Dave Hirsch, a writer and army veteran, returns to 1948 Parkman, Indiana, his hometown. His prosperous brother introduces him to Gwen French, a local teacher. But the more flamboyant Ginny has followed him to Parkton, where he also meets gambler Bama Dillert. Dave must come to terms with his roots and with his future.
Adapted from a novel by James Jones, which was his follow-up to From Here To Eternity, this is one of the great 50s melodramas. Sinatra comes out of the army and struggles with his burning need to become a great writer while returning to his home town, which has more scandals than Peyton Place and Kings Row put together, and rejecting the values of his hypocritical, conventional brother (Arthur Kennedy) in order to run around with low-class good time girl MacLaine. In a hilarious scene conveying the dawning of Sinatras literary awareness, he shows a short story to good girl Martha Hyer, claiming hes been having trouble with the ending, only to have her comment dont you see, when the girl leaves him, that is your ending. In a large and wonderful supporting cast, MacLaine and Kennedy are outstanding as the doomed free spirit and the stuffy alkie, while Dean Martin enjoys himself as the gambler who doesnt even take off his hat to take a bath. Minnelli plays everything on an operatic scale, and demonstrates a mastery of highly-coloured and dead serious silliness while Elmer Bernstein contributes one of the great movie scores.
A great movie. The whole bit.