Adapting Pal Joey

Julianne Lindberg

in The Oxford Handbook of Musical Theatre Screen Adaptations

Published in print August 2019 | ISBN: 9780190469993
Published online July 2019 | e-ISBN: 9780190490010 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Adapting Pal Joey

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  • Musicology and Music History
  • Music Theory and Analysis


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This chapter on the liberal movie adaptation of Rodgers and Hart’s Pal Joey situates the musical in the context of postwar America, when traditional forms of gender and domesticity were being challenged and replaced by something more sexually ‘progressive.’ In the film, Joey is now a singer rather than a dancer, vulnerable rather than a heel, and he gets the girl in the end. The chapter explores how the film’s promotion of a set of emerging gender archetypes that defy traditional, middle-class, suburban constructions of masculinity and femininity is reflected in a new treatment of the score, which is reworked, repurposed, and in some cases eviscerated in order to promote the ethos of the film. A good example is the film’s presentation of the song ‘The Lady Is a Tramp’ (an interpolation from Babes in Arms), which, in Sinatra’s version, emphasize[s] that he is offering his body to her. The chapter concludes that despite the lyrics, it is Joey who plays the part of the ‘tramp.’

Keywords: Pal Joey; The Lady Is a Tramp; Frank Sinatra; Babes in Arms; masculinity

Article.  9968 words. 

Subjects: Musicology and Music History ; Music Theory and Analysis

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