Archive for the ‘Harry Stradling: Master Photographer’ Category

The Pajama Game

07 Aug

The Pajama Game – directed by Stanley Donen and George Abbott. Musical. The cute blond head of the grievance committee in a pajama factory butts heads with management led by the head of production. 101 minutes Color 1957.


Janise Paige who played it on Broadway was strictly show biz. Doris Day who plays it on film was not show-biz whatsoever. She was the lower working class girl next door. She was the most popular blond of her era, and was a paid a quarter of a million to make this film, which was finished in six weeks, and she is worth every penny. She is an actress justifiably denounced as a hot righteous maiden in most of her film roles, but here one can see the nature of a fine talent seldom properly used or understood, even by herself perhaps. Completely untrained as an actress, she can do anything as an actress. She is direct, clear, open, with zero subtext and perfect timing. Assiduity can do no more. She has a fine slim figure, excellent carriage, and moves well. Whenever she appears she is Somebody. Her defect is her taste, meaning her choices: for instance, her playing pain, which always comes out as self-pity. Immediate application is her strong suit technically. She never hesitates to engage. Here, her notorious pep is not played as her ace, thank goodness. Instead, really worth watching,  she is responsive, humorous, and unforced – except in her singing, for she always over-sung; that is to say she emotionalized. You can see this in her “Hey There,” version. Rosemary Clooney sang it simply, with her naturally rich intonation and perfect enunciation. Clooney has no brass in her voice; its power is introverted; you are inclined to move toward it. Day’s voice is extroverted; there is a lot of brass in it; its clarion force can penetrate steel; its inclination is to move toward you. Two different sort of voice, but Day emotionalizes; even when singing softy she is putting something into it which the words alone are sufficient to provide to us. She is a highly technical singer with a range of effects she is sure of and knows how to control exactly. There’s a lovely song, cut from the movie, given as an extra, mistakenly filmed, by the great Harry Straddling, through a screen door; watch it; she’s very good in it. From the point of view of acting, Pajama Game is Day’s best film. The Broadway cast, led by John Raitt in his only film, was brought in by Abbott who directed it on Broadway and who did not directed it here, but went out and played tennis, while Donen did all. The choreography was supervised by Jerome Robbins, and cries out for Agnes DeMille in the big “Once A Year Day” number which suffers from haste and from the difficulties of being filmed on the lumpy earth of an actual public park. The day is somewhat saved by Carol Haney: “Oh, she is a real dancers!” one says and leans back to enjoy the fact that in this dance musical she is the only principal person who is. Bob Fosse did the choreography, and his trademark minimalism is vivid in “Hernando’s Hideaway” and “Steam Heat,” which Haney does masterfully. Otherwise Donen handles the movement, and his gift for giving musical numbers personal registration is pronounced: how Day in “Small Talk” and picks up a newspaper perfectly; how she is shoved back and forth on a carton on a dolly in “I’m Not At All In Love.” Sometimes the natural settings work, and often the soundstage settings really make a convincing environment, the factory being one of them, a sewing machine hall in which Eddie Foy Jr. and Reta Shaw steal our hearts as a couple of stout middle-aged hoofers, singing and dancing to “I’ll Never Be Jealous Again.” If you love musicals, don’t miss it. It’s consistently entertaining, with the full Donen idiom in play, as in Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, Singin’ In The Rain, Damn Yankees, and On The Town.

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