Movin With Nancy

Camp Classics: Movin’ With Nancy

Nancy Sinatra, Movin

Movin’ With Nancy

Written by Tom Mankiewicz
Directed by Jack Haley, Jr.
Starring Nancy Sinatra
With Special Guest Stars: Lee Hazlewood, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., David Winters
Arrangements & Theme Music by Billy Strange
Produced by Nancy Sinatra & Jack Haley, Jr.
Edited by David E. Blewitt & David Saxon
Running time 60 mins.
Original release December 11, 1967 on NBC

When I want the world to be a nicer place, I like to put on Movin’ With Nancy, the 1967 NBC TV special from Nancy Sinatra on DVD. Just look at this.

The camp value of Movin’ With Nancy is astronomical, but at heart is an impressive, Emmy-winning TV special produced and directed by Jack Haley, Jr. Nancy Sinatra is at her iconic peak. She’s stylish, charming and beautiful, and the material suits her well, even when it’s stretching her range. Featuring a Rat Pack triumvirate as guest stars, MWN showcases some great, occasionally trippy period songs from Lee Hazlewood and others in lush arrangements. The cherries on top are the sponsored ads from Royal Crown Cola, themed to the show.


Unusual for its time, this special was filmed rather than taped, with no audience and only outdoor locations. Jack Haley, Jr. won an Emmy for directing, and Movin’ With Nancy was so popular that two sequels followed.


For those of us who were around in that era, these television specials truly were special, because at the time, they were broadcast once and then disappeared forever. Either you saw it during the one time it was broadcast, or you didn’t. These were events as fleeting as a shooting star, some so memorable you never forgot them. That’s why the “Brought to you in living color” NBC peacock at the beginning of this show still sends a chill of excitement up my spine. I’m hard-wired for this stuff.

MWN7In some cases, TV specials of the era would include an LP album released at the same time, and that was the only way to relive the experience if you cared to. Movin’ With Nancy had its own soundtrack album, released just at Christmastime, with the hit single Some Velvet Morning, a duet with Nancy and her frequent songwriter/producer Lee Hazlewood.


Now that I can watch this special again and again on DVD, it’s become for me a potent reminder of the wonders of mid-Sixties style in music, fashion, technology and advertising. While its narrative is essentially a series of more or less unrelated, often dreamy vignettes built to showcase the artist, her fashions and her songs, when I unpack Movin’ With Nancy, I see within it a much more dramatic reading of addiction and apocalypse. It’s the heart-rending tale of one young woman’s escape from madness at the hands of a corporate behemoth whose only purpose is to ruthlessly convert consumers into their cola cult no matter what the human cost.


MOVIN’ WITH NANCY: An Alternative Analysis



From the very first frames of Movin’ With Nancy, Nancy needs no introduction. She just up and leaves. Exiting her all-white Beverly Hills villa in knee-high maroon boots with matching T-Bird and driving gloves, Nancy gets into to her topless roadster, and, like many of us have, sings her way through the credit sequence.

Nancy’s hair blows and she feels free. She’s got an itch and she’s gonna scratch it. Something bad has happened, because Nancy can’t get out of town fast enough. She’s gonna get away to Palm Springs or something, and that’s where she’s gonna get her a man. I hope she informs him about her itch. Ms. Sinatra does not care about anything any more because you’re more than she can stand. And who can blame her, because just look at you! Are you the one who gave her that itch?


By the end of the sequence, after Nancy’s raced the wrong direction down the Sunset strip, sped by Lee Hazlewood and some horses at a nearby farm, driven past a Southern plantation where white ladies in pink smocks are ruthlessly shaving a red-headed choreographer, suddenly she’s driving through a bus lot. Maybe she’s decided to take Greyhound. But no, now the busses are gone and she’s hot-tailing it in her sportscar out the gate of a movie studio lot. Nancy’s ideas about “out of town” make me worried for her.


Saddest of all, Nancy speeds past her dad Frank Sinatra without even saying hello. Have they become estranged? I guess he has to work as a studio guard now that his career is in the toilet. And he’s not even good at being a guard, because look how he can’t even stop his own daughter from getting through! He’s gonna get fired from this job too, I bet. Unless another horse head gets delivered.

