Sunday Night at the Movies: The Man with the Golden Arm (1955)

A very controversial movie for it's time, The Man With the Golden Arm stars Frank Sinatra as Frankie Machine, a newly released convict from prison who is determined to leave his old life behind after his release. He was a heroin addict and Dealer for an illegal gambling card game. (Note, I make a distinction here (Dealer with a capital D refers to the card dealer, while dealer with the little d refers to the drug dealer). He has big plans to become the drummer for a big band, and even takes steps to try to get a job as one.

Eventually he meets up with old acquaintances and falls back into his old lifestyle. You are rooting for him to succeed, and unless you have an even more cynical mind than me, you will be disappointed when he starts down that path.

Eleanor Parker as Zosh, his wife, comes off as she was meant to be seen, as an extremely needy and selfish person. At the outset, you see her in a wheelchair, and gradually coto find out that she was injured in a car accident when Frankie was driving drunk. She is supposed to be permantly injured, but early in the movie we find that she actually can walk, but has kept it hidden from everyone, incuding Frankie.

Arnold Stang (who, by the way, only just passed away just before Christmas in 2009) will be immediately familiar character actor who appeared in many movies and TV shows of the era. He plays Frankie's best friend "Sparrow", a hustler. Also appearing are Darren McGavin (of Kolchak fame) as the dealer, and Kim Novak as Molly, a woman who has a caring interest in Frank, in direct opposition to how Zosh cares about him.

A number of other familiar faces appears as minor characters, but the one that kept me wondering was the character of Vi. You may, as I did, wonder where you've seen her before. A glance at IMDb, my default place for such puzzlers, failed to trigger a memory, but I imagine I have seen her in old TV shows.

The scenes where Frankie is dealing with his addiction are traumatic, so I suggest that this may be one you don't want to watch with the little ones, unless you want them up all night with questions or even nightmares. Sinatra was nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Actor on this one, but lost to Ernest Borgnine in Marty. Having seen both, I preferred Sinatra's performance, but I'm not a member of the Academy (in fact I wasn't even born yet then, but that's immaterial...)

I rate this one 3½ out of 5 stars.

1 comment:

Kurt Taylor said...

Frankie Machine. . .'The Winter of Frankie Machine' by Don Winslow? Did he steal that character from The Man With The Golden Arm?