Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth and a Double Brandy

Guest blogger Kitty Johnson writes:

A double brandy for me, please, bartender!

Now this is classic.

A prime Frank Sinatra serenading the luminous Rita Hayworth in George Stevens’ 1957 melo-musical Pal Joey.  The film itself is light on plot, and even lighter on acting, but … oh, come on. Who are we kiddin’? We’re only here to hear Frankie croon, see Kim Novak brood and watch Rita strut. And we get all of those in Pal Joey.

The piece de resistance is this three-minute scene in which the eternal standard “The Lady Is a Tramp” gets Frankie’s royal treatment. And if there ain’t a gal out there who doesn’t swoon, faint, and thud at  Ol’ Blue Eyes’ debonair, seductive appeal then, well, please forgive my French, but … merde. God help us all! (Really ladies, just watch him kick that piano away!)

Treat ‘em mean and keep ‘em keen, Frankie!!

Kitty Johnson is a freelance writer who also works as an editorial assistant for a Los Angeles-based film magazine … which is a fancy way of saying she’s one hell of a nerd. For proof, visit her blog The Kitty Packard Pictorial.

  • JUanita Curtis

    Love Ol Blue Eyes as a singer but not so keen on him in movies apart from Here to Eternity or HIgh Society. Watched Pal Joey recently and apart from the standout Lady is a Tramp was underwhelmed – KIm Novak seemed to be sleepwalking and Rita was past her prime.

  • Roger Lindberg

    Who cares about the acting when you have such great Rodgers and Hart standards? By the way, the director was George Sidney-not George Stevens!

  • Noel Bjorndahl

    George Sidney was underrated. Pal Joey indeed has a stunning Rodgers and Hart score, Sinatra singing at the top of his form with Rita providing a perfect foil against Sinatra’s aggressive heel. I agree with Andrew Sarris that Sidney’s high spirits produced quite a bit of brassiness and vulgarity but it suited the universe of Pal Joey, just as it served the milieux of Jeanne Eagels, the outrageous Jupiter’s Darling and quite a few others. Scaramouche is his masterpiece, a kind of comic book account of French revolutionary derring-do with commedia dell’arte showbiz thrown in for good measure, with all those running inserts of horses galloping through misty estates, dewy-eyed heroine Janet Leigh, Eleanor Parker as Stewart Granger’s lusty paramour and Granger himself smirking his way through some first-rate swordplay, including the final 8 minute encounter in the theatre where he leaps from the stage to confront nasty aristocrat Mel Ferrer (who is revealed as his brother in the penultimate plot twist).

  • Tom Johnson

    Kim Novak, one of my personal favorites, is so appealing in “My Funny Valentine,” and, of course, who cannot be crazy about Barbara Nichols! Underrated – and always watch-worthy!

  • Clay Robinson

    It is a shame that the “public morals” of the 1950′s would not allow a reasonable facsimile of the great stage play to appear on flim. Some of the best songs were left out and no attempt was made to bring to the movie version the dance numbers, which first introduced Gene Kelly to the stage. I’ll never understand why Kelly was not chosen to recreate his broadway success on screen.
    True he could not sing like Sinatra (whose swinging stylings I adore); but the movie audience missed a chance to see what many critics think is one of the best musicals-dramas ever to hit the Broadway stage.

  • John Stanton

    In 1956 my older brother and I were students at UC Berkeley. One morning my brother received a phone call at our dorm from a family friend who was an assistant director in Hollywood. The friend told my brother he was at the Berkeley train station to film a scene for “My Pal Joey,” and he invited my brother and me to come down to the station and watch the filming and meet Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak. My brother declined the invitation, saying he had a midterm exam to take. My brother forgot to tell me about the invitation until a day later. The film crew had moved on by then. Did I forgive my brother? Eventually

  • Susan H

    I LOVE Frank Sinatra in this movie, and got it (over a year ago) mainly for this song, and it is set in S.F., CA (where I live/d). Yes, agreed the dresses wear Rita (she doesn’t wear them), and that is really the way Kim N. acts.
    Still, I know what I am getting and though I grew up attending Rock Concerts from HS on (Ended up wkg in the ENT IND, 1st job w/Lucasfilm for a # of yrs, turning down the job 3X, never having seen “SW”). Later, moved to HW, and back to SF Bay Area, and more ENT, etc.I found, through (1st, AMC got me seeing older, classic movie, and later: TCM-!, that I like Frank Sinatra, and many more movies when I really hated them growing up, and would have laughed if anyone told me I would EVER like him, these movies or the like. (Ah, wisdom is GREAT!)
    Ps: I also like “Joey Speak”.

  • Gord Jackson

    Love Sinatra’s acting maybe more than his singing, which is saying something. In 1957, the year “Pal Joey” was released by Columbia, Paramount sent out “The Joker is Wild.” Both are great. I only wish Warner Brothers would release “The Naked Runner” on dvd. I know it is not one of Ole Blue Eyes most highly regarded pics but it is a personal favourite. The scene in that film where Sinatra is taken into the woods, thinking he is going to be shot by Derrin Nesbitt is still with me. I’ve never forgotten it and never will.

  • tony c

    not a bad movie,but the star is san francisco.

  • mike jaral

    you got that right, my favorite scene from the movie. probably one of my all time favorite scenes. if you like the stars, story, and music, its great. rita hayworth’s expression is pricless. great funny scene with a good song that only sinatra could do.