Some Came Running (1958)

Directed by Vincente Minnelli
Cinematography William H. Daniels

Plot

Dave Hirsh (Frank Sinatra) is a cynical Army veteran who winds up in his hometown of Parkman after being put on a bus in Chicago while intoxicated. Ginny Moorehead (Shirley MacLaine), a woman of seemingly loose morals and poor education, was invited by Dave in his drunken state to accompany him to Parkman. When Dave sobers up, he realizes it was a mistake, and gives her money to return to Chicago. However, she decides to stay because she has fallen in love with Dave and is also trying to escape a violent boyfriend back in Chicago.

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Dave left Parkman 16 years before and had a career as a writer, publishing two books. He did not visit or stay in touch with his older brother, Frank (Arthur Kennedy), because he is still embittered about how Frank and his wife Agnes (Leora Dana) treated him when he was a child. Frank, who was newly married to the well-off Agnes, had placed him in a charity boarding school rather than take Dave to live in his home. Frank has since inherited a jewelry business from Agnes’ father, sits on the board of a local bank, and is active in civic affairs. Frank and Agnes are very concerned about their social status and reputation in the town, which is threatened when Dave returns without letting them know and then deposits a large sum of his gambling winnings in the bank that competes with Frank’s bank. Frank attempts to make amends with Dave in order to get him to move the bank deposit. Agnes wants nothing to do with Dave, but is forced to welcome him after two of her wealthy social acquaintances, Professor French (Larry Gates) and his daughter Gwen (Martha Hyer), a schoolteacher, ask to meet Dave because they admire his books.

When Dave meets Gwen, he immediately falls in love with her. She is attracted to him as well, but is afraid of the passionate feelings he arouses in her and of his lifestyle. Each time Gwen rejects him, he ends up back with Ginny, even though her lack of intelligence frustrates him and she is nothing like Gwen. Dave has also befriended a hard-partying but good-hearted gambler, Bama Dillert (Dean Martin), and the two get into trouble when Ginny’s ex-boyfriend, a gangster named Ray, comes to town stalking her. Frank is upset about the bad reflection on him from Dave’s lifestyle. However, Dave is shown to be a good man despite his notorious reputation when he treats Ginny with kindness and takes a fatherly interest in his niece, Frank’s daughter Dawn (Betty Lou Keim), who becomes upset and tries to run away when she sees her father in a lovers’ lane with his secretary.

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Dave’s new story that he wrote with Gwen’s encouragement is published in The Atlantic magazine, and Gwen confesses her love to him by telephone while he is on a gambling trip out of town with Bama and Ginny. Gwen’s phone call leads the gamblers to think Dave is cheating at cards, triggering a fight in which Bama is stabbed. Ginny later visits Gwen at her school to ask if Gwen and Dave are in a relationship and confess her own love for Dave. Gwen is horrified to discover Dave has been seeing Ginny, assures Ginny that there is nothing between her and Dave, and then cuts Dave off. Dave, at the end of his rope from Gwen’s rejection, decides to marry Ginny, even over Bama’s objections. While she is not Dave’s social or intellectual match, she gives him unconditional love that he’s never had from anyone else. The two marry, but soon after they leave the judge’s house, Ray comes after them with a gun, shoots and injures Dave, and then shoots Ginny dead as she tries to protect Dave. Dave, Bama and Gwen all attend her funeral.

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stylish 50s melodrama with an A cast

8 November 2002 | by funkyfry (Oakland CA) – See all my reviews

Remarkable, engrossing 50s melodrama. The story is a simple one; Sinatra plays a G.I. returning home after many years’ absence, during which time he’s written a few unsuccessful novels and acquired a talent for gambling and drinking. Although he’s brought a girl with him (MacLaine, overacting as usual) who adores him, he takes up with the local professor’s daughter (Hyer), who believes in his talent and ability but doubts he can stop drinking and sleeping around. Martin is an affable presence as his friend who involves him in his gambling business.

Extraordinary direction of actors, a somewhat tired script being pushed past the point of believability often enough but carefully emotionally anchored by Minnelli’s hand. Nice color photography.

