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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

The Pajama Game (1957)



Reviews and Comments

The Pajama Game is the first of two stage musicals with songs by the short-lived writing team of Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, the other being Damn Yankees!. Unlike many movie adaptations of Broadway musicals, this one preserves much of the original cast. And unlike many movie adaptations of Broadway musicals, there isn't much of an attempt to disguise the show's origins. The camera keeps its distance, absorbing spectacle in long shots, deigns to do medium shots, but rarely moves in for a close-up. The effect is that we never quite forget we are watching a show and become absorbed in the lives of fictional characters. Paradoxically, this is precisely what is called for. The play was written to be a staged musical comedy and was designed to work with that kind of presentation.

The film is featherweight but fun. The plot, concerning a romance across corporate and union lines, is but a rack upon which to hang musical numbers, which range from cute and funny to funny and cute, save for the best and most famous song from the play, the beautiful soul-searching Hey There...You With the Stars In Your Eyes. The choreography, featuring rows and columns of workers in the factory scenes and a literal pile of chaos in the off-time scenes, is effective and fitting.

So far, I suppose this review sounds like hesitant praise, but maybe that's because I can't quite figure out why it works as well as it does. Few of the individual elements of the film are ingenious, though most are inspired. But everything comes together just right to make a remarkably entertaining show. It's joyful, funny, and has character to spare.