The Man With the Golden Arm Reviews
Frank Sinatra playing the lead character - good.
Art direction - good.
Music score - good.
Characters and character interactions - good.
It's so disappointing that the film starts on such a promising high only for it to spiral downward into slow derivative melodrama by the end.
Overall, the film's good qualities are enough to make it a passable experience, but man is it a disappointment.
The Man with the Golden Arm is notable for being one of the first films to deal with the drug heroin as a serious topic with a legitimate approach to the material. As today's cinema has drugs and prostitution being exposed to people at seriously early ages, the effect of the film is likely to be very different to films of today's age, so it is surely a dated film. Also, the pace of the film is very slow for a film which runs at its extensive length, so it is unlikely to leave a massive impact on viewers anymore. But this does not necessarily mean that the film is bad. It just means that it is a dated one.
The depiction of the world of crime is a gritty one. It might not be as raw as you might hope, but considering the standard for movies back in the day it certainly had more edge than the average. Using an intense atmosphere as part of the driving force which is enhanced by the subtle but effective musical score of the film. While its visual cosntraints are limited, in terms of storytelling The Man with the Golden Arm is able to make a compelling case. It is strong because the script takes an insightful look into the harsh reality of being a heroin junkie. It combines the focus of this into the story about how protagonist Frankie "Dealer" Machine is actively fighting the addiction. While its focus on narrative is a lot lesser in quality than how it depicts him facing his addiction, The Man with the Golden Arm still remains an intense and well-crafted film with intense atmosphere and a strong script. It's a film not too much about narrative but more so about characters. And in that sense it certainly succeeds under direction from Otto Preminger who is able to harness the material in the script very well as well as giving the film as stylish touch. Otto Preminger incorporates all the traditional elements of a classical film style into The Man with the Golden Arm by giving the film a nice art design and capturing it along with the convincing scenery of the film through use of strong cinematography. Otto Preminger works to ensure that everything in The Man with the Golden Arm looks good, and it succeeds which means that the film is a fair treat on the eyes as well as on the ears. He handles the material very well all while maintaining the strength of Walter Newman and Lewis Meltzer's screenplay and giving it the appropriate edge. Otto Preminger's firm direction of the film allows it to develop on its own but ensures that it is consistently being steered in the right direction, and he manages to ensure that the atmosphere is effective and that each scene is dramatized appropriately without him having to force it at all. Admittedly, there are a lot of archetypes in the film and stereotypical story elements, but as a whole they are acceptable in terms of how they contribute to characterising protagonist Frankie "Dealer" Machine.
But anyone can tell you that it is what the cast delivers to The Man with the Golden Arm which determines precisely how good it is as a whole.
Frank Sinatra's leading performance is what makes The Man with the Golden Arm engaging. While the narrative is not always interesting, Frank Sinatra keeps it tied together at heart because his role as Frankie "Dealer" Machine demands that he be spot on in terms of both emotional tension and physical dedication. Without trouble, he gets the part right in both areas which has him making a compelling lead effort that leaves audiences easily sympathising for him. Frank Sinatra faces the job of carrying the entire film because it all really centres around his performance as a recovering heroin addict, and considering the overall quality of his performance it is thoroughly impressive in just how much it can do. He is thoroughly involved with the rough edged material and is not afraid to tell the truth in his performance, and so the kind of suffering he projects in the mindset of Frankie "Dealer" Machine is really grasping. Frank Sinatra takes on the leading role in The Man with the Golden Arm with dramatic passion and tenacity which really does turn it into one of his best performances to date. It is certainly one of his most challenging roles, and yet he takes it on so easily that it is difficult not to admire, so it is a definite fact that Frank Sinatra's leading performance in The Man with the Golden Arm is the finest asset of the film.
Eleanor Parker is also great. In one of her more notable performances, she shares a passionate chemistry with Frank Sinatra which makes the film more compelling due to the connection they share. Her charm is all there, and her dramatic passion is really firm since she deals with the material in a sophisticated and dedicated fashion. Her supporting role is pivotal, and she works really hard to justify her casting by really giving it her all. Eleanor Parker proves what her best dramatic talents are all about in The Man with the Golden Arm by creating a sympathetic and strong supporting character which makes the effect of the film all the more stronger.
Kim Novak also does a nice job in one of her much earlier screen appearances. She engages with Frank Sinatra very well and holds her own very well by proving early on in her career just what she is all about as an actress.
So despite being a dated film with a slow pace and a focus more on characters than on narrative, The Man with the Golden Arm is a gritty and powerful depiction of heroin addiction anchored by an exceptional leading performance from Frank Sinatra in one of the finest of his career.