1958 film gives glimpse of Trimble County in bygone era

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Sinatra, MacLaine movie features scenes filmed in Milton, Ky.

By Dave Taylor

When Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer announced in July 1958 that a new movie starring Frank Sinatra would be filmed in and around the Madison area, the rush of excitement in the region was overwhelming.

Movie stars, production crew and gaffers by the busload swarmed into the area in early August, and Madison was transformed into a multi-block Hollywood movie set. Director Vincente Minelli, actresses Shirley MacLaine and Martha Hyer, and actors Dean Martin and Arthur Kennedy were among those joining Sinatra in town for the production of “Some Came Running.”

The film was to be based on a book by the same title written by James Jones. Jones had written the blockbuster “From Here to Eternity,” a World War II epic, the movie version of which featured Sinatra in a supporting role.

The first scene shot for the movie – the sequence over which the opening credits rolled – was filmed across the Ohio River here in Trimble County, Ky. On the morning of Aug. 11, 1958, a specially equipped Greyhound bus rolled down Milton Hill with Sinatra aboard. A film crew onboard filmed Sinatra, portraying the sleeping soldier Dave Hirsch returning to his hometown, as the bus lumbered down the hill, across the Milton-Madison Bridge and into downtown Madison – renamed Parkman, Ind., in the story.

Some exterior shots of the bus traveling down Milton Hill did not make the final cut of the film but were used in the trailer that advertised the movie. The trailer is included on the DVD version of the film, marketed on the 10th anniversary of Sinatra’s death.

In these opening frames, the Kentucky hills can be seen over Sinatra’s shoulder, with the river coming into view followed by the Coca-Cola advertising signs of the former Longview Inn.

Now a private residence, Longview, at the time, was a restaurant. Locals will remember that, years ago, telescopes were posted on the property at the side of the hill, where tourists could pay 25 cents for a “long view” of the river valley, which gave the restaurant its name.

Notably, the 1958 film shows that Milton Hill once was without the trees that now obscure the view of the river and the bridge. In those days, the view was so uncluttered that motorists would stop at one of several pulloffs along the road to watch races during the Madison Regatta.

Sinatra’s character dies midway through the story in Jones’ novel; however, Sinatra, well known for his clout in Hollywood, insisted MacLaine’s character, Ginny Moorhead, be killed off in the movie. “The kid will get nominated for an Academy Award,” he predicted.

His prediction came true: MacLaine was nominated for the role and won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

The closing scene – the graveside service for Ginny Moorhead – was filmed in Milton’s Moffett Cemetery. The Rev. William Hatchell, then pastor of the North Madison Methodist Church, reads the 23rd Psalm as the camera pans from Hatchell to Sinatra to Martin, then zooms in on the river valley east of Milton.

This scene, filmed on Aug. 16 that year, provided a beautiful panoramic view of Madison and the river valley. Previous heavy rains had swelled the river, which appeared muddy in the final cut.

And, of course, many residents from Madison and Trimble and Carroll counties in Kentucky were hired as extras [including the writers’ two sisters and his wife, who was then just 6 years old].

Still, only about 30 percent of “Some Came Running” was filmed locally. Most was shot at MGM’s studios in Culver City, Calif.

The film opened to mixed reviews on June 1, 1959. With Sinatra and Martin teaming for their first film together, “Some Came Running” is considered by many movie buffs to be the beginning of the famed Rat Pack, which eventually would include Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop – neither of whom appeared in this film.

To this day, it is fun to watch the film and catch familiar landmarks and see how the area looked in a very different day and time.

Dave Taylor lives in Hanover, Ind. The Trimble County native is a staff writer for The News-Democrat in Carrollton, Ky., a sister paper of The Trimble Banner.