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Some Came Running(1959)

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teaser Some Came Running (1959)

SYNOPSIS

Dave Hirsh is a returning WWII veteran whose career as a writer has taken a nosedive. He arrives by bus to his boyhood home of Parkham, Illinois, carrying a new manuscript. Shortly upon arrival he hooks up with a good-hearted floozy named Ginny. Dave proceeds to shake up the complacency of the small town as he reacquaints himself with his estranged brother Frank and his upper-crust family. Ginny attaches herself to Dave and his other circle of friends, which includes local gambler Bama. Playing both sides of the town's dividing line of respectability, Dave also forms a relationship with Gwen, a lonely schoolteacher.

Director: Vincente Minnelli
Producer: Sol C. Siegel
Screenplay: John Patrick, Arthur Sheekman, based on the novel by James Jones
Cinematography: William H. Daniels
Editor: Adrienne Fazan
Art Direction: William A. Horning, Urie McCleary
Music: Elmer Bernstein
Song: Sammy Cahn, Jimmy Van Heusen
Costume Design: Walter Plunkett
Makeup: William Tuttle
Cast: Frank Sinatra (Dave Hirsh), Dean Martin (Bama Dillert), Shirley MacLaine (Ginny Moorhead), Martha Hyer (Gwen French), Arthur Kennedy (Frank Hirsh).
C-137m. Letterboxed. Close captioning.

Why SOME CAME RUNNING is Essential

Encouraged by the sales and the critical acclaim of his book, From Here to Eternity, James Jones set down to write the great American novel. The result was Some Came Running, the story of a war veteran with literary aspirations who returns in 1948 to his hometown of Parkham, Illinois, after a failed writing career. While it wasn't the masterpiece Jones hoped it would be, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, hoping to duplicate the success of From Here to Eternity (1953), optioned the book and cast Frank Sinatra as the lead, Dave Hirsh. Sinatra, in turn, approved Dean Martin for the role of his gambling pal, Bama Dillert. Martin had recently split from a partnership with Jerry Lewis and was just beginning to prove himself as an actor.

Producer Sol Siegel brought Vincente Minnelli on board as director. Minnelli was no doubt attracted to many of the story's major themes - the tortured artist (a frequent Minnelli protagonist), the conflict of two brothers who are polar opposites in temperament (reminiscent of the brothers that had been seen in Minnelli's Undercurrent (1946) and would feature in his 1960 melodrama, Home from the Hill), and small-town America - here featuring complex layers of hypocrisy and social strictures. Minnelli later wrote that he drew upon his own childhood memories for many of the small-town details.

The movie provided Shirley MacLaine with her best role to date. In her autobiography, Dance While You Can, MacLaine gave much of the credit for her success in the part to Sinatra: "I always thought he was responsible for my good performance in Some Came Running. 'Let the kid get killed,' he said to Vincente Minnelli and to the head of the studio. 'If she dies, she'll get more sympathy. Then she'll get nominated.' He was right."

Minnelli puts every part of the CinemaScope widescreen to use in Some Came Running - it is a textbook example of using the format in a non-epic film. Minnelli's staging and composition within the frame often provides as much information about character relationship as does the dialogue. Using very few close-ups, Minnelli stages long takes in medium shots that are crammed with background detail and bits of business that reveal much about the town and the characters' shifting social status within it.

The film features careful color and design choices throughout. Minnelli saw Some Came Running as "a story of small-town honky-tonks, of cheap low lifes not without charm. The audience had to be knocked out by their vulgarity. I decided to use the inside of a juke box as my inspiration for the settings - garishly lit in primary colors." While the pyrotechnics of color are clearly evident in the carnival setting of the finale, the entire film is enhanced by a subtle color design.

Elmer Bernstein provides Some Came Running with a varied and underrated music score. It avoids being overwrought in supporting the quiet melodrama of the picture, but is appropriately jazzy for the violent outbursts. A flash of intense red kicks off the carnival finale, and Bernstein keeps up with Minnelli's garish "juke box" visuals shot for shot.

