Some Came Running (1958)

Some Came Running (1958)

“Bumming around can only help to make you a bum.”

A veteran and aspiring writer (Frank Sinatra) returns to his hometown on a bus with a woman (Shirley MacLaine) he barely knows, and quickly causes consternation for his socially conscious brother (Arthur Kennedy) and sister-in-law (Leora Dana) — and his would-be love interest (Martha Hyer) — when he gets into brawls and befriends a hustling gambler (Dean Martin). Meanwhile he tries to mentor his naive niece (Betty Lou Keim), who is mortified to discover her father having an affair with his secretary (Nancy Gates).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Arthur Kennedy Films
  • Dean Martin Films
  • Frank Sinatra Films
  • Morality Police
  • Shirley MacLaine Films
  • Siblings
  • Small Town America
  • Veterans
  • Vincente Minnelli Films
  • Writers

Vincente Minnelli directed this adaptation of James Jones’ second published novel — his follow-up to the enormous success of From Here to Eternity (1953). Some Came Running is notable for bringing together members of the Rat Pack (Sinatra and Martin and ‘mascot’ MacLaine) for the first time:

… for being directly referenced in Godard’s Contempt (1963), when Piccoli’s character mentions wanting to emulate Martin in not ever taking his signature hat off:

… and for earning radiant young MacLaine an Oscar nomination:

Unfortunately, MacLaine’s performance — along with William H. Daniels’ beautiful Cinemascope cinematography — are the best aspects of this otherwise frustrating melodrama, shot through with sexism (Martin’s reprehensible “Bama” repeatedly refers to women, MacLaine in particular, as pigs) and trite dialogue (“We’ll have no more of that; I’m not one of your bar-room tarts!”). Sinatra’s world-weary character is sympathetic but underdeveloped:

… and his choice of Hyer as a marriage mate makes little sense:

Yes, she’s beautiful and has intense interest in his writing — but doesn’t she otherwise represent everything he’s scornful of in his brother’s small-town life?

Poor MacLaine gets the worst deal of all, playing what the video reviewer for Trailers From Hell (screenwriter Sam Hamm) casually refers to as a “dimwitted mattress back” (ouch!). MacLaine infuses more life and interest into her character than everyone else combined, yet is treated reprehensibly throughout.

(I’m not surprised that Godard and his male protagonists in Contempt — who likewise objectify the women in their lives as sex objects and workers — found connection with this film.)

The other female characters in Some Came Running are similarly posited as merely background context for the men as they live their lives and/or work out their neuroses (or not). Dana is a classic shrewish housewife who drips with condescension and entitlement, and casually “has a headache” the night Kennedy proposes some nookie (“What do you say we — go up… Sort of — relax?”)

It’s no wonder he flies into the arms of his conveniently working-late-at-night secretary (Gates) (though why they are stupid enough to drive to a common make-out spot in town is truly beyond me).

Meanwhile, Hyer seems to simply be emulating Grace Kelly in her blonde ice princess act, and is given terrible dialogue to work with (“Oh, Dave, we’ve met exactly three times. What do I know about you? What do you know about me?”). We at least have some sympathy for poor Keim, who is justifiably mortified to learn about her father’s hypocrisy, and gets to flee to New York by the end.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Shirley MacLaine as Ginnie
  • Fine cinematography

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a one-time look for MacLaine’s performance and for the adulation it’s accumulated.


3 thoughts on “Some Came Running (1958)

  1. Not must-see.

    A film I’ve seen at least twice all the way through, but not one I would ever want to revisit again. It’s among the Minnelli films that are turgid and strive mightily toward being compelling, without achieving that goal. A bunch of his films are like that – even several of his musicals.

    Of his somewhere-near-40 actual credits, I can roughly count on one hand the number of Minnelli films that are really worthy of an ff’s time. This ain’t one of them.

    Re: this particular film… it’s sort of weird that Sinatra pulled rank to have the ending changed – to make it easier (and more likely) for MacLaine to nab an Oscar nom.

    But it’s not surprising that Godard would watch a film like this and primarily come away from it with a fetish for Martin’s hat. That’s the kind of superficial filmmaker he is.

  2. This is a seriously beloved film — one of those movies people claim is underrated, etc.

    Minnelli himself is beloved:

    “To be a filmmaker for Minnelli, then, is to be a type of magician or enchanter. Indeed, many of his films very broadly assume the form and mode of romance: the world of fairy tale and myth, of the gothic and melodramatic, but just as strongly the comic, and a world dominated by the possibilities of metamorphosis and transformation. But these modes are most often given a contemporary or at least twentieth century setting in which the ongoing cultural weight of romance is implicitly measured against the modern and the psychological.”

    Like you, I just don’t get it.

  3. People who write critiques like this also baffle me:

    “But these modes are most often given a contemporary or at least twentieth century setting in which the ongoing cultural weight of romance is implicitly measured against the modern and the psychological.”

    What does that even *mean*? 😉

    It’s widely recognized that Minnelli labored under the weight of a confused sexuality. It stands to reason that there’s a connection between that and the forced nature of much of his work.

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