Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Pal Joey (1957) (1957)

Pal JoeyThis film is worth watching over and over again, if only to see Sinatra's rendition of "The Lady is a Tramp", which he sings with riveting style and musical finesse.

Based on a book and play by John O'Hara, it boasts some snappy dialogue and a fabulous Rodgers and Hart score, with songs like "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered", "I Could Write a Book", "What do I Care for a Dame ?", "Plant You Now, Dig You Later", "Happy Hunting Horn" and "That Terrific Rainbow". Rita Hayworth does a sumptuous "Zip" (I love the way she uses her lavish Jean Louis gown in the number), and Kim Novak is absolutely stunning singing "My Funny Valentine". Novak was one of the loveliest and most underrated stars to ever grace the silver screen, and this was her second film with Sinatra, having done the dramatic "The Man with the Golden Arm" two years earlier.

The film only received some Oscar nominations (Art/Set Direction, Costume Design, Editing, Sound), but Sinatra did pick up a 1958 Golden Globe Best Actor/Musical-Comedy for his part as Joey, the womanizing, fast talking, con-man singer, who goes from town to town, leaving debts and broken hearts behind; Sinatra makes the most of the part, and one cannot imagine anyone else that could have played Joey to such perfection.

Terrific direction by George Sidney and choreography by Hermes Pan complement this trio of great stars and splendid music, with the backdrop of San Francisco and Harold Lipstein's cinematography.

Total running time is 109 minutes.

I just recently bought the DVD of Pal Joey. I had never seen the movie before and didn't know what to expect. First, I'll comment on the DVD quality. The picture quality is beautiful, and trust me, you can't have it too clear to see the beautiful Rita Hayworth and Kim Novak, or the 1957 views of Frisco. The soundtrack is mono and causes one to wish that it was filmed in Dolby Digital stereo sound...but I guess we'll have to make do. Besides, if you are using a good sound system, the songs sung by Sinatra come to life magnificently. You will wish that he sang more in the film. His voice is at it's musical peak in 1957 and his artistry is staggering. Sinatra portrays the playboy role with a wonderful comic sense (he won a Best Actor Golden Globe) and you can't help but like him. Although the script is tame in comparison to recent films (Thank God!), it still insinuates plenty and is very coy and sexy. It has some very interesting camera work that gives it a modern feel, ex. : check out the angle that Sinatra is filmed at when he is singing Lady is a Tramp. All in all a wonderfully fun film, that looks terrific on DVD. I just wish they would hurry up and get more of the Sinatra catelog on DVD, especially Hole in the Head!

Buy Pal Joey (1957) (1957) Now

I've been trying to catch up on my old musicals lately. It's a genre I didn't quite grow up with and have always been a little ambivalent about. Never could get a handle of those "walking down the street and bursting into song" musicals. But PAL JOEY is not of that particular mold. Most of the songs are "natural," in the sense that Joey is a nightclub singer. Rita Hayworth's number, "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" is the only number that doesn't take place in a club setting, but then again people in love have been known to sing to themselves in their boudoirs, so that's OK too.

Most of the reviews for this film stress the fact that the original Broadway play was considerably darker, and the main character much more of a louse than the cheeky nice guy Sinatra plays here. Given the era (the late 50s), this is hardly surprising, and it's easy to guess how the edgier theatrical version actually played, even if you don't know the "book."

Sinatra is fine as the cheerful heel Joey. Rita Hayworth and Kim Novak are lovely and sexy as rivals for Joey's affections. Character actors like Barbara Nichols and Hank Henry milk their smallish roles for all they're worth. Director George Sidney was a veteran of several classic musicals, including SHOW BOAT, TIL THE CLOUDS ROLL BY and THE HARVEY GIRLS, so he's on familiar turf here, and it shows.

The Rodgers and Hart score is great, but the numbers are not as many as you might hope. Still there's "My Funny Valentine," the aforementioned "Bewitched...," and, the highlight, Sinatra's definitive take "The Lady Is a Tramp." Well, worth 111 minutes of your time.

Read Best Reviews of Pal Joey (1957) (1957) Here

"Pal Joey," (1957), a dramatic musical romance, is a product of Harry Cohn's Columbia Studio, a fact easily gleaned by a quick glance at the movie itself; while it's in Technicolor, the colors themselves are not nearly so saturated as is the signature palette of rival Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios. The movie, as was common at the time, was based upon the 1940 Broadway hit of the same name that made a star of Gene Kelly. That play was based upon a series of fictional letters from "Your Pal Joey," written by noted American writer John O'Hara, and published in "The New Yorker." O'Hara wrote the play's book; Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart provided the all-grown up music; George Abbott produced and directed. The still knocking them dead Elaine Stritch created that nifty song "Zip," on Broadway, where it was given to "The Reporter," rather than the Vera Simpson character.

What was rather unusual about "Pal Joey" was that it took 15 years to get to the screen, owing to the fact that the play was more cynical, and risqué, than was permissible in Hollywood at the time. And a lot can change in 15 years. Anyway, the witty screen adaptation, somewhat sanitized, given a Hollywood happy ending, but still sailing pretty close to the wind, was by Dorothy Kingsley, nimble direction was by the under-appreciated George Sidney.

