The story is pure melodrama, despite the intention of the original novel’s author, James Jones, to invest it with greater stature. But the integrity with which the film is handled by all its contributors lifts it at times to tragedy. Jones’ novel has been stripped to essentials in the screenplay, and those are presented in hard clean dialog and incisive situations.
Frank Sinatra is an ex-serviceman and ex-novelist who returns to his home town, unwitting and unwilling, when he gets drunk in Chicago and is shipped back unconscious on a bus. Accompanying him is Shirley MacLaine who is generally unwitting but never unwilling, a good-natured tart with no pretensions.
Sinatra can’t stand his brother (Arthur Kennedy) or the brother’s wife (Leora Dana) but he falls deeply in love with a friend of theirs (Martha Hyer). He meets a pal (Dean Martin) who becomes an ally, and he becomes involved in the personal life of his niece (Betty Lou Keim).
The title, incidentally, is taken from St Mark, and is construed to mean that some have come running to find the meaning of life, but are prevented from finding it by obsession with materialism.
Sinatra gives a top performance, sardonic and compassionate, full of touches both instinctive and technical. It is not easy, either, to play a man dying of a chronic illness and do it with grace and humor, and this Martin does without faltering.
MacLaine isn’t conventionally pretty. Her hair looks like it was combed with an eggbeater. But she elicits such empathy and humor that when she offers herself to Sinatra she seems eminently worth taking.
1958: Nominations: Best Actress (Shirley MacLaine), Supp. Actor (Arthur Kennedy), Supp. Actress (Martha Hyer), Costume Design, Song (‘To Love and Be Loved’)