The plot is frivolous and obvious, the acting mostly hammy, and much of the dialogue is outright dumb, but who cares? “The Pajama Game,” the 1957 film adaptation of the successful stage musical, has something much more: Richard Adler/Jerry Ross songs and Bob Fosse choreography.
The story is about the workers--led by the feisty Doris Day--at a pajama factory who are fighting management for a 7 1/2-cent raise. But the union battle is complicated by the company’s handsome new executive, played by John Raitt. (As an actor, Raitt’s a good singer.)
Happily, the movie rarely goes more than a few minutes without a song or a dance. This was the first full film in which Fosse was in charge of the dancing, but his distinctive style is already in evidence: the short, quick movements; the gymnastic crawling and sliding across the floor; the erotic gyration of the hips and rolling of the back. The sizzling highlights of this fast-paced musical are two pieces led by dancer extraordinaire Carol Haney, “Steam Heat” and “Hernando’s Hideaway.” Both numbers could easily have fit into Fosse’s own, more menacing musicals to come later, “Cabaret” and “All That Jazz.”
And, in the more traditional vein, Day and Raitt shine on the love song “Hey There.”
Though “Pajama Game” doesn’t have the strong characters and themes found in musicals made directly for the screen during the era, it can’t be beat for ‘50s-style, good clean American fun.
“The Pajama Game” (1957), directed by Stanley Donen and George Abbott. 101 minutes. No rating.
“Heart Beat” (1980), directed by John Byrum. 109 minutes. Rated R. This character study of Beat Generation legends Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady and the woman they both loved is an enjoyable piece of nostalgia; a kind of ‘50s version of “Easy Rider.” It stars Nick Nolte, John Heard and Sissy Spacek.
“Cutter’s Way” (1981), directed by Ivan Passer. 109 minutes. Rated R. The story of a crippled veteran, his best friend and their efforts to solve a murder, this is also one of the best introspective character studies to come along in years, a welcomed island of reality in Hollywood’s sea of fantasy.
“The Killing” (1956), directed by Stanley Kubrick. 83 minutes. No rating. A band of very serious thugs plan the biggest score of their careers. An urgent, no-nonsense, unrelenting film by the man who went on to direct “Dr. Strangelove,” “2001" and “A Clockwork Orange.”