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 whose venality is cloaked by an amiable persona. Joey's letters are written in literate but uneducated English:
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 (see Great American Songbook). 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 antihero, 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, Kim Novak, and Rita Hayworth was released in 1957 which moved the setting to San Francisco, transformed Joey into a "nice guy", and featured a happy ending.