In addition to MacLaine's Oscar® nomination for Best Actress in Some Came Running, the film was also in the running for Best Supporting Actor (Arthur Kennedy), Best Supporting Actress (Martha Hyer), Best Song ("To Love and Be Loved" by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen), and Best Costume Design (Walter Plunkett). Although Some Came Running didn't win in any of the categories, 1959 was a banner year for Vincente Minnelli who won the Best Director Oscar for Gigi. He could be proud of the fact that together his two films racked up a total of fourteen Academy Award nominations.

by John Miller & Jeff Stafford

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teaser Some Came Running (1959)

Pop Culture 101 - SOME CAME RUNNING

Some Came Running is often called the beginning of the famed "Rat Pack." Actually, the term was originally coined by Lauren Bacall in the mid-1950s and attached to her husband Humphrey Bogart and his social circle in Holmby Hills, which included Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland (and on occasion, her husband Vincente Minnelli). This informal group dissolved when Bogart died of throat cancer in 1957. The Some Came Running filming, then, can be seen as the beginning of the Sinatra-led, Las Vegas-centered Rat Pack, which consisted of Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, and their "Girl Friday," Shirley MacLaine. The group (Sinatra preferred "The Clan" or "The Summit" to "The Rat Pack") reached its cultural apex in 1960, as they filmed Ocean's Eleven in the daytime while performing two shows a night at the Sands Hotel and Casino in Vegas. That same summer Frank, Sammy, Peter, and Shirley sang the "Star-Spangled Banner" to open the Democratic National Convention, at which Lawford's brother-in-law John F. Kennedy received the nomination for President.

Following his first two novels, writer James Jones continued to explore WWII and the veterans of war in most of his subsequent books. Pistol dealt with the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Thin Red Line and Whistle were populated with virtually the same characters that existed in Jones' classic first novel, From Here to Eternity. Jones had good reason for this single-minded interest; as a young sailor he was stationed at Pearl Harbor in 1941 and witnessed the surprise attack. He was later wounded at Guadalcanal and returned home to small-town Illinois, where he began writing about his experiences. He helped create the Handy Writer's Colony in Marshall, Illinois, which existed until 1964. He lived in Paris for a decade, then taught in Miami for a time before his death in 1977. The Thin Red Line, about Guadalcanal, was filmed in 1964 and again (by Terrence Malick) in 1998. James Jones also served as "script consultant" for the 1962 film about the Normandy invasion, The Longest Day.

Some Came Running features the song "To Love and Be Loved," written by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen. The pair was responsible for writing numerous hit songs for movies, in particular several recorded by Sinatra, such as "All the Way" from The Joker Is Wild (1957) and "High Hopes" from A Hole in the Head (1959). Van Heusen was a long-time Sinatra crony, and was one of the many guests to the house Sinatra and Dean Martin rented in Madison, Indiana, during the Some Came Running shoot.

Vincente Minnelli's daughter became an honorary member of the Rat Pack in 1988. During a final live performance tour that year featuring Sinatra, Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr., Martin fell ill and Liza Minnelli stepped in for the remaining tour dates.

by John Miller

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teaser Some Came Running (1959)

Trivia and Other Fun Stuff on SOME CAME RUNNING

While Some Came Running lost in the five categories in which it was nominated for an Academy Award, director Vincente Minnelli was still a happy man after the 1959 Oscar® ceremony. His other heavily-nominated film that year, Gigi, walked away with nine wins, including Best Picture and Best Director.

The shooting location of Madison, Indiana, was featured in a documentary produced during WWII by the Office of War Information as the "Model American Community."

The principal actors in Some Came Running were close-knit and were soon reunited on screen. Shirley MacLaine next co-starred with Frank Sinatra in Can-Can (1960), and with Dean Martin in All In a Night's Work (1961). Sinatra and Martin co-starred in many more films together, the first being the Rat Pack opus Ocean's Eleven (1960), which also featured a cameo by MacLaine.

