Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

29 July 2012

The Man with the Golden...

Has anyone noticed the gay subtext in The Man with the Golden Arm? Surely essays must've been written about this before.

Frank Sinatra is a drug-addicted poker dealer, but the way director Otto Preminger frames the drug use in the film is always in this erotic way. For one, the dope dealer always injects the heroin for Frank, and this means that they're A) always doing drugs together and B) that they're in a small room with the shades pulled. It's all very erotic. And because the dealer is trying to get Frank hooked again, he keeps saying things like "I'll be waiting" and "Just come up to my place" and "You know you want it." It's exactly like an affair.

So late in the film, Frank is dying for a fix, and he barges in on the dealer (played by Darren McGavin) and because I'm all into this subtext, I'm chuckling to myself about how sexy the whole thing is.

McGavin and Sinatra have just come back from some card game that lasted like twenty-eight hours or something, and McGavin is tired and undressing in the room, while Frank, going totally out of his mind for the fix, is rolling up his sleeves. At the same time, McGavin (who is obviously the villain in this film) is gloating, saying things like "oh, wow, it wears off quickly for you now," and "we'll have to try something new" or something to that effect.

And I'm thinking, all that needs to happen now is for McGavin to take his shirt off and Frank to promise him sex. And then:


I mean, the drugs are not really a metaphor for homosexual sex in The Man with the Golden Arm as much as they are the same thing as homosexual sex.

And as soon as Darren McGavin is out of the picture (permanently) Frank is able to kick his drug habit. He wasn't a sucker for the drugs so much as he was a sucker for what McGavin had to offer.

Someone else has to have written about this.

Incidentally, you can watch this movie in its entirety for free online, but you should start with the totally awesome opening credits sequence by Saul Bass:


And check out the entirety of the all-jazz score here if you have Spotify.