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USA 1957
Directed by
George Sidney
111 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

Pal Joey

Sanitized to conform to 1950s production codes, George Sidney's filmed version of the Richard Rodgers and  Lorenz Hart stage musical is mundane to say the least with everything subsumed to the star power of Frank Sinatra, Kim Novak and Rita Hayworth (who got top billing on Sinatra's insistence), much of which has since faded.

The showbiz story is paper-thin and dramatically the range is from A to B and back again. There are however some gilt-edged classic songs - 'My Funny Valentine', 'Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered', 'I Didn't Know What Time It Was' and the highlight of this production, a swinging rendition of 'The Lady is a Tramp', a song that Sinatra made very much his own, although the wistful 'Lover, Come Back To Me' from the original stage show is unfortunately left out. Clearly, unlike Ol' Blue Eyes, neither Hayworth nor Novak did their own singing.

I am not a great fan of Sinatra on screen and his character here, an unctuously predatory night club singer, is particularly repugnant (the character was turned into a supposedly hip, swingin' guy for the film) and given his skinny, pock-marked appearance he makes for an unconvincing ladies man (the role was originally intended for Gene Kelly, so we won some, lost some). Hayworth, in her last film appearance of note, has well-and-truly lost her bloom (and her make up is no help in this respect) particularly compared to the luminous, 15 year younger, up-and-coming Novak who in her musical numbers is reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe, the role model Columbia had in mind for her. Towards the end of the film there is a lame production number which is supposed to embody the romantic triangle between the leads but which simply should have been omitted, being the only dud number in what is otherwise a collection of great songs but no more.




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