This article was written by Rebekah Brannan as part of the Breening Thursdays series.
Ladies and gentlemen, for this week’s Breening Thursday article, I, Rebekah Brannan, will be breening the 1957 film The Pajama Game. It was suggested as a topic by Michaela of Love Letters to Old Hollywood, who wrote the August entry in our guest series, What the Code Means to Me. This film is a funny, music-filled tale of a forbidden romance between two people on opposite sides of a pajama factory strike. Katherine “Babe” Williams, played by Doris Day, is head of the Sleeptite Pajama Factory’s grievance committee. She first meets the factory’s new superintendent Sid Sorokin, played by John Raitt, through an official complaint by one of the workers. However, while she finds that he was not guilty of hitting a fellow worker, he may be guilty of stealing her heart! This story could easily have been a fully acceptable film for the entire family. However, because it was released in 1957, three years after Joseph Breen’s retirement from the PCA, the film is riddled with unnecessary surface problems. In my article, I will show how easily this film could have been reformed with just some simple changes to the lines, lyrics, costumes, etc. Now, the lights dim, the theater hushes, and the screen comes to life! Hurry up, don’t waste time, because here comes The Pajama Game!
- First, I will address the only real thematic problem in the film, the boss’s secretary, Gladys Hotchkiss, and fellow employee, Vernon “Hine-sie” Hines. Their relationship is very odd, since they are not married or engaged, but they act like husband and wife. This could suggest to some that they are living together out of wedlock. It should be plainly stated that they are engaged. They could be one of those funny couples in movies who have been engaged for a long time but haven’t gotten around to getting married yet. However, it must be made entirely clear that there is nothing questionable about their relationship.
- The first objection occurs when we first see Gladys. She is wearing a dress with a skirt which is far too tight. It must be made decently loose.
- The next objection is Babe’s first costume. Although she is wearing a long smock over it, her pencil skirt is far too tight. It must be made looser.
- In a later scene, when the factory girls are sitting on a staircase, “Poopsie,” played by Barbara Nichols, has her legs up so that they are unduly exposed. She should put her legs down, so that they are not so fully on display.
- In her first song, “I’m Not at All in Love,” Babe sings of Sid, “Though I admit he’s quite a hunk of guy.” This lyric is unacceptable and must be changed. Instead she should sing something like, “Though I admit that he is quite a guy.”
- In the next scene, another employee, Mabel, played by Reta Shaw, is describing one of the factory girls to Sid on the phone. She tells him she’s supposed to be very elegant, saying, “She can sew a button on a fly like she was pouring tea for the queen of England.” This unnecessary mention of a fly is unacceptable and must be changed. She should merely say, “Sew on a button.”
- In this scene, Gladys is once again seen, now in a new dress. The skirt of this dress is also too tight and must be made looser.
- In the same scene, Hine-sie sees Gladys putting a note on Sid’s desk and, assuming it’s a love letter, dares her to tell him what’s in it. She hands it to him and says, “Read it! Then go cut your throat!” This is unduly violent and should be changed to something such as “Go jump in a lake” or “Go jump off a cliff.”
- In the song “I’ll Never Be Jealous Again,” Mabel is suggesting different potentially suspicious situations in which Hine-sie could catch Gladys, to test his promise that he’ll no longer be jealous of her. In one of the scenarios, Hine-sie drops by Gladys’s house to talk. The window is open and Gladys is forcing a smile. Then, he sees, “a hat and a tie and a pair of socks in a nice, neat little pile.” The tie and socks are suggestive and must be changed. Instead, she should sing something like, “A derby hat and an overcoat sitting neatly on the couch.”
- At the workers’ annual picnic, a couple of factory girls are talking to the traveling salesman, Max, played by Owen Martin. He tells them that, on his last trip, he saw a lot of Sleeptite pajamas. This is unacceptable and must be eliminated.
- Later during the scene, a girl runs up to Poopsie with her hair unkempt and the sleeve of her dress torn. Poopsie asks what happened to her, and she replies, “Stay out in the open, honey! Don’t get down in them woods.” This entire scenario is very suggestive and must eliminated.
- During the wild picnic song, “Once a Year Day,” there are multiple objections. One is a refrain which goes, “Look at Charlie by the barn, kissing Katie’s ear. Charlie’s wife is fighting mad! I’m glad it’s only once a year.” This is completely unacceptable. The lyrics should be changed to something like, “Katie’s pa is fighting mad! He’s glad it’s only once a year.”
- Next, another refrain goes, “Look at Papa Hofferbush, claims he’s ninety-three. Acting like he’s twenty-two. He’s chasing Sadie up a tree!” This is also unacceptable. The lyrics should be changed to something like, “Acting like he’s twenty-two. Look, he’s gone and climbed a tree!”
- Throughout the entire number, much of the choreography is unacceptable. There are multiple shots where women kick up their legs, turn cartwheels, and even are held upside down by men, all while wearing dresses! Any choreography which causes the women’s skirts to fly up or unduly expose their legs must be changed. Also, the number’s wild culmination, which involves everyone rolling down a hill, must be changed.
