Garish melodrama has something to say about postwar hypocrisy. 3.5 Stars

Vincente Minnelli’s Some Came Running offers a colorful and sometimes touching melodramatic narrative undercut by some satiric jabs at the judgmental, rigid strictures of postwar American society.

Some Came Running (1958)
Released: 25 Dec 1958
Rated: Approved
Runtime: 137 min
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Genre: Drama, Romance
Cast: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Shirley MacLaine
Writer(s): James Jones, John Patrick, Arthur Sheekman
Plot: A veteran returns home to deal with family secrets and small-town scandals.
IMDB rating: 7.3
MetaScore: 68

Disc Information
Studio: MGM
Distributed By: Warner Archive
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 2 Hr. 16 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: All
Release Date: 11/16/2021
MSRP: $21.99

The Production: 3.5/5

James Jones’ satirical take on free thinkers in a postwar buttoned-down America gets a whip smart cinematic treatment in Vincente Minnelli’s Some Came Running. Filmed in garish Metrocolor with a talented multi-star cast, the movie is a somewhat overlong, seesaw affair with emotions that ebb and flow as psychosexual guilt floods into the consciousness of several of the characters, but there are people here you’ll never forget, and it’s worth the ride despite its sometimes bumpy side roads and gulleys.

Fresh out of the Army, novelist Dave Hirsh (Frank Sinatra), suffering from writer’s block and a lack of confidence in his own talent, returns to his Indiana hometown after being gone for more than a decade. His brother Frank (Arthur Kennedy) wants Dave to settle down and introduces him to creative writing instructor Gwen French (Martha Hyer). But while Dave flips for the pretty teacher, he resents his brother and the phony morals he stands for and instead spends his days hanging out with Bama Dillert (Dean Martin), a professional gambler, and hanger-on Ginnie Morehead (Shirley MacLaine) who make no excuses for who and what they are. Gwen’s uptight attitudes toward sex and propriety mirror the close-minded attitudes of much of Parkman and constantly thwart Dave’s romantic intentions though she is successful in making Dave understand that he has real writing talent and needs to pursue it.

Jones’ novel has been adapted for the screen by John Patrick and Arthur Sheekman. They focus a decent amount of time on the nosey and gossipy nature of small town postwar life (which makes Frank’s open marital infidelity in a popular town make out spot somewhat difficult to understand) and allow Dave and his friends the opportunity to represent a more liberal thinking way of living that would be a couple of decades in the future from the 1948 time period or the 1958 year of the film’s release. For much of the movie, director Vincente Minnelli mirrors the town’s uptight rigidity with a restricted directorial style filming static dialogue scenes in long takes and with very little camera movement. When danger to the protagonists threatens to explode near the film’s climax, however, (a stalker – Raymond Lanchak played by Steven Peck – MacLaine’s Ginnie has picked up resurfaces after being gone from more than ninety minutes of the movie) Minnelli’s camera begins moving ever more frantically with some fast cutting between shots and Elmer Bernstein’s nerve-jangling music on the soundtrack accentuating the tension. This is the best sequence in the movie. Elsewhere Minnelli uses light and shadow most effectively as Hyer’s Gwen hesitates to act on her passion, then gives in to it, and then retreats from it as the couple pass in and out of the shadows.

Dave Hirsh was the latest in a series of serious dramatic roles Frank Sinatra undertook after earning his Best Supporting Actor Oscar in From Here to Eternity, another James Jones epic melodrama. While it may not have offered quite the dramatic tour de force as his Oscar-nominated drug addict in The Man with the Golden Arm, it’s still one of his most secure and forceful performances. Dean Martin is equally as impressive as the laid back gambler Bama, a man who can win or lose with grace but who has a definite set of life lessons that he lives by. Though she had been in movies for three years, Shirley MacLaine really registered strongly for the first time in this film as the smiling-through-her-tears B-girl who truly loves Dave, a performance that earned her the first in a string of Oscar nominations to come (and an eventual win in 1983). Also earning Oscar nods for their work in the picture were Arthur Kennedy as the hypocritical Frank and Martha Hyer as the neurotic Gwen, both performances among the best work either actor ever did. Others giving solid, impressive performances in the movie include Betty Lou Keim as Dave’s niece learning somewhat harshly about life and love and Larry Gates as Gwen’s loving father who welcomes Dave eagerly into his family as someone who would be good for his daughter.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

The film’s Cinemascope aspect ratio of 2.40:1 is faithfully rendered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is usually quite excellent, and the sometimes problematic Metrocolor is tamed very nicely here accentuating MacLaine’s overdone blush and lipstick and getting the most out of the blazing colors of the town carnival which frames the climax of the picture. The movie has been divided into 36 chapters.

