The cast, and even chorus, of "Pal Joey" included some of the legendary, and soon to be legendary, names of show business:
Vivienne Segal (as Vera Simpson) The reigning musical diva of her time, opulent Broadway star/comedienne Vivienne Segal received surprisingly short shrift when it came to Hollywood offers (she made only five musical films during the 1930s) and is now probably less regarded today due to the snub. Prodded by a typical stage mother who took quick notice of her daughter's budding soprano voice, Vivienne was on stage by age 15 and found her early claim to fame as one of the Big Apple's most popular ingénues. Making her NY debut in "The Blue Paradise" in 1915, she went on to appear in "My Lady's Glove" (1917), The Little Whopper (1918), The Yankee Princess (1922) and Florida Girl (1925). A scene-stealing role came her way playing "Constance" in Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.'s 1928 production of Rudolf Friml's "The Three Musketeers". Hollywood perked its ears as a result and Warner Bros. signed her on for their early-sound pre-Code musical vehicles in 1930. Song of the West, Bride of the Regiment and Golden Dawn all came out that year and all failed miserably, the last one considered one of Hollywood's biggest musical turkeys of all time. Vivienne fared a bit better in her fourth musical film of that year, the Romberg-Hammerstein operetta Viennese Nights (1930), but, save for supporting Jeanette MacDonald and Ramon Novarro in a vampish role in 1934's The Cat and the Fiddle (1934), she gave up on the cinema, altogether. Ironically, Vivienne's best years were yet to come when she made a triumphant return to Broadway with a fresh cutting-edge image. Rodgers & Hart's "I Married an Angel (1938) in which she sang "Spring Is Here" reopened the doors and her witty interpretation of "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" as socialite "Vera Simpson" in "Pal Joey" relit her star all over. Smart, elegant and devilishly dry, the 1943 revival of Lorenz Hart's "A Connecticut Yankee" allowed Vivienne to play the particularly deadly "Morgan le Fey". She gave a deliciously wicked rendering of the song "To Keep My Love Alive" in which she expounds on her various husbands' unfortunate but necessary demises. Once briefly wed to romantic leading man Robert Ames(1889-1931) in the 1920s, she later married writer/producer/TV executive Hubbell Robinson, Jr. They separated in 1962 but never divorced. He died in 1974. Vivienne spent her remaining years away from the limelight in a modest Hollywood home. She died at age 95 in 1992.
Vivienne Segal on film in 1930
June Havoc (as Gladys Bumps) bursting on the scene as "Baby/Dainty June," the child star of vaudeville, as a young woman made ends meet by modeling, posing and toiling in dance marathons. She made her Broadway debut in the musical "Forbidden Melody in 1936" followed by "Mexican Hayride" (1944) (for which she won the Donaldson Award), and the dramatic "The Ryan Girl" (1945). Her film debut in the war-era Four Jacks and a Jill (1942) was followed by My Sister Eileen (1942), Gentleman's Agreement (1947), and the gun moll The Story of Molly X (1949). She appeared on TV in the early 50s, and she received her own short-lived vehicles as a lawyer in "Willy" (1954) and as host of her own show "The June Havoc Show" (1964). In 1982 she pulled out all the stops on Broadway and gave a real Rose's Turn as a Miss Hannigan replacement in "Annie". June was long estranged from her sister, none too happy with Gypsy's portrayal of her in the best-selling memoir, "Gypsy" and equally dismayed of her Baby June character in the smash musical hit. The girls, noted for their trademark elongated faces and shapely gams, were estranged as children as well, but eventually patched things up for a time as adults. Ms. Havoc died peacefully on March 28, 2010, at her home in Stamford, Connecticut of natural causes. She was 97 years young.
June Havoc talks about landing her role in "Pal Joey."
Van Johnson (as Victor) This fair, freckled and invariably friendly-looking MGM song-and-dance star of the 40s he made his Broadway debut in the "New Faces of 1936" revue and he served as understudy to the three male leads of Rodgers and Hart's popular musical "Too Many Girls" in October of 1939. Warner Bros. signed Van to a six-month contract. Stardom came, and at quite a price, for Van when he was cast as a wholesome serviceman in A Guy Named Joe (1943). During the early part of filming, he was severely injured in a near-fatal car crash. Van's career soared during the war years not only in musicals (Two Girls and a Sailor (1944), Easy to Wed (1946), but in airy comedies (Week-End at the Waldorf (1945) and, of course, more war stories (Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944). In the late 50s and early 1960s Van again capitalized on his musical talents by reinventing himself as a nightclub performer and musical stage star playing “Harold Hill” in "The Music Man" in London in the 1970s and then appeared on a number of TV shows, earning an Emmy nomination for his participation in the mini-series "Rich Man, Poor Man" (1976). He earned respectable reviews after replacing Gene Barry as Georges in the smash gay musical "La Cage Aux Folles" in 1985. His last musical role was as Cap' Andy in "Show Boat" in 1991. Van died at age 92 at a senior living facility in Nyack, New York.
Jack Durant (as Ludlow Lowell) Appeared on the vaudeville stage with Frank Mitchell as Mitchell and Durant. He met Mitchell when they both had joined the YMCA and worked out together. With both having acrobatic skills, they eventually decided to partner. Their first big Broadway show was in "Hit the Deck". They stayed with the show for a year and a half. Later they appeared in editions of both the "George White's Scandals" and "Earl Carroll Vanities". They eventually quit as a team after his partner threw him too hard and broke his wrist. After his split with Mitchell in the late 1930s, he returned to Broadway in "Yokel Boy" but was replaced by Phil Silvers. He played the London Palladium for sixteen weeks and broke the house attendance record then went to work in films for Fox in musicals that showcased Alice Faye. He died in 1984.
Here is Durant and Mitchell performing one of their sensational vaudeville routines
Stanley Donen (in the Chorus) Since he was a child, Stanley Donen attended dance classes and debuted on Broadway at age 17. With the help of the producer Arthur Freed and the actor Gene Kelly he got the chance to direct the musicals On the Town (1949), Singin' in the Rain (1952), and Love Is Better Than Ever (1952) which revolutionized the genre. Another important work of his own was the musical version of the book of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry 's The Little Prince (1974). As producer, he turned to the genre of comedy, with Surprise Package (1960), but he also produced some films of other genres.