A Movie A Day: Quint on SOME CAME RUNNING (1958) You must be a writer, you’re a fool.
Published at: June 8, 2008, 9:12 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here keeping the Sinatra theme running for one more film. Today’s movie is SOME CAME RUNNING a melodrama about a man returning home, based on a novel by James Jones.
The beginning of the movie is really well done, a beginning that feels like we’re dropping into a story as it is already unfolding. Sinatra, dressed up in military garb, is on a bus, the opening credits over seeing the countryside outside the windows. The driver announces their stop and Sinatra sits up, tips the hat and exits into small town America.
A few rows behind him, a red-head also wakes up and follows him out. This is young Shirley MacLaine, a dumb, but loyal girl who has eyes for Sinatra and was put on the same bus as Sinatra by his buddies after a night of drunken debauchery in Chicago. He doesn’t remember her, but tells her to take off, peeling a fifty dollar bill out of a fat roll and handing it over.
I like that we don’t see his backstory, but learn it as the movie goes along. It opens the movie with a mystery. Who is this guy? Why does he have so much money? Why is he wearing the uniform? Why did he just throw a big batch of papers in the trash? What is his deal?
I found the entire film solid, but kind of unmemorable. The performances are strong across the board, including Sinatra’s brother in the movie, played by Arthur Kennedy, his niece, played by Betty Lou Keim, and especially a gambler buddy of his, played by Dean Martin.
I love Dean Martin. I love his delivery, his swagger, his slur, his charisma. Out of all the rat packers he’s my favorite as a movie personality. In fact, I had many avenues to jump to as my next movie… either following more Sinatra or Shirley MacLaine, but I chose to go to RIO BRAVO in order to follow Dino in what I hear is his best performance.
MacLaine’s character sticks around, of course, and follows Sinatra with a puppy dog like mentality. Her character is pretty blunt, dumb as a bag of hammers, but she’s in love with Sinatra and can’t help herself from pursuing him. She’s got a high pitched, annoying voice, but she’s cute, so every time Sinatra gets down in the dumps he goes back to her.
MacLaine borders on annoyance in the movie, but her whole character clicks into place about an hour and half into the movie, with a beautifully heartfelt scene where she goes to meet a schoolteacher that Sinatra is courting.
It’s a very vulnerable scene between these two women, no anger involved. She just wants to find out if the schoolteacher really loves him because all she wants is for him to be happy. She’d rather it be her that makes him happy, but as long as the schoolteacher will be good to him, she is willing to let him go.
Of course, MacLaine herself represents everything the schoolteacher, played by Martha Hyer (MY MAN GODFREY), hates about Sinatra’s past and causes all sorts of drama to unfold for the last act of the movie.
To be honest, I didn’t really enjoy the film while watching it, but thinking back on it I like what they did. It’s not an exciting film at all… it’s quiet, brooding. It’s not one I’d easily recommend to anybody, but it’s a solid flick, with good direction by Vincente Minnelli (Liza’s daddy, who also directed the great BRIGADOON and the awesome CABIN IN THE SKY).