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  Some Came Running So Long At The Fair
Year: 1958
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Stars: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Shirley MacLaine, Martha Hyer, Arthur Kennedy, Nancy Gates, Leora Dana, Betty Lou Keim, Larry Gates, Steve Peck, Connie Gilchrist, Ned Wever, Denny Miller, Marion Ross, William Schallert
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Dave Hirsh (Frank Sinatra) is awoken by the sound of the bus driver telling him they've arrived in Parkman and this is his stop, as instructed by Hirsh's military buddies when they bundled him onto the bus in the first place. He is less than pleased to be there, but he gets off nonetheless, only to realise he's brought someone with him, a prostitute called Ginnie Moorhead (Shirley MacLaine) who is excited to be there no matter that he tells her she really should be taking the next bus out of town, as perhaps should Hirsh. He walks into the best hotel in town, because he made up his mind that if he ever came back to his home, he would stay in the best room, then sets off to place his money in one of the two banks there, for he has made a small fortune writing...

From Here to Eternity is still spoken of as a classic, taken from a James Jones novel and starring a certain Mr Sinatra in a role that secured him an Academy Award. With that behind him, he likely felt he had no more to prove in this acting lark, which might explain his more reserved performance in Some Came Running, giving up the limelight to his co-stars, though anyone could see he remained the centre of attention, the focus the drama orbited around. This was also based on a Jones novel, semi-autobiographical and another bestseller yet not as well regarded as that more famous book (or indeed movie), but that has lent it a cult cachet down the years among those who will tell you, sure, that Oscar-winner is good, but here's where the really good stuff is.

This is an intriguing work, there's no doubt about it, but whether it deserved its niche status as a classic for the cult fraternity was open to question as it was obviously cut from the same cloth as Eternity, recognisably drawn from the same writer who by that time had taken the path of least resistance that many an author will take and made a fictional author their protagonist. This is Hirsh's dilemma: he has talent on the page, but he's a failure at life, so which way does he fall, accepting his mastery of the written word, or slumping back into alcoholism and despair since he doesn't feel he deserves the acclaim? This was at the heart of not only his character, but those of the others too as they react to him in different ways, pulling him in two directions at once.

In the "embrace failure" camp were Ginnie, with MacLaine playing it in a curious mixture of blowsy and childlike, an innocent no matter how she makes her living, and Bama Dillert, Dean Martin as a bit of a reprobate who drinks his way through his days without getting completely hammered, as if he has built up an immunity to the alcohol, and generates funds by winning at cards. Those two make the existence of muddling through life too cool for anything respectable strangely attractive to Hirsh, for he believes that's what he deserves, and when his money runs out (he keeps flashing the cash he has made from his royalties suggesting he can't even live with the monetary examples of his success) he will sink into a drink-fuelled haze and become that terrible cliché, the writer who squanders his skills with the bottle.

On the other hand, respectability is within tantalising reach, as Hirsh's brother Frank (Arthur Kennedy, a picture of desperation hidden behind polite bonhomie) could welcome him into the hometown fold of businesses, loyal wives and the good things in life, if only Hirsh didn't see straight through that façade in its very nineteen-fifties fashion of lifting the lid on smalltown life to see what was actually happening beneath that supposedly reputable surface. Yet the company may be better with Ginnie and Bama, the occasional madman out for your blood aside, but it's difficult to make a good choice between either of the two options, for they both represent a falsehood and Hirsh is painfully aware that whichever angle he settles for, they will not ring true for him, he'd always be a fish out of water no matter where he would wind up.

The wealthy schoolteacher Gwen French (Martha Hyer) dangles a possible glimpse of happiness from the right side of the tracks that Hirsh properly belongs to, but she’s just too square, too suffocating in her belief in his talent as a writer when that's not what he wants to hear, and a very on form Vincente Minnelli's use of shadows which bleed into the action at regular intervals strongly indicate the restless menace that Hirsh will never be able to escape. A little self-serious, but rarely did these actors inhabit their roles quite as effectively, with Sinatra delivering a reading that spoke to the wee small hours of the morning pretty much permanently, MacLaine lucking into an Oscar nomination thanks to a last minute decision that improves on the source material, and Martin, in one of his personal favourite performances, all louche charm (unless he loses his hat) in the persona he had adopted as his public one, to his fans' delight. Minnelli remains best known for his musicals, but his exploring melodrama techniques deserve attention as well. Music by Elmer Bernstein, heavy on the brash, overbearing jazz.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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