The Man With the Golden Arm

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86%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 21
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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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Critic Reviews for The Man With the Golden Arm

All Critics (21) | Top Critics (5)

  • The film is a pretty good picture show, as we used to say, but anyone who has read Nelson Algren's wonderfully poetic novel is likely to make invidious comparisons and be otherwise distracted.

    Jan 23, 2013 | Full Review…
  • A gripping, fascinating film, expertly produced and directed and performed with marked conviction by Frank Sinatra as the drug slave.

    Oct 23, 2007 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • Frank Sinatra, as the drug-addicted poker dealer, plays a reasonably naturalistic character, but he's surrounded by a collection of bizarre archetypes.

    Oct 23, 2007 | Full Review…
  • There are some great scenes, though, notably Sinatra's audition for a make-or-break drumming job, and the later scene where he suffers cold turkey in Novak's apartment.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…
    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • In short, for all the delicacy of the subject and for all the pathological shivers in a couple of scenes, there is nothing very surprising or exciting about The Man With the Golden Arm.

    May 20, 2003 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • An unflinchingly humane work of enormous importance.

    Jul 6, 2015 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

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