CinemaScope and Some Came Running

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Mighty films packed the Oscar ballots in 1952. Honors split between A Streetcar Named Desire, The African Queen, A Place in the Sun, and An American in Paris. Although Best Film went to An American in Paris (1951), Vincente Minnelli lost as director to George Stevens who directed A Place in the Sun. A string of musical hits such as Meet Me In St. Louis (1944), The Bandwagon (1953), Brigadoon (1954), and  Kismet (1955) cemented Vincente Minnelli’s reputation. He was awarded Best Director for Gigi (1959) which swept the Oscars with nine awards. His background in theatrical stage direction served him well in the film industry; his gorgeous set designs, cinematography, and vivid colors are features of his style and enhanced all the more with the invention of CinemaScope in 1953.

One of my favorite Vincente Minnelli films is the 1958 classic, Some Came Running starring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Shirley MacClaine. Of the many reasons why it’s highly regarded, Minnelli’s sensibilities display a colorful world provided by CinemaScope and inspired future directors like Martin Scorsese. I learned a lot about the history of CinemaScope at the American Widescreen Museum site  HERE.

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Having never gone to film school, I enjoyed this brief video explaining CinemaScope, letter-boxing, and Pan and scan and recommend it.

 Some Came Running (1958) 

In the film, a rogue and disappointed writer returns to his Midwest hometown where tongues gossip and reputations hang on the perceptions of a family’s name and their power in the community. Played by Frank Sinatra, Dave Hirsh is a caustic Army veteran. Chasing internal demons, he dissociates himself from his superficial brother and sister-in-law and befriends gambler Bama Dillert played by Dean Martin. Shirley MacClaine plays a tramp who follows Dave to his hometown with hopes of wooing him into a relationship. It’s a rare film that has it all: love triangles, class-conflict, dark comedy, suspenseful climax, and a satisfying conclusion delivered beautifully by director Vincente Minnelli. Some Came Running was nominated for five Oscars including Shirley MacClaine’s first Best Actress nomination.

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Frank Sinatra as Dave and Shirley MacClaine as Ginny

Shirley MacClaine’s performance was outstanding–I prefer it over her celebrated performance in The Apartment (1960). It’s unusual when you consider a segment of the film does not include her. Irony abounds in the film. MacClaine keeps her naïve charm even though she represents the experienced floozy. Unrequited love is a prominent theme. Dave loves a cold teacher whose moral standards place him beneath her. Meanwhile, he spurns the unconditional love of Ginny. The role of women compliment historical and literary themes of domesticity, sexual repression, double standards between the genders, and an overt concern for materialism. Teenager without a cause, Betty Lou, rebels and the unlikely mentors, Dave and Ginny, offer wisdom when her parents possessed none. Rebellion, boredom, and much alcohol drinking hearken to stories by John Cheever and John Updike. If you love Frank Sinatra, you’ve probably already seen this film since it’s an acclaimed acting performance, and he shines as the anti-hero. Dean Martin exudes charm. He is a creep. He redeems himself with his prop, his beloved hat.

It’s a fine classic not to be missed.

What’s your favorite performance in Some Came Running? 

35 thoughts on “CinemaScope and Some Came Running

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  1. Frank Sinatra seemed to save his best performances for adaptations of James Jones novels, and while this may not be as well known as From Here to Eternity, it is a neglected classic.
    Vincente Minnelli crafted a superb melodrama, and the climactic scene at the carnival anticipates everything from Mario Bava to Dario Argento to Brian De Palma.

  2. Minelli is one of my favorite directors, and Some Came Running is a marvelous film…but you must read the complete version of james Jones novel, because it is perhaps the greatest of all american novels, and completely misrepresented by Minelli’s film. Especially the Maclaine character, Martin’s attitude towards her makes no sense until you read the book.

    1. I thank you for that. I was very intrigued with the novel and I haven’t read it. I would also like to read From Here to Eternity; I’m sure I would like them. I’m from the opinion that film and book adaptations are separate but equal works of art. I judge them as mutations but two fruits that taste just as sweet.

