Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Man with the Golden Arm

Most movies that revolved around drug addiction were released in the 1960s and 70's, but one of the very first ones to cover the topic was released in the mid-1950s. The movie was The Man with the Golden Arm.

Frankie Machine (Frank Sinatra) has recently been released from prison after a six month stint. He was a card dealer and heroin addict before going to jail, now he aspires to be a drummer. But his past starts to catch up with him, as does his heroin addiction.

The highlight scene of The Man with the Golden Arm is where Frankie tries to kick his habit cold turkey. We see him become beyond dependent for the drug; he craves it, he needs it. The scene gets under your skin more than a heroin-filled syringe. In a time period when Hollywood was dominated by Method actors, the fact that a role this heavy is played by a non-Method actor makes it more harrowing. Makes a person wonder what the role would've been like had Marlon Brando signed for this role.

The rest of The Man with the Golden Arm is pretty good. I thought that Eleanor Parker, who plays Frankie's "wheelchair-bound" girlfriend, was a tad headstrong. She manages to present her character as though she was yanked from a Tennessee Williams play. There's also good work from a pre-Vertigo Kim Novak as a woman who helps Frankie overcome his addiction. It may be dated now, but just imagine the impact it had fifty-five years ago.

My Rating: ****


  1. I've never seen this - no overacting at all?

  2. The movie was made in 1955. It is the movie of grand father time. He told me that it was one of a trio of great films around that same time that dealt with drug addiction. The other two were Monkey On My Back and A Hatful of Rain.


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