Film Legends Of Yesteryear (2021): Rita Hayworth in… Pal Joey (1957)

Well, it’s September 17, which means that it’s time for another round of “Film Legends Of Yesteryear” with another Rita Hayworth film! Now, if I was strictly doing things in chronological order (working from the twelve film set I was given for Christmas 2020), then today’s film would be Miss Sadie Thompson. However, I’ve got the Musicals: With A Song And A Dance In My Heart blogathon that I’ve been hosting for the month of September, so I decided to skip around to the one film left in the set that really fits: the 1957 musical Pal Joey, also starring Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Teacher’s Pet (1930)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 2 (1930-1931) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 20 minutes, 54 seconds)

The Gang have a new teacher, and, since they don’t think they will like her as much as their previous one, Jackie (Jackie Cooper) makes plans to play some pranks on her. The fun continues in this short, which introduced June Marlowe as their teacher, Miss Crabtree. The humor obviously comes from Jackie’s plans, and how he unknowingly reveals them to Miss Crabtree (and, all things considered, I can’t say as I blame him). Dorothy DeBorba makes a quick appearance, mainly making a nuisance of herself (for the kids, not so much for us) by repeating what the others are saying. Overall, a fun short that manages both humor and warmth, and keeps me looking forward to the rest of the series!

And Now For The Main Feature…

After being kicked out of town for trying to romance the mayor’s underage daughter, Joey Evans (Frank Sinatra) makes his way to San Francisco. He tries looking for work there as a singer, but finds no openings. Finally, he sees a poster promoting his friend, bandleader Ned Galvin (Bobby Sherwood), who is working at the Barbary Coast Club. Joey tries to get a job there, but runs into trouble with the Club’s owner, Mike Miggins (Hank Henry), who knows Joey’s reputation and doesn’t want to hire him. Mike only reluctantly gives Joey a job when his emcee doesn’t show up, and Joey gets up on stage and does it successfully. Afterwards, he is introduced to one of the chorus girls, Linda English (Kim Novak), whom he starts flirting with almost immediately (although she doesn’t respond in kind). Ned invites both Joey and Linda to join the band at a charity event that evening being put on by society lady Vera Prentice-Simpson (Rita Hayworth). Joey recognizes Vera as a former stripper and, when the charity auction doesn’t meet its goal, he proposes the audience bid for her to do one of her old stripper routines. With that, the charity meets their goal (much to Vera’s embarrassment). Later that night, Joey and Ned walk Linda back to the rooming house she is living at. Joey sees a “room for rent” sign and, after Ned leaves, he convinces the landlady to let him rent the room (which just happens to be connected to Linda’s room via the bathroom). Over the next few days, Joey wins over most of the chorus girls at the club, with the two exceptions of Linda and her friend Gladys (Barbara Nichols). One night, Vera comes in to the club, but she and her two male escorts leave without paying. Since her presence there was essentially Joey’s fault, Mike fires him. However, Joey is able to delay his firing by betting that Vera will be back by the end of the week, or he can be fired without pay. To do something about it, Joey returns to Vera’s mansion and tells her that she caused him to lose his job, which gives him no choice but to leave town. Meanwhile, Linda starts to soften and accepts his invitation to dinner that Saturday. However, when Saturday comes around, Vera comes to the Club (thereby allowing Joey to keep his job), and she and Joey leave together. When he tells her about his dream of owning his own club, she decides to invest in the idea. She offers him a place to stay, either on her yacht or at her mansion, and they find a place in a much swankier neighborhood to establish his club. Linda is back to being mad at Joey for missing their dinner, but she (along with everybody at the Barbary Coast Club) are hired to come work at Joey’s new place, “Chez Joey.” While the place is being remodeled ahead of the grand opening, Joey starts getting his show in place. When Vera sees that Linda has been given the love song to perform, she gives Joey an ultimatum: get rid of Linda, or Chez Joey will never open. Will Joey be able to give up on his dream of owning a nightclub for Linda, or will he give in to Vera’s demand?

