The Pajama Game (1957, George Abbott & Stanley Donen)

What’s up with Donen always having a co-director? Abbott was 70 at the time, and unless this is a misprint he lived to be 107.

A pre-Pillow Talk Doris Day is a workers’ union representative named Babe in a pajama factory, and Broadway actor John Raitt is the new middle manager Sid (but everyone calls him Sorokin – they’re into weird nicknames in this movie) who fires her. Seems like a fine setup for a romantic comedy if you ask me. I liked this, though I got complained at for falling asleep and had to finish it the next day. Katy didn’t like the songs, and a musical lives or dies by its songs, so it died. We both noticed the color was dull and drab, but IMDB people all rave about the bright colors, so maybe there’s a better DVD out there.

So yeah, Sid has to fire Babe, but she’s still on the union committee demanding a seven-and-a-half cent hourly raise, causing slowdowns and sabotage to shake up the owner, Mr. Hasler. This causes the committee (which consists of Babe, a heavy girl named Mae, a glasses guy who likes Mae, and a twitty nasal-voiced Marilyn-wannabe) to break into song and dance.

Sid also likes Babe, but doesn’t get much ground there. So he takes to stalking her friend Gladys (Carol Haney), the boss’s assistant, until he gets the key to the safe where the books are kept. I think he catches the boss embezzling money which had been earmarked for an employee raise six months earlier, and negotiates that they get their raise (non-retroactively) and nobody gets in trouble… which is sort of a copout, but maybe the movie didn’t want to appear too pro-union. Of course this means Sid gets the girl.

I told Katy that Carol Haney reminded me of Shirley MacLaine in Artists & Models. MacLaine was Haney’s understudy for this role on Broadway! I am good. Haney was great in this, and attention-grabbing with her dance to “Steam Heat” and singing on “Hernando’s Hideaway,” but this was her final film and she died of illness not long afterwards. Mae, unsurprisingly, didn’t have much of a Hollywood career, playing roles such as “angry lady”, “housing lady” and “fat lady.” Nasal-lady Barbara Nichols’ short life in film included Sweet Smell of Success and Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.

Sid Sorokin was nothing special, but Doris Day really came to life in this one. I liked Haney’s songs and the weird union plot and the neon signs that label everything in the pajama factory. Wasn’t keen on the playful comic romp of Gladys’s jealous husband Heinz chasing her around with a knife at the end, but overall found it a better-than-average musical.

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