SOME CAME RUNNING (1958) C widescreen 137m dir: Vincente Minnelli

w/Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Shirley MacLaine, Martha Hyer, Arthur Kennedy, Nancy Gates, Leora Dana, Betty Lou Keim, Larry Gates, Steven Peck, Connie Gilchrist, Ned Weaver, Robert Haven

From The Movie Guide: "The protagonist of Jean-Luc Goddard's CONTEMPT won't remove his hat, even in the bathtub, because he wants to look like Dean Martin in SOME CAME RUNNING --- a nice index of the reverence with which Vincente Minnelli's eloquent, passionate melodramas were regarded by French New Wave critics, who saw in them an ironic encapsulization of American culture. Expertly condensed by studio hacks [Arthur] Sheekman and [John] Patrick from a massive, windy bestseller by James Jones (From Here to Eternity), this film captures the disillusionment of returning WWII vets, and brilliantly addresses itself to many of the director's characteristic concerns --- masculine fear of domestication and attendant resentment of women; the tensions of masculine friendship; women's complicity in their own oppression; the compromises demanded of artists functioning under capitalism.

"As the film opens, unsuccessful novelist and WWII vet Sinatra returns to his home town of Parkman, Illinois, with a new manuscript under one arm and a charming floozy, MacLaine, draped over the other. Their appearance creates a minor sensation in the small town, in which, of course, superficial respectability masks a hotbed of corruption and sexual intrigue. Sinatra's brother is Kennedy, a rigid businessman married to Dana but having an affair with his assistant, Nancy Gates. Hyer teaches at the local college and finds Sinatra intriguing, but the jaded Sinatra is impatient with her refusal to sleep with him. He befriends Martin, an easygoing, superstitious gambler with whom he enjoys endless card games and drinking bouts. The two are casually contemptuous of MacLaine, who is sexually available and thus, to their minds, less desirable than the icy Hyer; MacLaine endures many cruelties out of love for Sinatra. Eventually, Sinatra's frustration with the town's ubiquitous hypocrisy boils over; his subsequent recklessness leads to tragedy."

From Variety 's contemporary review of the film: "The story is pure melodrama, despite the intentions of the original novel's author, James Jones, to invest it with greater stature. But the integrity with which the film is handled by all its contributors lifts it at times to tragedy. Jones' novel has been stripped to essentials in the screenplay, and those are presented in hard clean dialog and incisive situations. ... Sinatra gives a top performance, sardonic and compassionate, full of touches both instinctive and technical."

The following contains information you may not want to know before viewing the film for the first time:

From the Senses of Cinema website (, this 2009 article about the film by Dana Polan:

"Some Came Running is probably best remembered for its great and gaudy penultimate scene in which newlyweds Dave Hirsch (Frank Sinatra) and Ginny (Shirley MacLaine) are stalked by her jilted lover through the phantasmagoria of a carnival celebration brimming over with customers and lit up with all sorts of radiantly campy colors. This fairground scene radiates a pounding, frenetic energy. As the late film writer Stephen Harvey describes the scene [in his book Directed by Vincente Minnelli]:

"Minnelli fills the screen with a blaze of red light. ... [T]he camera pans a few feet to reveal the main street of this Indiana town in full festive pomp. Minnelli’s most stunning brand of applied artifice follows, as he turns this real place into a CinemaScope hallucination ... spinning lights and milling crowds, and carnival roustabouts setting up their booths, all aswirl in his breathless lateral tracking shots.

"Minnelli himself explained the inspiration for the scene’s visual style in this way: 'I decided to use the inside of a juke box as my inspiration for the settings ... garishly lit in primary colors.' His comparison is fitting for, along with the vibrant look of Technicolor cinema, the jukebox captures that side of the American 1950s caught up in a loud kitsch, a visual display that proudly proclaims a showiness that verges on vulgarity. If a common cliche of the 1950s imagines the period as one of bland conformity, in contrast a whole series of pop phenomena --- from the jukebox (and the splashy music contained therein) to the cinema to pastel fashions to overlarge cars with razor blade-like tail fins to the shimmer of Jell-O and so on --- remind us of everything excessive in the decade; of everything, indeed, that exceeds bland middle-class propriety. In fact, much of the narrative of Some Came Running has to do precisely with the dominant culture’s wish to uphold norms of respectability, and in this sense the carnival scene shows how everything that this culture seeks to repress comes bubbling to the surface to explode in wildly dramatic fashion. It is particularly appropriate that Some Came Running was shot in CinemaScope for this widescreen process would seem well-fitted to an explosive spectacularity that threatens to spill off the screen in the sheer bigness of its effects.

