Sinatra, Novak, and Preminger Remember Golden Arm

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In 1955, Hollywood studios were still in the grip of the Motion Picture Production Code. Also referred to as the Hays Code, this set of industry guidelines dictated what was appropriate for films to show. Studios adhered to these rules, for the most part, so that their movies would get the stamp of approval. 

For this reason, studios didn't want to take the chance on adapting the novel, The Man with the Golden Arm, despite its critical acclaim. Drug abuse was integral to the story, and the MPPC wouldn't approve such a film. Without that approval, it was feared the film would tank at the box office. 

Director Otto Preminger, however, was determined to make this film. So, he decided to independently produce an adaptation and release it without their approval. Despite the controversy, the film was a success and earned Frank Sinatra another Academy Award nomination.

Below Sinatra, Preminger, and Kim Novak remember The Man with the Golden Arm.

1. Sinatra on the story.

“When I read the script, I thought this is a great piece of work, and it’s going to be tough to do."

2. Sinatra on prepping for the role.

“I got permission to watch a kid who was in the dryout position in a padded cell... They were drying him out, and he was trying to knock the walls down. I watched through a peephole, even though it was against the law. The poor kid was out of his head. I couldn’t handle it. To see the actual thing was scary, but it helped me when we started shooting. I knew what I wanted to do.”

3. Preminger on Sinatra's relationship with Novak.

“He was very compassionate about Kim’s nervousness. He never complained and never made Kim feel that he was losing patience through any of it, even when we had to do key scenes over because of her anxiety.”

4. Novak on working with Sinatra.

“My feeling toward Frank is one of admiration. He has seen so much that it is very interesting to be with him and with his friends. They’re bright, alert, and sharp – just as he is. The only way I could work with him on Man With the Golden Arm was to know him only as the man he was playing. That way I could feel sorry for him and give him the sympathy which was needed. As soon as I walked on the set each day, I purposefully forgot that we were friends.”

5. Sinatra on working with Preminger.

“I would tease [Preminger] tremendously, and he really loved it because nobody wanted to get involved with him because they were afraid he would chew them up. I had a lot of fun with Otto about his wonderful accent… I would ape him, and he would say, ‘I don’t talk that vay. Vy are you speaking that vay vith me?’”