The Pajama Game

The Pajama Game
Originally a Tony Award winning musical by George Abbott and Richard Bissell, The Pajama Game was produced for the screen in 1957. While most stage plays don’t seamlessly translate to film, The Pajama Game was an exception. The film was as true to the original stage play as possible, right down to the crisp staging and the energy-fueled choreography by Bob Fosse.

Much of the film’s success can be attributed to the fact that George Abbott had directorial duties on both stage and screen productions. In addition, most of the Broadway cast reprised their roles for the film.

Doris Day, who plays Babe Williams in the film, was the only leading cast member not in the play. She took over the role originated by Janis Paige.

The action takes place in the Sleeptite Pajama Factory where union workers have been pressuring their boss for a raise – a meager 7-1/2 cents – a sum that the boss claims he simply can’t afford.

The film moves quickly. As the first song “Racing With the Clock” demands, the factory workers push themselves to “hurry up” to meet management’s quotas. The production floor manager is Vernon Hines, played by Eddie Foy Jr. His job is to keep the seamstresses and their machines running at a fast-paced hum; however, he is often distracted by his ex-girlfriend Gladys, played by Carol Haney, who works in the factory’s front office.

Gladys is a friendly gal and Vernon is the overly jealous type which leads to the comedic “I’ll Never Be Jealous Again,” a song testing Vernon’s ability to trust flirty Gladys.

The main love story begins when handsome Sid Sorokin, played by John Raitt, is hired as the new Superintendent. Being a self-proclaimed efficiency expert and company man, the first thing he does is butt heads with the union’s grievance committee headed by none other than no-nonsense Babe Williams.

Although Sid is immediately smitten, Babe is committed to the union and is afraid a relationship with Sid would end miserably. When Babe insists she has no feelings for Sid in “I’m Not At All In Love,” her upbeat denial is even difficult for her to believe.

Perhaps the one of the most well-known numbers in the film is “Steam Heat,” performed by Haney (as Gladys) in signature Fosse style. Another is “Hernando’s Hideaway” which is performed in complete darkness with only a few matchsticks lighting the faces of the singers.

While those are possibly the most well-known, there aren’t any clinkers in this film. “There Once Was a Man” and “Small Talk,” both performed by Sid and Babe, are declarative love songs that embrace their new relationship with joy and tender lightheartedness.

Ultimately, they realize that Babe’s apprehensions about the relationship were spot on.

When the workers decide to “go slow” as a form of rebellion against management, they reprise “Racing With The Clock” in excruciatingly slow motion. When Babe prolongs the slow down, Sid has to fire her and the relationship falters.

The only way Sid can get her back is with 7-1/2 cents.

The Pajama Game is everything a musical should be: infectious songs with spirited dances, a romance that is filled with tension, and a believable plot that is identifiable and timeless.

Although sophisticated musicals from the 1930’s are packed with glitz and glam, The Pajama Game is easy and comfortable to watch. In fact, the finale is performed by the ensemble entirely clad in – you guessed it – pajamas.

And that is, of course, the best way to watch the Pajama Game.

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