WUSA (1970): Stuart Rosenberg’s Socially Conscious Feature, Starring Paul Newman

Stuart Rosenberg’s “WUSA” is not a particularly good film, but as Vincent Canby wrote in the New York Times, “It does at least prompt one to want to talk back to it–and recently, there haven’t been too many movies to do even that.”

WUSA reflects Paul Newman’s goal to makes movies that are both socially-conscious and entertaining. He perceived “WUSA” as a significant work due to its subject matter, an exposé of neo-Fascist conspiracy in the U.S. The film was designed to provoke people “to ask themselves a lot of questions.” Newman said he had co-produced and acted in the film because he wanted to critique “corporate greed” and “gimme gimme philosophy,” and “apathetic indifference to our national future.”

Newman plays Rheinhardt, a New Orleans rolling-stone disk jockey and radio newscaster who meets and becomes intrigued by Geraldine (Miss Woodward), a tart with a scarred face and a noble soul who becomes his mistress. Rhienhardt also befriends Morgan Rainey (Anthony Perkins), a social worker who is duped by corrupt neo-Fascist radio station operator Bingamon (Pat Hingle) into investigating alleged welfare chiseling via fixed set-ups designed by Bingamon to discredit the entire welfare system and cheat honest and needy people.

 

At a rally staged by Bingamon, to sponsor and promote his phony brand of “big, clean, sound” Americanism, the enraged Rainey, unaware that he has been rooked, attempts to assassinate Bingamon but kills his assistant instead. As a result, he is brutally killed

 

Too verbose and expository for its own good, “WUSA” lacks genuine drama or engaging plot. While the film’s sincerity is apparent and its passionate quality unmistakable, its execution are flawed.

 

The move was a commercial flop, which is too bad, as it raises some relevant philosophic and ethical issues.

 

Despite many flaws, the acting is mostly good. Joanne Woodward gives one of her most touching performances as a prostitute with convictions. So are Anthony Perkins, as the addled idealist exploited by deep-dyed opportunists, Pat Hingle as the neo-Fascist millionaire radio station operator who uses the cynical Newman as his cat’s paw, and Laurence Harvey as a con man turned preacher.

 

Cast

 

Paul Newman

Joanne Woodward

Anthony Perkins

Laurence Harvey

Pat Hingle

Cloris Leachman

Don Gordon

Michael Anderson, Jr.

Leigh French

Moses Gunn

Bruce Cabot

Lou Gosset

Robert Quarry

 

Credits

A Rosenberg-Newman-Foreman Production for Paramount Pictures.

Produced by John Foreman.

Directed by Stuart Rosenberg.

Associate Producer, Hank Moonjean.

Screenplay by Robert Stone from his novel, A Hall of Mirrors.

Photographed by Richard Moore.

Art Director, Philip Jefferies.

Set Decorator, William Kiernan.

Unit Production Manager, Arthur Newman.

Assistant Directors, Hank Moonjean, Howard Koch, Jr., Les Gorall.

Film Editor, Bob Wyman.

Sound Recording, Jerry Jost.

Costumes by Travilla.

Music composed and conducted by Lalo Shiffrin.

Men’s Wardrobe, Nat Tolmach.

Women’s Wardrobe, Norma Brown.

Script Supervisor, Betty Crosby.

Hair Styles by Sydney Guilaroff.

Makeup artists, Lynn Reynolds and Jack Wilson.

Technicolor.

Panavision.

Running time, 115 minutes.