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Some Came Running

The year MGM came to town

Madison will celebrate its Hollywood fame
with a Sept. 3 festival to mark the
40th anniversary of the film

By Don Ward
Editor

(June 1999) – Maybe the problem was evident right from the start: Madison – er, Parkman – just wasn’t Frank’s “kinda town.”
That’s Frank, as in Frank Sinatra.
And Deano, as in Dean Martin.
Maybe all they needed to salvage a really good movie was a cameo appearance by Sammy, as in Davis Jr. Or Jerry, as in Lewis.
Heck, even Rat-Packers Peter Lawford or Joey Bishop couldn’t hurt this crowd.
Despite garnering five Academy Award nominations (no winners), the 1959 drama “Some Came Running” definitely needed something.
A better ending, according to many Madison residents who either watched or participated in the filming of the movie at more than a half-dozen locations in Madison, neighboring Hanover and across the river in Milton, Ky.

Too bad neither Frank nor Deano are still around to give Madison a second chance.
But co-star Shirley MacLaine is, and Madison Main Street Program volunteers are hoping to lure her back to Madison for a Sept. 3 bash designed to recreate the excitement of fall 1958 when MGM came to town.
The event will benefit the Main Street program and provide locals a chance to relive those times when Hollywood movie stars walked the streets of downtown Madison.
“This was a very exciting time for Madison, and we think this event will be a way to pay tribute to that part of the city’s history,” said Kim Franklin, director of the Madison Main Street Program. “Plus, it will be a lot of fun.”
Despite its star-studded cast, “Some Came Running” never quite made Hollywood history or generated rave reviews.
But at the time of the filming, no one much cared about the movie’s success at the box office. Everyone just wanted to see the stars. And maybe get the chance to be an extra in a scene or two.

Some Came Running Poster

Directed by: Vincente Minnelli
Written by: James Jones (novel) and John Patrick
Genre: Drama
Runtime: 137 minutes
Filmed: Fall 1958
Original Release Date: January 1959

Fred Koehler, then a 19-year-old, was among the star-struck who lined up each evening down along Walnut Street awaiting instructions as a movie extra.
After working at his father’s tire store all day, he would hustle over and take his position with about 150 others for the carnival scene, shot on Jefferson Street of the fictional Parkman, Ind. Koehler can even identify himself for one moment in the scene because he broke one of the job’s cardinal rules.
“They gave me a toy gun, and I was supposed to play a kid at a shooting gallery,” said Koehler, 58. “They always told us not to look at the actors when they passed by, but when Martha Hyer went by, I had to look. She was so beautiful.”
Movie stars weren’t the only ones getting attention. Hanover native Carolyn Lopez caught the eye of MGM officials, who selected her to work as MacLaine's stand-in because of her tall height, strawberry blonde hair and MacLaine-like eyes.
“I was so excited; I couldn’t believe they chose me,” said Lopez, 65.
Her job was to stand or walk through a scene for the camera crew to adjust its lights for MacLaine. The actress would later appear to film the shot.
Lopez said she never got to meet MacLaine, but she recalls filming late one night and Martin remarking rather glibly, “I think I’ll just go home and have some fried scotch for breakfast.”

Carolyn Lopez

Photo by Don Ward

Carolyn Lopez displays a souvenir edition of The Madison Courier which she has kept since her experience as a movie stand-in for actress Shirley MacLaine.

“I thought, ‘Whoa, I’ve had scotch before but not fried.’ ”
Another time, Lopez worked nearly all night while filming scenes on Second Street. When she returned home the next morning, her husband quizzed her about where she had been all night, thinking perhaps she had wound up at some party with a bunch of Hollywood types.
Lopez also got a kick out of the teenagers and children who would approach her for autographs.
“I would tell them, ‘I’m just a stand-in from Madison.’ But they said, ‘We want your autograph anyway.’ ”
Lopez also worked as an extra and can identify herself in a couple of scenes walking away, “though nobody else would recognize me.”
Though her brush with fame was short-lived, Lopez hasn’t forgotten it and still cherishes her souvenir newspaper clippings and movie poster. Last year, she was interviewed for a video documentary made in Indianapolis as part of an Indiana Film History project.
In the end, she says she was disappointed with the movie but not the experience.
“I wasn’t all that impressed with Frank Sinatra, but I thought Dean Martin was pretty good looking. Especially dressed in his brown, silk suit and hat.”
Another movie extra, John Wurtz, was only 15 when he applied for the job. Since he didn’t have a social security card, he was among dozens of youngsters who were sent down to the Brown Gym, where they lined up to receive their cards in order to work.

