Tuesday, December 8, 2015
GUEST REVIEW: PAL JOEY
In his career Frank Sinatra did two film adaptions of Rodgers and Hart musicals. The first was Higher and Higher which was his first feature film speaking part. Pal Joey was the second and it is probably the greatest show Rodgers and Hart ever did.
When it debuted on Broadway in 1941 it got good, but not great reviews. But everyone loved the Rodgers and Hart score. Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered and I Could Write a Book were the big hits of the show and were retained for the film.
Pal Joey may have been ahead of its times. It was revived in 1951 and ran twice as long as it did in its original production. The reviews were far better. To say this is unusual is putting it mildly.
On Broadway, Joey Evans who we would now call a lounge lizard was played by Gene Kelly and in the revival by Harold Lang. The part really fit Sinatra perfectly. But the role had to be changed from a dancing part to a singing part. I believe that was the reason for the interpolation of other Rodgers and Hart songs in the film.
And Sinatra sings some good ones in Pal Joey. Added in for the filmgoers listening pleasure are There's A Small Hotel, I Didn't Know What Time It Was, and The Lady is a Tramp, the last one becoming a Sinatra standard in his live concerts. Movie singing don't get too much better than this.
Frank is an ambitious man of rather low morals who is caught between rich widow Rita Hayworth and ingenue Kim Novak. He loves Kim, but Rita can give him financial security. These are the kind of people that populate the John O'Hara world, very real and not too noble.
Although a few years later Frank Sinatra sang a concert version of Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered with a hundred piece orchestra for his Reprise record label, it is in fact a woman's song as is My Funny Valentine. Rita does Bewitched as well as Zip. The latter song is a tribute number to Gypsy Rose Lee as Rita plays an ex-stripper. My Funny Valentine is done by Kim Novak.
When I say done, both ladies mouthed the words, but the vocals were dubbed as they always were for Ms. Hayworth. And I guess that had to be because both Hayworth and Novak could never have had the parts done by the best of vocalists.
As Pal Joey came to the screen in 1957 along with The Joker is Wild, my favorite Sinatra film, I've always picked that year as the year Old Blue Eyes was at the height of his career. His acting is impeccable and his singing, some of the best he ever did on screen...
BRUCE'S RATING: 9 OUT OF 10
MY RATING: 10 OUT OF 10