1957 Movie Review: THE PAJAMA GAME, 1957

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Movie Reviews

Directed by: George Abbott, Stanley Donen

Starring: Doris Day, John Raitt, Carol Haney, Eddie Foy Jr.
Review by Jayvibha Vaidya


When the employees at the Sleeptite Pajama Company demand a seven and half cents increase, the new factory superintendant must deal with a looming strike. To make matters even more complicated, he’s in love with the feisty employee representative who sets the strike in motion. As tensions increase, the lovers stay on opposite sides of the wage war, putting their relationship and jobs in jeopardy.

NOMINATED FOR 4 OSCARS – Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume and Writing


“It’s nothing personal. You’re the superintendant and I’m the Grievance Committee.”

When newly hired superintendant Sid Sorokin (John Raitt) is slammed with an employee complaint in his first week, he has to deal with Katherine “Babe” Williams (Doris Day), the head of the Grievance Committee. He scoffs, she throws the rule book at him and an office romance is born. Coming from its Broadway success, The Pajama Game was released on film in 1957 starring stage actor John Raitt and Hollywood sweetheart, Doris Day.

As employees at the Sleeptite Pajama Factory prepare for a strike, Babe and Sid begin to fall for each other. Passionate about her job, Babe calls for the sewing line to cease production and subsequently gets fired – by her new boyfriend. “You stick to your side and I’ll stick to mine!” she exclaims, effectively breaking up with him. As Sid scrambles to find a solution to his job and relationship problems, he’s forced to learn about compromise and loyalty – through song and dance, of course. All ends well as both sides get what they want; calling for a company pajama party to celebrate their victories.

Fluffy and light, the musical never gets too serious about labor relation issues, opting instead to highlight running gags like a jealous boyfriend or the romance between Sid and Babe. The songs are fun and cheery but not entirely memorable. The more enjoyable numbers are ensemble pieces, utilizing a large number of the cast. “Racing with the Clock” shows the employees simultaneously performing the same act faster and faster. The camera and choreography work well together, moving through the lines of sewing machines and yards of cloth. “I’ll Never Be Jealous Again” is a funny little number with a jealous boyfriend, Heinsie (Eddie Foy Jr.) promising his friend Mabel (Reta Shaw) that he won’t doubt his girlfriend and secretary Gladys ever again. Reprising their roles from Broadway, both performers have an easy, comfortable way with this song, making it enjoyable to watch.

There are two musical highlights that make the film. The first occurs at the annual company picnic as the company gathers for a day of fun (“Once-A-Year-Day”). Choreographer Bob Fosse, on one of his first films, showcases his burgeoning talent with a large-scale number. Set in a huge park, several dancers swing, flip, climb and race through green grass, up trees and over hills dressed in colourful outfits. The use of space and planes with complicated blocking makes it one of the visually spectacular songs in the film. And it’s the moment when Sid and Babe finally fall in love.

The second musical highlight is “Steam Heat,” a number where Fosse’s signature moves are clearly displayed. Gladys (Carol Haney), flanked by two dancers, are dressed in black and white. Small controlled movements give way to a dramatic slide across the stage. Top hats become part of the dance as they’re flipped, thrown and caught in time to the catchy music. Carol Haney is light on her feet and quick with her movements. Sound effects, fresh choreography and energy make this a thoroughly entertaining musical number. Even though it doesn’t serve a purpose to the plot, the song is one of the truly memorable moments in the film.

Many of the songs appear almost back-to-back and can be exhausting for a viewer searching for a story. A simple story with a predictable ending, the film chooses to focus on the charm of the leading actors, Doris Day and John Raitt. Both actors bring great performances and energy to the film, but lack a strong chemistry. All the performers do a fine job with most of them reprising their roles from Broadway. Some moments however, are just truly bizarre: a knife-throwing Heinsie chases his girlfriend Gladys through the warehouse, only to be scolded by the president and dragged away by the formerly terrified Gladys. Some of the dialogue is clunky and odd, but the film keeps the energy moving along to the next song.

The Pajama Game is a fun, colourful musical featuring a few catchy songs, fantastic choreography and cinematography. Thin on plot and high on songs, the musical is an entertaining ride combining skilled performers, humour, romance and workplace complications into an enjoyable Hollywood musical.




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Movie Review: THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1956) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

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Classic Movie Review

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Starring James Stewart, Doris Day
Review by Steven Painter


Dr. Ben McKenna, his wife Jo and their son Hank are on a touring holiday of Africa when they meet the mysterious Louis Bernard on a bus. The next day Bernard is murdered in the local marketplace, but before he dies he manages to reveal details of an assassination about to take place in London. Fearing that their plot will be revealed, the assassins kidnap Hank in order to keep the McKenna’s silent. Ben and Jo go to London and take matters into their own hands.