But wait a minute, I don’t understand. Why is Nancy racing OUT of a movie studio lot? Has this all been a filmworld illusion, a trickster fantasy of the dreamland elite? Was she actually in any of those places we saw her driving through? Were those digital horses? Is any of this even real? Can I ask any more questions? Will we ever know?

Already, we sense that something is wrong with Nancy’s getaway, but I guess we’ll just have to wait until the end of the special to unravel the mystery of Nancy’s newfound quest.

So then there’s this incredible tie-in Movin’ With Nancy official-sponsor RC Cola commercial. I love how specials in those days had a single sponsor so the ads were themed to the show you were watching. It was very high-end, like having a corporation take over your home for an hour. The commercials throughout MWN are uniformly excellent. Well shot and stylish, with Art Linkletter acting as amiable host for this top-notch television experience brought to you by the bottlers of the world’s most fascinating cola.

This commercial has a colorful graphic sequence that’s all poppy and mad, just like you’d expect from that mad, mad, mad, mad cola — RC, the one with the mad mad taste. It must really have been a mouthful to answer phones at that soda factory!


But then we see sinister forces at work! Nancy’s locked in an all-white looney bin, isolated from the world, with only a refreshing bottle of RC cola and an iced cocktail glass for company. Who put her here? Was it Frank? I can see why she’s addicted to that cola. It looks so cool and delicious, with beads of dew dripping down the glass. Why must it be so refreshing! Especially in solitary confinement. It’s the only thing besides her in the room. I wonder where she pees.

Nancy rants about how she’s going to escape, and how it’s all tied into this mad, mad, mad mad cola. I don’t know how the two subjects are related, but I suspect she’s not well. It’s clear that this entire hour of entertainment is going to be the delusional ravings of a superstar’s cola-addicted daughter.


Next, Nancy escapes the asylum and steals a hot air balloon, while colorful zombies from Sears try to take it back and attack her in the air. Among them is Terri Garr, so you can imagine why Nancy would be frightened. I’m not sure if this is supposed to be real, or part of Nancy’s insane rantings. Is she still locked in that awful cell, forced to drink that delicious elixir?

The balloon sadly deflates and leaves Nancy stranded, where she falls exhausted to the hard, rocky ground and wakes up in a magical land. I’ve done that too. She takes it in stride, even though she didn’t bring any food or cola, and has no little dog for company. Is this a dream within a dream? It’s getting harder to tell what’s real with Nancy around.

Nancy ambles through the enchanted misty wood. If you’re very very quiet, you might just hear a Hobbit. But Nancy’s not quiet. She’s got a song in her heart and she’s gonna sing out, even though much of the song is the phrase “Shh shh shh shh shh shh.” You can’t see it, but she’s scaring the wildlife. Nancy sings Sugar Town, still not very sure of her own whereabouts, because she’s clearly lost in the forest.

Nancy imagines that she is Phaedra, and bewitched a man who isn’t straight, and how she gave him life, and how she made it end. Nancy is TRIPPING!

Next comes another commercial for RC Cola with Robie Porter in Spain. I know, I don’t know who he is either. The thing about pop culture is it makes you famous and then you’re obscure again within a couple of days, so Robie probably forgot who he was too by the end of this show.

After the commercial, Nancy apparently recalls how she broke up with the guy she must have left town over, and I can’t blame her. I’d hit the road too. He’s gonna go to Jackson, and he’s gonna mess around. Nancy knows he’s a mess no matter where he is.


Lee is leaving Nancy to go to Jackson, which apparently is where the wicked women are, and he’s letting her know he’s gonna get him some. They’re like a dollar a bunch. If I were her, I wouldn’t be losing any sleep. That guy’s a jerk. Now I know why she needed to get out of town.

So far, Nancy’s love life is tragic. I hope she finds her a good man and soon — there’s not much time left until the end of the special. I feel sad for Nancy, but know she’s doing the right thing. She doesn’t need anyone else to save her. But then some dude drives up in her Thunderbird and off they go. It’s her brother who looks just like his dad Frank. And no I don’t mean Ronan Farrow.

MWN1But then that husband dude goes to Jackson, and Nancy finds herself alone in L.A. where all the people have turned into mannequins. At least, all the white people. The rain falls on Nancy. Because of this, Nancy sports hot pink boots and parasol with tailored orange jacket and cap. She wanders on foot through this impersonal public square, looking for one real person, but she still hasn’t found what she’s looking for. Nancy is right, this town is a quiet town, it’s a riot town, it’s a let you down… town.


