Sunday, August 19, 2018

Tonight's Movie: The Pajama Game (1957) at UCLA

A big crowd was on hand in Westwood last night for another evening in UCLA's retrospective Fosse, Fosse, Fosse!

Last night's double bill was a pairing of THE PAJAMA GAME (1957) with DAMN YANKEES (1958).

While I'd never seen DAMN YANKEES before, I've loved THE PAJAMA GAME most of my life, beginning with falling in love with the original Broadway cast album on LP. In fact, it took me a while to get used to Doris Day singing on the movie soundtrack because I was so used to hearing Janis Paige in the role!

I saw the film in a theater on two occasions as a teenager, once at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's Leo S. Bing Theater and another time at a FilmEx screening in Century City. In more recent years, however, I haven't been aware of it being shown in classic film theaters or festivals, and we were told in the introduction that that's because of very tangled rights issues, which Warner Bros. is currently working to try to clear up. In order to show the movie last night, UCLA had to write checks to 11 different parties!

Although I've seen the film a few additional times over the years thanks to DVD and VHS, it had still been a very long time since I last watched it, at least a decade. I thus approached the movie with it feeling rather fresh and new -- and fell in love with it all over again. In fact I don't think I stopped smiling for the duration of the movie!

The oddball plot about a union fighting for a 7 and a half cent an hour raise at a pajama factory isn't really all that important, although the unique setting is a plus; what I really love is the romance and the endless string of hummable tunes, including "I'm Not At All in Love," "Hey There," "Once a Year Day" (filmed in Hollenbeck Park), "Steam Heat," and "Hernando's Hideaway," to name just a few. In fact I was struck last night with how much music there is compared to the dialogue.

I'd be hard-pressed to name a favorite song or moment, although I'd probably end up picking "Hey There," first for John Raitt's dictaphone duet and second for Day's reprise, as red train crossing lights outside her window give the number an otherwordly glow.

Stars Day and Raitt are incredibly appealing and have wonderful chemistry, and they're backed by a  supporting cast including Carol Haney, Eddie Foy Jr., Reta Shaw, and Barbara Nichols.

The movie was codirected by George Abbott and Stanley Donen, filmed by Harry Stradling Sr., and choreographed by Fosse. It runs 101 minutes.

In addition to the DVD release, it's available to stream on Amazon Instant Video. There is no extra charge for Amazon Prime members.

I can't say enough how happy it made me seeing this film again. I've seen nearly 200 films so far this year and this experience ranks at or near the very top of the list. Pure joy, and most highly recommended.

June 2019 Update: THE PAJAMA GAME is being reissued on DVD by the Warner Archive.

January 2021 Update: THE PAJAMA GAME is being released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive.  My review of the Blu-ray is here.


Blogger Jerry Entract said...

When my wife and I made our first and only visit (so far) to New York in 2006 I had fortunately had the foresight to book online from the UK, well in advance, for us to see a show on Broadway. The show we chose was "THE PYJAMA GAME" starring Harry Connick Jr. It was a sensation! An experience I would not have wanted to miss.

12:03 AM  
Blogger Walter S. said...

Laura, good review of a most enjoyable movie. You can't go wrong with a Doris Day movie, even if it is about an union-management-ownership dispute. Who would have thought a hit musical would be made out of Richard Bissell's novel 7 1/2 CENTS(1953). The novel was based on his experiences as vice-president of his family's pajama factory in Dubuque, Iowa. I worked in a factory when I was a teenager, but it wasn't anything like this movie. PAJAMA GAME is one of the best movie musical adaptions of a hit Broadway musical. Besides the songs, I enjoy the lovely women, especially Doris, wearing their beautiful summer dresses at the picnic. The dance number that took place in a park and was set to the song “Once a Year Day" was fun.

8:15 AM  
Blogger Stefano said...

It is a joyful movie experience, especially with an appreciative audience. It has an exceptional immediacy too; I wanted to get right in there during the "Once a Year Day" scene. Quieter moments like the soft shoe routine of Eddie Foy Jr and Reta Shaw are also lovable; Shaw is pleasing when she sings briefly in "Mary Poppins".

We should send a message of gratitude to UCLA for going to so much trouble for a screening; one more reason why Southern California film buffs feel blessed (and blissed).

9:15 AM  
Blogger Seth said...

THE PAJAMA GAME is one of the few pictures in Warner Bros.’s DORIS DAY: THE ESSENTIAL COLLECTION that I have yet to watch. Now I plan to move it toward the top of the pile. Thanks!

7:15 PM  
Blogger Hamlette (Rachel) said...

I haven't seen this for years, but since it's free on Amazon's instant viewing right now, maybe I'll show it to my kids! They do like musicals.

4:19 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you all for the comments! I've been out of town the last few days and am catching up!

Jerry, I've heard good things about that Connick production, wish I could have seen it! Was the leading lady Kelli O'Hara?

Walter, I agree, I was really noticing the costume design this time. There's one girl with long blonde hair and a pink dress in a couple of scenes who makes me think of Alice in Wonderland. :)

Stefano, so glad you enjoyed it too -- "joyful" is definitely how I felt watching it! I Tweeted to UCLA the other day thanking them for cutting all those checks and making the screening possible!

Seth, I really hope you enjoy it, do let us know. You too, Hamlette! My kids liked musicals growing up, including this one, so I hope yours like it also.

Best wishes,

11:18 PM  
Blogger Jerry Entract said...

Away from home at present, Laura, but when I get home I will check the program. I feel sure I would have bought one.

11:05 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks, Jerry, I'll look forward to it.

Funny thing, the girl I mentioned above in the pink dress turned up dancing in WHITE CHRISTMAS when I saw it the following week!

Best wishes,

12:20 AM  

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