The Man with the Golden Arm (1955)
Reviewed on 2007 April 13
For 1955, this was some dark stuff. Add some wonderful acting and you have a movie people still talk about more than a half-century later.
Frankie Machine (Frank Sinatra) is a recovering drug addict who wants nothing more than to put his past behind him and pursue a career as a drummer. He still has two monkeys on his back — his heroin addiction and his clingy, wheel-chair bound wife, Zosch (Eleanor Parker). You can argue he had a third monkey, if you count the slimy Louie (Darren McGavin), who wants to keep Frankie shackled as a dealer to his illegal casino and to drugs. Louie just wants Frankie to make money for his house, and Zosch is fearful that a gig as a drummer will lead Frankie away from her. The only help he seems to get is from a punk named Sparrow (Arnold Stang) and Molly (Kim Novak), a former girlfriend. They seem to genuinely care about Frankie but even they may not be enough to help him beat the odds.
Sinatra was amazing here; he really looked trapped and you could feel the pressure of a man trying to recover when everyone and everything seemed against him. Louie’s character may have been one-dimensional but he was still a convincing villian. The other characters had a convincing depth; Sparrow may have been a petty thief but at least he was loyal. Otto Preminger created a realistic, dark, urban world and really showed nerve making this movie during the Fifties. Most movies age, but this one did it gracefully.
Three chocolate morsels and a glass of cold water.