But the hard-edged director Billy Wilder was said to be Cohn's first directorial choice; they say studio mogul and director went to lunch to discuss it and at the end of lunch, Wilder was not only not given the job, but was given the bill. Gene Kelly and Rita Hayworth had impressed Cohn by their work together in the 1944 hit,"Covergirl," and the studio chief promised them another picture together, expected to be "Pal Joey." But those 15 years went by, and Kelly was under contract to MGM. So Cohn thought of Jack Lemmon. Cohn initially thought of Marlene Dietrich for the Simpson role, characterized as an older woman, but Dietrich wouldn't take it. However, she suggested Frank Sinatra for the title role, Joey Evans. Meanwhile, Rita Hayworth, who was Columbia's reigning sex symbol at the time, and had expected to play Linda English, the ingénue, aged rapidly, unfortunately. She was just 39 at filming, actually three years younger than Sinatra, but had to take the Vera Simpson, older woman part. The younger woman's part was given to Kim Novak, the studio's rising sex symbol. Barbara Nichols played Gladys Bump, chorus girl comic relief.

Setting of the movie was moved from Chicago to San Francisco, so much more picturesque, and Novak somehow looked so good there. The movie picked up several great songs from the play: "If They Asked Me, I Could Write a Book," and "Bewitched, Bothered and "Bewildered," the play's biggest hits. Also, for sure, "My Funny Valentine," and "Zip," a homage to Gypsy Rose Lee. Several of the play's songs were considered still too risqué, and were replaced by other works of Rodgers and Hart, "There's a Small Hotel," "I Didn't Know What Time It was," and "The Lady Is a Tramp." Some knowledgeable reviewers complain about the songs missing from the play; but these replacements each became at least as popular as the tunes written for that play. Musical arrangements were by Sinatra's frequent collaborator, Nelson Riddle. The part had to be somewhat rewritten for Sinatra, of course, emphasis changed from dancing to singing. But he sang his own songs; he was at his peak, and the songs, as the part, might really have been tailored to him. Neither Hayworth nor Novak could sing: they were dubbed.

The plot's pretty well-known: Joey's a womanizing nightclub singer. When he ventures beyond no-fault chorines to mayor's daughters, he finds himself hurriedly leaving towns. He finds himself in San Francisco, where he digs up an old friend who'll give him a job. Also ambitious chorus girl Linda English, who initially wants nothing to do with him. And Vera Simpson, retired stripper, married well, now rich older society dame. Without a word, by sheer dint of good acting, a back-story romance between Evans and Simpson is implied. Anyway, Evans becomes Simpson's protégée, as the movie called it; she agrees to finance his own, ritzy nightclub. But the lovers' triangle, Evans, Simpson, English, between the stars, creates great instability.

Hayworth, wrinkles and all, is still gorgeous; the young Novak, who would not be as much of a favorite with succeeding generations, is very beautiful. In their last scene together, so brief as to be almost subliminal, Hayworth is just haunting. Sinatra won a Golden Globe for his work; the movie was nominated for four Oscars, and picked up four further awards. It was undoubtedly sanitized, but it's still unusually grown-up for its time. It has many memorable, evergreen musical numbers, and three outstanding actors. They really don't come much better.

Want Pal Joey (1957) (1957) Discount?

(2008 HOLIDAY TEAM)If Frank Sinatra had a signature role in his long movie career, this must be it because he plays one of his coolest cats in this fairly adult 1957 musical drama based on a book by John O'Hara. However, it's better remembered for the fourteen songs by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, many of which became Sinatra standards. Written by Dorothy Kingsley, the rather slight story has the crooner play womanizing nightclub singer Joey Evans who keeps losing jobs because cad that he is, he likes to fool around with married women. Joey lands in San Francisco and finagles his way into a job as singer and emcee at a dive called the Barbary Coast. There he meets innocent Linda English from Albuquerque, a chorine who refuses to strip and just wants to be a torch singer. In typical Sinatra swinging fashion, Joey flirts with her but plays hard-to-get. One night, both are recruited for a charity show held at a posh Nob Hill mansion. The hostess is Vera Simpson, a former striptease performer who has since become a wealthy society matron. Sparks fly between Joey and Vera but only after mutual acts of humiliation. He breezily moves in with her on her yacht, and she decides to fund his pipe dream, owning a sophisticated nightspot she dubs "Chez Joey". Never one to leave his cards on the table, Joey hires Linda to sing, and you can guess the rest as the inevitable romantic triangle takes the expected turns.

Directed by George Sidney (Anchors Aweigh, Viva Las Vegas), it plays out rather lugubriously with nary a surprise, but the songs are mostly gems. Sinatra knows how to play heels, though Joey never gets hard-boiled enough to develop a true edge. On the upside, he sings "There's a Small Hotel", "I Could Write a Book" and best of all, "The Lady Is a Tramp" to a guardedly smitten Rita Hayworth well cast as Vera. Even though at 38, she was actually younger than Sinatra, she cuts a coolish (and shapely) figure as a jealous patroness despite the unflattering camera angles. It's just a shame that the story doesn't respect her character much, especially at the very end. However, when she literally lets her hair down, it's a relief to see her old seductive self in post-coital bliss as she lip-syncs "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" (sung seductively by Jo Ann Greer). As Linda, Kim Novak a year away from Vertigo fares less well as she looks tentative and oddly blank-faced during her big number, "My Funny Valentine" (sung sonorously by Trudy Erwin). But we all know it's really Sinatra we want to see perform, and from that respect, a lot of the movie plays out like one of his 1960's TV specials. The only extras on the 1999 DVD are a couple of trailers and talent files for the principals. An intermittent entertainment, it's definitely a product of a bygone era.

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