Frank Sinatra will always be best remembered for his silky voice and suits to match, belting out Rat Pack classics alongside Sammy and Dean in music halls across America. There was a time, however, when Ol` Blue Eyes was also known for his acting skills, starring not only in the classic musical Guys and Dolls, but also such greats as The Manchurian Candidate, Ocean’s Eleven, and the sublime The Man With The Golden Arm.
Based on Nelson Algren`s 1949 novel of the same name, The Man With The Golden Arm tells the tale of card dealer and recovering heroin addict Frankie Machine (Sinatra) as he attempts to straighten his life out and secure a reputable job as a nightclub drummer. His plans are hindered by his controlling wife (played by a neurotic and manipulative Eleanor Parker, who shall always be remembered for her turn as the frumpy baroness in The Sound of Music), supposedly confined to a wheelchair as she forever holds a grudge towards her husband for his polygamous ways and for causing the accident that initially put her in the chair.
In his search for success and sobriety, Frankie finds solace in his former lover Molly (the timelessly beautiful Kim Novak) before finally and tragically succumbing to the monkey on his back. The film caused a scandal on its release for its groundbreaking portrayal of drug addiction, and was initially refused approval by the MPAA before finally being released a year later when the board`s regulations changed, allowing the depiction of vice on screen. Nowadays, when compared to films such as Trainspotting and Requiem for a Dream, The Man With The Golden Arm feels rather pedestrian, though one cannot help but think that McGregor`s iconic cold turkey scene wasn’t at least partially inspired by Sinatra`s gripping comedown scene towards the end of the film, a scene which secured him a nomination for Best Actor in the 1956 Oscars.
Interestingly, however, it was not Sinatra that was director Otto Preminger`s first choice for the role; Marlon Brando was all set to take the lead, but before he was able to sign the contract, Sinatra jumped in and swept the part from under his feet. With this knowledge in mind, one does wonder how very different the film would be with Stanley Kowalski at the helm.
Sixty years after its release, The Man With The Golden Arm stands the test of time. Its themes of betrayal and addiction, though portrayed much more gently than they would be today, are still relevant in the modern world. With a fantastic cast and an Oscar nominated score by the legendary Elmer Bernstein, its transfer to glorious Blu Ray means that The Man With The Golden Arm will continue to glimmer for a new generation of film fans.
Dir: Otto Preminger
Scr: Walter Newman and Lewis Meltzer
Starring: Frank Sinatra, Kim Novak, Eleanor Parker, Arnold Stang
Prd: Otto Preminger
DOP: Sam Leavitt
Music: Elmer Bernstein
Run Time: 119mins
The Man With the Golden Arm is available on Blu-Ray and DVD from 22 June 2015 via Network Distribution