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Florid Dreams

9/10
Author: telegonus from brighton, ma
22 August 2002

A product of the Eisenhower fifties, Some Came Running, adapted from a James Jones novel, stars Frank Sinatra as a footloose writer returning to his Midwestern home town right after World War II. Directed by Vincente Minnelli, in a grand, florid manner, it is essentially a smart soap opera, with some very deep emotions, shot in garish color, that can at its best bear comparison with the films of Douglas Sirk, and is in some ways better, more imaginative. The story matters less than the characters, which aside from Sinatra’s artist-in-uniform, include an alcoholic Southern gambler, played by Dean Martin, who’s also his best friend; a pathetic floozie from Chicago who followed Sinatra home (Shirley MacLaine); Sinatra’s brother, a frustrated if successful businessman (Arthur Kennedy); and a prim, somewhat stuffy school-teacher (Martha Hyer), who admires Sinatra as a writer but cares little for him as a man. Sinatra is torn between bad girl MacLaine and good girl Hyer; and though the former is easy to be with, if not much of a conversationalist, the latter is an ice princess, and proud of it. Understandably, Sinatra reverts to gambling, drinking and carousing with friend Dean Martin, but is clearly not happy with it. He would like to find a place in society, but how? Where?

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Arthur Kennedy

This one could have been a classic, and the cast is for the most part excellent. MacLaine’s Method-ish performance is the only jarring note, but it’s a loud one. A number of things keep the film “down”, or at any rate in second gear. First of all Minnelli was as man and director such an aesthete that he spends much of his time painting with his camera. Aided in no small measure by the excellent photography of William Daniels, his compositions and color create an often surreal effect, almost hallucinogenic, ultimately anti-realistic, though fascinating to watch, and this in the end detracts from the story. On the other hand Minnelli was good with people, and his more intimate scenes between people who really know each other,–Sinatra and Martin, Sinatra and MacLaine–show a genuine understanding of human behavior. Back and forth the movie goes. That its setting is Indiana make both the movie and the characters seem out of place in this most conservative of midwestern states. There is none of the wholeness here that one gets from, for instance, Kazan’s On the Waterfront, where everything comes together beautifully and nothing is out of place. Here everyone seems to belong either elsewhere or nowhere, to be thinking or dreaming of other things, to not really care much for their surroundings. There is also a strong undercurrent of Tennessee Williams and William Inge-inspired textbook Freud, with the characters either sexually obsessed, sexually frustrated or sexually avoidant. I doubt the word sex is ever actually used in the movie, but it’s everywhere. The Elmer Bernstein score, jazzy and doubtless influenced by Alex North’s music for Streetcar Named Desire, tends to telegraph, often hilariously, how one ought to feel about what’s going on, especially the raunchy, down-dirty greasy horns he deploys whenever the story moves to the wrong side of the tracks or to a card game, as if to say, “Okay Middle America, this is NOT the way to be”.

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For all its flaws, the movie has many grace notes, some of them even musical, as Bernstein occasionally redeems himself, especially in his lovely main theme. The compartmentalized, evasive lives most of the characters in the film live are, shorn of the melodrama, not unlike real life. Even when the plot becomes predictable the underlying emotions of the main characters remain authentic, and the result is in many ways a compartmentalized movie that at times seems to take its style from the dreams and fantasies of its various characters, becoming in effect their view of life rather than their actual lives. This feeling of fantasy versus reality becomes the movie’s major issue when an old boyfriend of MacLaine’s shows up, starts drinking, and begins to stalk her. The danger in the air is palpable, and as many of these later scenes take place literally in a carnival atmosphere, the film becomes simultaneously urgent and otherworldly, like someone coming off a mescaline trip who suddenly realizes that he’s standing on the ledge of a twenty storey building. This was very daring of Minnelli, and I’m sure intentional, and the ending is truly heartbreaking, and yet aesthetic also, with the director refusing to give up his florid manner even in the last scene. I sense that the tragedy in the film had a very private meaning for Minnelli, and that he intended for it to have the same effect on the audience; to trigger personal issues in each viewer that he could take away from the movie which were independent of the movie. In this he succeeded magnificently.

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