- When Gladys begins a solo, she does a step which involves putting her hand on her head, shaking her hips, and crying “whee!” Several other women follow suit and begin mimicking her. This gesture is unacceptable and must be changed.
- Next, all the dancers end up holding hands in such a way that they can’t seem to get unlinked. They begin stepping over each other’s arms and legs in an attempt to get free, creating something that resembles a particularly wild game of Twister. While this is funny for a little while, it goes on so long that it begins to seem inappropriate. It should end sooner. In addition, a woman’s legs are seen sticking up out of the tangled mess of people. This is also unacceptable and must be eliminated.
- Gladys has another brief solo section, during which she turns her back to the camera and slaps her thighs to the accompaniment of loud, tribal drums. This is unacceptable and must be changed.
- In the next scene, Babe has brought Sid to her house. She is wearing a black dress that is too lowcut. The neckline must be brought up to a decent level. Also, although the skirt is predominately covered by her apron, it is a little too tight. It should be made looser.
- In this same scene, when Sid and Babe have gone into the kitchen, she offers him some coffee. He replies, “No, no. It’ll keep me awake.” This line is suggestive, since it could imply that he has immoral intentions. They are in the house alone, and he has already made it quite clear that he isn’t interested in eating or talking. The audience must not think that what he has on his mind is anything but innocent romance.
- During the song which follows, “Small Talk,” and, in fact, the entire scene, Sid aggressively pursues Babe around the kitchen. He is, in fact, too aggressive. His behavior brings a slightly risqué feeling to the entire situation. He may follow her around the kitchen and put his arms around her, but he should not be so aggressive, and she should not seem like she has to make an effort to escape his grip.
- In this song, Sid sings the lyric, “Read in a book the other day that halibut spawn in early May.” This is unacceptable and must be changed. He should instead sing something like, “Read in a book the other day that irises bloom in early May.”
- The scene ends with a fade out on Sid and Babe kissing. Fading out on a kiss has an immoral connotation to it, so this must be changed. They should kiss briefly, pull away from each other, and then the camera will fade out on them gazing at each other lovingly.
- The next scene, which consists only of the song “There Once Was a Man,” has multiple objections. The filmmakers could save themselves a lot of trouble by simply cutting the whole scene, since it is not necessary to the plot, but, if it stays in, multiple changes must be made.
- The first problem is Babe’s outfit. She is wearing black pants and an orange top which she has knotted at the bottom, and she is barefoot. Her pants are too tight and should be made looser. Due to the knot in it, her top pulls up to reveal her midriff multiple times throughout the scene. This is inappropriate, so the top should not have the knot in it. You can see that this costume even bothered Doris Day, since she made a point of pulling her top down once! Finally, it seems suggestive that she is barefoot. She should at least be wearing small black flats.
- During the song, Sid pulls Babe out of the car and puts her over his shoulder to carry her over to the lawn in front of her house. Slightly annoyed at being carried this way, she playfully spanks him. This is unacceptable and should be eliminated.
- At the end of this song, there is a phrase in which they sing, back and forth, “More than a hangman loves his rope! More than a dope-fiend loves his dope! More than an Indian loves his scalps! More than a yodeler loves his Alps!” All but the last of these are unacceptable and must be changed. They should instead sing something like, “More than a cowboy loves his horse! More than a golfer loves his course! More than a captain loves his boats! More than a mayor loves his votes!”
- In a later scene, when the committee for the factory-worker’s raise is meeting in Babe’s house, one of the other female workers, Mae, played by Thelma Pelish, is drinking too much beer. It is not ladylike for her to be drinking so pointedly.
- In this scene, Babe’s top is too tight and too thin, since her brassiere is visible in the back multiple times. The top must be made thicker and looser.
- At this same meeting, as they discuss tactics to make Mr. Hasler give them the raise, one of the men mentions a tactic they used at the Ironclad Overall Company. He says that the workers spit chewing tobacco into the pockets of all the overalls. This is vulgar and must be changed. The overall workers must have a more couth way of rebelling.
- In a later scene, when Sid is trying to convince Mr. Hasler to offer the factory workers a compromise, the grumpy man exclaims, “Not until there’s ice in Hades three feet thick!” This is unacceptable and must be changed. He should say a different phrase such as, “Not until there’s snow in summer,” or, “Not until I see pigs flying over Iowa!”
- In this same scene, Mr. Hasler has Hine-sie take off his trousers and try on some pajama pants. When Gladys comes in and sees Hine-sie in his shorts, she exclaims, “What are you doing, playing games?” The italicized part of this line is unacceptable and must be eliminated. She should merely ask, “What are you doing?”
- After modeling the pajamas, it takes Hine-sie far too long to put on his trousers again. For a while he just stands there in his shorts until Mr. Hasler yells at him to put his pants on. Then, he puts them on backwards. Finally, he stands for a very long time, with his back to the camera, awkwardly trying to button up the fly. He ends up getting his sleeve caught in the pants, and Mr. Hasler yells at him to rip it out and tear it as Hine-sie flees the office. All of this nonsense is unacceptable and unnecessary. Right after he takes off the pajama pants, when Mr. Hasler tells him to put his pants on, he should put them on with no monkey business, and Gladys should keep her back turned until he has the pants on. Then, they may say their existing dialogue.
