Famously homaged in Godard’s Contempt, this Technicolour melodrama remains one of the Rat Pack’s finest hours. Adapted from James Jones’ breezeblock novel, and propelled by a dynamic Elmer Bernstein score, it stars Frank Sinatra as a hard-boozing ex-soldier-cum-aspiring writer who up pitches up in his Indiana hometown after a 16-year absence. Falling in with Dean Martin’s alcoholic gambler, Sinatra finds himself torn between two very different women – adoring prostitute Shirley MacLaine and Martha Hyers’ middle-class college teacher. Exposing the hypocrisies of small-town life (Sinatra’s respectable married bro commits adultery with his young secretary), director Vincente Minnelli floods the screen with bold, sensual colour, while the ace ensemble nail the pain behind the characters’ robust, wisecracking facades.
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