Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Man With the Golden Arm (1955)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Title Sequence - a Jagged or Crooked Forearm

The Man With the Golden Arm (1955)

In director Otto Preminger's code-defying, daring, ground-breaking, powerful drama about heroin addiction, with bleak film noirish elements and a memorable jazz score from Elmer Bernstein, based upon Nelson Algren's 1949 best-selling novel - it was the first major Hollywood film about the very taboo subject:

  • the opening title sequence was a revolutionary, minimalist, animated, artistic Saul Bass Title Credits sequence that first displayed stabbing white lines (representing needles, or a drummer's drum sticks), and then a paper cut-out of a jagged, bent, twisted (or crooked) and deconstructed forearm that moved downward (a symbol of addiction)
  • in the late 1940s, Frankie "Dealer" Machine (Majcinek) (Academy Award-nominated Frank Sinatra), a rehabilitated prison-hospital ex-con, returned to his slummy and squalid Chicago neighborhood after serving 6-months time at the federal Narcotic Farm-Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky; his nickname "Dealer" was due to his professional and lucrative poker dealing skill; during his time served for not squealing when he "took the rap" for illegal gambling, he had learned to play the drums, and was now an aspiring big-band jazz drummer; he bragged that his drum teacher had told him he had "arms made of pure gold"
  • Frankie was determined to restore his life to order after becoming clean in prison: (his first words were: "The monkey's gone...I kicked it"), but immediately he began to fall back into his old habits by first visiting his favorite bar hang-out - Antek's Tug 'n' Maul Tavern - next door to where he lived
  • an assortment of characters surrounded Frankie's demise into being tempted back into using drugs again: his oily and smarmy, dandified drug dealer supplier "Nifty Louie" Fomorowski (Darren McGavin) with fixes of heroin, Frankie's small-time hoodlum, gambling boss and illicit card-game manager Zero Schwiefka (Robert Strauss) who immediately offered Frankie his old job ("Job's waitin'") and ultimately pressured the indebted and down-and-out Frankie to return to card-dealing sessions, and Frankie's mentally-challenged comic sidekick Sparrow (Arnold Stang) - a petty crook and hustler who had a side-business selling lost, homeless (stolen) dogs
Frankie's Old Group of Friends and Associates

Drug Dealer "Nifty Louie" Fomorowski (Darren McGavin)

Frankie with Sidekick Sparrow (Arnold Stang)

Frankie with Gambling Boss Zero Schwiefka (Robert Strauss)
  • in his tenement rooming-house apartment, Frankie met up with his dependent, neurotic, greedy and nagging wife - the lying and deceiving 25 year-old Sophia "Zosh" Machine (Eleanor Parker in an over-the-top performance), who welcomed him home; he boasted: "I'm clean....I kicked it for keeps"; she was allegedly crippled from spinal injuries and wheelchair bound (but was secretly faking being an invalid) after a car accident three years earlier when DUI Frankie was at the wheel; they were married in the hospital chapel, and since then, she was using her disability and helplessness as a means to manipulatively maintain Frankie's support by keeping him guilt-ridden; she urged him to continue gambling and dealing poker games with Schwiefka, and give up his hopes for a musical career: ("But you always deal. You're a dealer; you're the best dealer in the business"), but he told her: "No more. I'm a drummer now"
  • in the downstairs apartment hallway, Frankie was briefly reacquainted with his neighbor - ex-flame and Club Safari stripclub/bar hostess/mistress Molly Novotny (Kim Novak) (with a heart of gold); during Frankie's absence, she told him that she had taken on an alcoholic boyfriend named Drunkie Johnny (John Conte), a professional pool player (houseman) for a corrupt boss, to keep herself from being lonely
  • after the struggling and vulnerable Frankie was forced to return to dealing, he visited Molly-O (his endearing name for her) during her work in Club Safari; she encouraged him to fulfill his dream of becoming a drummer: ("You've got a natural rhythm") when he doubted himself, and thought his idea of a new stage name (Jack Duvall) was "swell"; the next day, Frankie met up with musical talent agent Harry Lane (Will Wright) who set him up in a week's time for a drumming audition with a band
Frankie's Friendship with Club Safari Bar-Girl Hostess Molly Novotny (Kim Novak), known as "Molly-O"
  • in the film's most devastating sequence, Frankie reverted to his addiction (presumably heroin) when he succumbed to becoming hooked again; drug-dealing Louie lured him to his apartment for just one fix (for $5 bucks), but knew what the disastrous results would be as he injected him - and told him: "Monkey's never dead, 'Dealer'. The monkey never dies. When you kick him off, he just hides in a corner waitin' his turn" - there were close-ups of Frankie's dilated eyes revealing that he had become high; however, Frankie vowed: "The monkey'll die waitin'. He ain't climbin' up on my back no more. Never again, I mean it"

