When Frankie Machine (Frank Sinatra) comes back to the old neighborhood after a spell in the big house, he wants to stay straight and become a drummer. But his old life--as a poker dealer and heroin addict--comes rushing back to meet him. The subject matter of Nelson Algren's novel was still shocking in 1955, and The Man with the Golden Arm was released without the seal of approval from Hollywood's Production Code. The director, Otto Preminger, used the controversy to whip up interest in the film, and his championing of non-Code pictures such as The Moon Is Blue and The Man with the Golden Arm helped end the influence of the restrictive policy. For Frank Sinatra, the role was a high point; his performance is searching, honest, and (in long scenes of going cold turkey to kick the habit) frighteningly naked. He's touchingly matched with Kim Novak, in one of her best performances; adding a bit of method-acting madness is Eleanor Parker as Frankie's hysterical wife. Sinatra was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar, but lost to Ernest Borgnine--the same guy who beat him senseless in From Here to Eternity. The propulsive jazz score is by Elmer Bernstein. Even the credits sequence staked out new territory: the mod images created by Saul Bass were among his first in a long-standing collaboration with Preminger, and were highly influential on other designers. --Robert Horton
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