Friday, January 27, 2012

Racing Cars ~ Winning (1969)

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?


  1. I totally agree with you on this film. When I watched WINNING, I wanted to like it and forced myself to watch the whole film, but it was a real chore. Other than seeing Paul Newman, there is not much else to see. The story is a real bore.

    I like your idea of reviewing the three different 60s era racing films. I've been wanting to see LE MANS for a long time, but have held off on that one because, like you mentioned, the film is a "plotless mess." I'm sure though, like with WINNING, I'll get around to sitting through it.

  2. I haven't seen this film, but I love Paul Newman too so am disappointed to hear that you weren't that impressed. Enjoyed your review, anyway. I haven't seen many car racing movies, but am a big fan of Howard Hawks' pre-code 'The Crowd Roars' (1932) with James Cagney as a racing champion who hits the skids - Ann Dvorak and Joan Blondell are both good in this, but it is really Cagney's movie all the way. Also, on a completely different tack, enjoyed Newman voicing an elderly racing car in 'Cars'!

  3. haha i was also gonna ask if you had ever seen the Crowd Roars! I totally agree with judy about that film! and then WB did a remake a few years later called Indianapolis Speedway with Pat O'Brien and Ann Sheridan which i have yet to see.
    Not sure i can generate much interest in "Winning", i confess i'm not much of a Newman fan (until he got older) so i think its gonna be Grand Prix for me :)
    i really enjoyed Speedway, god Anita page was so adorable in that film and i like Willam Haines' slap-happy acting style. he isnt subtle at all but its fun :D
    i'll have to check out the First Auto sometime tho, sounds interesting!

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  5. Robby - Thanks so much for stopping by! I'm glad someone else agrees with me. I really wanted to like this film, it had everything going for it, but just couldn't. I think if I had to watch either Le Mans or Winning again, I would definitely chose Le Mans.

    Paulie & Judy - No I have not seen Crowd Roars. Thanks so much for bringing it to my attention

    Paulie - Hey thanks for all your support on my mini-series here. :-)

    Bill - Not really looking for car films per say. I'm more interested in sports films and I just happened to chose these three films because they were about race car driving.

  6. If they ever do a remake, would Charlie Sheen star?

  7. No way! You trashed my favorite car movie of all time. I do have a few, but Le Mans is one of the best. I think you missed the point. McQueen was a "extra" to the real stars of the movie: The Porsche, The Ferrari, and The Ford GT. Not mentioning them is comparable to ignoring Bogey in Casa. They WERE the film, the marque chose who lives and who dies... What's more important than that?

  8. Nick - Hey, maybe! Who would play Joanne Woodward's character?

    Hey Anonymous - I'm sorry I trashed your favorite car movie! Is it Winning or Le Mans. I'm guessing from your comment it's Le Mans. I did watch Le Mans knowing it wasn't big on story and that it was more atmospheric than anything. I just didn't enjoy it as much as Grand Prix. Perhaps I would have liked Le Mans better if I had seen it before Grand Prix so I wouldn't have compared Le Mans to Grand Prix while watching it. Oh well! I do appreciate the film for what it is: real race car driving and McQueen.

  9. The most memorable thing about Winning is that score! You know the one, that they played for years afterwards on all the sports shows? I actually haven't seen the whole movie, but can't get the theme song out of me head!

  10. The music is irritating. It's hard to believe Elora would cheat so soon after marrying Frank. It didn't seem like much time had passed from courtship to cheating.


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