Vincente Minnelli and Dean Martin worked together again just two years after Some Came Running, on the musical Bells Are Ringing (1960), co-starring Judy Holliday.

While Frank Sinatra clashed with director Minnelli during the filming of Some Came Running, he obviously got along fine with director of photography William H. Daniels, who shot Sinatra's next four movies: A Hole in the Head and Never So Few in 1959, and Can-Can and Ocean's Eleven in 1960.

by John Miller

Famous Quotes from SOME CAME RUNNING

Dave (Frank Sinatra): I'll have the best room in the house.
Hotel clerk (Chuck Courtney): Seven-fifty a day?
Dave: I once promised myself that if I had to come back here I'd have the best room in the house.

Frank (Arthur Kennedy): Oh, I know, I know - It's getting a little thin on top, but like they say, not much grass on a busy street.
Dave: You may be losing your hair, but you haven't lost your razor sharp wit. You wanna drink?
Frank: What - at 10:30 in the morning?
Dave: I don't watch a clock.

Frank: Say, why don't you have diner with us. I'd like it very much. Not that it'll look funny if you don't, you know, but...

Bama (Dean Martin): You sorta stuck the needle in ol' Frank where it hurts - y'know, puttin' your money in a bank he ain't with.
Dave: News sure gets around fast.
Bama: 'Bout the only thing in town that does. Do you play cards, Mr. Hirsh?

Dawn (Betty Lou Keim): Bumming around, doing all sorts of jobs...didn't that help to make you a writer?
Dave: Dawn, honey, bumming around can only help make you a bum.

Gwen (Martha Hyer): You know, I've watched every step of your career with a great deal of interest.
Dave: You must have a lot of spare time.

Gwen: I wish I could influence you to start writing again.
Dave: Good. Then we'd be pen-pals.
Gwen: I would like to - I started to say stimulate you - I would like to help you, if you decide to start writing. I am a good critic.
Dave: Would you mind dropping me on the corner - on my head, please.

Ginny (Shirley MacLaine): You know the only time you talk nice to me is when you're loaded?
Dave: Let's get loaded.

Dave: You know what I don't figure? You drink three drinks to my one, and you look like a milk-fed quarterback.
Bama: That all depends on what a man's cut out for - I can drink, and you can write.

Bama: I don't know what it is about them pigs, but they always look better at night.

Dave: Apparently you didn't hear what I said. I'm in love with you.Gwen: And I was avoiding the obvious comment that you said that with the ease of a man who's said that rather often to quite an assortment of women.

Ginny (upon hearing Dave's short story): No, honest - I really liked it a lot. Golly, just think you can put those words down on paper like that, and all I can do is hem brassieres. You know, it really makes me feel like a terrible failure.

Compiled by John Miller

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teaser Some Came Running (1959)

The Big Idea Behind SOME CAME RUNNING

James Jones' debut novel, From Here to Eternity, proved to be a critical success and a national best-seller upon its publication in 1951. It also provided Frank Sinatra with his famed "comeback" role as Private Maggio when it was adapted for the screen in 1953. Jones subsequently set out to write a worthy follow-up for his sophomore effort. MGM bought the movie rights to this next novel almost a year before publication, paying $250,000 for it in January 1957. Some Came Running, all 1,266 pages of it, was finally released by Scribner's in November, 1957 - more than six years after the publication of Jones' first novel. Literary critics were not overly impressed with the book, calling it rambling and self-indulgent. MGM was undeterred, however, and was determined to create an effective melodrama out of the Jones epic.

Sol C. Siegel had just taken over from Dore Schary as MGM production chief, and under his supervision a screenwriting team was assigned to condense Jones' book down to feature film size. John Patrick and Arthur Sheekman cut out many of the book's secondary characters, eliminated confusing flashbacks, and condensed the timeline from three years to several weeks. Siegel first gave thought to casting bankable star Glenn Ford in the lead, then hit upon a bit of stunt casting - namely, Frank Sinatra, who had been such a smash in the film of Jones' first novel. Sinatra's price had gone up quite a bit since the dark days of 1953. His fee for Some Came Running and two other Metro films was a then-astounding $400,000 against ten-percent of the gross profits.

