Pal Joey (film)

Pal Joey is a 1957 American Technicolor musical film, loosely adapted from the 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 and Miss Sadie Thompson. Kim Novak's singing voice was dubbed by Trudy Stevens.[2] George Sidney directed, with the choreography 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."

Pal Joey
Theatrical poster
Directed byGeorge Sidney
Produced byFred Kohlmar
Screenplay byDorothy Kingsley
Based onPal Joey
1940 play
Pal Joey
1940 novel
by John O'Hara
StarringRita Hayworth
Frank Sinatra
Kim Novak
CinematographyHarold Lipstein
Edited byViola Lawrence
Jerome Thoms
Essex Productions
George Sidney Productions
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • October 25, 1957 (1957-10-25)
Running time
109 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$4.7 million (US)[1]

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 also earned four Academy Award nominations and one Golden Globe nomination.

Pal Joey is one of Sinatra's few post-From Here to Eternity movies in which he did not receive top billing, which surprisingly went to Hayworth. Sinatra was, by that time, a bigger star, and his title role was predominant. When asked about the billing, Sinatra replied, "Ladies first." He was also 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 soon to end, in 1959 with Gary Cooper in They Came to Cordura.

Plot summary

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 his dream, "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. But 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, united.


Notable changes

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

The transformation of Joey into a "nice guy" departed from the stage musical, where Joey's character was notable for being the anti-hero.

The film varies from the stage musical in several other key points: the setting was changed 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 classic song "Zip". (As that number required an authentic burlesque drummer to mime the bumps and grinds, the extra playing the drums is disconcertingly switched 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.[3]

  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!,[4] while three others ("There's a Small Hotel," "Bewitched," and "I Could Write a Book") were recorded in mono only at Capitol Studios.[5] "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.[6] "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 positions

Chart Year Peak
UK Albums Chart[7] 1958 1
Preceded by
The King and I by Original Soundtrack
The King and I by Original Soundtrack
UK Albums Chart number-one album
2 February 1958 - 22 March 1958
29 March 1958 - 26 April 1958
Succeeded by
The King and I by Original Soundtrack
The Duke Wore Jeans by Original Soundtrack

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. The Variety review summarized: "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'."[8]

The New York Times commented, "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."[9]

With box office receipts of $4.7 million, Pal Joey was ranked by Variety as one of the ten highest earning films of 1957.

Awards and honors

Wins in bold

Academy Awards[10][11]

Golden Globes

  • Best Film, Musical or Comedy
  • Best Actor, Musical or Comedy: Frank Sinatra

Writers Guild of America

  • Best Written American Musical

Other honors

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

See also


  1. "Top Grosses of 1957", Variety, 8 January 1958: 30
  2. "Internet Movie Database". Retrieved January 26, 2018.
  3. Hollywood Musicals Year By Year, Green, Stanley, Revised and Updated, Schmidt, Elaine, 2nd Edition, 1999, ISBN 0-634-00765-3, p. 214.
  4. "Non-Album Tracks, 1956". 1956-11-26. Retrieved 2016-04-30.
  5. "1957 - SinglesEtc33". Retrieved 2016-04-30.
  6. "Non-Album Tracks, 1957". Retrieved 2016-04-30.
  7. "The Official Charts Company - Original Soundtrack - Pal Joey". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 26 May 2011.
  8. "Pal Joey - Variety". Variety. 1 January 1957. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  9. "Movie Review - Pal Joey - Screen: 'Pal Joey' Back on Broadway; Sinatra Is Starred in Film of Hit Show -". Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  10. "1957 (30th)". Retrieved April 6, 2015.
  11. "NY Times: Pal Joey". NY Times. Retrieved December 23, 2008.
  12. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-13.
  13. "AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-13.

Further reading

  • Monder, Eric (1994). George Sidney:a Bio-Bibliography. Greenwood Press. ISBN 9780313284571.
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