2014 TCM Classic Film Festival
As reported in Kay Noske’s Movie Star Makeover, our fearless leader Robert Osborne appeared to introduce the Sunday morning screening of Sunday in New York (1963). He was as surprised to see so many of us as we were to see him. Say the words “cult film” and a romantic comedy with Jane Fonda and Rod Taylor is probably the last thing anyone would think of. But judging from the Sunday morning crowd, it certainly has a following. Aside from a pair of Elvis Presley’s less celebrated offerings [Stay Away, Joe (1968), The Trouble with Girls (1969)], director Peter Tewksbury primarily directed television shows like Father Knows Best and My Three Sons. That may explain his light comedic touch. Whatever the case, the movie is a delight. Set in what truly was a more innocent time, fans of the early seasons of Mad Men and The World of Henry Orient (1964) will appreciate the early 1960s look of the film with its New York locations. Cinematography was by veteran cameraman Leo Tovar who coincidentally also worked on two Elvis pictures [Love Me Tender (1956), Follow That Dream (1962)].
The jazz score by pianist Peter Nero, who’s seen performing in a nightclub, contributes to the urbane atmosphere. Mel Torme sings the title track, also written by Nero with lyrics by Carroll Coates. Norman Krasna adapted his own play, grounded in a pre birth control pill morality that “nice girls” were trying to break free of. Eileen (Fonda) splits up with her fiancé Russ (Robert Culp). Depressed, she decides that twenty-two is too old to stay a virgin. While visiting her airline pilot brother, Adam (Cliff Robertson) she latches onto the first man she meets, a music critic named Mike Mitchell (Rod Taylor). When they get caught in the rain, she brings him home to Adam’s apartment to “dry off.”
It’s all innocent fun with sight gags and mistaken identities. True to the era, the men are confident to the point of arrogance, especially Culp’s Russ who believes he merely has to show up to get Eileen back. Always suave, Taylor is a better comedic actor than he’s usually given credit for. Longtime friends, he and Robertson are obviously enjoying themselves in their scenes together.
Costumer Orry-Kelly [Oklahoma (1955)] keeps the men in a clubby suit and tie style. His outfits for Fonda, who literally earns her “American Bardot” stripes, are more adventurous. Hemlines were beginning to creep up, slightly. True Story: At the height of Fonda’s 1970s militant phase, she appeared at a benefit in San Francisco. A huge Jane Fonda fan, I cornered her backstage and had her sign publicity photos from Klute and of course, Sunday in New York.