The Pajama Game (1957)

As a resident of the state of Wisconsin as well a huge football fan, I’ve certainly been no stranger to the world of union disputes lately. With the labor unrest in Madison and the battle between NFL players and owners both dominating the news, it was quite timely but totally coincidental that I decided to watch a movie whose plot basically revolves around a union dispute.

However, there was just a *slight* difference in the amount of money being fought over in the movie. By slight I mean billions of dollars (in the NFL) vs. 7 ½ cents an hour. 😉 Sounds a bit ridiculous I know, but the movie I’m referring to is a musical comedy from 1957 called The Pajama Game, which centers around a union in a pajama factory fighting for a 7 ½ cent raise. With $1/hr. being the minimum wage in 1957, 7 ½ cents probably did seem like a lot back then, but it’s funny how insignificant it seems now compared to the amounts currently being contested.

Origins of The Pajama Game

The movie The Pajama Game, which was co-directed by George Abbott and Stanley Donen was based on a 1954 Tony award winning Broadway musical of the same name, which was in turn based on the novel by Richard Bissell. Bissell wrote the book about his experiences as vice-president of a pajama factory in Dubuque, Iowa. Most of the cast from the Broadway play returned for the movie version except for the female lead, Janis Paige, who was replaced by Doris Day. Frank Sinatra was reportedly offered the male lead, but when he turned it down, John Raitt (father of singer Bonnie Raitt) was brought back to recreate his Broadway role.

Wonderful Song and Dance Numbers

As you might expect from a Doris Day movie, The Pajama Game featured many memorable songs all of which were written by the duo of Richard Adler and Jerry Ross. One of the more well known songs and a highlight for me was the song “Hey There” which John Raitt, in his wonderful baritone voice, essentially sang as a duet with himself after recording and then singing along with the first part of the song on a memo machine.

The movie also included some great dance numbers featuring the choreography of Bob Fosse. The two numbers that stood out as being the most special to me were danced to the songs “Hernando’s Hideaway” and “Steam Heat,” and both featured the actress and dancer, Carol Haney. Many consider the “Steam Heat” routine to be the highlight of the entire movie, and I can’t say that I disagree. Even if you’re not typically a fan of dance, it is a number that you really need to see to understand how wonderful it is.

Costumes For The Pajama Game

Another highlight of the movie for me was the work of the husband-and-wife design team of William and Jean Eckart, who designed the costumes for The Pajama Game. I loved the summer dresses that the women were wearing  in a dance number that took place in a park and was set to the song “Once a Year Day”. Unfortunately, I watched the movie through Netflix Instant, and the screen quality was poor so the colors were not very vibrant. I plan on watching it again on DVD in order to see the colors and the costumes more clearly, and I would recommend you do the same if you plan on watching it. And I *would* highly recommend watching The Pajama Game especially if you are a fan of musicals, Doris Day, or Bob Fosse.

What is your favorite movie that was based on a Broadway play?

P.S. If you like vintage clothing, check out this cool post I found on the blog Sewing Vintage, which shows various pajama styles from the 40’s and 50’s. If I knew how to sew, I’d totally be making the bell bottom pajamas! :-)


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  1. […]  The Pajama Game – A delightful musical starring Doris Day and John Raitt, father of singer Bonnie Raitt. I enjoyed this movie for the wonderful song and dance numbers choreographed by the legendary Bob Fosse and for the costumes of the husband-and-wife design team, William and Jean Eckart. […]

  2. John says:

    Here are a few of my favorite musical numbers in classic films: 

    1- Wizard of Oz- Over The Rainbow, Judy Garland

    2- Yankee Doodle Dandy – Yankee Doodle Boy, James Cagney

    3- Singing In The Rain- Singing In The Rain, Gene Kelly

    4- Guys And Dolls- Luck Be A Lady Tonight- Marlon Brando

    5-Cover Girl- Long Ago And Far Away, Kelly/Hayworth

    6- Shall We Dance- Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off, Astaire/Rogers

    7-Shall We Dance- They Can’t That Away From Me, Astaire/Rogers

    8- Going My Way- Swinging On A Star, Bing Crosby

    9- Annie Get Your Gun- There’s No Business Like Show Business,Hutton, Keel,Calhern, Wynn

    10- Show Boat(Dunne)- Ole Man River- Paul Robeson

    11- Met Me In St.Louis- The Trolley Song, Judy Garland

    12- The Harvey Girls- On The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe- Garland and Cast

    13- Sun Valley Serenade- Chattanooga Choo Choo, Glen Miller

    14- On The Town- NY NY Sinatra, Kelly

    15- Easter Parade- Easter Parade, Garland/Astaire

    16- Yankee Doodle Dandy- Over There, Cagney/Langford

    17- Singing In The Rain- Good Morning, Kelly, O’Connor,Reynolds

    18- Anchors Aweigh- I Begged Her, Kelly, Sinatra

    19- It Happened In Brooklyn- Time After Time, Sinatra

    20-Meet Me In St. Louis- Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, Garland

    21- High Society- True Love, Crosby, Kelly

    22- Good News- The Best Things In Life Are Free, June Allyson

    23 For Me And My Gal- For Me And My Gal- Garland/Kelly

    24 Swing Time- The Way You Look Tonight- Astaire

    25- Top Hat- Cheek to Cheek, Astaire/Rogers

    26- Guys and Dolls- Sit Down your Rocking The Boat, Nicely Nicely

    27- Seven Brides For Seven Brothers- Big Dance Scene

    28- Wizard Of Oz- The Merry Old Land Of Oz- Garland/Cast

    29- Yankee Doodle Dandy- Give My Regards To Broadway, Cagney

    30- Yankee Doodle Dandy- Your A Grand Old Flag,Cagney, Cast

    31- Buck Privates- Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, The Andrews Sisters

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