Frank Sinatra and Martha Hyer

Courtesy of the Rogers Corner Collection

Sinatra and co-star Martha Hyer were like night and day, both in character and as visitors to Madison. Hyer stole locals’ hearts.

He played a kid eating hamburgers at a carnival stand and recalls having to shoot the scene several times.
“The guy kept cooking hamburgers and we kids kept eating all of them. Then around 3 a.m., they would provide the extras with a buffet meal. So it wasn’t a bad job, especially for a kid.”
Dottie Reindollar wasn’t an extra, but she worked at her father’s drug store, Inglis, where cast members occasionally dropped in to pick up prescription drugs. Today, she has some of those prescriptions framed and hanging on her kitchen wall.
“I remember Madison was all agog,” Reindollar said. “We heard that Frank was never really pleased to be here, and he didn’t put on a very good face while he was here.
But the rest of the MGM people were absolutely wonderful.”
Louis and Mary DeCar recall walking up to town each evening to watch the filming. "It didn’t change our lives, but it changed our schedule,” he said.

Frank Sinatra and Martha Hyer

Courtesy of the Rogers Corner Collection

Director Vincente Minnelli (standing at right), also known as “Mr. Judy Garland,” whom he married in 1945, and as Liza’s father, observes the action from his perch atop a tower during filming in Madison.

“The filming of that carnival scene was absolutely astounding.”
DeCar recalled several trailers set up at various street corners where the actors would stay until they were called to shoot their scenes.
“Of course, when they finally came out, they were mobbed by people,” he said.
Steve Chittick arrived in Madison years after the filming of the movie and, as a collector and antique dealer, ran across several items and photographs related to the movie.
Perhaps the most interesting item was the “Parkman” sign that came off the bus that carried Sinatra into town in the opening scene.
“I found it at a yard sale,” Chittick said. “And the photos came from a little old lady in Kentucky. She’s dead now. I don’t even remember her name.”
Chittick has since sold the items to Rogers Corner, where they are now on display.
For today’s movie-goers, “Some Came Running” doesn’t strike much of a chord, especially with today’s big-budget flicks featuring special effects that would make this picture’s climactic fight scenes seem more like an argument between Charley Brown and Lucy.
B ut for its time, the movie was recognized as a success, evidenced by its five Academy Award nominations.
The story, adapted from a novel by James Jones (author of “From Here to Eternity” and another movie starring Sinatra), is about a prodigal son’s return to his provincial Indiana hometown. There, he finds, and is repulsed by, hypocrisy, sexual repression and snobbery.

The Madison Main Street Program plans the following events on Sept. 3:

• Dinner, music, memorabilia auction.
• Dedication of a “Hollywood star” embedded into a downtown sidewalk.
• Special showing of the movie at the Ohio Theater, 105 E. Main St.
• Reception at the theater after the movie and photo of film extras.
• Other events may include tours of film locations and a possible appearance by actress Shirley MacLaine.
• A film crew from Turner Classic Movies plans to film the event as part of a documentary on the movie.
• Event volunteer planners are seeking people who worked as extras in the film or have memorabilia to auction or display. Call Kim Franklin at (812) 265-3270 or Dottie Reindollar at (812) 273-6122.

That is, until he meets and falls in love with the beautiful Gwen French (Hyer), a writing teacher at the local high school.
Dave Hirsh’s romantic appeals to French are rebuffed, in part because of the obvious disparity in social class, but also because of the waif-like tramp Ginny Moorhead (MacLaine), who has followed Hirsh all the way from Chicago.
The recurrent theme of artist (Hirsh is a writer) divided against himself keeps the tension flowing until the climactic carnival scene, in which MacLaine’s character – not Sinatra’s, as was originally scripted – is shot and killed by Moorhead’s crazed lover.
Though seemingly outdated by today’s film standards, locals should enjoy watching the movie because of familiar landmarks that pop up from time to time, such as the Ohio River bridge, Main Street Madison, Hanover College, the I.K.E.C. power plant and Moffett Cemetery.
Koehler is among those who recently bought a videocassette of the movie.
“I enjoyed it,” he said. “I think it’s a good movie.”
Especially that one particular moment in the carnival scene.

Back to June 1999 Articles.

 

 

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