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The Pajama Game

Apparently Doris Day was a very big deal in 1957.  She was hailed as a triple thret.  She could dance.  She could sing.  She could act.  She could even show some leg.  She could work as a union rep for a pajama making company or at least that is the premise of the movie, the Pajama Game.  Her name in the movie is Katherine “Babe” Williams.  Everyone calls her Babe.  It is her nickname, which was appropriate in 1957.  No real person is named Babe.

A new guy comes in named Sid Sorokin played by John Raitt, who I had never seen before.  He sings well and even does a duet with himself via tape recorder.  That takes a great deal of skill.  Sorokin is in charge of the pajama factory being as efficient as possible.  He and Babe fall in love.  Their love is caught in the middle of a strike by the pajama factory workers.  He even fires her when she blows a circuit to support the Union.  I can support that kind of boldness in a woman, especially in 1957.  The production crew strikes over a 7.5 cent raise.  When Sid Sorokin gets into the books of the big boss man, he finds out that a 7.5 cent raise was approved six months ago.  Boss Man then tells everyone they have gotten their raise, but denies them backwages.  The workers don’t know they’ve been lied to and celebrate with a great big cheer.  The movie ends with Babe and Sid sharing a pair of pajamas in a fashion show, so her legs are revealed very saucily and his manly man chest is shown to the world.

There is also a secondary story between a character named Gladys and Vernon Hines who they call Hinesy.  Vernon is an abusive alchohol and Gladys is his girlfriend.  They are essentially a source of levity in this movie, even though he’s really an abusive idiot.  He used to be knife thrower and part of their storyline revolves around a fight with Gladys.  He is drunk and uses his throwing knives to try and hit Gladys and Sid (who he thinks are romantically involved.)  He is unbalanced and violent with his girlfriend.  It’s about as funny as it sounds.

The other point about this movie that I found so striking was its racist turn.  It wasn’t immediately apparent to me, but in a factory setting, every single character was white.  In a low income factory neighborhood the likelihood of every single person employed there being an attractive white person is low.  Maybe it is just me, but nothing makes me want to watch a musical more than sweatshop labor, union abuse, alcoholism, racism, and knife weilding abusers.  Maybe I should stop watching old movies.  I fear I may become disillusioned.

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