Audio: 5/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix offers a solid and enjoyable listening experience. Dialogue has been recorded smoothly and has been blended with Elmer Bernstein’s background score and the brash sound effects with great ease. There are no problems whatsoever with age-related anomalies like hiss, crackle, flutter, or pops.

Special Features: 2/5

The Story of Some Came Running (20:38, SD): film historians including Drew Casper, Dana Polan, Peter Travers, and Jill McElaney discuss the strengths of this 1958 movie.

Theatrical Trailer (3:52, HD)

Overall: 3.5/5

Vincente Minnelli’s Some Came Running offers a colorful and sometimes touching melodramatic narrative undercut by some satiric jabs at the judgmental, rigid strictures of postwar American society. The Warner Archive Blu-ray offers the film in its best light which fans of the story or the stars will undoubtedly be more than thrilled with.

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Published by

Matt Hough

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Billy Batson

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I hardly ever blind buy a catalogue title (because I know just what films I want to own) & I've never even seen a frame of this, but I am interested in Vincente Minnelli’s non-musical films, so I ordered this & it's on its way to me. I thought the sound was supposed to be stereo or 4.1 or something, but I suppose those tracks have been lost over time.
 

lark144

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Thanks Matt for the great review. I received the Blu-Ray today. This has always been one of my favorite films since I was in my twenties, but I've always seen it in badly faded 16mm prints, with the flesh tones bright pink and everything else purple and green. It's a revelation to see this in its proper color.

I've always viewed these Minnelli melodramas--though he referred to them as "dramas" and was very upset if anyone called them melodramas--as musicals without singing. Music plays a very important role, as does the delineation and arrangement of color, especially the way the clothes people wear contrast with the backgrounds. For me, Minnelli is making a deep moral and philosophical statement in his use of color, especially red. One could write a graduate thesis in the use of red in "Some Came Running" and it variations in terms of meaning and character interaction and transformation.

But it's not an abstract film in any way. For me, those interactions are very real and compelling. The color just accentuates that. I love the town the film is shot in. I grew up in a place like that. Main Street, with its colors and textures and strange facades, is a natural stage for confrontation and celebration. I love Sinatra in this. Though Sinatra hated making it--supposedly he walked off the set in anger and went back to NYC when Minnelli moved the Ferris wheel for the third time--later in life he said it was his best performance. About that Ferris wheel, I think the carnival at the end is the best sequence Minnelli ever put to film.

And for those of you who are interested in the French New Wave, Godard liked "Some Came Running" so much he had Michel Piccoli in "Contempt" wear his hat while taking a shower in tribute to Dean Martin's character Bama.
 

lark144

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I hardly ever blind buy a catalogue title (because I know just what films I want to own) & I've never even seen a frame of this, but I am interested in Vincente Minnelli’s non-musical films, so I ordered this & it's on its way to me. I thought the sound was supposed to be stereo or 4.1 or something, but I suppose those tracks have been lost over time.
Alan, if you like this, I highly recommend "Home From the Hill" which contains a riveting Robert Mitchum performance, and may be one of Minnelli's finest.
 

RolandL

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I hardly ever blind buy a catalogue title (because I know just what films I want to own) & I've never even seen a frame of this, but I am interested in Vincente Minnelli’s non-musical films, so I ordered this & it's on its way to me. I thought the sound was supposed to be stereo or 4.1 or something, but I suppose those tracks have been lost over time.

Not lost. Should have been 4.0 or 5.1.
 

bujaki

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Thanks Matt for the great review. I received the Blu-Ray today. This has always been one of my favorite films since I was in my twenties, but I've always seen it in badly faded 16mm prints, with the flesh tones bright pink and everything else purple and green. It's a revelation to see this in its proper color.

I've always viewed these Minnelli melodramas--though he referred to them as "dramas" and was very upset if anyone called them melodramas--as musicals without singing. Music plays a very important role, as does the delineation and arrangement of color, especially the way the clothes people wear contrast with the backgrounds. For me, Minnelli is making a deep moral and philosophical statement in his use of color, especially red. One could write a graduate thesis in the use of red in "Some Came Running" and it variations in terms of meaning and character interaction and transformation.

