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Movies, Television and Broadway

Some Came Running


Frank Sinatra had seen me do a television special with Gizelle McKensie and Pat Boone and he said, " I want that girl." Frank wanted me, because they couldn't get Shelly, I went up and met Frank at his house on Beaumont Drive. I was nervous when I rang the bell, terrified, when I heard his recorded message from the gate speaker.

"You better have a goddamned good reason for being here."

His house was decorated all in Japanese and he was a gracious host spending hours talking about this new film, which was based on the novel by James Jones that would be directed by Vincent Minnelli. They were already in production and I was asked to report on location to Madison, Indiana as soon as possible.

Upon learning that I had landed the role of Ginny Moorhead, I immediately went to a specialty store and had a stuffed toy dog made, which I would use as a prop for the role.

I boarded a bus for Madison and arrived on location completely in character. Frank saw me get off the bus and just fell down laughing, "That's Ginny," he said.

Before long, Frank, Dean and I started hanging out together. It was great to renew my friendship with Dean Martin after Artists and Models. He was more relaxed and in good spirits and fun to be with and, in my opinion, his role as Bama in Some Came Running was the best acting of his very talented, very lengthy career.

I stayed at a hotel, which was adjacent to the house that had been rented for Dean and Frank. I was the only woman in the cast or crew which was allowed into that house. I was fortunate to spend considerable time in their private world, tidying up for them, arranging flowers and making the place livable. All they did is play gin rummy and entertain 'friends'. There was always some guy from the mob there. That's where I met Sam Giancana. We played gin together and he would always cheat by looking at the reflection of my cards in my reading glasses to see what cards I held in my hand.

The people of Madison surrounded the house night and day, sometimes four abreast, hoping and waiting to see these male movie idols. We had to keep the curtains drawn for privacy and that soon started to wear on all of us. It was like living in a tomb! It became a surreal experience as women would break through the police barricade, enter the house and target Frank and Dean, ripping at their clothes. What most men would dream of happening to them, Frank detested. He had a fetish about personal cleanliness, sometimes showering five or six times a day, and after a close encounter with an over active female admirer he would head for the shower.

Frank had some serious issues with the director, Vincent Minnelli. One day, while we were shooting the Ferris wheel scene where key dialogue and action would take place, his anger boiled over into a bitter confrontation. Vincent did not like the camera angle and instead of moving the camera for a better angle he insisted that this huge Ferris wheel be dismantled and moved which would have meant several days in lost time. Frank blew up and said "F... you!" He got into his limo and said to Dean, "Dago, get in. We are going back to L.A." And off they went! Sol Siegle, head of the studio, finally convinced them to return.

In the original James Jones book, Some Came Running, the Dave character played by Sinatra gets killed at the end, but Frank went to Vincente and said, "Look, I want the kid to get killed, she'll get an Oscar nomination. I don't care about my role. Let the kid get killed." What ever Frank wanted, Frank got. So, Ginny took the bullet instead of Dave and I got an Oscar nomination because of Frank's generosity.

The film was a major success for all. It made more than four million dollars in the United States alone. It was the turning point in my film career, bringing me my first Oscar nomination for best actress. I didn't win (Susan Hayward did for I Want To Live), but what a thrill.

About Shirley
Shirley in Some Came Running
Shirley in Some Came Running
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