Vincente Minnelli had just returned from shooting The Reluctant Debutante (1958) when MGM offered him Some Came Running to direct. For Minnelli, it was a wonderful opportunity to explore small-town life in America and a welcome change of pace after months of filming in Europe. Minnelli later wrote in his autobiography, "The James Jones novel was long and rambling, heavily populated, but I felt the main characters were interesting and well thought out." So he took on the rigorous schedule - six months to turn a first-draft script into a film in time for an Oscar®-qualifying showing in Los Angeles before the end of 1958.

Minnelli set about casting the rest of the picture. Sinatra pal Dean Martin was a natural as the hero's gambling buddy Bama Dillert. For the showy role of dimwitted Ginny Moorhead, Sinatra suggested Shirley MacLaine because he had seen her on a Pat Boone TV special, and because (as MacLaine was to write later), "they couldn't get Shelley Winters." MacLaine continued, "Upon learning that I had landed the role of Ginny Moorhead, I immediately went to a specialty store and had a stuffed toy dog made, which I would use as a prop for the role. I boarded a bus for Madison and arrived on location completely in character. Frank saw me get off the bus and just fell down laughing, 'That's Ginny,' he said."

With filming set to begin in early August in Madison, Indiana, Sinatra and Martin rented a house adjacent to the hotel where the rest of the cast and crew would be housed. In their personal bungalow, Frank and Dean could relax, drink, play cards and play host to assorted colorful out-of-town guests. Shirley MacLaine later called these guests "The Boys from Chicago" and said, "I didn't know who they were. I only knew that the nightlife of poker, jokes, pasta, and booze went on until five a.m. Our calls were at six a.m."

by John Miller

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teaser Some Came Running (1959)

Behind the Camera on SOME CAME RUNNING

The entire cast and crew of Some Came Running traveled to Madison, Indiana, for the majority of filming but after the town's initial excitement over Frank Sinatra's arrival, an antagonistic relationship developed between the star and the townspeople after the press reported some disparaging comments from Sinatra about their fair city. As director Vincente Minnelli observed, "The people of Madison..weren't aware of what they had in their midst. They thought Frank and his friends were just plain movie stars, to be ogled and fondled. But Frank chooses the subjects of his familiarity - they don't choose him. The fireworks were inevitable." Shirley MacLaine takes over the story: "The people of Madison surrounded the house night and day, sometimes four abreast, hoping and waiting to see these male movie idols. We had to keep the curtains drawn for privacy and that soon started to wear on all of us. It was like living in a tomb! It became a surreal experience as women would break through the police barricade, enter the house and target Frank and Dean, ripping at their clothes."

In her autobiography, MacLaine would later describe how the actors and director got along during the close-quarters shooting in Madison. "I was comfortable and friendly being around the guys in the group," she said, "because I was perceived by most of them as a mascot. I was the only woman they allowed in the house...I was a pal, maybe even one of the boys." She thought that Martin turned in his best ever performance, because "he was a lot like Bama, a loner with his own code of ethics who would never compromise, so maybe it wasn't really a performance." MacLaine went on to say that "Neither [Dean] nor Frank liked Vincente Minnelli. They thought he was too precious and pursed his lips too much." She herself thought he was "an excellent director, simply because he didn't direct much. He 'let' us actors find our own characters and our own way. Dean thrived on the freedom he felt with Vincente but Frank was threatened by this way of working because the freedom of choice exposed him too much." Director Vincente Minnelli related how he gave Sinatra and Martin advice on approaching their characters: "I think you should approach each other - as if you were two matrons being introduced at a party in Beverly Hills. Both of you used to be hookers, but you're now married to producers and are totally respectable. But when you look at each other, you know, you both know."

