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Pal Joey [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
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First born in the pages of The New Yorker, then translated into a hit Rodgers and Hart Broadway musical, the title character of Pal Joey had undergone quite a transformation by the time he hit the movies in 1957. He was a singer, rather than a dancer, but more importantly he'd had his rough edges sweetly softened; the callous heel dreamed up by novelist John O'Hara was more of a naughty scamp in the film version. However, Pal Joey remains delightfully watchable for two very good reasons: a terrific song score and a surplus of glittering star power. Frank Sinatra, at the zenith of his cocky, world-on-a-string popularity, glides through the film with breezy nonchalance, romancing showgirl Kim Novak (Columbia Pictures' new sex symbol) and wealthy widow Rita Hayworth (Columbia Pictures' former sex symbol). The film also benefits from location shooting in San Francisco, caught in the moonlight-and-supper-club glow of the late 50s. Sinatra does beautifully with the Rodgers and Hart classics "I Didn't Know What Time It Was" and "I Could Write a Book" and his performance of "The Lady Is a Tramp" (evocatively shot by director George Sidney) is flat-out genius. Sinatra's ease with hep-cat lingo nearly outdoes Bing Crosby at his best, and included in the DVD is a trailer in which Sinatra instructs the audience in "Joey's Jargon", a collection of hip slang words such as "gasser" and "mouse." If not one of Sinatra's very best movies, Pal Joey is nevertheless a classy vehicle that fits like a glove. --Robert Horton --This text refers to an alternate DVD edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Based on a book and play by John O'Hara, it boasts some snappy dialogue and a fabulous Rodgers and Hart score, with songs like "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered", "I Could Write a Book", "What do I Care for a Dame ?", "Plant You Now, Dig You Later", "Happy Hunting Horn" and "That Terrific Rainbow". Rita Hayworth does a sumptuous "Zip" (I love the way she uses her lavish Jean Louis gown in the number), and Kim Novak is absolutely stunning singing "My Funny Valentine". Novak was one of the loveliest and most underrated stars to ever grace the silver screen, and this was her second film with Sinatra, having done the dramatic "The Man with the Golden Arm" two years earlier.
The film only received some Oscar nominations (Art/Set Direction, Costume Design, Editing, Sound), but Sinatra did pick up a 1958 Golden Globe Best Actor/Musical-Comedy for his part as Joey, the womanizing, fast talking, con-man singer, who goes from town to town, leaving debts and broken hearts behind; Sinatra makes the most of the part, and one cannot imagine anyone else that could have played Joey to such perfection.
Terrific direction by George Sidney and choreography by Hermes Pan complement this trio of great stars and splendid music, with the backdrop of San Francisco and Harold Lipstein's cinematography.
Total running time is 109 minutes.
One of the few Columbia musicals that creates some of its own magic rather than trying to copy the RKO and MGM formula, Sinatra is so perfect as John O'Hara's heel that it is now impossible to imagine Kelly in the role. Not all of the Rodgers and Hart's songs are well served - some, such as I Didn't Know What Time It Was, are all but thrown away - but the score is a strong one (The Lady Is A Tramp, Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, If They Asked Me I Could Write A Book ) and the film is one of the few successful Broadway-to-screen transfers of its day. Great dog too.
The only real extra on the DVD is the original five-minute trailer, but it's a gem. Filmed on the film's set, with Sinatra introducing us to Joey's vocabulary with the aid of a blackboard and ruler, it's terrific fun and a genuine collector's item! The US limited edition (3000 copies) region-free Blu-ray from Twilight Time also includes a featurette, Backstage with Kim Novak, an isolated score track and a booklet as well as superior picture quality.
When I saw this movie in 1957 I fell head over heels for Frank and the sophisticated night club scene, but now Frank's Joey seems like a heartless sleaze, the clubs are cheap, and the movie is hopelessly dated. It was made at the height of Frank's ring-a-ding-ding movie popularity, though, and he still charms despite playing a mean-spirited and selfish loser who is outweighed by both of his co-stars.Poor Rita looks drab and tired, a far cry from her earlier glory days. Kim is lovely (without those thick eyebrows from "Vertigo"), but her singing voice is a disaster and she isn't much of a dancer. A beatnik-style dance featuring both ladies is just embarrassing.
On the plus side, the songs are terrific. The show is filled with memorable Rodgers and Hart tunes such as "The Lady is a Tramp," "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered," "I Could Write a Book," "There's a Small Hotel," and "My Funny Valentine."
The movie is glossy and pretty with lavish gowns and furs and picturesque San Francisco as a location, but is definitely a product of its time. What was once ultra-cool and sophisticated now seems tawdry and pathetic. Good songs, though.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Director George Sidney’s 1957 version of the stage musical of the same name finds Ol’ Blue Eyes at the height of his singing fame and turning in another impressive acting turn,... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Keith M
Pal Joey was always problematic on the stage, and the film doesn't really solve the problems either. Read morePublished 4 months ago by addison de witt
Exactly what my Mum wanted for her 88th birthday. You have made an old lady very happy. Thank you.Published 5 months ago by Vannie Opall
This is no great movie - but it has magnificent music performaces by its cast and more than a few memorable songs of immortality.
BD is fair. OK sound and pic.