Frank Sinatra in The Man With The Golden Arm - To some, this represented a whole new low for Hollywood.
Frank Sinatra in The Man With The Golden Arm – To some, this represented a whole new terrifying world for Hollywood.

. . . or click on the link here for Audio Player – The American Forum – Morality and Movies – 1955 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection

60 years ago, the most controversial movie made in America was one which dealt with a growing problem in our society; drug addiction. More specifically; Heroin addiction.

The Man With The Golden Arm told the story of a musician (played by Frank Sinatra) who spends time in prison for his Heroin habit and gets clean while inside. But returning home, the old demons take hold and he goes to back to the life of a hopeless addict, and the resulting wreckage he causes between himself and those people around him.

It was a cautionary tale – and by today’s standards, pretty tame and the subject of which has been the focus of reality TV shows as a matter of course. It is no big deal.

But it was 1955 and it was the stuff of scandal. It came up just short of being labeled obscene. The Motion Picture Association of American refused to certify it. Critics complained it was being exploitive, showing Heroin in a favorable light and drug addiction as something common in society. Some said the movie glamorized Heroin use. While others wondered where America’s moral fiber was heading and was this the start of something new and sinister in our society.

To discuss the issue, on this segment of The American Forum, first aired on December 25, 1955, the film’s director Otto Preminger faces critics and studio head Jerry Wald over the issue of Movies and Morality and where The Man With The Golden Arm stood in all of it.

60 years later, the world and the movies in it have changed.

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