ages ago i decided i wanted to live in the 1950s based on two factors: movies and music (later i added clothing and furnishings to that short list). specifically i decided that 1957 would be the ideal year, based on the bachelor party (most awesome soundtrack ever, according to my dim memory), the man with the golden arm, and the release of on the road (i know, typical. whatever).
that was my "existential period" i guess. i do think the 1950s are completely under-appreciated as a decade - everyone thinks father knows best and the cleavers, and forgets the incredible jazz scene (1959 is acknowledged to be the greatest year ever musically, with the release of landmark records by miles davis, charles mingus, ornette coleman, john coltrane, etc.) and intellectual rumblings without which the 1960s would never have happened. rosa parks took a seat in 1955. and what is truly amazing, is that the intellectual movements of the time were noticed by popular culture - cf funny face (which also came out in 1957). no way would any of the big studios today make a film that acknowledged the underground.
but i digress.
the man with the golden arm blew my mind away in particular because i was never a huge fan of sinatra (i think most of his appeal should rightly be credited to nelson riddle) and was not expecting such an amazing performance (oscar-nominated) and such an amazing score (also oscar-nominated). it is the story of frankie machine, a musician and heroin addict just out of jail and trying to escape his old career of dealing cards along with all his other bad habits. released in 1955, it is the first in a slough of ground-breaking american films that even today make you stop and think they were allowed to put this on screen back then? it was the man with the golden arm along with a few other films which forced the motion picture association of america to dismantle the production code that had meant decades of married couples sleeping in twin beds etc. i remember the first time i watched the philadelphia story with my dad - halfway through, i said that i was rooting for jimmy stewart's reporter character to get the girl, and my dad said it was impossible - she was divorced, ergo could not end up with anyone but her ex-husband - otherwise it would imply that she might have sex with more than one person in her life. when the mpaa code changed, all of a sudden there was an influx of films like golden arm and bachelor party and lolita - even my favourite xmas movie the apartment features extramarital sex as the main force driving the plot, and more importantly, fran kubelik is still considered a wholesome girl worthy of the protagonist's affections despite the fact that she has been carrying on with a married man.
ok i think this post is getting too long. this is the film part of filmcraft; tomorrow i'll get to the craft.
meanwhile, enjoy the gorgeous title sequence.