Sinatra is Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered
Whilst "Pal Joey" wasn't written with Frank Sinatra in mind it could quite easily have been because it is not only a perfect movie to highlight his talents as a singer and actor but also sees him playing a character which feels close to his persona. And that is the charm of "Pal Joey" because we're not really watching Joey charm his way through women, sing, dance and smooth talk his way in and out of trouble we're watching Sinatra and it works. Sinatra is not the only thing which works because his co-stars Rita Hayworth and Kim Novak are just as good as is George Sidney's direction which keeps things moving at a sprightly pace blending the story with the perfect balance of comedy and music. It's one downfall is that whilst fun it's strangely not that memorable and that is partly down to there being just a couple of truly great songs, but even so "Pal Joey" is still worth a watch just for Sinatra's effortless performance.
Joey Evans (Frank Sinatra - The Pride and the Passion) is an easy come easy go sort of guy who uses his talents be it his charm, his humour or his singing to get himself work where ever he goes although those talents also often get him into trouble and out of work as well. Having rolled up in San Francisco Joey charms his way into a job at a night club where he also charms his way through many of the young lady dancers as well. the only one who seems capable of resisting his charms is Linda English (Kim Novak - Bell Book and Candle) who plays hard to get. But whilst Joey can't get Linda out of his head he also becomes distracted by wealthy widow Vera (Rita Hayworth - Only Angels Have Wings), a former showgirl known as "Vera with the Vanishing Veils" who he spies as a cash cow in order to get his own club. But of course Joey can't have both worlds especially when Vera becomes jealous of Linda.
So as already mentioned "Pal Joey" feels like a movie made for Frank Sinatra, although in reality it wasn't with it's roots on the Stage and with Jack Lemmon being thought of for the part of Joey. The story is in fact quite simple as we watch Joey roll into San Francisco and smooth talk his way into performing at a club which basically leads to him being torn between two women, the young and lovely Linda and the older but richer Vera. And the minute you know that Joey is going to be caught between these two you know that this is going to all boil down to whether he will follow his head or his heart.
But the journey to that point is enjoyable because it is all about Joey smooth talking his way in and out of various situations. You smile when he lands himself a job as a singer at a night club, chancing his luck when he over hears they need a compeer and whilst you know it is coming the way he gets all the women at the club running around after him is just as much fun. And it goes on because watching him try to flirt with the attractive Linda English whilst she plays hard to get is just as much fun as watching wealthy widow Vera giving him the run around before making him her toy boy, which in reality is ironic seeing that Rita Hayworth was younger than Frank Sinatra. It is very much like you are watching Frank Sinatra playing Frank Sinatra rather than Joey or at least that persona which he gave out.
Now what may end up annoying you is the musical side and whether you think of "Pal Joey" as a musical or just a movie with a few musical moments. The reason is that the various musical numbers whilst enjoyable are not part of the story, instead they crop up when one of the characters be it Joey, Linda or Vera perform. It is a shame as for me a good musical uses the music to advance the story and is part of the reason why these musical elements are for the most forgettable well that and that only a couple of the musical numbers are recognizable.
But despite this the success of "Pal Joey" does come down to Frank Sinatra who makes it work, makes it enjoyable and owns every scene he is in. Maybe because Joey is close to his persona that it works but Sinatra glides through the movie effortlessly be it in the musical numbers, the romantic scenes or even the moments of comedy. You simply can't take your eyes off of him and when you consider that his co-stars include Rita Hayworth and Kim Novak that is a remarkable thing to say. In fact Hayworth and Novak both deliver entertaining performances especially Novak who is wonderful as Linda, especially when she is playing hard to get but they are out classed by Sinatra.
What this all boils down to is that "Pal Joey" is a fun movie which works because of Frank Sinatra playing a character which is very similar to the persona he delivered in real life. It makes it fun watching him smooth talking his way in to work whilst getting young women to run around after him. And whilst as a musical it's not that great with the musical moments failing to work as part of the story it is still worth a watch just for Sinatra effortlessly delivering in every single scene.