Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: Some Came Running

(This post originally appeared on August 27, 2009.)

This is another one of those movies that’s been on TV many, many times, and somehow I never watched it until now. Based on a novel by James Jones, it’s the sort of small town melodrama/soap opera that Hollywood did so well during the Fifties. Frank Sinatra plays Dave Hirsch, a former GI returning to the town where he grew up. He’s also a writer with a couple of unsuccessful novels and some short stories under his belt, and judging by the hard feelings some of the townspeople bear toward him, one of those novels was autobiographical and not very flattering about his hometown and its citizens. Naturally, Dave’s return stirs up all sorts of emotional turmoil, especially after he becomes friends with a professional gambler called Bama, played by Dean Martin. Shirley MacLaine is around, too, as a sweet but not very bright redhead who attaches herself to Dave. The usual sorts of complications ensue – jealousy, infidelity, frigidity, dark secrets, knife fights – and things wrap up in a manner that surprised me, anyway, even though it’s not some sort of huge twist or anything like that.

SOME CAME RUNNING is really a product of the Fifties. People smoke constantly, and when they’re not smoking, they’re drinking, or talking about drinking. Really, booze is the subject of a lot of discussion in this movie. It’s also about half of a really good film, too. The scenes that center around seedy nightclubs or back-room poker games are great, with hard-driving saxophone music in the background and an atmosphere dripping with doom and sleaze. Then the romance scenes come along and are so schmaltzy they almost seem like they’re from another movie. Another drawback is that the occasional bursts of violence aren’t staged well and aren’t very convincing. But then, Vicente Minelli was never really known as an action director, so I suppose that’s to be expected. And to get really nit-picky, Dave’s manuscripts that figure into the plot are bound like movie scripts, a mistake that Hollywood always seems to make. Not only that, but at one point he sends off a story to THE ATLANTIC, and a few weeks later he gets a letter of acceptance, a check, and the issue of the magazine in which the story is published, all at the same time.

But despite all that, Frank is good, Dino is great as the easy-going Bama, and the rest of the cast does a fine job as well. I don’t think this is anywhere near a great movie, but it is a good one and well worth watching.

4 comments:

Bill Crider said...

I wrote about this one last year. I loved it when I was a kid. Not a great movie, as you say, but an entertaining one and one I can still enjoy if I pretend it's still 1957.

Walker Martin said...

I saw this when it came out in the 1950's and enjoyed it. In fact it got me interested in his war trilogy which I reread recently. His best work remains FROM HERE TO ETERNITY and THE THIN RED LINE but SOME CAME RUNNING is a good portrait of the post war fifties.

Anonymous said...

And stay off your lawn, eh Bill?

I loved it as a kid too but haven't seen it in decades.

Someone should mention (so I will) that MacLaine got a Best Actress Oscar nomination, and Martha Hyer & Arthur Kennedy were nominated for Supporting awards.

None of them won.


Jeff M.

Charles Gramlich said...

"Cause Smokin' and drinkin' are all that you do." Fairies wear Boots, by Black Sabbath. :)