But it's not an abstract film in any way. For me, those interactions are very real and compelling. The color just accentuates that. I love the town the film is shot in. I grew up in a place like that. Main Street, with its colors and textures and strange facades, is a natural stage for confrontation and celebration. I love Sinatra in this. Though Sinatra hated making it--supposedly he walked off the set in anger and went back to NYC when Minnelli moved the Ferris wheel for the third time--later in life he said it was his best performance. About that Ferris wheel, I think the carnival at the end is the best sequence Minnelli ever put to film.

And for those of you who are interested in the French New Wave, Godard liked "Some Came Running" so much he had Michel Piccoli in "Contempt" wear his hat while taking a shower in tribute to Dean Martin's character Bama.
Born in 1950. I must have been a preternaturally sensitive and impressionable child, for I saw Some Came Running upon release; and while a lot of themes may have whizzed past me (frigidity, anyone?), I was awestruck by Ginny. I fell hard for her and wept copiously at the end. And yes, the ending is unforgettable for its dizzying, kaleidoscopic melange of sound, images, angles, colors; all leading to the explosive climax. I was riveted to my seat. I've loved the film ever since.
As for Home from the Hill, I also saw it upon release. Adultery, illegitimacy, premarital sex: all that was second nature to me in my small town. Easy to grasp. But it felt so adult, so well acted and directed, I just knew instinctively that it was a masterpiece. And the ending clinched it. I've also loved this film ever since.
Mark, did we not see these films at MoMA or at the Carnegie Hall Cinema? I know I saw them in NYC in my twenties.
 

Robert Crawford

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Thanks for the review. Again, like "National Velvet" I'm still waiting on my Target Blu-ray to arrive here. I like the movie more than you do, as I was first exposed to it back when it played on TV in NYC Metro area back in the day. At that time, I was a big fan of the "Rat Pack" movies as they played quite often on local TV. I was little too young to see those movies in a movie theater as my interest was more geared towards westerns and war films. The first Frank Sinatra movie I saw in a movie theater was "Von Ryan's Express" which was right up my alley.

A big shout out for "Home from the Hill". Another favorite movie from childhood that I was exposed to on TV.
 

lark144

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Born in 1950. I must have been a preternaturally sensitive and impressionable child, for I saw Some Came Running upon release; and while a lot of themes may have whizzed past me (frigidity, anyone?), I was awestruck by Ginny. I fell hard for her and wept copiously at the end. And yes, the ending is unforgettable for its dizzying, kaleidoscopic melange of sound, images, angles, colors; all leading to the explosive climax. I was riveted to my seat. I've loved the film ever since.
As for Home from the Hill, I also saw it upon release. Adultery, illegitimacy, premarital sex: all that was second nature to me in my small town. Easy to grasp. But it felt so adult, so well acted and directed, I just knew instinctively that it was a masterpiece. And the ending clinched it. I've also loved this film ever since.
Mark, did we not see these films at MoMA or at the Carnegie Hall Cinema? I know I saw them in NYC in my twenties.
There was a Minnelli retrospective at MOMA, when he was still alive, sometime in the 1970's. I'm not talking about the one curated by Stephen Harvey, but an earlier one, unless I'm confusing this with the MGM series, but I think there was also one on Minnelli, which ended with a screening of "A Matter of Time". I think he was there.

I remember seeing a stunning, and I mean STUNNING, print of "Gigi", perfect in every way, the colors were sublime, and it made me realize how great a film it really was. Even "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" looked amazing. It was so gorgeous it was easy to ignore that it didn't make any sense. You could have taken frame enlargements and hung them in a gallery and everyone would have oohed and aah-ed.

I also remember a beautiful archival print of "Some Came Running" in which the colors were pretty close to the Blu-ray, but the reds were more saturated. That print also played at the Carnegie Hall Cinema along with "Home From the Hill". Before that I had only seen faded 16mm prints, and forgotten I had seen that 35mm print until your post jogged my memory.

Frank Rowley, who ran the Regency, had some kind of a deal with MGM, for he used to get amazing prints, but I don't remember him ever showing any of the Minnelli melodramas, just the musicals like "The Bandwagon" & "Yolanda and the Thief". If he had, I'm sure I would have gone.

I first saw "Some Came Running" on TV, pan and scanned in black and white, though I loved it just the same. "Home From the Hill" I saw in a theatre, Loew's State, I think, when it opened. That film is more nuanced, almost realistic, other than the wild boar hunt, which is another Minnelli sequence that would fit perfectly into a musical. In "Some Came Running" a lot of the incidents seem exaggerated; well, like something out of a opium-dream or a musical based on a Tennessee Williams play, but since the colors and costumes are exaggerated as well and decidedly unrealistic, it never bothered me. Anyway, all that stuff happens in a small town, just not as beautifully or as synchronized, and generally not one after the other. Knife fights aren't that sinuous and balletic, just messy. But I wish they were. All small towns should be choreographed by Minnelli. I wish he would have come to my town when I was growing up and requested that the Ferris Wheel be moved three feet to the right.
 