Characters often have their own color codes in Some Came Running, and even the social settings dictate different color approaches. Carefully chosen colors are used as exclamation points in certain scenes. Minnelli alluded to this consideration when he described, "Even after we'd started filming, I'd roam the streets of Madison. I came across a red brick building with a neon sign, set off the street, and immediately cast it as the house Bama would be living in."On Sinatra's acting style, Minnelli wrote, "Frank hated to rehearse. Prior to shooting each scene, I would work with other members of the cast until the last moment. Frank would then be called in, we'd go over the scene once again, and shoot. He gave me everything I wanted." Minnelli and Sinatra clashed famously during the filming of the climactic carnival scene. Minnelli took too much time setting up a shot with a Ferris wheel and then decided to move the giant wheel, instead of moving the camera, to get the effect he wanted. Then, according to MacLaine, "Frank bolted toward his limo, dove into it headfirst, and ordered the driver to the airport. He went back to Los Angeles, and Dean went with him." Minnelli defended his actions in his autobiography: "Folklore suggests that the Ferris wheel had to be moved three inches to satisfy my esoteric tastes. The reason for the move was somewhat more practical. The camera wouldn't pick it up in the long shots unless it was moved six feet. It was important that the Ferris wheel be seen from all angles, since it was the focal point of the scene."

Tempers cooled all around once shooting moved back to California soundstages. Here Minnelli bowed to another Sinatra demand, though; the shooting day would be from noon to eight p.m. Filming on the picture wrapped six days ahead of schedule, on October 21st. Editor Adrienne Fazan compiled a final cut for the film's sneak preview and the Los Angeles showing that qualified it for the Academy Awards. The official opening would take place in New York in January 1959.

by John Miller

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teaser Some Came Running (1959)

THE CRITIC'S CORNER - SOME CAME RUNNING (1958)

"As bromide follows bromide, the spectator slowly comes to a drugged realization that the script is not making fun of anybody's beliefs, but simply stating its own. After that, there is nothing to hang around for except occasional flickers of brilliant overacting by Shirley MacLaine, the chance to watch Frank Sinatra play Frank Sinatra, and the spectacle of Director Vincente Minnelli's talents dissolving in the general mess of the story, like sunlight in a slag heap." - Time.

"Shirley [MacLaine] giggled inanely where other actresses would have gone throaty in big scenes. She ate like a sloven, she sang roisterously and out of tune, she dressed blowsily and she slopped make-up on her face as her beautiful co-star, Martha Hyer, delivered a great speech about the moral latitude that must be allowed men of talent. Shirley never comprehended a word. [Sinatra's] looking away when she meltingly turns to kiss him at the ending of the crummy marriage ceremony makes the finale all hers. So does his gloomy indifference to the wedding certificate she values so highly. 'You don't have to understand,' says Ginny, 'to be able to feel.' That is the most poignant cry from the human heart that the screen has recorded in some time." - Jack Moffitt, The Hollywood Reporter.

"Sinatra moves with impressive speed and precision in every situation, with occasional flashes of humor. It's his picture, but he has distinguished support. Miss MacLaine portrays a young woman out on her own in the world, who admits she doesn't understand many things, but knows, nevertheless, that she is in love with Sinatra. Her elfin quality shines through the veneer and makes her characterization sympathetic." - James M Jerauld, Motion Picture Herald.

"This intelligent and sensitive adaptation of a best-selling novel is, apart from his musical comedies, Minnelli's best romantic film." - Georges Sadoul, Dictionary of Films.

"A marvelous, garish film about a writer...the dramatic curve of Sinatra's agonising voyage of self-discovery through the cheap neon-lit bars and cold houses, which ends in the calm of self-acceptance, is given an intensified realism which precisely reflects the neurotic 'writerly' view of life that he must overcome before he can write again." - Phil Hardy, TimeOut Film Guide.

"Strident and rather pointless melodrama with solid acting and production values." - Halliwell's Film & Video Guide.

"The story is pure melodrama, despite the intention of the original novel's author, James Jones, to invest it with greater stature...Sinatra gives a top performance, sardonic and compassionate, full of touches both instinctive and technical." - Variety Movie Guide.

