The Pajama Game Gift-Wrapped in Cellophane
This sizzling musical comedy—perhaps the only one about the conflict between labor and management in the workplace—was energetically directed and written by George Abbot and Stanley Donen and inventively choreographed by the late Bob Fosse. The result is an exuberant take on what another director might have chosen to portray as a drab slice of life.
But not here. The setting is a pajama factory, where the routine of seamstresses and the rhythm of their work provide an excuse for song-and-dance spectaculars, and the color schemes in the workplace and in the various print designs explode time and again like so many candy-colored fireworks.
Although this is clearly a star vehicle for Doris Day, who shines as a populist leader and a woman of principle—once again portraying an independent woman who can stand up to any man—the film looks more like an ensemble piece. And it should—it focuses on a community and the individuals who fuel it. When the heroine, a union member named Katie and known as Babe (Day), falls for the hunky new foreman, Sid (John Raitt), she's confident that they're destined to stay together. But when the management refuses a well-deserved salary increase for the workers, Babe and other union members declare a strike—only to find Sid as their overzealous nemesis. This puts a dent in the relationship, and Day is at her best when she uses her anger for comic effect—until Sid comes to see the light and helps expose managerial corruption.
The triumph of the workers—and of love—may be inevitable, but there's nothing predictable about the flavorful musical numbers, which include "Hernando's Hideaway," "Steam Heat"—in which Carol Haney (who had the lead on Broadway) shines—and "Hey There," in which Doris sparkles. By flaunting its whimsical, flamboyant sensibility, the movie manages to combine humor and spectacle, social relevance and romance, while gift-wrapping all of it in cellophane.
This excellent transfer from Warner Home Video has lively, realistic colors and nicely contrasted images. It's available in letterbox for the first time ever, and the movie benefits from the framing by enhancing the focus. The DVD includes "The Man Who Invented Love," a deleted song sung by Day. The mono sound is consistently rich.