Cast & Crew
After he is thrown out of town for romancing the mayor's underage daughter, nightclub singer Joey Evans travels to San Francisco in search of a job. Along strip club row in North Beach, Joey spots a poster advertising the appearance of his old friend, band leader Ned Galvin, at the Barbary Coast Club. At the club, Joey wangles a job from owner Mike Miggins when the club's emcee fails to appear and Joey jumps onstage to engage the audience in patter and songs. After the show, Ned invites Joey and Linda English, a naïve young chorus girl who aspires to be a singer, to perform with the band that night at a charity event sponsored by Vera Simpson. When Joey recognizes the wealthy, widowed Vera as a former stripper, he embarrasses her by proposing that Vera perform one of her strip routines to raise money for the charity's auction. Later that night, Ned and Joey walk Linda to her rooming house where Joey notices a room for rent sign in the window. After ascertaining from the sleepy landlady that there is a vacant room adjoining Linda's, the womanizing Joey eagerly rents it. The next morning, Linda is surprised to find Joey pounding on her bathroom door. As the weeks pass, the fast working Joey romances most of the club's chorus girls, whom he calls "mice." Only the tough-talking Gladys and the wary Linda remain immune to his charms. Annoyed by Joey's constant propositions, Linda tricks him into buying a small dog, which he names "Snuffy." One night, to get even with Joey for embarrassing her, Vera comes to the club and flirts with him. As Joey begins to sing, however, Vera walks out without paying her bill and Mike fires him. Undeterred, the glib Joey strikes a deal with Mike: if Joey can convince Vera to return to the club by Saturday, he can keep his job. At the Simpson mansion on Nob Hill, Joey informs Vera that he has been fired because of her and intends to leave town. Afterward, when Linda tells Joey that she will miss him and Snuffy, he invites her to dinner and she accepts. At closing time that night, Vera, intrigued by Joey's insolence, comes to the club, thus assuring that Joey will keep his job. After Joey sings an insulting song to her, Vera leaves with him and drives him to her yacht. There, Joey reveals his grand ambition to have his own club. When Joey suggests that Vera become his partner in "Chez Joey," they seal the bargain with a kiss and Vera awakens the next morning with a smile on her face. Back at the rooming house, Joey tells Linda that he is moving up to Nob Hill. When Joey gives her Snuffy, Linda, angry and hurt at being stood up the night before, takes the dog and slams the door in Joey's face. Soon Joey hires the entire crew of the Barbary Coast to work at Chez Joey, the palatial Nob Hill club bankrolled by Vera's money. After Joey promotes Linda to be the featured female singer in the show, however, Vera reminds him that she "owns him" and orders him to fire Linda. When Joey tries to manipulate Linda into quitting by demoting her to stripper, she deduces that Vera wants her fired and suggests that Joey change the name of the club to Chez Vera. That night, as Vera entertains her society friends at the mansion, Joey waits for her aboard the yacht. Rather than Vera, however, a drunken Linda stumbles onto the boat, kisses Joey and passes out. The next morning, Linda, ashamed of her behavior, thanks Joey for not taking advantage of her. After they tenderly kiss, Linda agrees to perform the striptease. At the rehearsal before opening night, Vera walks in just as Linda is doing her striptease. When the men in the audience begin to leer at Linda, Joey, unable to stomach her degradation, tells her to put on her clothes and sing a love song instead. Furious, Vera threatens to close the club unless Joey fires Linda. After Joey declares that "no one owns Joey but Joey," Vera shutters the club and Joey, for the first time in his life, gives up his dream to preserve his integrity. When Linda pleads with Vera to reopen the club, Vera comments that Joey must be in love with her because he insisted that she keep her clothes on. Vera then implies that she might consider reopening the club if Linda would leave town. Later, as Joey packs his bags aboard the yacht, Vera appears and says she has changed her mind. When Vera suggests they get married, Joey replies that he will always be a bum and that marriage would not transform him into an honest man. Later, at the darkened Chez Joey, Joey reflects on what might have been. As he walks out of the club onto the sidewalk, Vera and Linda drive up in Vera's car. Linda and Snuffy then jump out and Linda asks Joey if she can go with him. When Joey warns her to get out while she still has a chance, Linda looks forlorn and Joey kisses her. As they walk off together, Linda suggests that they bill their new act as Joey and Linda Evans.
