Monday, August 12, 2013

There's a Small Apartment

I mostly just did the laundry this morning. It was sunny and humid when I got up, but while the humidity remained, the sun disappeared behind heavy clouds for a little while. Though NBC insisted that several parts of the area would see scattered showers, the most rain I felt was a tiny sprinkle walking home. The laundromat wasn't too busy. I had no problems getting a washer and a drier. Good thing, since I had a lot to clean, including towels and dust rags.

I just barely made it back in time to put everything away, change into my uniform, eat two muffins, and rush off to work! This was not a good day to be late. Like yesterday, it was steady for most of the afternoon. There were a few annoying customers (notiably a fellow in a fedora who was not only rude to me, but to the woman behind him), but otherwise no problems. I was in and out; a manager went in so I could leave on time.

I went straight home from work to eat leftover beans and pasta with farm market tomatoes for dinner and finish Pal Joey, which I started this morning. Frank Sinatra is the title character of this 1957 musical, a heel of a night club singer who runs out on women and debts the moment things get too hot to handle. On a stop in San Francisco, he meets his match in lovely Linda English (Kim Novak), a sweet chorus girl, and Vera Simpson (Rita Hayworth), a wealthy, bored widow who was once a stripper. Vera wants to set Joey up in his own nightclub, but Linda is the one he wants to set up as an up-and-coming dancer. Joey has to decide what he really wants, and which woman really owns his heart.

This musical has had quite a history. Gene Kelly was Joey in the original 1940 Broadway cast; former operetta favorite Vivianne Segal was his Vera. Though it did well enough at the time, people were frequently turned off by a story that had a heel using and losing a rich woman and a nice girl down the street. A successful revival in 1952 (again with Segal as Vera) convinced Columbia head Harry Cahn that the post-War world was ready for it and it would be a perfect vehicle for Kelly and Rita Hayworth. He couldn't get Kelly from MGM. By 1957, Sinatra was now Joey, Hayworth had moved to Vera, and Kahn's newest discovery Kim Novak was Linda. Also, the story had lost much of its dark edges. Vera's now a widow (in the original, her husband was quite alive and Joey was basically being kept), Joey's somewhat less of a heel, and the end is still ambiguous but does allow for him to get a lady.

There's some nice, relatively laid-back numbers. Sinatra's "The Lady Is a Tramp" is one of the best recordings of that song ever; he also scores with "I Didn't Know What Time It Was." Novak gets "My Funny Valentine." Hayworth does the comic stripper number "Zip" and my favorite song from this score, "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered." While it's not a traditional musical, the original wasn't, either. Most of the songs in the original show were also performed in the night club, part of the reason that subsequent revivals (including one as late as 2009) have had heavily revised books and haven't run for long. This is pretty much for fans of the stars or Rogers and Hart only. Anyone else is better off looking for Hayworth's 40s musicals or Sinatra's many recordings of these songs.

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