Saturday 21 January 2023

Movie Review: The Man With The Golden Arm (1955)

Genre: Addiction Drama
Director: Otto Preminger
Starring: Frank Sinatra, Eleanor Parker, Kim Novak
Running Time: 119 minutes

Synopsis: Frankie Machine (Frank Sinatra) returns to his old neighbourhood after a six month addiction treatment stint. An ace card dealer for back-alley poker games, he now wants to stay clean and become a jazz drummer. His bitter and clingy wife Sophia (Eleanor Parker) is confined to a wheelchair and hiding a secret, but Frankie has a warmer relationship with his downstairs neighbour Molly (Kim Novak). Frankie finds it difficult to resist bad influences and is soon pressured back into old habits.

What Works Well: Screenwriter Walter Newman and director Otto Preminger create a hypnotic down-and-out litter-strewn neighbourhood corner dominated by the local bar and neon signs for gaudy nightclubs. This is not an environment for kicking an addiction habit, and unsurprisingly Frankie's good intentions are threatened by well-entrenched sleazoids, from his wife to the local drug peddler (Darren McGavin) and the poker game organizer (Robert Strauss). Frank Sinatra finds a career peak, throwing himself into an addition ordeal with admirable zest. Elmer Bernstein's music and Saul Bass' opening credit sequence are both iconic.

What Does Not Work As Well: The outdoor set is clearly studio-bound on the RKO lot, and Frankie's up-and-down cycles are a bit repetitive.

Conclusion: A gritty and compelling humanization of addiction's stranglehold.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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