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Despite its Broadway success, Pal Joey took his time reaching the screen. Gene Kelly came to fame in the title role in the original Broadway production and was the logical first choice for the screen version, but when MGM would not lend him out the project sat on the backburner so long that his intended co-star Rita Hayworth swapped female roles to play the older woman who bankrolls Joey's club - on her terms - by the time the film finally reached the screen in 1957.

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.
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on 7 January 2005
This film is worth watching over and over again, if only to see Sinatra's rendition of "The Lady is a Tramp", which he sings with riveting style and musical finesse.
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.
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on 4 October 2004
Joey is a womanising night club entertainer, picking up work where he can find it, conning his friends out of money but getting away with it because he still has a certain cheeky charm which is hard to resist. (Ask the showgirls in the club!). Sinatra gives the character life, partly because the night-club, hard drinking, atmosphere is so in tune with his own private life. The supporting stars, Hayworth and Novak, both looking their best, are credible characters and Hayworth's number "Zip" is a knockout, proving she'd lost none of her dancing ability. The rest of the cast fill out the story beautifully, particularly the little dog! But the film is Sinatra's and his performances of the wonderful Rogers and Hart songs could not be bettered. Great entertainment, great music and a supreme artist at the top of his game. They certainly can't make them like that any more.
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on 20 November 2009
You'd think this would be better than the sum of its parts: Sinatra at the height of his vocal powers, Novak and Hayworth sumptious to look at...but this is no High Society (which was originally a fine play, the Philadelphia Story), and looks more like a feeble attempt to weave a plot around the (admittedly) first class numbers by Rodgers and Hart. Sound a familiar ploy (i.e. most modern musicals based on pop songs)? It's a pretty uninteresting tale centred around the Sinatra character's enormous ego and libido and for whom you feel not a jot of empathy or respect. A Man's Man? Hardly, and his simultaneous wooing the leading ladies (in between other Extra-Nuptial Nibbles) makes you wonder what they see in this lizard. Novak is also out of her depth, with her limited acting ability being inversely proportional to her bust. Buy the CD soundtrack - superb songs - but forget the script, it's tosh. What a shame, I normally love Sinatra.
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on 29 November 2000
The genius of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart is amplified in this spellbinding musical.After this role, Sinatra became Pal Joey with his trademark hat,suits and mac.With the best nightclub scene ever laid down on celluloid, Sinatra serenades Hayworth with The Lady is a Tramp, whilst Kim Novak is left to muse over her "Funny Valentine" as she attempts a striptease. The plot? Boy sings in club, scores with older woman, sees sense and goes back to young woman has been done before and since, but rarely with this panache, and never with songs like these: zip, bewitched, bothered, and bewildered and I could write a book all make this film a five star experience. Ring-A-Ding- Ding indeed!
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Joey Evans (Frank Sinatra) is a two-bit night club singer, womanizer, and cad. He lands in a San Francisco saloon and starts romancing a wealthy older woman (Rita Hayworth) and sweet chorus girl (Kim Novak).

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.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 14 June 2016
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, here showing that, as well as being able to 'do serious’ (evidenced in films such as From Here To Eternity, The Man With The Golden Arm, The Manchurian Candidate, etc), Sinatra could also 'do comic’, here delivering sharp, ironic dialogue to great effect. Sidney’s film does not (for me, at least) quite reach the heights of the absolute cream of Hollywood musicals, but Pal Joey does showcase a handful of outstanding songs by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart (Nelson Riddle arranging), as well as always looking the part, sumptuous and evocative in its San Francisco setting and nominated for Oscars for Art Direction and Costume Design.

Sinatra here is the eponymous 'down on his luck’ (but still cocky and with an eye for the ladies) nightclub singer, torn romantically between an old flame, ex-stripper and now 'society lady’, Rita Hayworth’s Vera Prentice-Simpson and Kim Novak’s naïve, small-town, aspiring showgirl, Linda English. Narrative-wise, things are fairly conventional, as Joey spots an opportunity to fulfil his apparently destitute career ambitions, exploiting Vera’s position and wealth to set up his own nightclub, Chez Joey. There is, however, good screen chemistry between both romantic pairings here, as well as some quite daring (risqué) banter (courtesy of Dorothy Kingsley’s screenplay) for Joey ('That kid’s got a fine woofer and tweeter!’) and one or two nice supporting character turns (particularly by Barbara Nichols, reviving her great 'ditzy blonde’ persona, used to great effect in films such as The Sweet Smell Of Success and Beyond A Reasonable Doubt). Music-wise, there are impressive renditions of The Lady Is A Tramp (Joey to Vera) and My Funny Valentine – for MFV, unfortunately, we don’t get Sinatra performing what is (for me) one of his greatest ever songs, but Novak’s interpretation (voiced by Trudi Erwin) is still nicely done.
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on 3 October 2014
Just a note on the out-of-sync sound complaint in reviews for this limited edition Blu Ray: if you use HDMI for picture but RCA plugs to a stereo amplifier this can be a problem on some Blu Rays. I found the opening and some later sequences in this film the lip-sync is out on the DTS track. Switch to the 2.0 track and the sync is good and the fidelity of the sound more natural. The film was made with a mono soundtrack. The DTS track has been processed and altered, given both bass and treble boost. Different players may handle this better or worse.
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on 18 January 2008
The only good thing about this movie is Frank Sinatra, and in particular his memorable performance of 'The Lady is a Tramp'. Cut this out and throw the rest away. Kim Novak's performance is wooden and Rita Hayworth's not much better. Moreover the rest of Rodgers and Hart's music is devalued by the fact that neither of the leading ladies are capable of singing, so their voices had to be dubbed by others. What a con'when others could have been recruited to fit the bill. Without Sinatra 'no stars'.
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on 22 April 2016
Pal Joey was always problematic on the stage, and the film doesn't really solve the problems either. The plot was always paper thin, but the huge plus here is Sinatra who owns this part. Joey has been played by Gene Kelly, a highly suspect Harold Lang, who somehow convinced a theater audience that he was a womanizer, and even Bob Fosse who wisely moved on to choreography. So ditching a dancing Joey and concentrating on a singing one was the best idea, so the score, which has been embellished with additional material can be better represented. 'My Funny Valentine', and 'The Lady is a Tramp' are both from 'Babes in Arms,' and 'There's a Small Hotel' was from 'On Your Toes' - but they all work really well in this. I always wished that a couple of the original songs were kept in the film also, but no use wasting breath on that now. So although the songs are wonderful, the film itself is ordinary.
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