Tuesday, June 28, 2011

28 June 1957 “Pal Joey & Modern Movies”

paljoeyposter I thought I’d use a film that is released this year, 1957, to give an example of 1950’s version of sexy. The film, Pal Joey, is loosely based upon the Broadway Musical. Here is a bit about the movie:

Considered by many critics as the definitive Frank Sinatra vehicle, 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. As to be expected the musical arrangements are particularly fine, with some near-perfect Nelson Riddle charts 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 is also one of Frank Sinatra's few post-From Here to Eternity movies in which he did not receive top-billing, Sinatra deciding himself to allow Rita Hayworth this honor stating, with regards to being billed "between" Hayworth and Novak, "That's a sandwich I don't mind being stuck in the middle of."

paljoeybook This film and the Broadway musical were based upon the epistolary novel (that is a novel written in the form of documents, such as letters, diary entries and so on-I often enjoy novels written that way) written by John O’Hara. It is written as if a series of short stories and/or letters to the New Yorker in the 1930’s. The style of the main character is perfect for Sinatra, I think. Here is an example of the type of jargon and misspelling  the character uses in his letters:

Dear Friend Ted

That is if I can call you friend after the last two weeks for it is a hard thing to do considering. I do not know if you realize what has happen to me oweing to your lack of consideraton. Maybe it is not lack of consideraton. Maybe it is on purpose. Well if it is on purpose all I have to say is maybe you are the one that will be the loser and not me as I was going to do certan things for you but now it does not look like I will be able to do them....

The movie’s trailer even has a quick primer of the type of words Sinatra’s character will be using; his ‘joey-isms’.

There are some of my favorite numbers in this film from Rogers and Hart: Lady is a Tramp, Small Hotel, My Funny Valentine and so on.  It is interesting to note that the trailer is simply a heartfelt presentation by Sinatra of the films quality. And it has that in spades, wonderful songs and great performances. There is no need for Dolby sound pounding and shaking the walls, quick cuts and flashes of noise and one liners to draw you in. This film is good, well written and two hours of wonderful musical numbers, wouldn’t it be a novel idea to make such a movie today?

Now, concerning this film it has it’s adult content in the sexy sirens of Novak and Hayworth. There is a nightclub, a womanizer, bathtub scenes and so on. Yet, all of this is done so wonderfully well, it is a joy to watch. There is not need for overt sexiness. I am not a prude, but I also enjoy a film because it entertains and celebrates talent, not just masquerades as soft porn. In fact, one of my favorite numbers and moments from this film is when Rita Hayworth sings Zip. The basis of this song is a ‘stripper’, racy right? Wrong, the verbiage and well written styling of Rogers and Hart packs so much information in a song about a stripper who is an intellectual, it is almost more knowledge than a modern day public school classroom. Today’s pop music is often so simple a 16 year old could have written it in their diary, with easy rhyme scheme and always the same theme: I got him, he got me, I will get him, I will get him and he will know about it, he won’t treat me that way, all basically the same idea. This song has layers.

Again, I am not a prude. Nor do I want to be that person who says, ‘it was better back then’. But, I do want quality over quantity. It is very apparent that many of today’s movies (I will not use the word ‘film’) often seem to be mass produced and written by a commitee in a board room with a checklist of points to hit: 1) sex 2)easy plot points 3)montage in the middle 4)predictable resolution 5)enough ‘in your face’ talk/action/implication to make it appear new and daring. cut and print, sell it and mass produced T-shrits, dolls everything to accompany it and get it done fast for the next thing to come.

I think a perfect example of the type of movie that is sort of disappointing to me today is a trailer I saw for a movie called Bad Teacher. Maybe the movie will be good and funny, I don’t know but the trailer I saw had implications of Middle School boys with bra’s and sexy attitudes from 30+ teacher.

I would include a clip or trailer but I don’t want to promote or have to force anyone else to watch it. I get it. This movie is meant to use humor in an ironic in your face way, but come on. This could have been written in one week, and probably was. Simply take some stars, throw in some odd TV characters, drop the ‘F=bomb’ and give the ‘teacher’ attitude. Oh, how cutting edge, she swears, smokes pot, strips, gets involved in a sexy car wash. It isn’t even a matter of prudish as it is simply almost insulting to one’s intelligence.

Pal Joey is a Hollywood romp of joy with music, it isn’t an Ibsen play, but it has so many more levels and so much more work is apparent in its make up that it continues to be enjoyable today. Will that be true for even half the movies pumped out everyday? And when you consider one gives up two hours of ones afternoon or evening and rather a lot of money to go to the movies today, why do we accept mass produced items? But, then again, why do we accept low quality cheap food full of chemicals, why do we accept ill made cheap clothes from China? Why do we do anything in the modern world, because its easy and because everyone else is doing it.

I did not mean for this simple talk of the film Pal Joey to turn into a rant, but sometimes a gal cannot stop herself. I find many areas of our modern world are touched by mass production and I really feel like my life is worth more and I would rather fill it with quality over quantity. I feel, however, I might be in the minority there.

I hope all have a lovely day and watch Pal Joey if you get the chance, even just for the wonderful music.

There is a Vintage Daily News today and can be accessed by button on right or simply clicking HERE.

Happy Homemaking!

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