Directed by James Goldstone
Produced by John Foreman
Written by Howard Rodman
Starring Paul Newman
Music by Dave Grusin
Cinematography Richard Moore
Editing by Edward A. Biery & Richard C. Meyer
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) May 22, 1969
Running time 123 min
Paul Newman had two great loves in his life, his wife Joanne Woodward and motor racing, so you would think a film produced by Newman that combines both of these loves would be a winner. Unfortunately that is not the case with Winning, a film that Newman made in 1969 that features clips of the 1968 Indianapolis 500. You would think that this is a motor racing film by looking at the poster for the film, but this is more or less just romantic goo. (Yuk!)
Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward were one of Hollywood’s most endearing couples, but here they seem to have zero chemistry on the screen. It doesn’t help that Joanne looks about seventy years old here (she was 37 at the time) or that the courtship, marriage and then separation of the on-screen couple seems to span a period of about six weeks. There is also the less than convincing sub-plot where Newman’s character Frank Capua legally adopts Woodward’s son Charlie, played by Richard Thomas, who famously portrayed ‘John-Boy’ in The Waltons in the 70s.
Towards the end of the film Joanne’s character sleeps with Newman’s rival in the film Robert Wagner, who is best known for his role in TV’s Hart To Hart, and more recently as Number Two in the Austin Powers’ movies. Newman catches the two in bed and then goes into a permanent sulk until he and Joanne resolve their differences right at the end of the film. As I said earlier, the romantic stuff is very difficult to take because of how quickly everything happens. Perhaps people do find true love in just a couple of months? We don’t really know as it’s not until the end of the film that the characters show any emotion other than indifference to each other.
You cannot even rely on the motor-racing scenes to liven-up such a dull movie. Every so often the sound of a V8 engine would rev loud enough to wake a sleepy viewer, but then they would cut back to the Newman’s soap-opera to send the viewer back into a coma. It is all very dull and boring. When they finally show the Indy 500, which Frank naturally wins, the motor racing scenes are inter-spliced with random clips of Joanne and especially ‘John-Boy’ making weird, orgasmic faces as their hero progresses through the field.
The film is weird because it doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. It is not really a romantic picture, or a drama or a sports-film although it does have elements of those three genres. Over-all the film is very dull and not one I really recommend.
* I bought the DVD for this a few weeks ago after hearing about the supposedly great racing scenes contained in the film. The DVD cost just $5 and I did expect it to be similar to Grand Prix or Le Mans, two other racing films released in the late 60s and early 70s.