Based on the hit Rodgers and Hart musical of the same name, PAL JOEY follows Joey Evans (Frank Sinatra, From Here to Eternity), a charming nightclub singer who is very popular with the chorus girls in his show. Joey has a comfortable relationship with Vera (Rita Hayworth, Gilda), a former dancer who is now a rich widow. But when Linda (Kim Novak, Vertigo) enters his life, Joey suddenly has to choose between convenience and something far more substantial.
First born in the pages of The New Yorker
, then translated into a hit Rodgers and Hart Broadway musical, the title character of Pal Joey
had undergone quite a transformation by the time he hit the movies in 1957. He was a singer, rather than a dancer, but more importantly he'd had his rough edges sweetly softened; the callous heel dreamed up by novelist John O'Hara was more of a naughty scamp in the film version. However, Pal Joey
remains delightfully watchable for two very good reasons: a terrific song score and a surplus of glittering star power. Frank Sinatra, at the zenith of his cocky, world-on-a-string popularity, glides through the film with breezy nonchalance, romancing showgirl Kim Novak (Columbia Pictures' new sex symbol) and wealthy widow Rita Hayworth (Columbia Pictures' former sex symbol). The film also benefits from location shooting in San Francisco, caught in the moonlight-and-supper-club glow of the late '50s. Sinatra does beautifully with the Rodgers and Hart classics "I Didn't Know What Time It Was" and "I Could Write a Book," and his performance of "The Lady Is a Tramp" (evocatively shot by director George Sidney) is flat-out genius. Sinatra's ease with hep-cat lingo nearly outdoes Bing Crosby at his best, and included in the DVD is a trailer in which Sinatra instructs the audience in "Joey's Jargon," a collection of hip slang words such as "gasser" and "mouse." If not one of Sinatra's very best movies, Pal Joey
is nevertheless a classy vehicle that fits like a glove. --Robert Horton