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If you read the review for Falling From Grace, you already know that this is Music Stars Who Want to be Movie Stars Week on WaffleMovies.com.
Frank Sinatra was one of the few successful crossover stars. After becoming a singing sensation with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, he starred in several musicals throughout the 40's, but shied away from "serious acting" until 1952, when his vocal chords hemorrhaged and he was dropped by his talent agency, MCA. Facing what could have been the end of his career, Sinatra begged Columbia to give him an opportunity to star in From Here to Eternity (You might remember a fictional telling of this story in The Godfather). He was paid a measly sum, but the sacrifice was worth it. Sinatra was given the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and went on to a successful film career.
In Pal Joey, Sinatra plays the lead character, Joey Evans, a charming, conniving, womanizing, smooth talking, cocky, talented crooner. Sounds like a role Sinatra could handle. After "entertaining" the Mayor's underage daughter in New York, Joey is forcibly placed on the next train to San Francisco. Finding work is difficult, since many of the clubs feature dancing girls instead of singers, but he meets up with his old friend and band leader, Ned Galvin (Bobby Sherwood).
Ned incorporates Joey into the act, but trouble is soon brewing. Joey starts moving in on Ned's girl, Linda (Kim Novak) and promises the owner of the club he can bring in classier clientele. Soon, Joey is taking up with one of the new customers, Simpson (Rita Hayworth), and convinces her to bankroll a new nightclub with Joey in charge.
It seems Joey has achieved his life long dream of running his own club, but who really is in control - Joey or Simpson? Does Joey love Linda? Does Joey love Simpson? Does he love anyone?
The first half of the film is light hearted and full of wonderful musical numbers (The Lady is a Tramp, My Funny Valentine), but Sinatra shows his acting ability in the second half, when he reveals his distaste for the sad life he leads. Sinatra strips away the cockiness to reveal a man who is desperate to be a "somebody". Tired of working for unappreciative and cruel club owners, Joey dreams of creating a place where he and the talent matter. It is a wonderful turn for Sinatra.
It was a long and winding road to the screen for Pal Joey. The character of Joey, a dancer, was created by John O'Hara in a series of letters written for The New Yorker. He would sign the fictional letters about the trials and travails of night club life from 'Your Pal Joey'. The letters inspired a wildly successful Broadway musical starring Gene Kelly. Seeing the possibilities, Columbia picked up the rights to a big screen version.
Columbia wanted Gene Kelly and Rita Hayworth to star in the film version, but Kelly was under contract to MGM, which wouldn't allow him to make the film for Columbia. Pal Joey languished for a few years, even drawing the attention of famed director Billy Wilder who wanted to make the film with Marlon Brando and Mae West. However, Columbia passed on Wilders' proposal and, finally, made this version.
Beginning this week, Pal Joey is available on DVD. Check it out at your local video store.
Director: George Sidney
Writer: Dorothy Kingsley
Music by Nelson Riddle
Frank Sinatra Joey Adams
Rita Hayworth .. Prenta Simpson/Vera Vanessa
Kim Novak ... Linda English
Bobby Sherwood .. Ned Galvin
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