Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Film Review: Some Came Running (1959)

The film version of the massive novel of the same
name by James Jones.
Photo Courtesy of
TCMDb: A veteran returns home to deal with family secrets and small-town scandals.

     It took a James Jones novel to bring Frank Sinatra out of a dump and return him back to the top, that novel, just in case you are unaware, was From Here to Eternity. Fighting tooth and nail to get the part of Maggio, Frank went on to give everyone of his doubters (and there were plenty) a sucker punch in the stomach and went on to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
     Well, once Frank was back on top, there was a smart man who thought that maybe another film adaptation of another James Jones novel with Frank in it again would lead to serious cash (this fella obviously had his thinking cap on). And so, they decided upon Some Came Running to be it.
     As I like to do if at all possible, I started to read the novel that the film was based on . . . for the first time in my life, I was unable to finish a book, not because I didn't want to, but simply because I couldn't because it was so--so ENORMOUS! From Here to Eternity at 864 pages is a baby compared to the whopper of 1266 pages in Some Came Running; it's even bigger than Gone with the Wind which tops off at 960 pages. I have not given up on it yet. One day . . . I will finish Some Came Running . . . it just won't be any time soon.
Bama Dillert
Photo Courtesy of
     As Dean put it in an interview, when they were trying to find someone to play the part of a man who "liked women, to gamble, and to drink. Frank said, 'Stop right there. Look no further then my pal Dean Martin.'" And Frank was right. The character of Bama Dillert fit Dean like a smooth glass of J&B whiskey.
     The character of Bama Dillert doesn't deserve to be liked. He doesn't think highly of women, thinking that they are all pigs, he gambles, and he drinks, but nonetheless, I couldn't help myself from liking him. The magic of Dean as Bama Dillert is undeniable.
     While this is technically Frank's movie, the two that really stand out to me are, of course Dean, and Shirley MacLaine. Shirley's character, Ginny, who follows Dave back to his hometown, is really a sweet, not so bright "floozie" who has it hard for Frank's character, Dave Hirsh, even when he's made it quite clear that he wants nothing to do with her. Her desire to do anything to make Dave happy, except leave, is made especially heartbreaking because we, as the viewers, and Ginny, knows that he doesn't really care. He treats her as though she's an idiot, but does so subtly, as those she's a child, and then adding salt to the wound, he feels sorry for her being an idiot.
Ginny, a sweet kid who's in love with the wrong man.
Photo Courtesy of
     This film marks the first between Dean and Frank, and that alone makes this film worth watching. Another point making this film worth a viewing is the fact that if you watch very closely, everybody is kind of awed by Dean's performance. Everybody knew that Frank could act, especially after his award winning portrayal as Maggio in From Here to Eternity (again, this is basically while this whole film was made), but people were still surprised that Dean could act, even after The Young Lions. In a way, I think, besides the fact that Frank thought Dean would be perfect as Bama Dillert, the reason why the producers gave the go-ahead for Dean being in the film was because everybody wanted to see if he could do it again, or if The Young Lions had just been a fluke.
Dave and Bama playin' in a little ol' poker game.
Photo Courtesy of
     Well, it wasn't. If you watch closely during the scene in which Frank Sinatra's character, Dave Hirsch, meets Dean's character, Bama Dillert, you can see Frank watching Dean closely. He likes what he sees. He's impressed. And it's not just during that one scene that you catch Frank watching Dean. I think Frank knew Dean could act, but not nearly as well as he did.
Get 'em Bama!
Photo Courtesy of
     A big surprise to me when I first viewed this film was seeing the credit for director of this film: Vincente Minnelli. I mean, up to the point in which I first watched Some Came Running, which was a couple of years back, the only thing I knew Minnelli of doing were musicals: bright, fun, charming musicals. Some Came Running is as about as far as you can get from a musical. Nonetheless, the are a lot of Minnelli aspects to Some Came Running which made him well-known for in his musicals, and the main one in this picture is: color. And the best scene to demonstrate this is the next to last scene in which (hoping not to give too much away to the film) Bama is chasing after a guy named Raymond who wants Dave dead because the Raymond is heavy for Ginny, whom Dave just married (I hope I didn't get you too confused while you were reading that). The chase occurs during the town fair. It is night. The lights are wild and colorful, and with Elmer Bernstein's musical score going on in the background (which is absolutely superb), it makes for an exciting climax.
He finally took off his hat.
Photo Courtesy of
     The final scenes of Some Came Running are truly amazing. I'm not going to give the finals scenes away, but I will say this: Throughout the whole film, Bama has this idea about his hat: It's lucky, and because it's lucky, he ain't gonna take it off. And he doesn't . . . until the final scene which tells you something about his character, and the character in which he took it off for.
     Despite the top notch stars and director, and for the fact that it awarded Shirley MacLaine with her first Oscar nomination as Best Actress, Some Came Running is kind of forgotten. I guess it's because the film isn't all about action too much, but rather a study of it's characters. Nonetheless, I would highly suggest that you watch it because the film really is amazing. So amazing that I give it a 3.5/4 stars.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love when you put that review about Dino movies.