Friday, July 17, 2020

A Writer’s Tale-Vincente Minnelli’s Film Adaptation Of James Jones’ “Some Came Running” (1958)-A Film Review

A Writer’s Tale-Vincente Minnelli’s Film Adaptation Of James Jones’ “Some Came Running” (1958)-A Film Review

DVD Review

By Fritz Taylor    

Some Came Running, starring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Shirley MacLaine, Martha Hyer, directed by Vincente Minelli, adapted from the novel by James Jones, 1958  

No question I was first drawn to Some Came Running, a film based on the novel of the same name by James Jones whose more famous novel Here To Eternity also was adapted to the screen and stands as one of the great classic films of the modern cinema, by the ex-soldier’s story and then by his plight as a blocked writer. The draw of the ex-soldier’s story reflected something that had been in my own experience about coming back to the “real” world after the military. That seems to be the character played by Frank Sinatra Dave Hirsh’s situation. That inability to go to the nine to five routine, to settle down after military service had shaken him out of his routine rang a bell. In my own military service generation, in my own service, I ran across plenty of guys who couldn’t deal with the “real” world coming back from Vietnam and who tried to hide from that fact as “brothers under the bridges” alternate communities out in places like Southern California. I spent time in such places myself. I see and hear about young Iraq and Afghanistan War service personnel having the same woes and worse, having incredibly high suicide rates. So yeah, I was drawn to Dave’s sulky, moody, misshapen view of the world.           

The story line is a beauty. Dave, after a drunken spree, finds he was shipped by bus back in that state by some guys in Chicago to his Podunk hometown in Parkman, Indiana, a town he had fled with all deliberate speed when he was a kid orphaned out by his social-climbing older brother Frank because, well, because he was in the way of that social-climb after their parents die. Dave was not alone in his travels though since he had picked up, or had been attached to, a floozy named Ginny, played by Shirley MacLaine, who will make life hell for him in the end. As he became accustomed to his old hometown and while deciding whether to stay or pick up stakes (the preferred fate of his brother and his also social-climbing wife) he was introduced to a local school teacher Gwen, played by Martha Hyer, who will also make hell for him in the end since he was quickly and madly in love with her but she was seriously stand-offish almost old maid stand-offish since she had had a few tastes of his rough-hewn low life doings. Doings which were encouraged by a gambler, Bama, played by Dean Martin who became his sidekick.        

But here is the hook that almost saved Dave and almost lit a spark under dear Gwen. Dave was a blocked writer, had some time before written a couple of books that were published and had gathered some acclaim, were well written. Gwen attempted to act as his muse, and did prove instrumental in getting a work of his published. To no avail since Dave was not looking for a muse, well, not a muse who wasn’t thinking about getting under the silky sheets. No go, no go despite Dave’s ardent efforts. Frustrated Dave turned to Ginny and whatever charms she had-and the fact that she loved him unconditionally despite their social and intellectual differences. In the end Dave in a fit of hubris decided to marry Ginny after being rebuffed by Gwen enough times. The problem though was that Ginny had a hang on gangster guy trailing her who was making threatening noises about putting Dave, and/or Ginny, underground. In the end they were not just threatening noises as he wounded Dave and killed poor bedraggled Ginny. Watch this one-more than once and read James Jones’ book too which includes additional chapters about those soldiers who could not relate to the “real” world after their military experiences. This guy Jones could write, sure could write about that milieu based on his own military service. (There is a famous photograph of Jones, Norman Mailer, and William Styron, the three great soldier boy American literary lights of the immediate post-World War II war period with Jones in uniform if I recall.)                

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