Bobbie Jean Henson
Jo Ann Smith
Leslie Lynne Wong
Nellie Gee Ching
Jo Ann Greer
Best Art Direction
Best Costume Design
When Cohn first purchased the rights to the play, he wanted Kelly for the lead but the latter was already under contract to MGM and Louis B. Mayer wanted too much money for Kelly's services. Cohn then pursued James Cagney and later Cary Grant for the title role. As for the character of Vera Simpson, Joey's wealthy sponsor, such actresses as Gloria Swanson, Grace Moore, Ethel Merman, and Irene Dunne were considered. The advent of World War II put the project on hold until the early fifties when the play was successfully revived on Broadway. Cohn began his casting search again, considering Marlon Brando and Mae West for the key roles. But it was Frank Sinatra who snagged the lead through his production company, Essex, which partnered with director George Sidney and producer Fred Kohlmar to bring it to the screen.
Frank Sinatra was gracious enough to allow Rita Hayworth to take top billing over him on the marquee in honor of her long-standing relationship with the studio. Despite the fact that she didn't do her own singing (she was dubbed by Jo Ann Greer), her co-star Kim Novak didn't sing either (Kim was dubbed by Trudi Erwin). Of course, the songs were always the best part about Pal Joey and the film version kept ten songs by Rodgers and Hart from the original musical score and added four new ones, also by Rodgers and Hart. The new additions were "My Funny Valentine," "There's a Small Hotel," "I Didn't Know What Time It Was," and "The Lady is a Tramp" which is given the definite treatment by Sinatra with a killer Nelson Riddle arrangement.
It's no secret that Pal Joey was cleaned up considerably for the screen after the Production Code office demanded numerous changes (the removal of some explicit sexual situations) but it survived the sanitation process and even made off with four Oscar® nominations: Best Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Sound, and Best Art Direction. It also marks the end of Rita Hayworth's long relationship with Columbia Pictures.
In the biography, If This Was Happiness (Sphere Books Limited), writer Barbara Leaming observed that "it was common knowledge that Harry Cohn had anointed Kim (Novak) to replace Rita at Columbia. "When you came here you were a nothing, a nobody," Cohn was supposed to have blasted Rita when she walked out on Joseph and His Brethren. "All you had were those big things and Harry Cohn. Now you just have those two big things." Shortly thereafter, the creation of Kim Novak as Columbia's next 'big star' was widely thought to be Harry Cohn's revenge on Rita, so that putting the two actresses together made the press and public expect fireworks. Still, according to George Sidney, on the set 'there was no friction between Rita and Kim.' Although Rita did lament that she was actually younger than Frank Sinatra, she was really just anxious to fulfill her final obligations to the studio as quickly and as smoothly as possible."
Director: George Sidney
Producer: Fred Kohlmar
Screenplay: Dorothy Kingsley (based on the musical play by John O'Hara, Richard Rodgers, and Lorenz Hart)
Cinematography: Harold Lipstein
Editing: Viola Lawrence, Jerome Thoms
Music: Morris Stoloff
Cast: Rita Hayworth (Vera Simpson), Frank Sinatra (Joey Evans), Kim Novak (Linda English), Barbara Nichols (Gladys).
by Jeff Stafford
The Kim Novak Collection - MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT & JEANNE EAGELS Highlight THE KIM NOVAK COLLECTION on DVD
The movies in Sony's The Kim Novak Film Collection take her appeal in four different directions. Picnic gives Novak her most iconic role. Madge Owens is the Kansas high school prom queen desperate to escape her identity as the 'local beauty'. Madge's mother Flo (Betty Field) wants to hurry her marriage to the local rich kid Alan Benson (Cliff Robertson), but Madge unconsciously envies her brighter, less dazzling sister Millie (Susan Strasberg), who hates small town life and wants to run away to New York to "write books to shock everybody". Meanwhile, the spinster schoolteacher Rosemary (Rosalind Russell) is living another female nightmare -- well into middle age, she's desperate to marry the local merchant Howard Bevans (Arthur O'Connell).
The catalyst arrives in the form of Hal Carter (William Holden), a former college buddy of Alan's who tells spicy tales of bumming around Hollywood and wants to beg Alan's dad for a job. Hal talks big but can't hide the fact that he's a bum and will have to start as a laborer. That doesn't decrease his appeal to Madge, much to the horror of her mother. Hal's virility also upsets Rosemary, who causes a scene at the grand Labor Day picnic that gets them all into trouble. The film's classic scene is an almost magical evening dance at the picnic. Hal and Madge suddenly know that they're fated for each other, in a relationship with little hope for a future.
