The Lost Weekend (1945), Guilty Bystander (1950), The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), I'll Cry Tomorrow (1955), Stakeout On Dope Street (1958) Days of Wine and Roses (1962), all films about addiction of one sort or another. There are probably even more that have drug addicted characters, but under the Motion Picture Production Code in the 1940s they probably just alluded to it very vaguely. Jeff Corey's "Blinky" character in The Killers (1946) was a junkie for one that I can think of, off the top of my head, though it was never mentioned.
Directed by Fred Zinnemann (Act of Violence (1949), High Noon (1952)). Written by Michael V. Gazzo, Alfred Hayes, and Carl Foreman and based on Michael V.Gazzo's play of the same name. Cinematography was by Joseph MacDonald (The Dark Corner (1946), Call Northside 777 (1948), The Street with No Name (1948), Panic in the Streets (1950), Fourteen Hours (1951), Niagara (1953), Pickup on South Street (1953), House of Bamboo (1955)). Music was by the great Bernard Herrmann (Citizen Kane (1941), Psycho (1960), and Taxi Driver (1976)) among many, many others.
|John (Nolan) and Johnny (Murray)|
|Celia (Saint) with Polo (Franciosa)|
The film stars Don Murray (Bus Stop (1956), Advise & Consent (1962)) as Johnny Pope, Eva Marie Saint (On the Waterfront (1954), North by Northwest (1959)), as Celia Pope, Anthony Franciosa (A Face in the Crowd (1957), The Long, Hot Summer (1958), Across 110th Street (1972), The Drowning Pool (1975)) as Polo Pope. Veteran of seven Classic Film Noir Lloyd Nolan as John Pope, Sr., Henry Silva (The Manchurian Candidate (1962), Johnny Cool (1963), ) as Mother, Gerald S. O'Loughlin (In Cold Blood (1967)) as Chuch, William Hickey (Something Wild (1961), Prizzi's Honor (1985), Sea of Love (1989)) as Apples, and another Classic Noir bit player Paul Kruger (The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), The Killers (1946), High Wall (1947), Call Northside 777 (1948) among others) as the Bartender. The final character of the piece is a gritty wintery lower Manhattan.
|Alfred Smith housing project|
Johnny Polo is a Korean War vet and a hero. Polo Pope is a bouncer in a NYC bar. Celia Pope is pregnant with his grandchild. When John finds out that Polo blew the $2,500 he refuses to speak to him. Polo tells him that he gambled it away but in reality he's been giving to to Johnny who is hooked on heroin. Johnny was wounded in the back and got hooked on morphine while recovering in the VA hospital.
John Pope is one of those fathers who favors one of his sons over the other. Johnny gets all the praise for his military accomplishments and raising a family while he considers Polo a moocher living off his brother. In reality it's Polo's misguided love for his brother that glues the family unit together.
Johnny has lost four jobs due to the monkey on his back. Johnny and Celia are on the skids, he's gone all hours of the night. Celia thinks he is two timing her, but Johnny is out trying to score a fix. His other problem is that he owes a pusher called "Mother" $500 bucks, who demands payment. Mother and his two goons will seriously mess him up if he doesn't come up with the doe. Mother gives the desperate Johnny an automatic and tells him to mug people for the cash. When Johnny can't bring himself to do it Mother tells Polo to sell his car to cover it.
|South Street, Manhattan, with FDR Drive and Manhattan Bridge in the background|
Adding to the soap opera quality of this film is the fact that Polo is getting the hots for Celia and she is responding.
John Polo comes on very overbearing, his constant nagging of Polo begins to sound like an annoying foghorn. It becomes hard to believe that Polo would be that dumb to let the situation get to the point where he loses all the money he's saved for his dad and has to sell his car to boot to support Johnny's drug habit. It's also hard to accept that Celia was so naive. You'd think she'd notice the track marks on Johnny's body or wonder WTF was up with his abrupt mood swings. The film has her living in a bubble.
I guess we're supposed to accept the fact that there was that much of a stigma, at that point in our culture of admitting you're a junkie to everyone his wife, his father, his neighbors that Johnny was able to convince Polo not to spill the beans. Looking back upon it it seems too innocent.
I suppose that at the time this was released it must have been shockingly powerful stuff, Tony Franciosa was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. Yet I find The Man With The Golden Arm the grittier of the two films. What this film has going for it are the actual New York locations, Sinatra's film was all shot on a set and it loses something because of that fact.
Don Murray is compelling as a man with a monkey on his back, Lloyd Nolan is doing his regular schtick, and Eva Marie Saint is still in her frumpish looking stage quite a far cry from her hottie turn in North By Northwest, it's hard to believe they are the same actress. Henry Silva, Gerald S. O'Loughlin, and William Hickey needed to be utilized a bit more.
It all just seems a bit too talky and not enough showy, the apartment sequences seem to drag a lot betraying the films play source. The film comes alive with the lower East Side NYC location shots and dies in the apartment/housing project sequences. Screen caps from a Youtube stream, 6/10