Just to prove how much money they can spend on this special,* suddenly Nancy is trimmed in fur, wandering aimlessly below the Golden Gate Bridge, as we all do, possibly trailed by Jimmy Stewart. But even here, everyone has become a mannequin, including the gay sailors. It’s a nightmare world where Nancy’s the last person left alive on planet Earth after a mannequin plague has wiped out the population. Now she won’t have to worry about getting let down ever again.

But then Nancy’s back in another public square, dressed as a spy. The people are glamorous, rich, urbane, but they’re all mannequins so, dumb as hell. Nancy is not happy with this town. It’s a use you town, a break you down… town. Exactly which town is she referring to? Because she’s all over the place, first L.A. then San Francisco and now this place. I don’t know where it is, but I’m sure it cost a lot of money to move the whole production there. This really is a big budget special, and that’s why it’s good.

Just then a Deus Ex Machina appears in the guise of Dean Martin (I’m sure that happened a lot), who’s found a cure for the mannequin apocalypse. Just by touching people, he can cure them and make them real again, having lost none of their glamor. So maybe he’s a prophet come to save all of humankind. Dean’s pretty casual about the whole thing, despite wearing a tux. Dean warbles about how he don’t care where he’s going, he’s just bummin’ around. I hope he doesn’t fall over the railing.

Some songs and artists are just made for each other, a perfect indelible match, and this is the Dean I love.

Dean stops saving humanity when he discovers Nancy sitting alone, feeling depressed (as one might when humanity has just recently been wiped out). He shares with her that he’s her fairy God-uncle and she accepts him without prejudice, then he magically gives her a new look — white gown with puffy sleeves, a Star Trek hairdo, and a Bobby Darin song to sing. Is this the greatest song ever or what?

Next, direct from an empty Hollywood Bowl, Dino, Desi & Billy perform without an audience. Perhaps they’re mad too. They plead with us to escape with them, raving about this mad, mad, mad, mad Cola — RC, the one with the mad mad taste. Why it’s so important to them to recruit us into madness makes me wonder if they might have ulterior motives. Maybe it’s RC what’s turning people into mannequins. There’s shots of the boys on stage, laboring for the juvenile masses who sadly will never show, probably turned into mannequins too. The boys don’t care, they’ll just play to the empty seats. These boys are out of their cola-addled minds. The message is clear, RC cola will drive you mad. But who can resist its refreshing cola taste?


Nancy has to do a photo shoot, but she’s feeling lackluster. Now that the world has been saved by Dean Martin, Nancy needs a head shot, and she just isn’t feeling it. Sammy Davis Jr. makes a cameo as Bruce, her love-beaded hippie photographer. To pep Nancy up, Bruce puts on a karaoke version of Ray Charles’ What’d I Say, so she sings over that, posing and doing something resembling dancing. Nancy loosens up and sings soul like it came out of a spray can. Her photos are a triumph! Let’s get them on the cover of McCall’s, stat!

Sadly, Sammy doesn’t sing this song too, though he does dance a little. Considering that there was an incredibly talented Black performer on set who might have done some great work with this tune, it’s sad that Sammy is silenced. That may have been his choice, but Nancy’s talents are not weighted toward this kind of music, and decked out in yellow sunwear with a yellow cowboy hat held on by a yellow ribbon, one might wonder if Nancy’s tripping again. From today’s perspective, this sequence presents a potent example of how Whiteness works.


Next comes a long section focused on Frank Sinatra. There was probably a clause in Nancy’s birth certificate stipulating that Frank had to be in her TV specials. This cocktail-jazz Nancy is everything the Ray Charles Nancy wasn’t, which is to say convincingly talented. It’s all about the material, dahling.

Nancy enters a Frank-filled reverie where she recalls with newsreel footage hordes of Frankie fans screaming at her dad while he sings Night and Day, and even I swoon. Photos montage, and are replaced with more montages. Time bends, reason abstracts. Now it’s Frank with a young Nancy. It’s a sweet and genuine gesture from a daughter to her father, beautifully performed, and I won’t make fun of it. Though it does make me wonder if Nancy is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

That’s followed by a song where Frank’s career is on the upswing again (or is this another flashback?). Singing Younger Than Springtime, this is the most convincing example of just why Frank Sinatra was an absolute genius master of his art. Flawless, grounded and urbane. I can’t blame Nancy for wanting to make up with him. Who wouldn’t think he’s the coolest dad ever?

