Pal Joey is a 1939 epistolary novel by John O'Hara, which became the basis of a 1940 musical comedy and 1957 motion picture of the same name.
O'Hara's novel tells the story of Joey Evans, a second-rate nightclub entertainer in 1930s Chicago. In a series of letters to "dear Pal Ted" from "Pal Joey," he reveals himself to be an amoral, calculating heel cloaked by an amiable persona. Joey's letters are written in literate but uneducated English:
- Dear Friend Ted
- That is if I can call you friend after the last two weeks for it is a hard thing to do considering. I do not know if you realize what has happen to me oweing to your lack of consideraton. Maybe it is not lack of consideraton. Maybe it is on purpose. Well if it is on purpose all I have to say is maybe you are the one that will be the loser and not me as I was going to do certan things for you but now it does not look like I will be able to do them....
The 1940 musical comedy featured a book by John O'Hara, lyrics by Lorenz Hart and music by Richard Rodgers. It included two songs that have become standards: I Could Write a Book and Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered. Directed by George Abbott, the opening-night cast included Gene Kelly, Vivienne Segal , Van Johnson, and June Havoc.
The play was a greater success when revived in 1952; it has also had revivals in 1963, 1976, and 1995.
The libretto's story is more coherent and sequential than the novel's. Joey Evans, as an unsympathetic anti-hero, is a striking departure from the usual musical-comedy formula. He casts off his girlfriend Linda, romances an older wealthy woman, Vera Simpson, gets her to set him up in business with his own nightclub. Vera thus becomes vulnerable to a blackmail attempt which is thwarted by Linda. Vera winds up throwing Joey out.
A loosely adapted film version starring Frank Sinatra and Rita Hayworth was released in 1957.