American Male. Elvis seemed to have an even more profound effect on Deborah Walley. Best known for bikini-baring roles in films like Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961) and Beach Blanket Bingo (1965), Walley later admitted, "I tell people quite honestly that Elvis changed my life. He was a pivotal point in my life." Elvis was indeed going though a potent transcendental/spiritual/heavily medicated/mystic journey into his inner psyche at this point in his life and Walley, who felt lost and confused in Hollywood, was his most willing companion on the set. According to Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick, Elvis said to Walley: "Look, we've only got this moment together, so let's have it completely. No holding back. No wasting time on trivialities. I've got the word; I want to give it to you. I'm not a man, you're not a woman - I'm a soul, a spirit, a force. I have no interest in anything of this world. I want to live in another dimension entirely." The two were always together during filming, and remained in close company for several months after the film wrapped.
As for the other cast members in Spinout, Una Merkel and Cecil Kellaway provide major support in secondary roles. Merkel, who in her heyday was a stand-in for Lillian Gish due to her striking resemblance to the actress, received an Oscar nomination for her work in Summer and Smoke (1961). She is also justly famous for her catfight with Marlene Dietrich in Destry Rides Again (1939). Kellaway was also a Best Supporting Actor nominee (for Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, 1967), but earlier in his career he had the poor fortune to turn down the iconic role of Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street (1947). Other trivia: the legendary MGM hairdresser Sydney Guilaroff coiffed the heads of the Spinout cast, and in an uncredited part called "Bit Girl" is a very young Rita Wilson, also known now as Mrs. Tom Hanks.
Producer: Joe Pasternak
Director: Norman Taurog
Screenplay: Theodore J. Flicker, George Kirgo
Art Direction: Edward C. Carfagno, George W. Davis
Cinematography: Daniel L. Fapp
Film Editing: Rita Roland
Original Music: George Stoll
Principal Cast: Elvis Presley (Mike McCoy), Shelley Fabares (Cynthia Foxhugh), Diane McBain (Diana St. Clair), Deborah Walley (Les), Dodie Marshall (Susan), Jack Mullaney (Curly), Will Hutchins (Lt. Tracy Richards), Cecil Kellaway (Bernard Ranley), Carl Betz (Howard Foxhugh), Una Merkel (Violet Ranley).
C-93m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Eleanor Quin