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The Pajama Game

The Pajama Game(1957)

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The film begins with a sequence showing John Raitt as "Sid Sirokin" walking from a railway station to the Sleeptite Pajama Factory, where he enters and commences his interview with "Mr. Hasler." Eddie Foy, Jr., as "Vernon `Hinesie' Hines," is shown overseeing the factory workers. In a vaudevillian style, Foy then begins singing the song "The Pajama Game." As he dances, the camera shows only his legs and colorful fabric that will be made into pajamas. The opening credits are superimposed over the footage.
       As noted in the Hollywood Reporter review, producer George Abbott, who co-directed the stage play with Jerome Robbins, and Stanley Donen have unusual onscreen credits, in that they are jointly listed as producer-directors. According to one of Donen's biography's, Donen was interested in Abbott's input in the direction of the film to keep it consistent with the stage play, and Abbott agreed, if Donen would share producer responsibilities with him. The two men are listed twice: above the title as "A George Abbott Stanley Donen Production," and at the end of the opening credits as "Produced and Directed by George Abbott and Stanley Donen."
       At one point during the song "Racing with the Clock," footage of the busy factory employees is sped up to illustrate their feeling that they are being rushed. During the song "Hey There," Raitt is shown singing into his Dictaphone, then playing back the recording and singing a duet with himself. The reprise of "Hey There," sung by Doris Day as "Catherine `Babe' Williams" is set in Babe's darkened bedroom. As she sings, red and green lights from a nearby railroad sign shine through the window and color the room. In addition to "Hey There," which became a hit song for Rosemary Clooney and other artists, the score produced two other hit songs, "Steam Heat" and "Hernando's Hideaway." Although Warner Bros. studio publicity notes and the Hollywood Reporter review list the film's running time as 108 minutes, copyright records and the Variety review list the time as 101 minutes.
       A June 1953 Los Angeles Examiner news item reported that Frederick Brisson, Robert E. Griffith and Harold S. Prince bought the novel 7 Cents, intending to develop both a Broadway musical and, later, a film from the property. According to the news item, the producers were negotiating with Cary Grant, Gene Kelly and Van Johnson, hoping that one of them would star in both the stage and film versions. In April 1955, a New York Times news item reported that Warner Bros. completed negotiations to purchase the film rights to the Broadway musical. According to a modern source, the studio wanted Frank Sinatra, and Abbott wanted Marlon Brando to play the lead, and Bing Crosby was interested in the part, but unaffordable.
       The following cast members from the Broadway show reprised their roles in the film: John Raitt, Eddie Foy, Jr., Ralph Dunn, Reta Shaw, Buzz Miller, Ralph Chambers, Thelma Pelish and Carol Haney. Haney, who was Gene Kelly's dance assistant on loan from M-G-M, made her stage debut in The Pajama Game, which launched her successful stage choreography career. The play also launched the career of actress Shirley MacLaine, who, as Haney's understudy took over the role when Haney broke her leg.
       Also cast in the film, according to a Hollywood Reporter news item, was Jack Waldron, who played a dancer and salesman in the stage version, respectively, but who May have been replaced in the final film by Owen Martin, who was credited onscreen. Although some modern sources list Pete Genarro in the cast, according to the Daily Variety review, he was replaced by Kenneth LeRoy. Mary Stanton, who performed in the chorus of the stage version, portrayed "Brenda" in the film.
       Bob Fosse, who served as choreographer for both stage and screen versions, was hired at Robbins' suggestion, according to modern sources. The Pajama Game marked Fosse's first stage and first major film choreography experiences, although he had performed in a handful of films and Broadway plays, and choreographed the 1955 Columbia production My Sister Eileen (see entry above). After The Pajama Game, he became one of the leading director-choreographers of stage and screen.
       According to a modern source, Zoya Leporska served as dance assistant on the film. Frank Thompson, who served as assistant to the set and costume designer in the stage version, was also the costume designers' assistant for the film.
       A November 1957 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that the exteriors in the opening sequence featuring Raitt, which were shot before principal photography began, were filmed at a pajama factory on location in Dubuque, IA. According to a modern source, Richard Bissell, author of the novel 7 Cents and Abbott's co-writer of the stage play and film script, worked as a factory supervisor in Dubuque. A November 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that the picnic sequence and "Once-a-Year Day" song were shot at Hollenbeck Park in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, CA.
       Several songs from the stage version were dropped from the film. A new song, "The Man Who Invented Love," was written for the film solely by Richard Adler, as Jerry Ross had died in 1955, but, before release, was cut from the film and replaced with a reprise of "Hey There." "The Man Who Invented Love," which was sung by Day, was included as added content on the DVD version of the film.
       The New York Times review reported that The Pajama Game was "plucked off the Broadway stage and re-created as a movie with scarcely a passage or a principal performer changed." Although the film version, according to the Variety review, "contains a shade more of social significance," it is an "almost faithful transmutation [of the Broadway production] into celluloid."