Directed Vincente Minnelli
Written by John Patrick and Arthur Sheekman (based on the James Jones novel)
Starring: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Shirley MacLaine, Martha Hyer, Arthur Kennedy, and Nancy Gates.
Tagline: Dave was back and the whole town knew that trouble – and women – were close behind!
Trivia: Mostly filmed in Madison, Indiana, an antagonistic relationship developed between Sinatra and the locals who resented his detached attitude towards them.
Some Came Running stars Frank Sinatra as disillusioned war veteran and writer Dave Hirsh who returns to his hometown after a 16 year absence. The film co-stars a boozy Dean Martin and a young Shirley MacLaine. Melodramatic plot points aside, Some Came Running channels the same angst of Rebel Without A Cause and On The Road.
The film opens with Dave arriving in town hungover and accompanied by Ginny (MacLaine) who joined him on the bus ride from Chicago. He gets a hotel room and continues drinking. When his older brother Frank (Arthur Kennedy), a sort of “I’ll do anything to fit in type guy,” chides Dave for drinking at 10:30 in the morning to which Sinatra retorts, “I don’t live by the clock.” Living the dream there.
We learn Dave was orphaned as a child and Frank refused to take him in because he was newly married, creating some hard feelings. Later on at a country club party Dave meets school teacher Gwen (Martha Hyer) who knows his work and she’s also single: the perfect opportunity for Dave to settle down. Gwen’s father, a retired professor played by Larry Gates (the psychiatrist from Invasion of the Body Snatchers), plays the approving father of Gwen.
Despite the positive influence of Gwen, Dave prefers drinking and playing cards at the bar. Enter Bama Dilert (Dean Martin), speaking of drinking, this guy lives for it. Shirley MacLaine stated the character resembled Martin in real life, a loner who preferred to live by his own code. At one point Bama learns he’s got diabetes from consuming too much alcohol and responds by drinking when leaving the hospital!
The second half goes into full melodrama mode with misunderstandings, arguments, affairs, mobsters from Chicago, and a little violence. The climax takes place at a carnival in a sequence Martin Scorsese credits as one of the best in film history.
Plot mechanics aside, the performances are the reason to watch Some Came Running. Sinatra delivers a good performance, playing a character both surly and sensitive, reminiscent of early Brando. Martin provides comic relief and seems to be in a different movie entirely, while MacLaine is more of a caricature of a girl from the wrong side of the tracks.
Some Came Running channels the sense of unease of the 1950s America. Although Dave is a not a Beat writer, his attitude exuded that sensibility. From today’s perspective, the movie speaks to the static culture of the Midwest and the loneliness of the outsider.