The Man With the Golden Arm (1955) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Man With the Golden Arm1955

The Man With the Golden Arm (1955)



Critic Consensus: The Man with the Golden Arm is a difficult watch, but it's held together by Frank Sinatra's impressively committed work in the title role.

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Movie Info

When Otto Preminger was willing to release his drug-addiction drama Man With the Golden Arm without the sanction of a Production Code seal, it proved to be yet another nail in the coffin of that censorial dinosaur. Based on the novel by Nelson Algren, the film stars Frank Sinatra as Frankie Machine, expert card dealer (hence the title). Recently released from prison, Frankie is determined to set his life in order -- and that means divesting himself of his drug habit. He dreams of becoming a jazz drummer, but his greedy wife Eleanor Parker wants him to continue his lucrative gambling activities. Since Parker is confined to a wheelchair as a result of a car accident caused by Frankie, he's in no position to refuse. Only the audience knows that Parker is not crippled, but is faking her invalid status to keep Frankie under her thumb. Gambling boss Robert Strauss wants Frankie to deal at a high-stakes poker game; terrified that he's lost his touch, Frankie asks dope pusher Darren McGavin to supply him with narcotics. When McGavin discovers that Parker is not an invalid, she kills him, and Frankie (who is elsewhere at the time) is accused of the murder. He is willing to go to the cops, but he doesn't want to show up with drugs in his system. So with the help of sympathetic B-girl Kim Novak, Sinatra locks himself up and goes "cold turkey"-a still-harrowing sequence, despite the glut of "doper" films that followed in the wake of this picture. After Parker herself is killed in a suicidal fall, the path is cleared for Frankie to pursue a clean new life with Novak.

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Frank Sinatra
as Frankie Machine
Eleanor Parker
as Zosch Machine
Kim Novak
as Molly
Arnold Stang
as Sparrow
Robert Strauss
as Schwiefka
John Conte
as Drunky
George E. Stone
as Sam Markette
Emile G. Meyer
as Inspector Bednar
Shelly Manne
as Himself
Leonid Kinskey
as Dr. Dominowski
Ralph Neff
as Chester
Ernest Raboff
as Bird-Dog
Leonard Bremen
as Taxi Driver
Paul E. Burns
as Suspenders
Charles Seel
as Proprietor
Tommy Hart
as Kvorka
Joe McTurk
as Meter Reader
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Critic Reviews for The Man With the Golden Arm

All Critics (59) | Top Critics (23)

The scene in which Sinatra writhes and screams in pain and delirium is one of the most shocking I have ever seen on the screen. But it is strong and effective, and, I believe, justifiable.

December 22, 2020 | Full Review…

This dramatization of Nelson Algren's novel provides a sometimes revolting, sometimes dreary excursion into the lives of a full set of American lower-depths characters.

December 22, 2020 | Full Review…

Sinatra gives a perfect portrayal of a man pulled out of line by forces stronger than he. Torn between his dream of a new life and the insidious circumstances of the old, Frankie is caught like a rat in a maze.

December 22, 2020 | Full Review…

Saul Bass's credit titles are as brilliant as one might expect after Carmen Jones but this is an unattractive film: not because the subject is painful, but because [Preminger], with his thorough skill, shows himself so profoundly insensitive to its pain.

December 22, 2020 | Full Review…

It's not a pretty picture, but it packs a lot of punch.

December 22, 2020 | Full Review…

The man who thinks The Man With the Golden Arm is apt to encourage would-be addicts just hasn't seen the picture yet. A better idea would be to show the film at high school assemblies. It's enough to discourage that first joy pop we hear about so often.

December 22, 2020 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Man With the Golden Arm

the film that changed the production code; it's hard to imagine the impact this must have had on movie audiences in 1955. the novel's super bleak ending was changed to be somewhat moralistic but hipster cool, the driving jazz score, plus sinatra's knock out performance make up for that imo. even novak is great and she's never really impressed me

Stella Dallas
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

Decent but not great movie about a ex-junkie and how he got sucked back into his habit. I'm not a Sinatra fan, but he did OK as heroin addict Frankie Machine. The title refers to Johnny's job, which is a card dealer for illegal card games. Eleanor Powell plays Johnny's wife, who is in a wheelchair because of an accident that was Johnny's fault. Kim Novak plays Johnny's mistress with her usual stiff as a board portrayal (I'm not a Novak fan either) . I'm so used to Eleanor Powell playing strong women, that seeing her playing a weakling (although not as weak as she first appears...heheh) was interesting. Her performance reminded me a great deal of Joan Crawford in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, which wouldn't be for another seven years. Could Joan have based her protrayal on Powell's? My main complaint about this film is that it seems to be two films edited together. We have the carddealer/heroin addict story, and then we have the love triangle between Johnny, his crippled wife and Molly. They only slightly seem to be connected. I can't say that this film made me any more of a fan of either Sinatra or Novak, but I don't consider it a waste of time either.

Cindy I
Cindy I

Super Reviewer

This is basically an overwrought melodramatic depiction of hard drug abuse (one of the first in cinema, I believe). It's a little tame by today's standards, but it features really good performances and an excellent score by Elmer Bernstein. I give it a B-.

Chris Weber
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

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