The Man with the Golden Arm (1955)

The Man with the Golden Arm
Frank Sinatra as Frankie Machine

'The Man with the Golden Arm' is a dramatic film made in 1955, directed by Otto Preminger and starring Frank Sinatra, Eleanor Parker and Kim Novak. The movie deals with the - until then - forbidden subject of drug dependency. It is based on a 1949 novel of the same name by Nelson Algren, which won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1950.

The movie was critically well received as a powerful condemnation of drug addiction and received Oscar nominations for Best Art Direction (Black and White) and Best Music (Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture) as well as a Best Actor nomination for Frank Sinatra.

The film's memorable score, which was Elmer Bernstein's first attempt in his long career, at composing a jazz score, became a best-selling record, and is considered by many critics to be one of the best and most influential film scores of the period.


Frank Sinatra plays Frankie Machine, an ex poker dealer (the "golden arm") and reformed drug addict who has just been released from prison. He returns to his wife Zosh, played by Eleanor Parker and accidentally meets an old flame, Molly, played by Kim Novak, who works in a local clip joint as a hostess. Frankie has ambition to become a professional drummer but Zosh, a bitter nag, wants him to resume his poker playing. Frankie slides back into drug dependency and becomes a suspect in the murder of a drug dealer.


Screen Rights
The screen rights to Nelson Algren's novel were originally purchased by producer Bob Roberts on behalf of actor, John Garfield. He intended to make a movie starring Garfield and directed by Robert Aldrich. From the start Roberts had problems with the Production Code Administration (PCA) whose director, Joseph Breen, told him that the subject matter of drug addiction and illegal drug traffic was unacceptable.

Algren himself considered Garfield to be the ideal actor to play Frankie Machine, but Garfield, under great strain from the HUAC hearings, died of a heart attack in May, 1952.

In 1955 Otto Preminger purchased the movie rights from Garfield's estate and entered an agreement with United Artists to produce and distribute it. Preminger had continuing problems with the PCA throughout the film's production, and he and United Artists made the decision to release the finished movie without a Code seal, as they had previously done,successfully, with their movie 'The Moon is Blue' in 1953. It was not until June, 1961 that the PCA granted both 'The Moon is Blue' and 'The Man with the Golden Arm' the seal of approval which they had initially refused.

William Holden, Montgomery Clift and Marlon Brando were all considered for the role of Frankie. Similarly Barbara Bel-Geddes was considered for one of the main female roles until Eleanor Parker and Kim Novak were borrowed from M-G-M and Columbia respectively. Sinatra had a reputation for disliking rehearsals and during the shoot he was persuaded by Preminger, whom he liked, to rehearse each scene, and he found that he enjoyed it. He was particularly considerate of Kim Novak who, as a new actor, was exceptionally nervous.
Preminger had originally considered shooting the film in color but eventually opted for black and white. Shooting began on background footage in Chicago in October, 1955. Apart from these shots, the entire movie was shot on a soundstage. Top jazz drummer Shelly Manne worked as an adviser to director Otto Preminger and and also tutored Frank Sinatra.

Main Cast

Frank Sinatra ... Frankie "Dealer" Machine
Eleanor Parker ... Zosh Machine
Kim Novak ... Molly
Arnold Stang ... Sparrow
Darren McGavin ... Louie Fomorowski
Robert Strauss ... Zero Schwiefka
John Conte ... Drunky John
Doro Merande ... Vi
George E. Stone ... Sam Markette
George Mathews ... Williams
Leonid Kinskey ... Dominowski
Emile Meyer ... Detective Bednar
Shorty Rogers ... bandleader at audition
Shelly Manne ... drummer at audition

Frank Sinatra (1915-98)
Sinatra became a show business legend. He sang to packed out venues everywhere. He started out a teenage heartthrob as bobbysoxers swooned but he was more than just an overnight sensation, much more. He became the most famous performer in the world and his recordings continue to appeal to audiences of all ages today. He also became an accomplished actor, winning an Academy Award for his performance in 1953 in 'From Here To Eternity'. During his life Sinatra developed a lifestyle reputation for fast-living. He was seen as a man about town, with a tough guy image that earned him the nickname "The Chairman of the Board." In the 1960's he was the acknowledged leader of the Hollywood 'Rat Pack' which included Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and others.
Musically he was beloved and admired as he developed a warm, heartfelt style of interpreting standards like Come Fly With Me, New York, New York, All the Way, and Strangers in the Night . He is undoubtedly one of the 20th Century's major influences on popular music.
Eleanor Parker(1922-2013)
Eleanor Parker was an American actress of great depth and versatility who appeared in many movies and television series over 5 decades from 1941. During the 1950's she was nominated three times for the Best Actress Academy Award. Her best remembered role is as Baroness Elsa Schrader in 'The Sound of Music' in 1965.
Kim Novak (b. 1933)
Novak made her movie debut in 1954 and within a year had her first starring role in '5 Against the House'. After her successful appearance in 'The Man with the Golden Arm', she appeared again with Frank Sinatra in the smash hit 'Pal Joey' in 1957. Her other major hit was 'Vertigo' in 1958. Although she was now one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, she opted out in the mid 1960's not feeling comfortable in the Hollywood lifestyle. She retired to her ranch in Big Sur, California, where she bred horses and concentrated on her poetry and painting.


Director ... Otto Preminger
Producer ... Otto Preminger
Screenplay ... Walter Newman, Lewis Meltzer
Story by ... Nelson Algren (novel) Music ... Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography ... Sam Leavitt
Format ... B & W
Distributed by United Artists
Release date ... December 15, 1955
Running time ... 119 minutes

Academy Awards

No Wins:
Three Unsuccessful Nominations:
Best Actor ... Frank Sinatra
Best Art Direction (Black and White) ... Joseph C. Wright, Darrell Silvera
Best Music (Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture) ... Elmer Bernstein