$5 For a Fix

Frankie Shooting-Up with Drug Dealer Louie

While High, a Close-Up of Frankie's Eyes
  • Zosh continued to discourage Frankie from thinking he could make it as a drummer - she hid his drumsticks and told him: "There must be a million drummers play better than you do who can't get jobs"; meanwhile, Frankie admitted to Molly that he had just had one fix due to his addiction, but that he could control it: "There was a 40-pound monkey on my back. The only way to get along with a load like that is to keep leaning on a fix....I'm one of the lucky ones, Molly. I kicked it and I'm not too far hooked to kick it again. I've had my last fix"; and he became jubilant after joining the Musicians Union before a scheduled Monday audition to become a band-drummer
  • a marathon weekend poker game had been arranged by Schwiefka with two big-time gamblers Sam Markette (George E. Stone) and Williams (George Mathews); although the indebted Frankie knew that he could jeopardize his dreams to be a dummer, he agreed to deal after being threatened and offered $250 dollars, and was also enticed by Louie into one more fix to bolster his self-confidence and get him through the weekend; he also sought out a third fix after Molly protested that he had reverted back to drug use and stormed off in a taxi (to rent an apartment elsewhere)
  • the lengthy weekend gambling session culminated with the strung-out, careless and exhausted Frankie, who had begged for a 4th fix, returning to deal on Sunday morning and remaining until early the next morning; when Frankie was tempted by Louie to resort to cheating by palming cards (in exchange for the promise of another fix), he was caught and beaten up; the duplicitous Schwiefka denounced Frankie and fired him ("You don't deal for me no more") as the game broke up; Frankie barged into Louie's place desperate for another injection, but when he was denied any more fixes, Frankie knocked Louie out and searched the apartment for drugs without finding anything
Frankie's Marathon Weekend Poker Game
Frankie Caught Palming Cards
  • after the long weekend without sleep, Frankie rushed to attend the Monday audition try-out arranged by musical talent agent Harry Lane (Will Wright); he was hoping to find work as a jazz drummer in bandleader Milton "Shorty" Rogers’ (as Himself) group, but experienced a devastating breakdown while heavily sweating and trembling (with debilitating withdrawal symptoms); he couldn't keep the beat, knew he had failed, and slinked away
  • Louie entered Frankie's apartment to seek revenge, and discovered that Zosh was faking her disability when he saw her walking around - he realized that she had only been pretending to be an invalid: ("You can walk. Since when?"); she retaliated with intense hysteria and pushed Louie to his death down the stairwell, because she feared that he would ruin her life by divulging the truth that she was a phony; Zosh then reported the death to Captain Bednar (Emile Meyer), and implicitly blamed and incriminated Frankie for the crime
  • after seeming to lose all hope, Frankie sought out Molly who had moved to another apartment and begged her for money for another fix - but she adamantly refused: ("Jump off a roof if you're gonna kill yourself, but don't ask me to help ya...You mustn't take that dirty stuff no more"); when she heard from Johnny that Frankie was the target of a man-hunt, she first sarcastically offered the newly-addicted Frankie to accept a wad of money (that would never be enough for more fixes), and/or turn himself in and surrender to the police: ("Why should you hurt, like other people hurt? Yes, so you had a dog's life with never a break. Why try to face it like most people do? No, just roll up all your pains into one big hurt, and then flatten it with a fix...Go on let him [Bednar] kill ya. Let him kill ya. It'll be quicker and better than doing it your way")
  • after Frankie responded that he wouldn't give himself up: "I won't let him kill me," she further challenged him to go "cold turkey" so that he could clearly answer questions when the police would predictably question him; Frankie decided with Molly - in a sensational and painful sequence, to detoxify himself: ("Here we go, down and dirty"); Molly kept Frankie locked in her room (after bundling up all sharp objects); at one point, she had to lock him in a closet to prevent him from suicidally jumping to his death; she also helped him to beat his habit (by keeping him from quivering, writhing, and feeling cold with blankets and the warmth of her own body); after a few days, he was again sober ("I feel like all the things inside me have settled into place")
Frankie Going Cold-Turkey in Molly's Apartment Room
  • in the final concluding twist in the film, Zosh was confronted by Frankie in their apartment who informed her that he was leaving to get away from all the tempting things that had lured him back into being a junkie: ("I got in the same old routine and before I knew it I was on it again"); and he admitted he could no longer be burdened with guilt; she objected and accusingly suspected he wanted to be with Molly: ("I know what's pullin' you away, Molly...You're only goin' just so you can be with that little tramp")
  • at the same instant that Zosh chased after Frankie to beg him not to leave, she forgetfully stood up; her self-incrimination was witnessed by Frankie, and by Captain Bednar and Molly who arrived at the door; obviously, she had been fraudulently stringing everyone along; before Zosh could be arrested by Captain Bednar, she fled from the apartment, blew her distress whistle around her neck, and committed suicide by throwing herself off the balcony onto the brick street below
  • her death freed Frankie to possibly live a cleaner life with Molly (in the tagged-on and contrived happy ending different from the source novel)

Ex-Con Frankie Machine's (Frank Sinatra) Return to His Chicago Neighborhood

Frankie's Crippled Wife "Zosh" (Eleanor Parker) - A Welcome-Home for Frankie

Frankie Made to Be Dependent By Zosh

Frankie's Ex-Flame, Downstairs Neighbor Molly (Kim Novak)

Frankie Briefly Incarcerated for Shoplifting

Musical Talent Agent Harry Lane (Will Wright)

Frankie's Breakdown During a Jazz Drumming Audition for a Band

Louie's Shocking Discovery Of Zosh's Faked Illness: ("You can walk. Since when?")

Zosh Pushing Louie To His Death Down Her Apartment's Stairwell

Molly to Frankie When He Begged For Money For a Fix: ("You mustn't take that dirty stuff no more")

After Going "Cold Turkey", Frankie's Grateful Kiss for Molly

Zosh Begging for Frankie to Not Leave Her

Zosh Incriminating Herself by Standing Up

Blowing Whistle - In Distress

Zosh's Suicide - Throwing Herself Off The Apartment's Balcony to Her Death


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