Made on location at great expense, Picnic is an exceptional Columbia film. Cinematographer James Wong Howe's warm, diffuse colors give the show a special look for its year (1955), transforming the harvest picnic into a painfully poignant ritual for those in desperate need to change their lives. Director Joshua Logan handles the actors extremely well, and the camera blocking is worked out to perfection. The superb dialogue by William Inge, the original author of the Broadway play, gives William Holden a terrific opportunity to show how appealing he can be as a tough-guy loser. We soon forget that Holden is at least ten years too old to play Hal. Kim Novak's part seems almost autobiographical -- the deceptively "shallow" girl weary of being told she's beautiful.
It's said that Inge adapted Picnic and Splendor in the Grass from real events he witnessed back in Independence, Kansas -- tragedies that befell admired young high school celebrities. He stirred up resentment when the locals recognized the original cases. Picnic has dramatic teeth because we know that Flo Owens, the abandoned mother, is almost certainly correct in trying to stop her daughter from leaving: Hal and Madge's passion will almost certainly collapse in poverty, gambling, or liquor. That's apparently what happened in real life. But Madge resolves to take her chances with the cards she's dealt. Inge gives his most hopeful thoughts to the sweet lady next door, Helen Potts (Verna Felton). She's an elderly woman taking care of an even older mother, and locked away from opportunities of life and love. Helen gives Madge her unspoken blessing -- she knows that a woman must follow her heart, one way or another.
Sony's DVD of Picnic is an improvement on their earlier widescreen disc, with softer colors and less grain. Some fading has occurred but the digital restoration is remarkably effective.
The second film in the Kim Novak Collection Jeanne Eagels is reviewed here.
Pal Joey is another George Sidney effort adapted from the 1940 Broadway musical that had made Gene Kelly a star. Pushed and pulled out of shape to accommodate the requirements of its stellar cast -- especially Frank Sinatra -- Pal Joey has its own glossy appeal. Originally a womanizing heel who uses both a socialite and stenographer as a path to getting his own nightclub, Joey has been transformed into a more sympathetic Frank Sinatra clone. Although much of the bite of John O'Hara's original has been left behind, the film offers Sinatra singing more Rodgers and Hart standards (The Lady is a Tramp). The colorful, classy cinematography is a treat -- many shots look as though they could be Sinatra album covers from the period. Some Sinatra fans consider this his best film role.
Besides making Joey a nice guy, the adaptation reinvents socialite Vera Simpson (Rita Hayworth) as an ex-burlesque queen. Showgirl Linda English (Kim Novak) tempts Joey in a scene that's at least verbally sexy. Everybody gets to sing and dance although Novak's singing voice is dubbed. With a couple of characters dropped and an entire blackmail scheme eliminated, Pal Joey becomes a Sinatra star vehicle plain and simple. Among the supporting players, Barbara Nichols has some nice moments as another showgirl.
This new transfer is much nicer than grainy Sony disc from about ten years ago. Colors pop quite beautifully, giving Novak's close-ups an almost hallucinogenic quality. Although Rita Hayworth has more depth as an actress, Novak's youth has the edge in the glamour department.
The Stephen Rebello-hosted extras really hit their stride for Pal Joey . The discussion starts off with Jean Louis' gowns -- Novak remembers taking a big interest in her clothing and participating in the design process. Rebello also solicits comments on Novak's preference against wearing bras. We then see quite a lot of Novak's beautiful home on a river, and hear more about her happy life in an artist's colony. Her bedroom features her own painted murals.
The select-scene commentary aligns nicely with its subject matter, with Novak discussing her dubbed singing and the experience of working with Sinatra. She remembers a marked change in Sinatra's attitude from The Man with the Golden Arm. Novak explains that her complicated dance number with Hayworth was ruined when Frank arrived and cut out moves and bits he didn't like or didn't want to learn. In the finished film, the number is pretty ragged.
1958's Bell, Book and Candle re-teams the stars of Hitchcock'sVertigo in a quirky romantic comedy that plays like a do-over to allow Kim Novak and James Stewart a happier finish. Beautiful, mysterious art gallery proprietress Gil Holroyd (Novak) is actually a practicing witch. She resorts to a love charm to attract Shep Henderson (James Stewart), prying him away from his icky fianceé Merle (Janice Rule, wonderful in the thankless role). Less like Burn Witch, Burn and more like TV's Bewitched, witchcraft here is an apparently non-Satanic lifestyle. Gil's Aunt Queenie (Elsa Lanchester) and her own brother Nicky (Jack Lemmon are a happy-go-lucky Greenwich Village practioners that limit their magic to petty ends -- Nicky can't find a good job. Nicky foolishly helps phony occult writer Sidney Redlitch (Ernie Kovacs) learn about real witchcraft, which threatens to expose all of them.
