Nothing has been done, Crowther assures us, to alter the Broadway staging of this great musical, and this is somehow important, let us say because we get to see the imaginative surface only supplemented by sound stage and park, and because there is nothing up the sleeve in Hollywood, no further considerations. That is important, finally, because this particular work of genius is totally intricate and you don’t want anything to louse up the works.
Supervisor (John Raitt) and Grievance Committee (Doris Day) are in love, boss (Ralph Dunn) won’t give raise amounting to seven-and-a-half cents. Supervisor gets secretary (Carol Haney) drunk at Hernando’s Hideaway, obtains the key to the ledger, finds the boss is charging for the raise but not paying out, since six months ago. Compromise, no retroactive pay.
Employees at Sleeptite plan whole lives upon that raise, “Steam Heat” is what you don’t get without stoking the furnace. A once-in-a-lifetime pact is formed at the company picnic, “my once-a-year-day.” The time-study man (Eddie Foy, Jr.) is a knife-thrower jealously in love with the secretary, a slowdown and the rendezvous (“I know a place”) drive him to distraction.
The Grievance Committee’s father is a railroad man and stamp collector, they live by the tracks. What makes the whole thing go and how to sleep tight are the great themes of this all-around musical, which must be added to the audiovisual curriculum of business schools right alongside Wise’s Executive Suite.
Jean-Luc Godard (Cahiers du Cinéma), “Stanley Donen is surely the master (major or minor) of the musical? The Pajama Game exists to prove it.”
Three years it played on the New York stage, and still Bosley Crowther of the local paper failed to grasp the Devil’s plot, which is to allow the Washington Senators a long-hitter to win the pennant but dash their hopes before it happens.
Señorita Lolita Hernando, 172 years old, “the ugliest girl in Providence, Rhode Island,” is the instrument of the hitter’s destruction, failing that there is his identification with Shifty McCoy who took a dive in the Mexican Leagues, and finally there is an “impulse” that turns him back into a middle-aged fan at the crux, nothing works.
Crowther did notice the careful presentation of the show on film, with ballpark interpolations.