My Hall Of Fame
Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, in a film directed by Vincente Minnelli. Sounds pretty great, huh? But here’s the catch; NO SINGING… AND NO DANCING! I know this sounds unbelievable, simply because when you hear those three names together there are some natural expectations, but the 1958 film, “Some Came Running”, does not try to meet one’s expectations. Instead this film throws away any preconceived notions you might have, and far exceeds anything imaginable.
Based on the novel of the same name by James Jones, “Some Came Running” is a drama film about Army veteran, Dave Hirsch (Frank Sinatra), and the return to his hometown of Parkman, Indiana. As the film opens Dave is sleeping on a bus, making its way from Chicago to Parkman. When the bus reaches its destination, the driver wakes Dave up and informs him that some of his friends put him on this bus after having too much to drink the night before. Dave, surprised and bewildered, gets off the bus, but then gets another shock when a young, somewhat simple-seeming girl, Ginny (Shirley MacLaine), follows him off the bus like a lap dog. It turns out that the night before, after several drinks, Dave lured Ginny away from her two-bit hoodlum boyfriend. Now, with the morning’s sobriety surrounding him, and wanting nothing to do with her, Dave gives Ginny fifty bucks and sends her on her way.
It turns out that Dave has been away from Parkman for the last sixteen years, ever since his brother, Frank (Arthur Kennedy), sent him away to boarding school. Now Frank, along with his upper-class wife and teenage daughter, have become prominent members of the community. With Dave’s return, Frank sees that his brother could tarnish the family name he has worked so hard to elevate.
Years before, Dave had attempted to become a writer by publishing a couple of wildly unpopular novels. To try and make the best of a bad situation, Frank introduces Dave to some other upper-class townspeople, including Professor French and his daughter, Gwen (Martha Hyer). Gwen is a teacher at the local school and is also a literary critic. She shows an extreme interest in Dave’s work, but Dave only has an interest in Gwen. After she rejects Dave’s advances, he chooses to head to the other side of town where he has been invited to join in a back room poker game with the free and easy living Bama (Dean Martin).
While at the bar where the card game is bring played, Dave runs into Ginny, who is now reunited with her hoodlum boyfriend, who followed her from Chicago. Dave, having already had a number of drinks, asks Ginny to stick around until after his card game. Dave and Bama begin a friendship that closely resembles how one would expect Sinatra and Martin spent their time together off of the set. Dave moves into Bama’s house and spends his nights with Bama, Ginny, some decks of cards and a whole lot of drinks. During the day, however, Dave attempts to continue to try and convince Gwen that he has fallen in love with her and would be willing to clean up his life for her. He also has developed a protective relationship for his niece, as she begins to desire a more carefree life than her overly conservative parents will allow. Torn between these two different worlds in the same small town, Dave has to choose which path he intends to follow.
Vincente Minnelli directed several great films in his career, but “Some Came Running” is without a doubt the most aesthetically stunning. Some of that credit can be attributed to Cinemascope, but most of it belongs to Minnelli for his ability to understand how to use Cinemascope properly. As you watch this film, it seems bigger than all other films. Even today, the use of Cinemascope in “Some Came Running” looks so incredible (particularly during the film’s climax) that it becomes hard to focus on the story.
Aside from the perfect appearance of this film, the cast is one of the best ever assembled. “Some Came Running” was nominated for three acting Academy Awards, in the categories of Best Actress (Shirley MacLaine), Best Supporting Actor (Arthur Kennedy) and Best Supporting Actress (Martha Hyer). Sinatra himself was ideal for the role of Dave Hirsch, and seemed to be locked in on the exact way this character needed to be played. Five years earlier, Sinatra had won an Academy Award for “From Here To Eternity” (1953), which was also based on a James Jones novel. That, of course, was part of the motivation behind the making of “Some Came Running”, and Sinatra lived up to any expectations that the studio had in their minds.
This was the first film where Sinatra and Dean Martin appeared together, with the credit going to Sinatra suggesting his close friend for the role. Martin proved himself to be a legitimate actor, as his performance is exactly what the character needed: the precise mixture of comedy and sadness.
Shirley MacLaine’s performance, as the naive but sweet Ginny, is a fascinating character. She so badly wants to be loved, and even though Dave thinks she is far below his own intelligence level, she still is willing to love him unconditionally. Obviously, Shirley MacLaine has had several great performances in her long and illustrious career, but in this film she fully captures the sweetness and understanding of Ginny. You remember her performance (and awful singing) long after the film has ended.
“Some Came Running” is not the kind of movie that has kept everyone talking since its original release, but in recent years, some comments from legendary filmmakers, like Martin Scorsese and Peter Bogdanovich, have given the film a much deserved second following. It time, perhaps we will even be able to see this enormous film back up on the big screen. Until then I will continue to enjoy this brilliantly crafted film, and help spread the word about what will someday be well known as a cinematic masterpiece.Back to Home for More Reviews