In a new regular column, Flickering Myth’s writing team pick out those hidden gems you might have missed; first up is Jackson Ball with…
Some Came Running, 1958.
Directed by Vincente Minnelli.
Starring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Shirley MacLaine, Martha Hyer, Arthur Kennedy, Nancy Gates, Leora Dana and Betty Lou Keim.
An alcoholic war veteran and former writer returns to his sleepy hometown in Indiana, where his way of life is turned upside down by acquaintances old and new.
Some Came Running is the 1958 romantic drama adapted from the James Jones novel of the same name. By the some of its parts, it may just look like any another feature from the genre and period, with its big-name stars and slow-burning plot. Perhaps that is why it has been all but forgotten in the annals of cinema history, unjustly robbed of any status as a ‘classic’. However, it’s not until you watch it, experience it, that Some Came Running reveals its many artistic triumphs that sets it apart from its contemporaries.
The film is not only one of the earliest examples of a ‘Rat Pack’ film, but perhaps one of the finest. There are great supporting performances from ‘Pack’ members like Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine, but the real asset is Frank Sinatra in the lead role. As the surly ex-soldier Dave Hirsch, Sinatra arguably reaches a career-best on screen. The crooner plays off his star-persona brilliant, bringing to life a likable rouge of a character, with the tortured soul of an artist. Although, this is just a segment of a surprisingly layered performance, as Sinatra shows he can provide the emotional depth and gravitas for the film’s more tragic moments.
The actor’s chemistry is there for all to see and really propels the film forward: Sinatra and MacLaine sizzle together on screen, while the bar scenes with the pair and Dean Martin could be mistaken for documentary footage from their real lives. Martin, by the way, effortlessly oozes cool as the southern gambler who never removes his hat.
Despite the decent supporting cast, and Sinatra’s finest acting performance, the real star of Some Came Running is the director: Vincente Minnelli. This film should be considered alongside some of the filmmaker’s finest projects, musical or otherwise. The reason for that is because, while it may not be a musical, Minnelli pumps Some Came Running with all the technical wizardry you would expect from one, making it as visually captivating as the likes of Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) or The Band Wagon (1953).
Harnessing all the might of Cinescope, Minnelli fills the screen from end to end, with scenes of characters bustling through a world which becomes easy to lose yourself in. Aided by cinematographer William H. Daniels, the director paints every scene in a florid style, with an almost surrealist outcome. The grandiose and saturated visuals create an intoxicating viewing experience that really spices up the borderline-melodramatic plot.
Some Came Running always feels like a film that set out to prove something, when in fact it proves many things: it proves that Frank Sinatra was as good an actor as anyone; it proves that happy endings aren’t always clear-cut; it proves that reluctant heroes are timeless oddities; but above all it proves that authoritative and stylistic shooting styles can transcend genres. Sadly overlooked and criminally underrated, Some Came Running is a forgotten gem if ever there was one.
Jackson Ball – follow me on Twitter.