Jul 28, 2020

On Blu-ray: Jane Fonda and Rod Taylor Sizzle in Sunday in New York (1963)

Sunday in New York (1963) is full of men deeply and ridiculously occupied with preserving the virtue of one woman. You could say it’s of its time, though that’s not entirely true. The elements of the film that haven’t aged well are much less cringe worthy because of a well-matched cast including Jane Fonda, Rod Taylor, and Cliff Robertson. The film is now available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive.

Based on the play by Norman Krasna, who also wrote the screenplay, most of the action happens in an impeccably-designed brick-walled Manhattan studio that is one of the great Hollywood apartments. It is the home of commercial pilot Adam Taylor (Robertson) a ladies’ man who has just about driven his favorite girl Mona (Jo Morrow) crazy with neglect.

When Adam finds himself on the ground and with a free afternoon, he tries to arrange a rendezvous with Mona, but the pair is thwarted by the unannounced arrival of his kid sister Eileen (Fonda) from Albany. She comes to her sibling in a fog of confusion about the male sex and he isn’t much help in clearing things up. He takes off with his girl, entirely oblivious to his hypocrisy in doing so, and Eileen decides to take in the town.

On a crowded bus, Eileen’s brooch gets caught on journalist Mike Mitchell’s (Taylor) suit and that meet cute seals it for them. It’s only a matter of time before they give in to each other and it’s a lot of fun watching them get there. Despite interference from Adam and Eileen’s obnoxious boyfriend (the perfectly cast Robert Culp), there’s no avoiding the heat these two generate. Between Taylor’s struggle to be decent and Fonda’s Barbarella-style “well maybe I’ll give it a try?” approach to romance, the tension is delicious.

One of the best things about Eileen and Mike is that they never have to deal with the annoying romantic comedy cliché of having to hate each other. Yes they have plenty to argue about, but even when they tangle it is all about achieving mutual respect. This is a couple with a lot in common and they have some space to enjoy each other’s company despite the chaos around them.

In one amusing exchange in which they discover a common love of music, they tangle over the name of pianist playing on the radio, mentioning the composer of the film’s jazzy and cheerful score Peter Nero. In a later scene, Fonda sees Nero in the flesh, playing piano at his own establishment Club Nero. I thought his running presence was a charming touch.

Though he doesn’t get much screen time, it was also great to see Jim Backus in a small role as Adam’s supervisor. He's one of those actors who always make a part seem more substantial than it is. Call it the Joan Blondell effect.

Sunday in New York is such a reliable mood lifter. Thanks to its sizzling cast, it’s always a bit sexier and smarter than its goofy plot. It’s the perfect watch for a mind in need of escape.

Many thanks to Warner Archive for providing a copy of the film for review. To order, visit The Warner Archive Collection.

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