"The first left-wing operatta" - Jean Luc Godard
Doris Day, without a doubt, was the greatest female musical/comedy star Hollywood ever produced. I know that Judy Garland fans will disagree, but I like Doris better. When "The Pajama Game" was brought to the screen, Doris Day was given sole star billing, of course, with Raitt, Carol Haney and Eddie Foy, Jr. getting secondary rankings. John Raitt had top billing on Broadway, but this was Hollywood.
Miss Day is fascinating as Babe Williams, head of the grievance committee at the Sleep Tite Pajama Factory. She falls in love with the new foreman, played by Raitt. A 7 1/2-cent raise is at stake for the workers, with management playing dirty tricks. The musical score is great. Doris Day was in wonderful voice, which was clear and poignant as she reprised that marvellous standard, "Hey There". "I'm Not at All in Love" was very entertaining with Day really showing us how a musical number should be done. With Raitt, she does the standout "There Once Was A Man", and they both perform to perfection. What a great number!
Doris and John Raitt relaxing between takes.
The songs that were omitted from the original Broadway cast were not missed here. I would love for Doris to have had another ballad, perhaps they could have written something special for the film version. Carol Haney was fun as Gladys and danced up a storm with Bob Fosse's signature choreography in two highlights of the film, "Once a Year Day" and "Steam Heat. Eddie Foy Jr., Barbara Nichols, Rita Shaw and Thelma Pelish, all holdovers from the stage version added much to the proceedings. Stanley Donen's direction was deft. This is one of his best pictures, but he never mentions it in documentaries on him. I don't understand why he concentrates on "Funny Face". This is a much better film.
Ralph McKnight, New York, July 2003
The Pajama Game" should be required viewing
- once a year!
"The Pajama Game" is a meticulous rendering of the Broadway smash hit of the mid 1950's. Co-directed by Stanley Donen and George Abbott, it assembles most of the original Broadway cast, adds Doris Day, in a sizzling performance, and the result is just about as good as it can get.
Doris Day returned to musicals after a brief hiatus in which she starred in Hitchcock's classic, "The Man Who Knew Too Much" and MGM's thriller, "Julie". She also returned to the Warners lot, after a three year absence, to create one of her finest musical portrayals. As Babe Williams, head of the Grievance Committee at a pajama factory. she is tough and determined but also very, very feminine and sexy. When she meets John Raitt, father of singer Bonnie, she falls head over heels in love, and it's easy to understand why. This was Raitt's only on-screen musical lead, depite a dazzling stage career that spanned more than forty years. In another time and place he'd have repeated that success on the screen. Fortunately this film remains as a lasting reminder of how good he is.
Doris Day, playing the role created by Janis Paige on stage, is incredible. Whether singing the exuberant "I'm Not At All in Love", or stopping the show with Raitt while duetting "There Once Was A Man", she is truly a dazzler. It makes one wish that she had lent her talents to the screen version of "South Pacific" in 1958. She'd have made Nellie the legendary screen heroine she should have been and is not, due to the somewhat pallid performance of Mitzi Gaynor. Day is especially poignant singing a reprise of the show's big hit, "Hey There". The number was recorded live, which was highly unusual since most musical numbers are pre-recorded.
Bob Fosse stages the musical numbers with style and the supporting
players including Carol Haney, Reta Shaw and Eddie Foy, Jr., are wonderful.
Harry Stradling photographs the lovely sets with his customary brilliance. "The
Pajama Game" should be required viewing, once a year,
by all afficianados of musical theatre. It's a near perfect presentation
of a lively and loving romp, from an era gone by but that deserves to be
Paul Brogan, October 2000
The Man Who Invented Love
Richard Adler, songwriter for the songs for this play and movie wrote in his autobiography: YOU GOTTA HAVE HEART that his experiences with Doris Day were divine: "I was actually trembling as I approached the Warner Brothers lot on the first full morning of work. But once I was there, time seemed to collapse. It was home; it was natural; it was almost easy. The film was already deeply into pre-production; Mr Abbott was working with Stanley Donen, who would be co-directing the film; Bob Fosse was recreating the dances; the film was adhering very closely to the original.
"My task was to train the ensemble and Doris Day, who was playing the Janis Paige role. A mass of freckles and beauty and good spirits, she was a genuinely sweet person, and a joy to work with. She had an agile mind, and a sure musical sense, and teaching the songs to her was a breeze.
"It was so natural that a couple of day into rehearsal, I thought why not give her a new song, one I'd write myself? It would help her, help me, and possibly help my future. So, I sat down with my tape recorder and then with a musical secretary, and wrote a ballad for her called 'The Man Who Invented Love.' She loved it. It lay in her range, it had nice lyrics and what was most important, it was right for both her and the character. I played it for Mr. Abbott and Stanley Donen, and they liked it, too. It was a sure bet for the film, a breakthrough for me. My career was slowly re-engaging its gears.
What I didn't know at the time, nor did anyone else, was the ultimate fate of the song. It would never be heard. It would end up on the proverbial cutting room floor." Now, what Mr. Adler didn't know is that when the DVD version of "The Pajama Game" was released, this "lost" number was included as an "extra" feature, and it is lovely indeed! It WAS finally rescued from the cutting room floor.