Sunday 18 September 2016

Some Came Running (1958)

Some Came Running
Life is a mess. This is not the usual Hollywood message where there is a deeper meaning to life and everything gets straightened out in the end, but as most of us will know reality is a messy soup and nothing ever goes exactly as we planned or hoped (and that is in fact not all bad). Then comes along a movie like “Some Came Running” and presents us with something closer to reality. A terrible mess.

First off let me say that I knew nothing of this movie going in. This movie is not included in the book I am following so I did not read a synopsis and the DVD cover is in French… All I knew was the main cast of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine and that it was directed by Vincente Minnelli. Ah, a sappy comedy, I thought. Boy, was I wrong.

Dave Hirsh (Sinatra) is a soldier arriving in the small town of Parkman. He wakes up upon arrival rather bewildered. Apparently he was put on the bus while drunk having mumbled something about this town and somebody had taken that literally. He is also in the company of a woman he does not know, Ginny (MacLaine), who seems taken by him.

Turns out Dave and Parkman has a history so Dave ditches the girl and checks into the local hotel. The movie is only slowly giving up its secrets so only gradually are we finding out how things stands and that is actually one of the interesting details of the movie. All through the movie we learn more and more about Dave. He is a writer who has not written in years, he has a brother in town, Frank (Arthur Kennedy), who is now one of the wealthiest men in town, but who ditched Dave when he was only a child, and Dave has a serious drinking issue.

The plot is essentially what happens when Dave lands in his old and very provincial town. For Frank his arrival is like the detonation of a bomb. He wife hates David’s guts, and soon gossip about Dave shakes the respectability the Hirsh family crave so much and starts a slide that threatens to explode the family. But Dave is just a catalyst. The Hirsh’es has enough tensions built up that an explosion was inevitable.

For Dave it is also an encounter with Gwen, a literature fan at the local school or college. Gwen is in love with his writing while Dave is immediately smitten by Gwen. Dave’s direct ways however is a complete turn-down for Gwen who image herself completely incompatible with the life in the gutter Dave is leading.

Rejected by Gwen Dave finds some comfort with Ginny, who is dumb as a door, but completely devoted to Dave and not without charm, and Bama (Martin), a professional gambler with an even greater drinking issue.

Dave vacillates between striving upwards to become a better man and court Gwen and sink to the gutter with Ginny and Bama. Clearly he does not belong in either place and that is the trouble. In Parkman Dave is trouble and no matter what he does he is fighting a loosing battle. It is so much easier to just flow with it.

This is not a story that brings resolution. There is no cozy landing here and in that sense it resembles life. At best there is shake up and that is refreshing until people get hurt and that they do plenty.  What is Dave to do? Or Gwen? Or Ginny? The only ones I do not feel sorry for in this story is Frank and Agnes. With their hypocrisy they deserve their downfall. The rest are just caught in this mess called life.

Although there are a few scenes potentially included for comedic effect this is not a comedy or a funny movie, unless you have a very dark sense of humor. To see comedic actors like Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine in such a movie is interesting and it works surprisingly well. It also worked very well that I was totally unprepared for the movie. It unfolds as it was intended, very gradually, and we just do not know where it is leading. Much like life.

Although I am not prone to like this type of movie I was positively surprised. There is a poetic justice in the ending that seem fitting for this movie and I love the chaotic route to that place. Sinatra proves his value once again and Minnelli redeems himself. I can recommend it.



  1. I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. It's a small movie about small people, but it's told on such a grand stage and with such grand intentions that it's hard not to appreciate it. There's a lot to like here, even if the characters aren't that likeable.

    1. Yes, they may be small, but somehow that also makes them more real. It reminded me of the movies that became frequent if not popular in the seventies about ordinary people having for them extraordinary experiences.

  2. Yes, poor Dave is a lost soul ... I can understand why people like this film but still can't get over the feeling that James Jones did not like women much.

    1. Well, everybody in this movie is flawed, both the men and women. They are all deceived but their ideals, what the dream life should offer them, but reality is a bitch.