Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Pal Joey

Year 9, Day 53 - 2/22/17 - Movie #2,553

BEFORE: I'm going to allow the first indirect linking of February, and of 2017 for that matter, tonight so I can get back to the Frank Sinatra movies.  Nothing links out of "The Swan", and my new rule, instituted last year, is that when I hit a linking dead-end, it's OK to go back to the last film and link from there.  In other words, Grace Kelly links back to Frank Sinatra via "High Society".

Too late, I realize my mistake - I could have followed the Louis Jourdan link out of "The Swan" by watching "Can-Can", and that would have gotten me back to Frank Sinatra by direct linking.  And TCM ran "Can-Can" a few months back, when Sinatra was their "Artist of the Month", and I neglected to record it.  Mea culpa, but I really didn't want to watch that one, anyway.  

And speaking of TCM, here's their "31 Days of Oscar" line-up for tomorrow, 2/23:
6:45 AM San Antonio (1945)
8:45 AM San Francisco (1936)
10:45 AM The Sandpiper (1965)
12:45 PM Scrooge (1970)
2:45 PM The Sea Hawk (1940)
5:00 PM The Sea Wolf (1941)
6:30 PM Second Chorus (1940)
8:00 PM Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
10:00 PM The Seven Per -Cent Solution (1976)
12:00 AM Shaft (1971)
2:00 AM Shall We Dance (1937)
4:15 AM She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)

I've got the Fred Astaire chain coming up next week, so I'm recording "Second Chorus", and I've already got "Shall We Dance" in the line-up.  If I count those two, I can hit for 5 today, including "Scrooge" (my favorite adaptation of "A Christmas Carol"), "The Sea Hawk", and "The Seven Per-Cent Solution" (one of my favorite Sherlock Holmes films).  I'm passing on "The Sandpiper" because I already covered Liz Taylor and Richard Burton this month, and on "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers".  But this brings me up to 96 seen out of 256 films.


THE PLOT: Joey Evans is a charming, handsome, talented, first-class heel who meets the former chorus girl, and now rich widow Vera Simpson, the two souls seem made for each other.  But Linda English, the "mouse on the chorus line" is the typical good girl from a good home - just the right ingredient to louse up Joey's cushy set up.

AFTER: You know a Sinatra film is probably going to work in a few musical numbers, but I just can't buy it when they're shoehorned in, like they were in "High Society".  Unlike Bing's number with Louis Armstrong's band in that film, the Sinatra songs just sort of happened, like he was having a singing conversation with Crosby - but where's that backing music coming from?  At least in "The Tender Trap" he was a talent agent, and he could sing a song at the piano while instructing Debbie Reynolds' character how to sing it.  Here he's a singing and dancing club MC, and that makes for more natural ways to work songs into the film.

And some of the best songs from the Rodgers & Hart team are here: "The Lady Is a Tramp", "I Could Write a Book", "Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered", and "My Funny Valentine".  Geez, if I'd known that last song was in here (sung by Kim Novak, not Frank), I would have tried harder to maybe get this film to land on February 14.  But how was I to know?  I'd never even seen a stage version of the play "Pal Joey" before.

From what I understand, they had to change the plot of the play a little to allow for Sinatra to star in it - in the play, Joey was younger and more of a "boy toy", but Sinatra was 41 when this was filmed.  It apparently took a few decades to adapt the play into a film, on stage the lyrics could be a little saucier, but Hollywood was probably trying to be more wholesome in the late 1950's, at least to a point.  A film about a bunch of showgirls, one of whom gets corralled into performing a strip-tease act, just wasn't going to fly as a film - so here they only show her rehearsing the strip number, not actually doing it in front of a paying crowd.

I wonder how many stage plays there were like this, like there was "Gypsy", of course - it seems like maybe men in the 1950's needed some encouragement to go out to a Broadway show with their wives, and maybe throwing some strippers into the plot made the difference?  Or maybe putting a bunch of strippers on stage was too obvious, so they just built the plays around them?  Just a thought.

But after the complicated love politics of "The Tender Trap" and "High Society", it's nice to see just a basic love triangle at work.  Joey can't make any headway with Linda, the showgirl, even though they're staying at the same boarding house and share a bathroom.  He has more luck with former showgirl Vera, who's got a mansion up on Nob Hill and after a few nights together, is willing to build him his own nightclub, the (horribly) named "Chez Joey".  But even though that relationship seems to bring him everything he needs, is it what he wants?  Or is he always going to wonder about the showgirl that got away, the one he almost connected with?

Also starring Rita Hayworth (last seen in "Only Angels Have Wings"), Kim Novak (last seen in "Vertigo"), Bobby Sherwood, Hank Henry, Barbara Nicholes, Elizabeth Patterson.

RATING: 6 out of 10 charity auction items

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