When it comes to 60’s comedies, it’s either really hard or really easy to love them. You view one comedy from 1960 and its 100% different than comedy in 1969; partly due to the demolition of the production code. One 60’s comedy that for me personally (emphasis on personally) is a ‘hit” is 1963’s Sunday in New York, starring Jane Fonda, Rod Taylor and Cliff Robertson and directed by Peter Tewksbury.
The film is based on the play by Norman Krasna (Bachelor Mother, White Christmas) with Jane playing Eileen Tyler, a 22 year old music critic who, even though she has a long term boyfriend Russ Wilson (Robert Culp), is a, “beginner” in relationships. Needing a break from Russ, she goes to New York to stay with her brother, Adam, (Cliff) and she confides her status to him. He swears on his sacred honor he also is a, “beginner“.
Due to Adam being a pilot with flight call- she has to track him down when he leaves with his girlfriend Mona (Jo Morrow) for ‘ice skating‘ (nice cover, Adam! NOT!). Getting on a bus, she literally gets stuck on Mike Mitchell (Rod) with her pin on his suit. From there the pair eventually hit it off- and Eileen has a potential idea of going to the next level with Mike. But when Mike doesn’t want to be with a beginner, Russ shows up unexpected wanting to win back Eileen, and Adam finds out about Mike’s almost actions, things get thrown into a tizzy!
Now some people will read over this and think, “That’s absolutely hokey!”
But is it really? I declare this film still resonates with people because the whole story does not focus on society expectations, it focuses on personal development. Mike and Eileen have choices to make; and it’s always centered on them, not society, not tradition, not a new normal but their choices.
I also want to point out this film has the right amount of comedy gags reminiscent of the 50’s – like the pin stuck on the suit- but it also leans towards the more 60’s expression of love and relationships- such as Adam and Mona having a no strings attached relationship. It’s a careful balance of these two worlds that come together for the right amount of laughs, edginess, cuteness, and romance.
If this film was made maybe three years later, I don’t believe the film could be as nuanced as it is, nor would it have as much Kennedy era style. The apartment itself is to die for: the loft, the decor; plus the ensembles Jane gets to wear! Not to forget Rod Taylor’s suit: very Mad Men-esque, so stylish! Top it all off with Peter Nero’s swanky jazz score and it all just fits together so pleasantly.
Overall, Sunday in New York is breezy, fun, and just a darn cute movie. It may have its harsh critics (everything from Jane and Cliff seem too incestuous, Rod is mis-cast, and also: there’s too much talking not enough action!!) which includes Ms. Fonda herself, saying in 2018 she doesn’t understand why people love this movie, but I think the charm is possesses is extremely overlooked. A product of a bygone era, it reminds us today, the flip side of society that still was occurring at that time. It’s a fun watch, and even if you don’t end up digging it, its worth a look for its social themes and style.
This article was written for Movie Rob’s September 2021 Genre Grandeur: 1960s comedy theme!