Then Nancy is in another commercial, forced to perform for The Man. Is this the real life or is this just fantasy? I can’t tell any more. Wearing pajamas and caged like an animal, she’s still going down that RC rabbit hole. I’m very worried for Nancy. I hope she’s gonna be alright.

You can tell that things are getting serious for Nancy, because now it’s time for a ballad. Nancy cuts her hair short and starts hanging around oil rigs, lamenting how she’s alway’s been Friday’s Child, presumably because she can’t eat meat. Nancy watches the oil pistons pumping and considers a life of crime. Her eye makeup is perfect.


But then we find Nancy truly lost, nearly beyond hope of recovery from her cola-induced madness, hiding behind a tree at a public park as slow-motion children play nearby. She’s singing about giving them candy and kisses. I think she’s become a danger to herself and others.

Finally, at the end of her rope, we witness the denouement to Nancy’s strange odyssey. She’s wandering homeless through an abandoned amusement park. Dressed as a Disneyland tour guide, Nancy’s having the same dream I have fortnightly. But now she’s in danger because, despondent, she’s climbed to the top of the roller coaster, possibly ready to dash herself to the ground while offering herself to others singing Who Will Buy?


She’s really hit bottom now, even on top of a roller coaster, ready to sell herself to the skankiest carnie bidder that comes along. But there aren’t any carnies around this place. Again, Nancy’s sense of direction is really off, because how’s she gonna pick up anybody in this abandoned funzone? I’m starting to understand that Nancy’s lack of direction is part of her problems.


This amusement park is dark and scary even in the daytime. I’ll bet Nancy runs into Scooby-Doo! But just as all seems hopeless and the end is only one commercial away, choreographer David Winters, who survived a shaving in Alabama, appears with his magical dancer minions to make everything better and brighter.

Gesturing heroically and leaping about the park in formation, the dancers bring new life to the rusty old rides, making them work again, but with no interference from OSHA. Nancy begins to realize where she went wrong and the dancing sprites commandeer twirly attractions which everyone rides and rides until they’re ready to puke. I wonder if there are guards around, because this all looks highly illegal. Once again, Nancy has fallen in with a bad crowd.

Nancy looks great here in her tour guide outfit and it’s obvious that her awful ordeal is now over for good, even though suddenly she’s alone in the amusement park again. Was that a dream too? Is Nancy tripping her brains out again?

But it was all for the best, because now she’s a new woman. She never found her a man, but she’s discovered something better — her female empowerment, even though she’s still looking for a buyer. I like to think of it as more like a sponsorship.

But the makers of RC aren’t done with Nancy yet. Once more they draw us back into their refreshing soft drink madness, with staged documentary footage of the epic trail of the mystical cola nut. This is where mad mad cola starts its nefarious life as a nut and so begins an insidious trek across the continents, getting more mad and addictive with every mile.

Art Linkletter regales us with stories about the wonder-drink of our time, which weaves a magic spell in every bottle. This is how the magical, mysterious cola nut starts its impossible journey to your intestines, traveling all the way over from its humble origins in the exotic realms of a far-away African plantation where it is picked by hand by authentic natives.


And now it’s time for Nancy’s finale. This is the new Nancy, the better Nancy, the slightly more world-weary but triumphant Nancy, who offscreen has reinflated her balloon. Floating aloft into the clouds, dodging the onscreen text, Nancy has finally escaped her cola demons, and she sings us out over the credits. Nancy floats liberated from her cares and untethered to her past as she sails toward the enchanting horizon, off into unknown realms and possible future sequels. Nancy is now free to be her own Sinatra.

I’m glad for Nancy, because she’s been through so much. As she floats away in her beautiful red, white and blue balloon, I feel that Nancy will find what she’s been looking for, and with a little luck and perseverance, she’ll never again become a prisoner of the mad mad mad mad cola — RC, the one with the mad mad taste.

If you’d like to see the whole show without interruption, here it is. To watch this special as it was meant to be seen, cast this video to your TV, put your TV on the floor, grab a refreshing bottle of RC and watch Movin’ With Nancy again and again.


*Rutles reference.


0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.