"But Some Came Running is also notable for a dramatically effective, if less showy, use of the widescreen format to capture subtle permutations in the interpersonal relationships of its central characters. In fact, Some Came Running connects the spectacular level in its broad depiction of a general condition of Americana to a more intimate level centered on the melodrama of a few select figures: the film’s chronology parallels the gradual preparations for the fair with the slow progression of Dave’s own narrative trajectory. To underscore this trajectory, the film uses compositional strategies of widescreen to contrast Dave’s initial emotional limitations and the growth he finally is capable of. In particular, in several scenes of the film, widescreen composition serves as a signal of Dave’s inability to open up to others, to let emotional engagement with other people into his life, and to even notice such people from within the protective space he has built up around himself.

"Take, for instance, the very beginning of the film: the widescreen positions and isolates Dave in the long horizontal shape of the bus bringing him back to his hometown and it is only late in the scene that we (and then Dave) remark the presence of the forgotten Ginny in a seat behind him. Likewise, in one of the many scenes in which Dave gathers in a bar with his newfound gambling partner Bama (Dean Martin), Ginny remains unnoticed, way off in the back and side of the frame, until she insinuates herself into Dave’s presence. Ginny is rarely on the same plane as Dave, on a level spatial relationship with him. In contrast, as befits the Rat Pack masculinist ideology in which women are only accessories and men’s fundamental relationship is to their male pals (with whom there is always the distance of cool professionalism), Dave and Bama are often pictured side-by-side, two buddies engaged in playboy-culture pursuits, as when they sit at tables gambling.

"Interestingly, though, the film’s trajectory suggests the limitations of such machismo and the need to recognize the femininity that is pushed to the side, excluded, occluded, forgotten. At the film’s end, at Ginny’s funeral, there is once again a composing of characters along a fairly level plane (emphasized all the more by a tracking shot across this plane) but Dave and Bama have now come to realize all their callousness and carefree insouciance had ignored. Hence, in memory of Ginny, Bama removes his hat, something he swore he never would do. This, among other things, is a film about men who grow and who seem to learn.

"But the learning process is extended also by the CinemaScope composition to we spectators who have to discover how to read the frame and learn to modify what we think we’re seeing. Just as the scenes in which we suddenly realize Ginny’s presence teach us to revise what we know, other moments of the film exploit widescreen cinema’s potential to create ambiguity by the fact that there’s often too much to see on the screen. Take, for instance, a scene in which we see Dave’s brother Frank (Arthur Kennedy) in his office as his secretary comes in and performs seemingly trivial activities through the course of a shot played out without editing. Everything --- from the star-system that makes us attend to Kennedy more than some unknown lesser actress to the contrast between her uneventful tasks and the narratively consequent things that Frank is doing --- conspires to make us see the secretary as an unimportant figure (or in truth of fact not really see her at all). Only gradually do we realize her importance as an object of desire for Frank, a desire he will later act upon and that will almost destroy his marriage.

"Some Came Running is a film in which we think we know what we’re seeing but where we have to learn to revise our understanding and, like Dave especially, learn to let more into the range of our emotional experience. The big space of CinemaScope initially establishes a condition of withdrawal and isolation that the narrative works to overcome.

"But it is easy to overestimate the depth and even permanence of Dave’s growth and of the film’s optimism about one’s ability to learn and change. Early in the film, Dave had seduced the repressed school teacher Gwen (Martha Hyer) and there the composition had suggested an equality of the lovers by putting them side-by-side on the screen and rendering them as pure silhouettes caught up equally in their amorous pursuits. But at the end of the film, as Dave and Bama commemorate the slain Ginny in the aforementioned long lateral tracking shot of the funeral, Gwen is shown apart, revealed only in a cut and a look toward Dave that is not really answered, that is not given any finality. Perhaps Dave has grown but nothing is certain and everything remains open in this explosive minefield of fragile post-war human interaction and relationships."

SOME CAME RUNNING was nominated for five Oscars: Best Actress (MacLaine), Supporting Actor (Kennedy), Supporting Actress (Hyer), Song ("To Love and Be Loved" by James Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn), and Costume Design (Walter Plunkett).