Filmgazer

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I enjoyed your review, Matt, but you have a slight error in your casting notes. Leora Dana doesn't play Dave's niece. She plays Frank's restless, impatient wife. Betty Lou Kiem plays Dave's niece.
 

Matt Hough

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I enjoyed your review, Matt, but you have a slight error in your casting notes. Leora Dana doesn't play Dave's niece. She plays Frank's restless, impatient wife. Betty Lou Kiem plays Dave's niece.
Good lord! Thanks for the correction. I'll fix it momentarily.
 

Billy Batson

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It's just dropped through my letterbox in London (from Wow). That was quick, only two days after the official release date...so there is hope for Ivanhoe before Christmas. :)
 

roxy1927

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I might be wrong but I believe Home From the Hill opened at Radio City as did SCR. Maybe it opened second run at LS?
Shirley is asked on some youtube interview how it was to be directed by Minelli and she says somewhat incredulously that he was too busy directing a lamp.
Home was supposed play at the Walter Reade and then there was a sign put up at the box office that it had been cancelled. I was very disappointed as I always liked seeing a film first in a theater before seeing it on video.
Another youtube video is a short on returning to the town where SCR was filmed and talking to the residents about what memories they had of the experience. I thought it might be included on this bluray but I guess not.
 

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My favorite scenes in this movie, a favorite since my youth, includes the carnival sequence but I would have to back it up about 10 minutes to begin at the moment Dave returns to Bama's house and encounters Ginnie sitting on the porch hugging the magazine.

From that moment until the last frame of the movie is, imo, the most beautifully reallized and powerful blend of script, performances, drama, suspense, music and cinematic expertise in the movie. Of course, it is the big payoff for everything that came before and sets us up for the emotional wallop at the end. It just wrings me out and breaks my heart every time I watch it. Brilliant work by everyone involved.

"I don't understand you neither but I still like you! I love you. But I don't understand you! Now what's the matter with that?"

Wow.
 
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Paul Rossen

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I might be wrong but I believe Home From the Hill opened at Radio City as did SCR. Maybe it opened second run at LS?
Shirley is asked on some youtube interview how it was to be directed by Minelli and she says somewhat incredulously that he was too busy directing a lamp.
Home was supposed play at the Walter Reade and then there was a sign put up at the box office that it had been cancelled. I was very disappointed as I always liked seeing a film first in a theater before seeing it on video.
Another youtube video is a short on returning to the town where SCR was filmed and talking to the residents about what memories they had of the experience. I thought it might be included on this bluray but I guess not.

You are correct. Home From the Hill did indeed open at the Music Hall in NYC. Perhaps it did play 2nd run at Loews State.
 

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I don't believe this was ever released in stereo. Just finished watching it - transfer's pretty good and yards above any previous releases. The slight blurriness in certain shots has always been there - very noticeable in even my old 16mm print. I would, of course, give the production five stars. One of Minnelli's greatest, whether he was directing a lamp or ferris wheel notwithstanding. MacLaine walks away with the film and should have, in fact, been nominated in the supporting category, where she probably would have won.

As to that featurette with the pontificating three stooges film teachers, no thanks. I believe it was on the DVD when Drew Casper was all the rage. He is, of course, the most nauseating of the three, but the other two aren't much better.
 

Thomas T

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It's Minnelli's (non-musical) masterpiece. What a great year 1958 was for Minnelli in each genre. Some Came Running in the drama department, Gigi in the musical department and The Reluctant Debutante in the comedy department. All three examples of Minnelli's versatility and all three gems.

Has anyone else noticed the similarities between Some Came Running and Five Easy Pieces which came 12 years later? Two creative men (Frank Sinatra's writer, Jack Nicholson's pianist) turn their back on the bourgeois life they grew up in and associate themselves with buddies (Dean Martin in SCR, Joe Don Baker in FEP) that are crude and uneducated. Similarly, they become involved with not too bright clinging vine women (Shirley MacLaine in SCR, Karen Black in FEP). They both return to their roots where they are confronted by cultured women (Martha Hyer in SCR, Susan Anspach in FEP) who challenge their lifestyle choices.