Pajama Game, The (1957)

“No matter what’s with us, Sid, I’m going to be fighting for my side, and fighting hard.”

Synopsis:
A union representative (Doris Day) at a pajama factory falls in love with its new superintendent (John Raitt), but clashes with him over an imminent strike.

Genres:

Review:
This technicolor Doris Day musical is most notable as one of choreographer Bob Fosse’s earliest cinematic efforts, and the dancing is indeed distinctive. Unfortunately, however, the story itself — about romance amidst labor negotiations at a pajama factory — is a frustratingly glib treatment of a complex issue. Indeed, it’s somewhat disturbing to see downtrodden workers depicted as such a cheery, colorfully dressed clan; they’re reminiscent of characters in Soviet-era propaganda musicals. In addition, though the songs in The Pajama Game are fun while they last, none of them are particularly memorable; and the performances by romantic leads Day (who, as amusingly noted in Slant Magazine’s review, sports a “fetching [?] bull-dyke pompadour”) and Raitt are serviceable at best. The Pajama Game will likely remain one-time viewing for most film fanatics.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Many cleverly executed musical tunes
    Songs
  • Bob Fosse’s creative cinematography
    Picnic dance
  • Colorful costumes and sets
    Costumes
  • Carol Haney’s whacked-out performance as Day’s colleague
    Haney

Must See?
Yes, simply to see Fosse’s early work.

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One Response to “Pajama Game, The (1957)”

  1. A must – not only for Fosse’s work, even if that is the main attraction.

    It’s true that the treatment of the subject matter is somewhat “glib” but, considering this is a ’50s musical, I think enough of the seriousness of the issue comes through – and it elevates ‘Pajama Game’ from simple, sappy boy-meets-girl stuff.

    I suppose it’s the sentimental slob in me, but I have to disagree about the score – which I find catchy and generally memorable. Of course, one probably comes away from the film thinking of Fosse’s standout contributions to ‘Hernando’s Hideaway’ and ‘Steam Heat’ (the latter most obviously displaying Fosse’s signature look; it’s reason alone to see the film).

    Though Day and Raitt aren’t giving Oscar-worthy performances, they make for an appealing couple; it’s interesting to see them grappling with a real issue crashing in on their (admittedly, as usual in films like this, moving-too-fast) relationship. Raitt reminds me of a line from the film ‘Camp’, in which a young actor shows up for an audition and a woman says something like, “A boy! An honest-to-God straight boy!” Raitt – who has a powerhouse voice – simultaneously exudes raw masculinity. Speaking of masculinity…with that haircut, Day probably causes lesbians everywhere to lose their reason.

    ‘TPG’ contains one of the oddest sequences ever for a musical (!): in a jealous rage, Eddie Foy Jr. chases (the delightful) Carol Haney with a knife – and it’s an extended ‘gag’!

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