Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Winning (1969)

Winning ends up losing when it comes to must-see Paul Newman films.

Reel Popcorn Junkie has featured reviews of the several movies by the late American actor in recent weeks.

The Hustler, The Verdict and Hud are all essential viewing.

Winning doesn't come close to driving its way into the championship circle.

Race car driver Frank Capua (Paul Newman) lives his life in motels as he travels to different competitions. He happens upon Elora (Joanne Woodward) working at an Avis Rent a Car agency after he wins a competition. I'm not sure how many woman would drive off with an intoxicated man they've just met late at night, but Elora does. They're smitten with each other. Elora and Frank high tail it out of town. Frank proposes. Talk about a fast courtship.

Elora's teenage son, Charley (Richard Thomas), joins the couple. He and Frank hit it off. But the wheels fall off the honeymoon period pretty quick. Elora grows weary of just how much time hubby Frank spends on his vehicle. Well, he did say he'd be really busy at the track. "He just wants to win," she laments. "He doesn't care what the stakes are." His racing partner, Lou (Robert Wanger) has an eye for the ladies. "Waking up to somebody you recognize can be too much of a good thing," Lou suggests. Not even Elora is exempt from his bed-hopping escapades. This dalliance makes Frank's life tricky. He's caught his closest racing buddy fooling around with his new wife.

Frank glares a lot, and looks intense, but doesn't say a lot about being cheated on. But he does want to beat Lou in Indianapolis. Bad.

Director James Goldstone embraces plenty of quick cuts during the film's race scenes. I found his most effective work was when hordes of well-wishers descend on Capua after he wins a race. Everyone wants his attention. The scene is crowded with many people and lots of noise. That helps make up for another scene where Newman pulls into the pit during a race and experiences a montage of crash scenes. Odd.

What's most interesting about Winning is what happened off-screen.

Newman was already a race fan prior to filming this 1969 release. But he embraced the chance to learn more about the sport and proved to be a quick learner behind the wheel, Lawrence Quirk writes in his biography of King Cool.

RATING: 7/10

FUN FACTS: Richard Thomas started work in television in 1956, but Winning was his first film role.

Maxine Stuart appears as Miss Redburne's mother. She appeared in a classic Twilight Zone episode, Eye of the Beholder.

Look for several race stars in Winning including Bobby Hunser, Dan Gurney and Roger McCluskey.

Director James Goldstone directed two episodes of Star Trek, What Are Little Girls Made Of? and Where No Man Has Gone Before.

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