Welcome back to the Lucky 13 Film Club. With the Oscar results still ringing in my ears, the focal point today is on “Best”. Take From Here to Eternity, for instance. In 1954, the film won eight Academy Awards out of 13 nominations, including awards for Best Picture, Best Director (Fred Zinnemann), Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor (Frank Sinatra), and Supporting Actress (Donna Reed). This year’s winter project is studying Burt Lancaster. I thought he did a good job playing the disgruntled Sergeant who falls in love with his superior officer’s wife played beautifully by Deborah Kerr. In fact, Kerr and Reed were the standout performers in the ensemble. Montgomery Clift doesn’t move me much. Regardless, the principal actors were at the top of their game. Having watched From Here to Eternity with older eyes, I have to say I loved the film.
Which ones are their best?
Fred Zinnemann — From Here to Eternity, High Noon, A Man for All Seasons, The Day of the Jackal?
Burt Lancaster — Birdman from Alcatraz, Elmer Gantry, The Leopard, Sweet Smell of Success?
Montgomery Clift — A Place in the Sun, The Misfits?
Deborah Kerr — An Affair to Remember, Black Narcissus, The King and I?
Donna Reed — It’s a Wonderful Life or From Here to Eternity?
Frank Sinatra — From Here to Eternity, Manchurian Candidate, Guys and Dolls, Oceans 11, Man with the Golden Arm?
What do you love about From Here to Eternity?
Why is From Here to Eternity a satisfying drama? I say because of the script written by Daniel Taradash and the acting of Frank Sinatra, Deborah Kerr, and Donna Reed.
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.
Directing wife Judy Garland
Vincente with daughter Liza Minnelli
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.
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.
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?
David Bowie is one of my favorite entertainers. From Ziggy Stardust to 80s pop to his transformation to the stage in The Elephant Man to his films—The Labyrinth or Prestige, the chameleon is champs in my book.
Barbara Streisand is my favorite belt-it-like-you-mean-it singers. Judy Garland is close, but I’ve always loved Babs in films. Even Yentel. They maybe corny, but her talent is undeniable. Dustin Hoffman and she added a hilarious dimension in Meet the Fockers II (2004). Of course, she not only sings and acts, she directs and produces. She’s a one woman show and a personal role model for me.
Justin Timberlake had my respect when he starred in The Social Network. He managed to evolve from his boy-toy days in N’Sync to become a multi-faceted actor, musician and when he’s in a film, I sit up and pay attention. Loved his minor role in Inside Llewyn Davis.
I like Queen Latifa. I think she has a lot of talent and can easily slide from singer to actress gracefully. She won my respect in the film Chicago. I wish she’d pick better films to showcase her talent!
Frank Sinatra is such a musical icon still symbolizing everything cool in NYC or Chicago. You can’t escape him if you dine in an Italian restaurant or think of classic Las Vegas. He was a surprisingly good actor when he wasn’t making girls drop to their knees. I loved him in The Manchurian Candidate. He won Best Supporting Actor in 1953 for From Here to Eternity. In the 1950s, the term “Rat Pack” began supposedly by Lauren Bacall who lovingly chastised her husband Humphrey Bogart and his friends after the boys had a night of boozing. By the 60s, the press took the term and applied it to David Niven, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop. The Rat Pack for which Frank Sinatra was the leader was an incredibly influential bunch making several films and records together. Who could beat Frank and Marlon Brando together? Guys and Dolls (1955)
Better yet, I loved Ocean 11, 12, 13. You probably know the redux is from the 1960 version starring the Rat Pack.
These are my favorites—there are big names I didn’t choose. Who is your favorite musician turned actor? Will Smith? Ice Cube? Dolly Parton?