Remakes are a part of Hollywood. So are projects that are announced, but then scrapped. A remake that has been announced, but hopefully won’t be made is The Birds (1963). From what I have read the people involved with the project totally miss the point of the movie. It isn’t about birds attacking people, but families. Anyways, The Birds is a movie that will be talked about sometime in the future. For now, I’ll go back to remakes and those trendy remakes of Alfred Hitchcock movies. Psycho (1998) is a good example of a poor Hitchcock remake. Hitchcock himself even traversed in the remake universe when he remade his own The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) in 1956.

Being the most popular director in the world, Hitchcock movies were always in demand. Because of this demand, producers pressured him to come up with stories quickly. It wasn’t his style to rush into anything so at certain points in his career he would take on an easy project just to “recharge the batteries” as he called it. One such project was Dial M for Murder (1953), another The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956). Universal came to Hitch and asked him to remake one of his earlier British movies. After much deliberation, Hitch and his associates decided on The Man Who Knew Too Much. The original is fairly good, but could definitely be improved. The remake is in color, which makes it more acceptable to modern audiences and it does feature James Stewart and Doris Day in order to better market the picture. Other than that, though, there isn’t much that makes this remake special.

Besides asking Hitch to remake one of his films, Universal requested that a catchy song be put in so that they could sell records on top of movie tickets. Bernard Herrmann, who composed the score and played the role of the Albert Hall conductor in the movie, was not known for catchy lyrical music. So some songwriters were brought in and wrote “Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)” for Doris Day to sing. Her singing is about the only bright spot of her time on screen. The title of the song was derived from a line in the Ava Gardner movie The Barefoot Contessa (1954). The song, of course, has become a hit and associated with Doris Day more so than with the movie.Hitch and Stewart made a good team and Stewart performs well here. His performance is superior to Leslie Banks’ in the original. This might be because Stewart’s character is better developed here. He is Dr. McKenna. Not only a doctor, but a father. The man who is supposed to have all the answers and protect his family. So when his son, Hank is kidnapped, Dr. McKenna has to find the answers. He struggles to do this. Stewart does a great job, as he did throughout his career, as the everyman looking for answers. He is a big reason why this movie is worth watching.

The biggest defect of the remake, other than Doris Day, is the absence of Peter Lorre as Abbott. In the original, Abbott is a suave bad guy who is extremely cultured. The epitome of the white-collar criminal. There is not hint of a cultured villain in this one. Mr. and Mrs. Drayton who capture Hank, are not good substitutes. This is odd, as like most of the movie, the characters are stronger. As great as Peter Lorre’s performance in the original was — his character was rather limited. Had Lorre been asked to play Mr. Drayton I can only imagine how great this movie would have been. But he was not asked to play the part and the actors who replaced him are not in his league.For the most part, the original and the remake follow the same storyline — once arrived in London that is. The beginning of the remake in Morocco is interesting, especially the scene in the restaurant where Stewart and another family from America have difficulty with the local customs. Here we see Hitchcock’s wonderful sense humor.

There is also the famous scene where the black make-up comes off of the murdered Louis Bernard, onto the hands of Dr. McKenna. This murder is shot well and is the catalyst for the rest of the story. Because Dr. McKenna has learned Bernard’s secret, his son is captured in order to silence him.

The McKennas arrive in London and begin their search for Hank, but are conveniently stopped from being able to find him. These suspense methods were employed in the first movie and have been kept for the most part intact here.

There is an interesting scene in a taxidermy store, which will echo a similar scene in the parlor of the Bates Motel four years later in Psycho (1960). Hitch had a fascination with birds and taxidermy. The scene itself is not great and probably didn’t need to be added. It was just a directorial splurge.

The Albert Hall performance is longer in the remake, probably to give Herrmann some more screen time. It is great to see the Albert Hall in color for the first time in a Hitchcock picture. The old performance hall had been a staple of Hitch’s British pictures. The famous image of the gun coming out from behind the curtain to murder the foreign dignitary during the cymbal crash during the symphony is still intact from the first movie.Doris Day screams and saves the day for the foreign dignitary. This is all nice, but it is only Hitchcock’s MacGuffin. A MacGuffin is basically a plot point in the story that doesn’t matter. There is a great joke that Hitch used to tell about the meaning of the word MacGuffin, but that will be saved for another day. Since the overt plot points are basically MacGuffins, I’ll sum up the story by saying that the McKennas work hard trying to find their son somewhere in London. They are unable to and are about to give up when Day prevents the murder of the foreign ambassador at the Albert Hall. The smitten ambassador invites the McKennas back to his embassy to say thanks.

Lo and behold Hank happens to be in the embassy. The McKennas find this out when he whistles “Whatever Will Be, Will Be.” This gives Day another chance to showcase the song. The extra screen time was also beneficial to the pocketbooks of the Universal board of directors.

I guess you could say, like all remakes, this one was done for purely commercial reasons. Perhaps that is why it does not really build as much on the original as it could have.

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