I had set out to watch three classic race car movies and write about each. First was Grand Prix (1966) which was a delight to watch and even though it was long and the plot was rather weak, the three hours seemed to fly by for me. Le Mans (1971) was a horrible, plotless mess. It was fun to watch because of Steve McQueen and because I could easily pick out all the things I disliked and the documentary on the DVD proved to be what saved the whole film for me. Watching Winning (1969) was both a bore and a chore to watch. But this makes absolutely no sense to me. I love the 1960s, I love Paul Newman, and it's an added bonus that his wife Joanne Woodward co-stars as his love interest and I can legitimately hate Robert Wagner because he's the bad guy in the film. Plus there was racing! Winning should have been #winning in my book. But alas, it was not.
So what went wrong? Well, out of the three racing movies, this one had the most plot. Or at least it tried very hard to have a dramatic plot. Paul Newman stars racer Frank Capua who is racing the Indy 500. He falls for divorcee and single mother Elora (Joanne Woodward). They marry and Frank adopts Elora's teen son Charley (Richard Thomas). Elora and Charley, both head over heels in love and admiration for Frank, follow him from race to race. Elora proves to be trouble when she has an affair with rival racer Lou Erding (Robert Wagner). The plot is very choppy, Charley is annoying, to our dismay Newman drinks champagne out of a used popcorn box (ew), and there are numerous slow dramatic shots of pensive Newman alongside cheesy 1960s music. And I seriously wanted to smack Elora upside the head. I mean serious, you chose to cheat on Paul Newman with Robert Wagner? C'mon! The only thing I enjoyed was looking at Paul Newman throughout the movie. Good grief was that man good looking. Those eyes. THOSE EYES! And those chiseled features. He looked like a Roman god.
I wish I had something thoughtful to say about this film. My advice is that if you are looking for a good racing movie from the 1960s/70s era, then skip Le Mans (1971), skip Winning (1969) and watch Grand Prix (1966) instead.
If you are interested in the early days of race car driving, I highly recommend two silent films. The First Auto (1927), which I've reviewed before, is an excellent film about the early history of cars. The story follows the clash between a father, set in his ways and who doesn't want to give up his horses, and his son who loves the excitement of the new technology. The son, played by Charles Emmett Mack, becomes a race car driving and is involved in a serious accident. Ironically, the actor died in a car accident before filming ended. Legendary race car driver Barney Oldfield makes an appearance in the film. The other film is Speedway (1929) starring William Haines and Anita Page (I also did a post on this on but not quite a review). I don't remember too many details about the film however it's a fun picture with William Haines as a flamboyant racer who is more interested in chasing Anita Page than he is in taking racing seriously. The racing in both films is real and Speedway was shot on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as was Winning (1969) (and I've been there! woot!).
Have you watched Winning (1969)? If so, what did you think of it? What's your favorite racing movie?