Compiled by John Miller

Awards & Honors

Shirley MacLaine was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for her leading role in Some Came Running. (She lost to Susan Hayward for her work in I Want to Live!). In addition, the film was nominated for an Oscar® in these categories: Best Supporting Actor (Arthur Kennedy), Best Supporting Actress (Martha Hyer), Best Costume Design (Walter Plunkett), and Best Music, Original Song (Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn for "To Love and Be Loved").

by John Miller

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teaser Some Came Running (1959)

Encouraged by the sales and the critical acclaim of his book, From Here to Eternity, James Jones set down to write the great American novel. It took him seven years and the result was Some Came Running, the story of a war veteran with literary aspirations who returns to his hometown of Parkham, Illinois after a failed writing career. While it wasn't the masterpiece Jones hoped it would be, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, hoping to duplicate the success of From Here to Eternity (1953), optioned the book and cast Frank Sinatra as the lead, Dave Hirsh. Sinatra, in turn, approved Dean Martin for the role of his gambling pal, Bama Dillert. Martin had recently split from a partnership with Jerry Lewis and was just beginning to prove himself as an actor. During the filming, both Sinatra and Martin became close friends and, in many ways, Some Came Running (1958) marked the historic beginnings of the 'Rat Pack'.

Vincente Minnelli had just returned from shooting The Reluctant Debutante (1958) when MGM offered him Some Came Running to direct. For Minnelli, it was a wonderful opportunity to explore small-town life in America and a welcome change of pace after months of filming in Europe. The entire cast and crew traveled to Madison, Indiana, for the majority of filming but after the town's initial excitement over Sinatra's arrival, an antagonistic relationship developed between the star and the townspeople after the press reported some disparaging comments from Sinatra about their fair city.

Minnelli, who was known for his perfectionism on the set, also clashed with Sinatra on retakes and shooting schedules. Sinatra preferred one take and a work schedule that ran from noon to 8 p.m. as opposed to starting the day with a 7 a.m. start time. Probably their biggest confrontation occurred during the filming of the climatic carnival scene. Minnelli took too much time setting up a shot with a Ferris wheel and then decided to move the Ferris wheel, instead of moving the camera, to get the effect he wanted. Sinatra stormed off the set in disgust and returned to Los Angeles until the head of production at Metro coaxed him back.

Shirley MacLaine, however, saw a different side of Sinatra and was grateful to be included in his inner circle. She became an honorary member of the "Rat Pack," co-starring in some of their films (she has a cameo in Ocean's 11 1960) and often turned up for group gatherings. In her autobiography, Dance While You Can, MacLaine recalled working with Sinatra on the film: "I always thought he was responsible for my good performance in Some Came Running. 'Let the kid get killed,' he said to Vincente Minnelli (the director) and to the head of the studio. 'If she dies, she'll get more sympathy. Then she'll get nominated.' He was right. Frank's a good guy. At least he always was to me."

In addition to MacLaine's Oscar nomination for Best Actress in Some Came Running, the film was also in the running for Best Supporting Actor (Arthur Kennedy), Best Supporting Actress (Martha Hyer), Best Song ("To Love and Be Loved" by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen), and Best Costume Design. Although Some Came Running didn't win in any of the categories, 1959 was a banner year for Vincente Minnelli who won the Best Director Oscar for Gigi. He could be proud of the fact that together his two films racked up a total of fourteen Academy Award nominations.

Director: Vincente Minnelli
Producer: Sol C. Siegel
Screenplay: John Patrick, Arthur Sheekman, based on the novel by James Jones
Cinematography: William H. Daniels
Editor: Adrienne Fazan
Art Direction: William A. Horning, Urie McCleary
Music: Elmer Bernstein, Jimmy Van Heusen
Cast: Frank Sinatra (Dave Hirsh), Dean Martin (Bama Dillert), Shirley MacLaine (Ginny Moorhead), Martha Hyer (Gwen French), Arthur Kennedy (Frank Hirsh).
C-137m. Letterboxed. Close captioning.

by Jeff Stafford

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