Sunday in New York (1963)
Hello early 1960s morality. It’s ‘Sex and the Single Girl’ as it hasn’t been for a long time. Eileen (Jane Fonda) arrives in New York City on a Sunday morning having been recently dumped by her almost fiancé Russ (Robert Culp) in Albany because she won’t (gasp) go to bed with him. Her older brother, airline pilot Adam (Cliff Robertson), lectures her on how she should behave then lies to her about his own amorous activities as he heads out to try and find an empty friend’s apartment (since Eileen is in his own) where he can shack up with his girlfriend Mona.
But Adam is on flight call for the weekend and when his boss Drysdale (Jim Backus) calls looking for him, Eileen heads out to try and find her brother in an age before cell phones. Along the way, she meets up with Mike Mitchell (Rod Taylor) and winds up spending the afternoon with him before they get drenched in a downpour. After heading back to Adam’s apartment to dry off, Eileen decides to go for it and ditch her virginity by seducing Mike who will have none of it as he doesn’t want to be responsible. More lectures to Eileen on morality and waiting for the right man are delivered.
Now the movie takes a shift to screwball as Russ and then Adam arrive at Adam’s apartment, identies are deliberately confused and Eileen has to decide whom she truly loves.
Susanna Kearsley recommended this one to me and I can see she’s learning my movie tastes well. Here’s a 1960s sex comedy that holds up fairly well for its age unlike some others I’ve recently revisted (Jack Lemmon’s “Under the Yum Yum Tree” for one). In “Sunday in New York” we’re still in a time when women wore heels and pearls, smoking was cool and swinging bachelor pads included “modern” lighting, jazz LP records and only had one lock on the door. Idlewild Airport also had a sexy, breathy overhead announcer you could actually understand and flying was still glamorous.
A very young Jane Fonda looks marvelous in her 1963 fashions and shows that she already knew how to act even if she’s asked to be a touch ditzy for the plot. Rod Taylor is charming and handsome as are Cliff Robertson and Robert Culp. A comment at IMDB struck me in that the movie does appear to only be populated with good looking, white, middle class people except for the employees at the Japanese restaurant – which must have been almost the height of exoticness for most movie goers of that time.
The film handles its adult theme of premarital sex in a family friendly fashion without lowering itself to leers, winks and nudges. And oh, the irony of the scene we drop in on after Mike has learned what Eileen wants and is outraged, outraged I tell you!, that such a nice girl would be willing to ask him, almost a total stranger, to do such a thing. My how times have changed. But as seen our recent post on romance and morality, have the expectations that a woman will keep herself pure for marriage, or at the very least (I’ll concede) just a few very committed relationships, really changed? It seems like the status quo all the men in this film argue for is still with us to some extent. Nice girls better not be seen to sleep around too much. Even Adam, who’s spent almost the entire film trying to arrange a tryst with his hottie, ends up proposing marriage at the end with a future of settling into staid domesticity apparently before him.
This one must have seemed a bit daring and risque for the time though still firmly controlled by the Hays Code (note the Playboy magazine being thumbed through by Eileen has no picture on the cover). But without any nudity or resorting to the characters falling into caricatures or descending into silliness, it manages to convey exactly what it’s truly talking about in a light and breezy manner that provides 104 minutes of entertainment. It’s dated, yes, but check it out for a trip back to just before ‘free love’ began to shake things up.
Note: this is another movie not currently out in DVD format. It’s due to be shown on TCM this coming Monday, December 21st.