- Later, Sid is trying to convince Gladys to accidentally-on-purpose leave Mr. Hasler’s locked records book around so he can read it. She tells him she won’t, reminding him that it’s locked, and he replies, “I know a sexy dame who’d lend me the key.” The italicized word is a forbidden expression under the Code and must be removed. He should instead say something like, “I know a real cute girl who’d lend me the key.”
- In the same scene, Sid invites Gladys out to dinner, planning to get her key that way. She accepts the invitation and describes the place she’d like to go in the song “Hernando’s Hideaway.” At one point during this song, she crouches down and puts her hands on his hips. This seems suggestive and should be eliminated.
- In the next scene, when Sid and Gladys are having dinner, she is wearing a dress which is low cut and a bit too tight. The neckline must be brought up to a decent height, and the dress should be looser.
- In this same scene, Poopsie is also seen having dinner at Hernando’s Hideaway. She is wearing an extremely low-cut dress, out of which she is busting shamelessly. The neckline must be brought up so that she is not unduly exposed at all.
- Later in the scene, Sid feels bad for bringing Gladys out and getting her very intoxicated just to get her key. Finally, seeing that he’s depressed, she offers to give him the key, but this doesn’t cheer him up. He says, “It’s a lousy trick, Gladys.” The italicized word is a forbidden expression and must be changed to an acceptable word such as rotten or dirty.
- In a later scene, Sid is trying to make up with Babe, who has refused to see him since they have taken different sides of the pajama factory uprising. He asks to speak to her and begins his speech by saying, “I know explanations are lousy.” Once again, the italicized word is forbidden and must be changed. He should instead say something like rotten or crummy.
- In the next scene, at the pajama workers’ strike, Babe is wearing an outfit which includes red pants that are too tight. The pants should either be made looser or replaced with a nice full skirt, like most of the women present are wearing.
- In this scene, they sing a rousing song entitled “7 ½ Cents,” calculating how much money the raise could make them in different amounts of years. Finally they calculate how much that will make in twenty years. The main singer, Prez, played by Jack Straw, sings, “That’s enough for me to be a sultan in the Taj Mahal. In every room a different doll!” The italicized line is unacceptable and must be changed. He should instead sing something like, “With servants at my beck and call.”
- At the end, everyone celebrates the workers’ 7 ½ cent raise with a huge pajama party. At this party, they have a comedic fashion show of pajamas. Hine-sie and Gladys display matching black and white striped pajamas. It doesn’t seem clear enough that they have now gotten married. Instead of his existing line, “Wear Sleeptite for happy family life,” the announcer should say, “Happy married life.” Also, to drive the point home, Gladys might make a point of showing everyone her shiny new wedding band.
- Finally, the fashion show ends with Babe and Sid. The announcer says, “And another point! Sleeptite is economical!” The curtains part to show Babe and Sid in matching heart pajamas. The only trouble is that they are splitting one pair, with her in the top and him in the pants! They plug this fashion with the catchy rhyme, “Married life is lots of fun! Two can sleep as cheap as one.” This line seems suggestive. Also, the top, which later lifts to reveal her red panties, is not adequate clothing for Babe. Instead, he should be wearing the pajamas, while she is wearing a matching, fully covering nightgown. The announcer would say, “Another point, Sleeptite is versatile!” Sid and Babe would then be revealed, and they would say, “Married life is fun for sure! One for him and one for her!”
This concludes my breening of The Pajama Game. With just forty-two simple changes, this film could have been entirely free from any objection. An enjoyable, music-filled film like this has no need for risqué dialogue, inappropriate choreography, or indecent costumes. It has a strong plot, good songs, entertaining dialogue, and great acting! What more can you ask of a film? As always, I hope I have not insulted anyone or created the impression that I dislike this film. I think this is a very good film, and I recommend it to all you musical lovers out there! My only aim in this article was to show how it could have been even better if not for sore mismanagement at the PCA. Under Mr. Breen’s watch, this film would have been made as I suggested, and even the most sensitive viewer could watch it without a single blush. I hope you all enjoyed taking this breening journey with me! I’ll see you next time!
Calling all Phans to PEPS! This year, on September 23-25, I, Rebekah Brannan, will be hosting The Phantom of the Opera Blogathon. The title tells you exactly what it is. This blogathon will be dedicated to all adaptations, spin-offs, prequels, and sequels of the immortal tale The Phantom of the Opera! As devoted Phans, my sister and I could not let the 110th anniversary of the beginning of the original novel’s serialization in the newspaper Le Gaulois pass without some form of commemoration. I invite all of you to celebrate this wonderful event by joining The Phantom of the Opera Blogathon! Now, stay away from trapdoors, beware of shadows, and always keep your hand at the level of your eyes, because we’re off to the Paris Opera!
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