Of course, romantic problems arise when Gil breaks the rules of witchcraft by falling in love with her new 'enchanted' boyfriend, and regrets not winning him the honest way. This is of course foolish, as any breathing man would crawl through fire for a date with Gil, who is a knockout in her glamorous hip-chick costumes.
Kim Novak takes to the barefoot Bohemian style quite well, even with a pair of painted eyebrows that look more like giant commas come to roost. Stewart exercises his comedy skills without resorting to Harvey- type slapstick. His late night snuggling scenes with Novak equate romantic infatuation with magical enchantment. Gil and Shep indeed make a very attractive couple, and the picture works. Hermoine Gingold adds spice playing an even more adept spell-caster than Novak's Gil.
In the accompanying featurette Kim Novak sticks to standard praise to talk about her co-stars Lemmon and Kovacs but assures us that she recognized a fellow 'real person' in James Stewart, a man as comfortable "as a pair of old slippers". Novak also cops to loving the witchcraft angle -- she obviously delighted in working with Gil's 'familiar', a Siamese cat named Pywacket.
1959's Middle of the Night is a heavy but rewarding drama from Paddy Chayefsky, who adapts his own play. Set in a somewhat depressing vision of the New York garment district, the show is about aging widower Jerry Kingsley (Fredric March) and his unstable relationship with the young Betty Preisser, his secretary (Novak). Betty is divorced from George, a musician (Lee Phillips) and has trouble making decisions. Her planned marriage to Jerry meets plenty of resistance from her mother (Glenda Farrell) and she sometimes feels like getting back together with George. Meanwhile, Jerry takes flak from his bossy older sister and his married daughter Lillian (Joan Copeland), who makes life difficult for her own husband (Martin Balsam) as well. Providing a negative role model is fellow garment worker Lachman (Albert Dekker) a boastful but unhappy womanizer. Does Jerry and Betty's romance have a chance?
Middle of the Night looks at a Marty- like situation from a different angle, with two well-meaning and emotionally needy people negotiating a minefield of disapproval and self-doubt. It doesn't take much to change their mood from infatuation to suspicion. Both feel like losers in love and neither wants to be hurt again. But all relationships are fraught with risk, and Jerry and Betty feel a strong attraction across the May-December gulf.
Once again Paddy Chayefsky's flair for the natural flow of dialogue pulls us deeper into the drama. Jerry's pride is too easily hurt and Betty is woefully insecure. The depth of her weakness becomes clear when the smooth-talking George shows up one evening and too easily talks his way back into her bed. The show looks at adult relationships in an adult context, and comes out a winner. This is one of Novak's finest films.
Middle of the Night benefits from the presence of quality actors like Glenda Farrell and Lee Grant. Young Jan Norris also makes a big impression as Betty's precocious younger sister -- as she did a year or two later as one of Natalie Wood's girlfriends in Splendor in the Grass.
On the set's final featurette Ms. Novak talks at length about her rewarding experience on Middle of the Night, despite the fact that it didn't do well at the box office. It's her most accomplished acting part and she's perfect for it. Betty is a mess of contradictions; Kim describes her as a "baby" hungry for intimacy and a father figure. Novak tells us that the telling blocking in one scene, where Jerry handles a dress dummy as if it were Betty's body, was her idea. She also says that March had to be repeatedly reminded to respect her 'personal boundaries'!
The Kim Novak Film Collection makes us grateful that Sony is currently doing such a fine job with its library titles, when several other studios have more or less abandoned classic movies. The transfers are all exceptionally good and widescreen enhanced. The color films range from the candy-hues of Pal Joey to the softer palette of Picnic, while the stylized B&W work in Jeanne Eagels contrasts strongly with Middle of the Night's documentary look. Picnic and Pal Joey have 5.1 tracks, which may be original mixes.
Added value producer Greg Carson has scored a coup with Kim Novak's participation, and author Stephen Rebello (Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho) delivers an exemplary interview portrait of this legendary shrinking violet. Ms. Novak's attitude about her own fame is very interesting. She understands the point of view of Marlene Dietrich, who worked into her seventies and then retreated forever away from cameras that would mar her near-mystical image of glamour. Kim Novak liked her Hollywood work but loves her privacy and creative life more. Her interviews convince us that she's happy with the way things worked out. She sees no need to appear on camera in close-up. For the many among us who have been enamored of her for half a century, her comments and confidences here are more than enough reward.
