Jan 19, 2022

On Blu-Ray: Frank Sinatra, Shirley MacLaine and Dean Martin in Vincente Minnelli's Some Came Running (1958)

 

Going into Some Came Running (1958), I anticipated the steamy small town melodrama portrayed in the film’s trailer. It promised piano-pounding passion and a repressed mid-century society bursting from within. Perhaps it could have been about that, but in director Vincente Minnelli’s hands, James Jones’ (From Here to Eternity) massive tome evolved into something more sensitive and insightful, if still pulsating with the excitement promised in its marketing. This often somber, but engrossing Cinemascope production looks beautiful on a new Blu-ray release from Warner Archive.

Frank Sinatra stars as Dave Hirsh, a World War II veteran who reluctantly finds himself home in Parkman, Indiana. He is accompanied, in a fashion, by Ginnie Moorehead (Shirley MacLaine) a gaudy, but sweet dame he picked up while under the influence. Saddled with unwanted female attention, he also attempts, and fails to avoid his wealthy and self-absorbed brother Frank (Arthur Kennedy). Dave’s frustrations ebb when he meets Gwen French (Martha Hyer) a repressed school teacher who admires the works of his long abandoned writing career.

There is nothing in the town’s high society for Dave; he finds more comfort in the less restrained company of cardsharp Bama Dillert (Dean Martin). Ginnie seems a natural fit in that world, but Dave finds himself drawn to Gwen. In the midst of it all, just about everyone in the town misbehaves in one way or another, which makes it especially rich when Dave’s criticized for his drama simply because it’s published in the town paper instead of hidden behind doors.

While I find Sinatra’s restrained performance admirable, this film is stolen by MacLaine, with an assist by Martin. Minnelli seems to know this in the way he frames his scenes. Sinatra is always at his best with Martin, the shorthand of their friendship comes through on the screen and that is spotlighted with wisely balanced shots which feature both stars equally.

All of Minnelli’s sympathy goes to Ginnie though. His camera always seems to be checking in on her, framing her in windows, watching her adoringly as she peers through a classroom doorway. It is as if he wants to protect her, particularly from the toxic men in her life. She is the most vulnerable to the bad behavior that inevitably emerges when the males around her become adrift and insecure.

It’s heartrending to watch Ginnie beg for Dave’s love, she doesn’t deserve his snobbery and it’s horrifying to realize he’s actually treating her better than the other men she’s known. With her cheeks blasted with streaks of hot pink blush and a bedraggled purse shaped like a stuffed animal hanging from her arm, she seems like a child trying to play at being an adult, but beneath that fa├žade is the core of the movie’s wisdom. Sinatra seemed to know that, and he felt that his costar deserved her flowers; he even had a key scene of the film altered to increase the emotional power of her role.

The film looks great, thanks to Minnelli’s experience in helming colorful, big budget musicals. He uses those skills in an artful way here, with careful compositions that use color, light, and various structures for maximum emotional impact. You see what particularly made him a great filmmaker when he is separated from the genre brought him fame.

Special features on the disc include a trailer and the featurette The Story of Some Came Running, which offers interesting insight into the film and its times.

Many thanks to Warner Archive for providing a copy of the film for review.

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