The stage musical Pal Joey, based on a series of short stories by John O’Hara, made its Broadway debut in late 1940. This show was Gene Kelly’s first lead role on Broadway, and helped him on his rise towards Hollywood. He signed first with David O. Selznick, with his contract later being sold completely to MGM after his film debut, For Me And My Gal, turned out to be a success. While they tried to figure out what exactly to do with him, MGM loaned him out to Columbia Pictures for the 1944 film Cover Girl with Rita Hayworth. With his newfound freedom to choreograph his own routines, Gene Kelly helped make the film a hit. Harry Cohn, the head of Columbia Pictures, had bought the film rights to Pal Joey, intending to have Gene Kelly reprise his role for the big screen, but, now that he was a bigger star, MGM refused to loan him out (at least, not for a price that Columbia was willing to pay), so the idea fell by the wayside. The play’s revival in the early 1950s also brought renewed interest in producing a movie, but the censors were now just as much what was stopping production. After making a number of changes (including some necessitated by the casting of Frank Sinatra, who was a singer as opposed to a dancer like Gene Kelly), the censors allowed production to go forward (of course, by that time, the Hays Office was getting a bit more lax in what they let through, combined with audiences no longer being as in favor of censorship as they had been). The film turned out to be a big hit at the box office, and even received four Oscar nominations.

In the original Broadway production of Pal Joey, there were fourteen songs, but only eight managed to make it into the movie, with four songs originally written for other shows being added. Personally, I think that Frank Sinatra and Rita Hayworth had the best songs in the film. While it was one of the Rodgers and Hart songs added for the movie, Frank’s rendition of “The Lady Is A Tramp” is one of the most memorable moments in the movie, in between being a great song (and Frank certainly does it justice with his singing) as well as the added comedy from Frank’s Joey using it to insult Rita’s Vera (with Hank Henry’s Mike Miggins groaning at this turn of events in the background). Then there’s Rita Hayworth singing (and when I say “singing,” I mean she was dubbed by Jo Ann Greer) “Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered” and “Zip” (which she also dances to), both of which manage to be quite entertaining. I’ll admit, even with her singing dubbed by Trudy Stevens, Kim Novak’s musical numbers are rather forgettable. She’s not terrible, but the other two leads feel far more at home in a musical than she does. Still, she has her moments in this film, including when her character tricks Joey into buying the dog (thus calling his bluff on a childhood sob story he had told her). I do think another weak spot on this movie is the film’s final musical number, a dream sequence set to the songs “What Do I Care for a Dame,” “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” and “I Could Write a Book.” It starts out fine, with Sinatra and the two leading ladies dancing together. The problem is the way it just cuts out, almost as if part of the movie is missing. From what I’ve heard, there was supposed to be more, with choreographer Hermes Pan putting together a much bigger sequence, but Frank Sinatra decided against it and started having stuff cut. I think it works well enough in the movie with the immediate reaction coming out of it, but it still feels cut short. In spite of these complaints, though, this is a movie that I have come to enjoy seeing every now and then. Certainly one I would recommend!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Pal Joey (1957)

This movie has had at least three releases on Blu-ray. The first edition came from Twilight Time waaaay back on February 14, 2012. That was a limited edition (at 3,000 copies) which has since sold out completely. On November 17, 2020, it was made available again as part of the twelve film Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate Collection from Mill Creek Entertainment. And for those who want this movie (but not any of the other Rita Hayworth films), on July 20, 2021, it was made available again individually by Sony Pictures Entertainment. I’ve seen both the Twilight Time and Mill Creek releases (but not the recent release from Sony), so the best I can say is that these appear to be the same transfer (which itself looks quite good), with the main differences being the disc encode. On that, the Twilight Time is better (but, again, it is out-of-print and very hard-to-find). Mill Creek releases tend to be done on the cheap (usually reflected in the pricing on their products and a poorer disc encode), so, unless you want any of the other films in the Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate Collection, I would sooner suggest the Sony release (but, again, it all boils down to what you are willing to pay for quality).

Film Length: 1 hour, 49 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Fire Down Below (1957) – Rita Hayworth – They Came To Cordura (1959)

High Society (1956)Frank SinatraKings Go Forth (1958)

Phffft (1954) – Kim Novak – The Notorious Landlady (1962)

Fire Down Below (1957)Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate CollectionThey Came To Cordura (1959)

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