17 December 2004 | Snow Leopard
Solid Drama, & An Acting Triumph For Sinatra
A solid drama to begin with, "The Man With the Golden Arm" is particularly worthwhile for Frank Sinatra's performance as Frankie Machine. The movie was well-conceived, and it would probably have been worth seeing with any decent lead, but Sinatra makes it even better. The story is interesting and at times compelling, as Frankie struggles against himself and his circumstances.
The story is told from the viewpoint of its era, yet the basic elements are timeless enough that the story still holds up very well. The details of Frankie's situation are less important than the general themes of him battling his own desires while also contending against "friends" who simply want to use him for their own purposes.
Sinatra was good at this kind of role, as a character with his own inner demons who must also face hostile surroundings. He channels his nervous energy into expressions and gestures that convey well what is going on inside him. The actor Sinatra deserves to be remembered for roles like this one and his roles in "The Manchurian Candidate" and "From Here to Eternity", rather than for the insubstantial 'Rat Pack' features.
The supporting cast have simpler roles, but they do their jobs satisfactorily. The story moves at a good pace, and it is complemented by an Elmer Bernstein score which, though sometimes jarring, is appropriate. The combination works well as a whole.