Frank Sinatra was the first pop star of all-time and unlike most pop stars turned actors he actually was a very accomplished actor. The Man with the Golden Arm was one of only two films he was nominated for best actor, the other was From Here to Eternity which he famously won. Otto Preminger helmed the film and it remains one of the most shinning achievements in a career of many classic films.
It’s also the first film to seriously tackle the issue of drug addiction instead of the more standard dope fiend caricature prevalent at the time . Sinatra plays the recently released Frankie Machine from prison who has kicked his heroin habit. Despite his attempts to go clean including becoming a jazz drummer, staying off the horse is a lot harder than he thought it would be. It’s based off the novel by Nelson Algren who was nicknamed “the bard of the down and out”.
The year it came out is 1955 so film noir is still in its classic period and The Man with the Golden Arm certainly has traces of noir in its narrative. The film climaxes with a man hunt for Frankie as a suspect of murder, Preminger made his name in making noirs like Laura and Fallen Angel. The film also works as a fascinating document of the first signs of drug use in the culture, it wasn’t really till the ’60s drug use amongst the population became part of the discussion. Drugs before the ’60s were something jazz musicians and Bohemians did but rarely made the news.
Sinatra did his research for the role by studying addicts going cold turkey in rehab centres. He agreed to do the film without even reading the script and Marlon Brando was also considered. Brando who beat Sinatra to On The Waterfront, they were not friendly and Old Blues eyes signed on before Brando had the chance. Sinatra gives it his all and certainly nails the desperation of a man trying to stay off smack but also nails the lure of going back on the H. Kim Novak plays a ex-lover of Machine and gives a solid supporting performance.
The film has become probably most iconic for its credits by Saul Bass who also was responsible for the poster design. The theme by Elmer Bernstein is equally iconic and has been covered by many artists on the years. It remains a document of a bygone era where drugs were not as common place as they are now and boosts some performances, a noir tinged plot and oscar nominated cinematography by Sam Leavitt who also shot Preminger’s Anatomy of a Murder.
The film has been in public domain hell for years but Network has released a nice clean transfer with decent sound which is marked improvement over any previous DVD.
Genre: |Distributor:Network |Release Date: 22nd June 2015 (UK) | Rating: 15 | Director:Otto Preminger | Cast: Frank Sinatra, Kim Novak, Eleanor Parker, Darren McGavin, Arnold Stang |Buy: [Blu-ray]