Jul 22, 2016

The Pajama Game: 1950s Beefcake

There once was a man who loved a woman
She was the one he slew a dragon for.

The American musical has traditionally been a vehicle for unvarnished heterosexism, two interspliced boy-meets-girl plotlines and as many songs about "love! love! love!" as a Cody Simpson album.  But with so many gay actors, writers, directors, choreographers, and producers, gay subtexts invariably sneak in.

The Pajama Game (1954) ran for 1,063 performances on Broadway, with revivals in 1973 and 2005, and a movie version in 1957 (starring Doris Day).  The title sounds risque, but it's actually about the Sleeptite Pajama Factory in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Romantic plot #1: Manager Sid and worker Babe, who is petitioning for a 7.5 cent raise.
Romantic plot #2: Boss's assistant Gladys and her jealous boyfriend "Hine-sie" Hines.

Gay subtext #1: Hines seems more interested in Sid than Gladys.
Gay subtext #2: Gladys has many masculine-coded traits, veering close to a stereotypic movie lesbian.
Gay subtext #3: Beefcake.  At the end of the movie, Sid and Babe unveil the new pajama style, Sid shirtless, barechested, and muscular, so risque that it was shocking in 1954.

  John Raitt (left) is the archetypal Sid, appearing in both the original Broadway and the movie versions.  University performers include Chris Ellis (top photo) and Stephen Boyd (above).

The Pajama Game is a favorite of high school and college drama clubs, for both actors and fans who can see their favorite hunk semi-nude.  Sometimes more skittish directors insist that he perform with a t-shirt instead, as Harry Connick Jr. did in the recent Broadway revival.

See also: Annie Get Your Gun.