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Pal Joey (film)

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Pal Joey
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGeorge Sidney
Screenplay byDorothy Kingsley
Based onPal Joey
1940 play
Pal Joey
1940 novel
by John O'Hara
Produced byFred Kohlmar
CinematographyHarold Lipstein
Edited by
Color processTechnicolor
  • Essex Productions
  • George Sidney Productions
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • October 25, 1957 (1957-10-25) (United States)
Running time
109 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$3 million[1]
Box office$7 million (rentals)[1]

Pal Joey is a 1957 American musical comedy film directed by George Sidney, loosely adapted from the Rodgers and Hart musical play of the same name, and starring Rita Hayworth, Frank Sinatra, and Kim Novak. Jo Ann Greer sang for Hayworth, as she had done previously in Affair in Trinidad (1952) and Miss Sadie Thompson (1953). Novak's singing voice was dubbed by Trudy Stevens.[2] The choreography was managed by Hermes Pan. Nelson Riddle handled the musical arrangements for the Rodgers and Hart standards "The Lady Is a Tramp", "I Didn't Know What Time It Was", "I Could Write a Book", and "There's a Small Hotel".

Sinatra won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for his role as the wise-cracking, hard-bitten Joey Evans. Along with its strong box-office success, Pal Joey earned four Academy Award nominations and one Golden Globe Award nomination.

Pal Joey is one of Sinatra's few post-From Here to Eternity films in which he did not receive top billing, which surprisingly went to Hayworth. Sinatra was, by this time, a bigger star, and his title role was predominant. When asked about the billing, Sinatra replied, "Ladies first." He was quoted as saying that, as it was a Columbia film, Hayworth should have top billing because "For years, she was Columbia Pictures" and that with regard to being billed "between" Hayworth and Novak: "That's a sandwich I don't mind being stuck in the middle of." As Columbia's biggest star, Hayworth had been top-billed in every film since Cover Girl in 1944, but her tenure was to end in 1959 with Gary Cooper in They Came to Cordura.

Sinatra's earnings from the film paid for his new home in Palm Springs. He was so delighted that he also built a restaurant there dedicated to the film, named Pal Joey's.[3]


Linda English (Kim Novak)
Linda English (Kim Novak)

The setting is San Francisco; Joey Evans (Frank Sinatra) is a second-rate singer, a heel known for his womanizing ways (calling women "mice"), but charming and funny. When Joey meets Linda English (Kim Novak), a naive chorus girl, he has stirrings of real feelings. However, that does not stop him from romancing a former flame and ex-stripper (Joey says, "She used to be 'Vera Vanessa the undresser...with the Vanishing Veils'"), now society matron Vera Prentice-Simpson (Rita Hayworth), a wealthy, willful, and lonely widow, in order to convince her to finance Chez Joey, a night club of his own.

Soon Joey is involved with Vera, each using the other for his/her own somewhat selfish purposes. however, Joey's feelings for Linda are growing. Ultimately, Vera jealously demands that Joey fire Linda. When Joey refuses ("Nobody owns Joey but Joey"), Vera closes down Chez Joey. Linda visits Vera and agrees to quit in an attempt to keep the club open. Vera then agrees to open the club and even offers to marry Joey, but Joey rejects Vera. As Joey is leaving for Sacramento, Linda runs after him, offering to go wherever he is headed. After half-hearted refusals, Joey gives in, and they walk away together.


Left to right: Hayworth, Sinatra, and Novak in a film still
Left to right: Hayworth, Sinatra, and Novak in a film still

Notable changes

The happy ending of the film contrasts with the conclusion of the stage musical, where Joey is left alone at the end.

The transformation of Joey into a "nice guy" diverges from the stage musical, where Joey's character is an anti-hero. Joey is also older in the film—on stage he was played by 28-year old Gene Kelly; here, 42-year old Sinatra takes the reins.

The film differs from the stage musical in other key points: the setting was moved from Chicago to San Francisco, and the stage Joey was a dancer. The plot of the film drops a blackmail attempt, and two roles prominent on stage were changed: Melba (a reporter) was cut, and Gladys became a minor character. Linda became a naive chorus girl instead of an innocent stenographer and some of the lyrics to "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" were changed. Also in the film, Vera Prentice-Simpson is a wealthy widow and former stripper (billed as Vanessa the Undresser) and thus gets to sing the song "Zip". (Since that number requires an authentic burlesque drummer to mime the bumps and grinds, the extra playing the drums is disconcertingly swapped with a professional musician in a jump cut).

