Classic Film Guide

Pal Joey (1957) - full review!

Originally intended for Gene Kelly and Rita Hayworth back in the 1940's, this sanitized version of the more risqué stage Musical romance drama was finally brought to the screen starring Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak (see her in San Francisco settings just before she would appear in Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958)), with Hayworth playing the older woman in the love triangle instead. It features three great (Richard) Rodgers and (Lorenz) Hart numbers, one for each of its leads: Sinatra sings "The Lady is a Tramp", Hayworth dubbed by Jo Ann Greer got "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" and Novak (dubbed by Trudy Erwin) does "My Funny Valentine". It was directed by George Sidney; Dorothy Kingsley (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)) wrote the screenplay, based on the John O'Hara book. The film received Academy Award nominations for its Art Direction-Set Decoration, Costume Design, Editing and Sound (John Livadary’s last Oscar nomination).

Sinatra plays womanizing singer Joey Evans, who dreams one day of opening his own club where he can make the decisions himself but can never seem to scrape two dimes together because he's always being fired for "hitting on" the wives of other club's (e.g. where he works) clientele. After being run out of one town, he lands in San Francisco on the Barbary Coast where he finds an old friend, Ned Galvin (Bobby Sherwood), playing piano in Mike Miggins's (Hank Henry) "dive". After finagling his way into a job as the club's singing emcee, Joey (literally) moves in on Ned's gal Linda English (Novak) at Mrs. Casey's (Elizabeth Patterson) boarding house. She's a small town girl, actually from Albuquerque, who dances at the club; Joey charms all the other girls in the chorus line into doing his laundry, but he plays Linda coyly, pretending he can't remember her name, and otherwise acting disinterested, for his friend.

One night, the band gets to play a charity gig for a hospital that's being hosted by Vera Simpson (Hayworth), who Joey recognizes as a former striptease chorus girl herself. After he embarrasses her by getting someone to pay $5,000 for her to perform a song to help the hospital exceed its goal for the event, his further attempts to charm Mrs. Simpson are rebuffed. However, some time later, Ms. Simpson enters Miggins's club with two gentlemen escorts one evening. But it's payback time, and she proceeds to embarrass Joey in front of a hopeful Miggins and everybody else. Miggins then fires Joey, but Joey bets him that she'll be back within a week, which enables him to hang onto his job temporarily. At the end of the week, as Joey's saying his goodbyes, Vera reenters the club. Miggins is thrilled (and Sinatra sings the aforementioned hit). As a rich widow, Vera's decided to make charming Joey her kept man, and dubs him "Beauty". This upsets the squeaky clean Linda, who'd fallen in love with Joey despite herself. In fact, the only woman in the club Joey didn't have wrapped around his finger was Gladys (Barbara Nichols), the sassy striptease artist.

Joey moves in with Vera on her yacht ("Hayworth" sings her song), and she decides to fund his club idea "Chez Joey". During rehearsals (when "Novak" sings her song), however, Vera notices Linda's attraction to Joey, and perceives that it may be mutual, so she insists that he fire the stacked blonde chorus girl ... to protect her investment. Joey doesn't really want to fire Linda, so he tells her that he's decided that she'll be performing the striptease instead of Gladys to force the "virgin" to quit. Later, when she decides to come back to perform it, Vera's suspicions are confirmed (e.g. Joey does care for Linda), which forces a showdown, and fallout between them that closes the club before it opens. Inexplicably, Vera then helps Linda "win" Joey before the closing credits.

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