For more information about The Kim Novak Collection, visit Sony Pictures. To order The Kim Novak Collection, go to TCM Shopping.
by Glenn Erickson
The Kim Novak Collection - MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT & JEANNE EAGELS Highlight THE KIM NOVAK COLLECTION on DVD
After Harry Cohn saw the success of the Gene Kelly/Rita Hayworth team in the musical Cover Girl (1944), the two were promised "Pal Joey." Sadly, it took another fifteen years for "Pal Joey" to reach the screen, and by that time Kelly was bound to MGM and Hayworth was given the role of the older woman, with Kim Novak now playing the younger woman.
Gene Kelly got his big break in the Broadway version of Pal Joey. Columbia wanted him for the film, but he was under contract to MGM, who wouldn't let him do the film.
In the scene where Frank Sinatra sings "The Lady is a Tramp" and then dances with Rita Hayworth, there is a moment where she is supposed to say a line. However, she appears to stop herself and smile instead. This is because she realized during the take that Sinatra had an erection, and her surprise caused her to miss the line. However, her take was considered so priceless that it was left in. You can also see Sinatra strategically using the fur coat to cover his lower body as he exits the scene.
Billy Wilder was the original choice to direct. He discussed it with Columbia studio head Harry Cohn over lunch one day. Not only did Cohn turn down Wilder as director, Cohn later sent Wilder a bill for their lunch.
Pal Joey was based on the John O'Hara novel of the same name (New York, 1940). Portions of the novel had previously appeared as a short stories in The New Yorker. According to a May 1957 Los Angeles Times news item, Columbia purchased the screen rights to the O'Hara, Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers play in 1941. In 1951, an October 1951 Daily Variety news item noted that Jerry Bresler was assigned to produce a film based on the play, which was to star Gene Kelly as "Joey," the role he originated on Broadway. When Kelly's studio, M-G-M demanded an exorbitant fee for his loan out, the project was shelved.
The Los Angeles Times news item notes that the project was then postponed for years due censorship problems in adapting the play to film. One of difficulties arose from the racy song lyrics. Several of the more suggestive songs-"In Our Little Den of Iniquity," "Happy Hunting Horn," and "Take Him (But Don't Ever Take Him to Heart)"-were eliminated from the film. Three other songs with racy lyrics-
"You Mustn't Kick It Around," "Plant You Now, Dig You Later" and "Do It the Hard Way"-are heard in the film as instrumentals only. Although a May 1957 Los Angeles Times article stated that the song "What Do I Care for a Dame?" was eliminated from the motion picture, Frank Sinatra performs it in the film. A January 1957 Hollywood Reporter news item adds that some of the more suggestive lyrics from the stage production were toned down for the picture. The following Rodgers and Hart songs from the 1930s were included in the film but were not performed in the Broadway version of Pal Joey: "I Didn't Know What Time It Was," "The Lady Is a Tramp," "There's a Small Hotel" and "My Funny Valentine." In the film, the character of Joey was changed from a dancer to a singer and the setting was changed from Chicago to San Francisco. In addition, Joey's character was softened by the inclusion of the last act in which Joey is reconciled with "Linda." Various locations throughout San Francisco were utilized for the film, including Telegraph Hill, according to a May 1957 Variety news item.
According to an April 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item, Barbara Stanwyck was considered for the role of "Vera Simpson." Although a November 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that Janis Paige was to perform in the "Zip" strip number, Paige does not appear in the released film. A March 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item adds that if Sinatra had refused the role of Joey, Columbia studio chief Harry Cohn would have considered Kirk Douglas for the part. According to a May 1957 Hollywood Reporter news item, Flamenco dancer Carmen Amaya coached Novak on some dance steps. A May 1957 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that the film's shooting schedule ran from noon until 8 p.m., a departure from the normal 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. schedule. The change was made to allow the cast to sleep later, thus improving their performances. Although a June 1957 Hollywood Reporter news item stated that Jack Entratter, the general manager of the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, was to appear as an assistant head waiter at Chez Joey, his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Hollywood Reporter news items and production charts add Charles Aldrich, Slim Duncan, Mark Power, and Cosmo Sardo to the cast, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Modern sources mention a wide variety of actors that were considered for various roles in the films, but this information has not been verified.
Pal Joey marked the only production of Essex-George Sidney Productions, a production unit formed by George Sidney and Frank Sinatra. Pal Joey was nominated for the following Academy Awards: Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing and Best Sound Recording. Sinatra won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor for his performance in the film.
Released in United States 1998
Released in United States on Video February 7, 1990
Released in United States Winter December 1957
Released in United States 1998 (Shown in New York City (Walter Reade) as part of program "A Salute to Sinatra" August 21 - September 8, 1998.)
Released in United States on Video February 7, 1990
Released in United States Winter December 1957