Song list

Of the original 14 Rodgers and Hart songs, eight remained, but with two as instrumental background, and four songs were added from other shows.[4]

  1. Pal Joey: Main Title
  2. "That Terrific Rainbow" - chorus girls and Linda English
  3. "I Didn't Know What Time It Was" (introduced in the 1939 musical Too Many Girls) - Joey Evans
  4. "Do It the Hard Way" - orchestra and chorus girls
  5. "Great Big Town" - Joey Evans and chorus girls
  6. "There's a Small Hotel" (introduced in the 1936 musical On Your Toes) - Joey Evans
  7. "Zip" - Vera Simpson
  8. "I Could Write a Book" - Joey Evans and Linda English
  9. "The Lady Is a Tramp" (introduced in the 1937 musical Babes in Arms) - Joey Evans
  10. "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" - Vera Simpson
  11. "Plant You Now, Dig You Later" - orchestra
  12. "My Funny Valentine" (introduced in the 1937 musical Babes in Arms) - Linda English
  13. "You Mustn't Kick It Around" - orchestra
  14. Strip Number - "I Could Write a Book" -Linda English
  15. Dream Sequence and Finale: "What Do I Care for a Dame"/"Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered"/"I Could Write a Book" - Joey Evans


Some of the recordings on the soundtrack album featuring Sinatra only are not the same songs that appeared in the film. "The Lady Is a Tramp" is a mono-only outtake from Sinatra's 1957 album A Swingin' Affair!,[5] while three others ("There's a Small Hotel", "Bewitched", and "I Could Write a Book") were recorded in mono only at Capitol Studios.[6] "I Didn't Know What Time It Was" appeared in an odd hybrid: The first half of the song was recorded at Columbia Pictures but differs from the version used in the film, while the second half is the same as used in the film, also recorded at Columbia.[7] "What Do I Care for a Dame" is the film version, as recorded at Columbia. The Sinatra songs as they appear in the film as well as those performed by Rita Hayworth and Kim Novak (both were dubbed), Jo Ann Greer (Hayworth) and Trudi Erwin (Novak) were recorded at Columbia Pictures studios in true stereo.


Chart (1958) Peak
UK Albums (OCC)[8] 1
Trailer for the film
Trailer for the film

Critical reception and box office

Opening to positive reviews on October 25, 1957, Pal Joey was an instant success with critics and the general public alike. Variety stated, "Pal Joey is a strong, funny entertainment. Dorothy Kingsley's screenplay, from John O'Hara's book, is skillful rewriting, with colorful characters and solid story built around the Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart songs. Total of 14 tunes are intertwined with the plot, 10 of them being reprised from the original. Others by the same team of cleffers are 'I Didn't Know What Time It Was', 'The Lady Is a Tramp', 'There's a Small Hotel' and 'Funny Valentine'."[9]

The New York Times stated, "This is largely Mr. Sinatra's show...he projects a distinctly bouncy likeable personality into an unusual role. And his rendition of the top tunes, notably "The Lady Is a Tramp" and "Small Hotel," gives added lustre to these indestructible standards."[10]

With theatrical rentals of $4.7 million in the United States and Canada, Pal Joey was ranked by Variety as one of the 10 highest-earning films of 1957.[11] It earned rentals of $7 million worldwide.[1]

Awards and nominations

Award Year Category Recipient(s) Result
Academy Awards[12][13] 1958 Best Art Direction Walter Holscher, William Kiernan and Louis Diage Nominated
Best Costume Design Jean Louis Nominated
Best Film Editing Viola Lawrence and Jerome Thoms Nominated
Best Sound Recording John P. Livadary Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Film – Comedy or Musical Nominated
Best Actor – Comedy or Musical Frank Sinatra Nominated
Laurel Awards Top Musical Won
Top Male Musical Performance Frank Sinatra Won
Top Music Director Morris Stoloff Nominated
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Written American Musical Dorothy Kingsley Nominated

Other honors

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:


  1. ^ a b c "Wall St. Researchers' Cheery Tone". Variety. November 7, 1962. p. 7.
  2. ^ "Internet Movie Database". Retrieved January 26, 2018.
  3. ^ Sinatra in Palm Springs (film, 2018)
  4. ^ Hollywood Musicals Year By Year, Green, Stanley, Revised and Updated, Schmidt, Elaine, 2nd Edition, 1999, ISBN 0-634-00765-3, p. 214.
  5. ^ "Non-Album Tracks, 1956". November 26, 1956. Retrieved April 30, 2016.
  6. ^ "1957 - SinglesEtc33". Retrieved April 30, 2016.
  7. ^ "Non-Album Tracks, 1957". Retrieved April 30, 2016.
  8. ^ "Official Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved August 29, 2021.
  9. ^ "Pal Joey - Variety". Variety. January 1, 1957. Retrieved September 13, 2014.
  10. ^ "Movie Review - Pal Joey - Screen: 'Pal Joey' Back on Broadway; Sinatra Is Starred in Film of Hit Show -". Retrieved September 13, 2014.
  11. ^ "Top Grosses of 1957". Variety. January 8, 1958. p. 30.
  12. ^ "1957 (30th)". Retrieved April 6, 2015.
  13. ^ "NY Times: Pal Joey". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. 2012. Archived from the original on October 18, 2012. Retrieved December 23, 2008.
  14. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 13, 2016.
  15. ^ "AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 13, 2016.

Further reading

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Pal Joey (film)
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