Some Came Running
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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