Shirley MacLaine, Some Came Running, Vincente Minnelli, 1958
"This movie must have a lot of meaning for you, given that you named your blog after it," my friend Tony Dayoub remarked as we entered the BAM complex for a screening of this, a part of the place's exemplary Complete Vincente Minnelli retrospective now in progress. "I guess," I shrugged. "But you know, it was also one of those things; I'd gotten bounced from my job that day, I got drunk, came home, started a blog..."
And to tell you the truth, I don't think I'd seen the picture in its entirety in some time at the point I started the blog. Nor had I seen the picture in its entirety, up until yesterday, since. Nor have I ever finished reading the enormous James Jones novel on which the film is based, which was generously gifted to me by my friend Tom Carson a few years back. And frankly when I named the blog I was thinking maybe as much of Michel Piccoli's character's intended homage to Dean Martin's Bama, in Godard's Contempt.
But it's a great picture, as I was happy to rediscover at the screening yesterday. It's a very peculiar picture in some ways. The screenplay by John Patrick and Arthur Sheekman seems an exemplarily schematic blueprint for a '50s epic contempo melodrama-entertainment event picture; a funny/ironic bit here, a heart-tugging sincere bit there, an explicit foreshadowing of what we expect is going to be a problem here, the "shocking" and galvanic articulation of the problem there. (Although some of the problems are not all that thoroughly articulated; we never really learn just what the deal is with Martha Hyer's character, do we?) The extent to which it's a very conventional '50s treatment of Big Authentic Feelings at odds with Narrow Smalltown Minds is pretty conventional, except for the meticulousness of Minnelli's direction, which you can see how it might have driven Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin nuts; there are a bunch of shots here in which you can see that the actor has to step on to one particular mark at precisely this time, or else the lighting effect that's gonna throw the shot/scene into a completely different kind of relief just isn't gonna come off. But it is most often in the not-necessarily expected and less directly overt exercises of that meticulousness when the film makes very moving contact with The Real, as in the above shot, wherein Shirley MacLaine's Ginnie Moorehead (yeesh, that name), making an awkward and eager confession to Martha Hyer's entirely more prim Gwen French, hangs her head in embarrassment/shame/self-abasement, and Minnelli and lenser William H. Daniels and editor Adrienne Fazan just hold the shot on MacLaine and allow you to get a really, really good look at her roots, which tell a story of their own. So yeah, I'm quite happy to have named the blog after this film.