      1. I totally agree with you re- visiting the classics. That is actually how I got into film, watching old Polanski and Kubrick films. This though is entirely different. I think I’ll give this a try, the story sounds interesting. And you have me looking forward to the colour too – some of those early colour films look very surreal, its great.

  3. What a wonderful experience it was to watch movies filmed in CinemaScope. Widescreen theaters were opened to take full advantage of it. Tickets were sold in advance for such movies as Lawrence of Arabia, we dressed up to attend, and we went home with souvenir programs. How things have change….

      1. IMAX is spectacular. There is no doubt in my mind about that. CinemaScope movies and the theaters in which they were shown were, though, experiences in themselves. I remember watching Charlton Heston gallop across the screen from right to left in the movie “El Cid”. I was seated just forward of center in the audience and remember turning my head from right to left to watch him.

  4. What a great cast here, w/ two of the Rat Pack on here. I actually never seen any Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin on a film before, though I LOVE both of their singing voices!

      1. What a great idea 🙂 Speaking of Blindspot, stay tuned for my review of my March pick on Tuesday, another award-winning classic I’m glad I finally saw. I also just reviewed a doc I have a feeling you might like.

  5. Good points about Minnelli’s command of the widescreen process. Minnelli’s Home from the Hill (1960) — have you seen it? — is also a good example of the director’s ability to use space effectively. Anyhow, I agree with you, Some Came Running is a fantastic movie (I think it contains Dean Martin’s best work).

    1. Welcome! I’ve been hearing it’s outstanding; no, I haven’t but I’m going to put it in the Netflix queue today 😉 I thought Dean Martin showed dimensions other than just being himself. Dean Martin reminds me of Bill Murray in this way.

  6. Wow, the pan and scan video was so educational. Six disciples instead of twelve really hit the message out of the ballpark. I’m going to play around with the aspect of my tv screen tonight and see firsthand what the directors were explaining.
    And coincidentally, I’ve got The Apartment up on cue for this evening.
    A great post as usual, Cindy. You’ve always got so many worthy things to share.
    Cheers!

    1. watch out for that aspect ratio function. you are liable to put something in widescreen that was shot flat, and the picture will be horribly distorted. check IMDB for the correct aspect ratio before changing your settings. most of the newer tv’s will automatically play the film in its correct aspect ratio. also, if your source material is a pan and scanned version, changing the aspect ratio is not going to correct it. it will just give you a stretched-out appearance of the pan-and-scanned image

  7. I haven’t seen this film for years – thanks for reminding me how great it was. The cast have such a great chemistry – it was the film that persuaded my of Sinatra’s greatness (I had a bad early experience with the Mankiewicz-directed Guys and Dolls that doesn’t really show off anyones skills!)

  8. Hi, Cindy:

    Great piece of dissertation and detail for the criminally not near as popular follow on to ‘From Here To Eternity’. Sinatra is an under appreciated devotee of under playing a character (Though, he can chew scenery. Give ‘Suddenly’ a try!) when the piece demands it.

    And that talent only adds to Dave’s demons and inner turmoil. Well set off by Dean Martin and Shirley MacClaine. Who excels in playing damaged goods, living day by day. And giving as well as she gets! In a film that solidly wedded her as the single female contingent of “The Rat Pack”.

    1. Hi Kevin, I loved Shirley’s performance. She didn’t mind that she couldn’t intellectually “get” Dave. What was important was that she loved him wholeheartedly. She took the abuse but there came a line when he stepped over it, she wouldn’t take it. How do you love with great passion and not lose yourself? She kept her identity as well gave selflessly.

  9. Great film! Saw it the first time when I was in the Army. Went out and got me a white Stetson just like Dino’s. Just an all around good film. One of the very few films I like better than the book.

    1. Ha ha! The white Stetson. Did you ever take it off? Well, I hope you have it sitting on a shelf somewhere, at least. I liked the color in the film. Minnelli made the dark issues a little brighter with that 50s musical explosion of color.

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