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SOME CAME RUNNING (director: Vincente Minnelli; screenwriters: from the novel by James Jones/John Patrick/Arthur Sheekman; cinematographer: William H. Daniels; editor: Adrienne Fazan; music: Elmer Bernstein; cast: Frank Sinatra (Dave Hirsh), Dean Martin (Bama Dillert), Shirley MacLaine (Ginny Moorhead), Martha Hyer (Gwen French), Arthur Kennedy (Frank Hirsh), Leora Dana (Agnes Hirsh), Betty Lou Keim (Dawn Hirsh), Nancy Gates (Edith Barclay), Ned Wever (the owner of Smitty’s bar), Steven Peck (Raymond), Larry Gates (Professor French); Runtime: 137; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sol C. Siegel; MGM; 1959)
“Somewhat fascinating lurid family drama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Vincente Minnelli (“Gigi”/”Meet Me in St. Louis”/”Ziegfeld Follies”) helms this somewhat fascinating lurid family drama with his usual rich “dreamlike” visual beauty–making great use of CinemaScope, especially in the carnival setting show stopper sequence. It’s based on James Jones’ sophomore 1,200-page novel of 1957; it’s a follow-up to his “From Here to Eternity,” which served as a comeback vehicle for Frank Sinatra– who stars in this film. Minnelli, as expected from a film based on such a tome, loses a lot of Jones’ more serious intentions, but nicely grabs hold of its tragic elements with the needed integrity. The screenplay is sweetly turned in by John Patrick and Arthur Sheekman, who shoot for a startling oddball Ferris wheel sequence to bring their soap opera tale to a memorable carnival-like head.

Dave Hirsh (Frank Sinatra) served during WW II as a corporal. He’s disillusioned after the war that his once promising writing career has failed to materialize. He’s returning by bus in 1948 to his home town, Parkham, Illinois (filmed in Madison, Indiana, a town that became unbearable in its hero worship for Sinatra and the film crew felt relieved when they moved back to their California soundstages). Dave’s soldier buddies put him on the bus unconscious after going on a drinking binge; he keeps a manuscript tightly tucked under his arm during the entire ride. Dave arrives in his small-town with the good natured tart with no guile, someone he picked-up in Chicago named Ginny Moorhead (Shirley MacLaine) and who surprisingly tagged along for the ride–obviously in love with him. He reacquaints himself with his estranged older well-connected businessman brother Frank (Arthur Kennedy), a hypocritical Babbitt type, and his bourgeois upper-middle-class family. Frank’s wife (Leora Dana) is pictured as a small-minded petty person, while his teenage daughter (Betty Lou Keim) exudes some charm as she is getting some lessons in the sordid facts of life through hooking up with a traveling salesman. Dave’s inner circle of friends expands to include the professional gambler Bama (Dean Martin), who is from the other side of town and takes a liking to Dave.

The aspiring writer is conflicted over living a respectable intellectual life or a debauched but more free life with his less respectable pals. Playing off both sides of the town’s class dividing line, shuffling back and forth between the two separate worlds, Dave meets in the respectable academic world a lonely creative writing schoolteacher named Gwen French (Martha Hyer) and begins an awkward romance with the country club member conformist. But when he proposes and is rejected, he comes running back to marry the socially unacceptable Ginny. But tragedy intercedes his plans. This leads to the neurotic Dave’s self-discovery that he must overcome his troubling inner obstacles if he’s to write again, as he’s depicted as a lost soul wandering through the landscape of cheap bars and frigid conventional middle-class homes looking for his real identity.

Overall, the acting failed to impress me. Sinatra is miscast in the lead role, as his performance is wooden; Martin is appealing, but is not asked to do much but play himself as the cool dude who loves to drink and gamble and not take off his cowboy hat; MacLaine’s dimwitted whore with a heart of gold role wore thin after awhile and became grating; Hyer is the stereotypical cold blonde, who is attractive but unappealing; and Kennedy’s nuanced performance, the one I enjoyed best, gives his character more depth than what most thesps would have gotten from such a one-dimensional unlikable character.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”