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In the post-war, the alcoholic and bitter veteran military and former writer Dave Hirsch returns from Chicago to his hometown Parkman, Indiana. He is followed by Ginnie Moorehead, a vulgar and easy woman with whom he spent his last night in Chicago that has fallen in love with him. The resentful Dave meets his older brother Frank Hirsh, who owns a jewelry store and is a prominent citizen of Parkman that invites him to have dinner with his family. Dave meets his sister-in-law Agnes that hates him since one character of his novel had been visibly inspired on her, and his teenage niece Dawn. Frank introduces the school teacher Gwen French to him and Dave feels attracted by the beautiful woman that is daughter of his former Professor Robert Haven French and idolizes his work as writer. However, his unrequited love with Gwen drives Dave back to the local bar where he befriends the professional gambler Bama Dillert and meets Ginnie again with the Chicago's mobster Raymond Lanchak that was ... Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
At 1200+ pages the James Jones novel "Some Came Running" deals with family divisions, drinking, gambling, sexual repression, adultery and other small town USA vices. All this is embedded in a general theme about the hypocrisy so pervasive in 1948 Middle America.
Jones was most famous for his explorations of WWII and its aftermath. "Some Came Running" is somewhat autobiographical as Jones was one of those returning soldiers from WWII whose long absence gave them a new perspective on details in the social fabric that they had not really noticed before. He was from a small town in Illinois and served in the 25th Infantry Division. He was present during the attack on Pearl Harbor and the battle of Guadalcanal. Basing "From Here to Eternity" and "The Thin Red Line on his experiences.
The film adaptation of "Some Came Running" is long but entertaining, especially if you like seeing a lot of big-name stars. Despite its setting in a small town (it was filmed in Madison, Indiana) this was a big budget epic picture.
The Jones character is named Dave Hirsch and played by Frank Sinatra. He is a successful writer but has not written anything for several years. The film begins inside a bus on its way to Dave's hometown of Parkman, Indiana. He has just been discharged from the army and is wearing his uniform (no rank insignia is visible).
His brother Frank (Arthur Kennedy) has become a big shot in the town and introduces him to Gwen French (Martha Hyer), a college literature teacher who is impressed with his writing but put off by his wild life style. Dave has been followed to Parkton by Ginny (Shirley MacLaine), an airhead he met in a Chicago bar. This sets up the film's love triangle.
Dave becomes friends with a local gambler named Bama Dillert (Dean Martin), moves into his house, and pairs up with him on the regional poker circuit where they are very successful.
While Dave tries to come to terms with his roots and with his future, his brother Frank begins an affair with his secretary.
Generally speaking, adopting a 1200 page book to the screen is ill advised and "Some Came Running" is no exception, if only because the screenwriter incorporated too much of the story for a feature length film to handle effectively.
But the producers compounded this problem with the hiring Vincente Minnelli as director and by casting for box office draw instead of acting talent. This resulted in a film with slick production values, an extremely thin plot, lots of characters (but none with any depth), and a too long running time. Can you say flat, lifeless, prosaic, and unconvincing?
Minnelli was a freak about visual details. He was more interested in whether an actress' dress coordinated well with the wallpaper in the set than how the actress handled her character. The inexperienced MacLaine has commented on how the only guidance she received during filming was from her male co-stars. In fact it was Sinatra who insisted the film end differently than the book as a way to make MacLaine's character more memorable. Minnelli's lack of interest in acting for the camera made him an especially poor choice for an overloaded film that needed subtle and nuanced elements in each scene to flesh out the characterization.
For the same reason, a non-actor like "one-take" Sinatra was completely over-matched by the demands of playing his character. Sinatra was comfortable playing himself in front of the camera and in most of his roles this was more than satisfactory, as it is during the early stages of "Some Came Running". But things start to crash and burn with the start of his scenes with Hyer, and the film essentially collapses the first time he reveals that he loves her.
Because of time constraints this romance had to be compressed, requiring a really skilled performance to set up things for the declaration of love, if it is to be at all convincing. Even if Sinatra took direction well (he didn't) and even if Minnelli was a master of acting for the camera (few were worse), the sudden transformation from Sinatra to lovesick puppy would have been a difficult sell.
A very interesting element of this film is Minnelli's obsession with the sets and the moving camera. There are no close-ups and relatively few medium shots. Almost everything is a wide shot or the master shot itself. This could reflect Minnelli's overriding interest in showcasing his sets, or indicate that Sinatra's work habits made changing camera setups difficult, or that the editor found that many of the performances could not withstand close scrutiny. Whatever the cause, it makes it much more difficult to identify and connect with characters who are always so distant from the camera. This is a detail you may want to watch for the next time you see the film.
This was Dean Martin's signature performance and he is truly excellent. Arthur Kennedy won an Oscar for his portrayal of Frank Hirsh but I think the best performance of all was by Leora Dane as his wife Agnes. Their scenes together have real energy, and almost creepy believability.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
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